Here Comes Summer!


It’s sometimes frustrating, but true: none of us can be in more than one place at a time. This past weekend I discovered that, while I was prowling our Piney Woods looking for orchids and other east Texas delights, the prairies have been busy exchanging spring for summer.

Heading west rather than east, I found sunflowers, bee balm, and prairie parsley in full flower, while bee blossom (Gaura lindheimeri), snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata), and an assortment of morning glories  and mallows are beginning to appear.

A few of our so-called Texas bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum) now are blooming in both the San Bernard and Brazoria Wildlife Refuges. Also known as prairie gentian, the flowers generally are purple or lavender, although small colonies of white ones exist both on Galveston Island and in the Brazoria refuge.

Masses of blooms appear to be a week or two down the road, but I’m more than willing to wait for the chance to enjoy this favorite flower.


Comments always are welcome.

60 thoughts on “Here Comes Summer!

  1. Such a pretty posy, Linda! Isn’t it funny how Mother Nature works her miracles whether we’re along to see them or not? Even if you didn’t capture the shots you wanted, I’d say you did very well. I hope you have a splendid Memorial Day!

    1. Given the number of plants I found filling some of the roadsides, I think this may be a very good year for our bluebells. Most are just forming buds, so it will be a while before they bloom, but the nice thing is that their season is weeks long. With the rain we have forecast for this coming week, they should be very happy: some consolation for those of us who’d prefer a rain-free week!

  2. Oh, that’s a great shot. We are in a moment of transition, to be sure, but always something new. I recall reading somewhere that the Texas bluebell was Lady Bird’s favorite wildflower. Your photo clearly illustrates why.

    1. I found this wonderful passage from a 2007 article in the Houston Chronicle:

      “In 1972, [Lady Bird] told an interviewer that her favorite flowers were Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum (showy prairie gentian), also known as the bluebell, Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel), or Indian Blanket, and Castilleja foliolosa (Texas Indian paintbrush) . The general consensus around the Wildflower Center is that her favorite was the bluebell (yes, the same one that the “little creamery in Brenham” is named after)…

      In the large portrait of Mrs. Johnson behind the desk in the Gallery, she is sitting in a field of Indian Blanket. But we have seen other pictures of her in a field of Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan), which indicates she loved them, too. And not just the native plants with showy flowers, she loved the little grasses and the big live oak trees, the plants others called “weeds” along the highways that bloomed from roots in asphalt and survived determined mowing.”

      I understand that. My favorite flower tends to be the one I’m looking at.

  3. Lovely! So much going on all at once! We went to east Texas on Saturday and I want to go back again soon. So much to see that I never get to check out. I miss that habitat a lot. But we might have to head down to your neck of the woods soon!

    1. I saw your post about the trip to the piney woods. I’m glad you got away, and I’m looking forward to reading about your discoveries. I’m postponing another trip until Sandylands reopens, although the trails certainly could keep me busy. I got so involved at Watson I never made it to the Sundew or Pitcher Plant trails. So many trails, so little time!

  4. I love the bluebells and so do too many other people since they’ve been picked into near extinction in the hill country. I tried planting the hybrid that are sometimes available in nurseries but to little success.

    1. You do so well with your plants, I’m surprised the bluebells haven’t worked for you. I didn’t realize people picking them had been a problem. I know there are various species that have suffered because of that. It’s one reason some people don’t publicize the location of rare or uncommon plants they find. There’s no sense tempting the collectors.

    1. A friend and I were talking today about how our time sense is off. I hardly can believe that tomatoes, peaches, and sweet corn are ready, but they are. Just today, I found a patch of green milkweed with dried, split pods and flying silk — that was as much a surprise as finding the bluebells already blooming.

  5. It seems a bit early for bluebells to be flowering, and you reported mostly buds. On the other hand, snow-on-the-mountain in May makes us ask what the botanical world is coming to.

    1. I didn’t notice any snow-on-the-mountain at the refuges, although a few plants may be blooming there. The ones I found were in the mowed utility easement cutting through the Oak Woods trail at San Bernard. It may be that the heavy woods to the north and south act as a windbreak, and help to encourage an earlier bloom. I was tickled to find a green lynx spider had set up housekeeping in one of the plants; it was there both days I visited.

    1. I’m eager for the fullness of their bloom. Most of these early flowers were a little ragged: nibbled, gnawed, or windblown. Their buds are among my favorites, and great fun to photograph. If I’m lucky, I’ll find some of the white ones this year.

  6. This is the time of year when every trip into the outdoors has the potential for new species to appear. It is very exciting to be abroad in nature.

    1. Indeed it is. I’ve yet to spend time in nature without discovering something new or interesting. In fact, your review of the spider book was quite timely; I discovered one in the process of dealing with captured prey this weekend, and it was beyond fascinating.

    1. The very center has just a bit of blur because of the wind, but there will be time enough to try again. It’s fascinating to peer into center of these flowers. While their petals vary in color, even the patterns of that inside ‘design’ differ from flower to flower.

      It wasn’t until very recently that I saw these as a different kind of bell; don’t you think they look like upraised handbells?

    1. They’re a bit dramatic, aren’t they? Before their season’s over, I’ll surely share a closer view of all that busyness. I was so taken with the buds surrounding this one, I wanted to include it all.

    1. I’m hoping this is the year I get a good photo of a field filled with them. I was late last year; it’s hard to catch them in full bloom before the surrounding grasses become tall enough to complicate matters. But you’re right — they’re pretty beyond words, and even a single bloom can bring a smile.

  7. No bluebells here during the coming winter but I was brave enough to plant lots of grape hyacinths and will be peering down onto the soil in a month or two to see if any have popped up.

    1. I was reading a little about grape hyacinths; they’re quite interesting, and lovely. One article said, “Think of them as affordable jewelry for your landscaping.” What a nice way to describe them! I hope you have jewels galore when your spring comes around.

  8. I think I knew this as Lisianthus? Whatever the name, I love it!
    This week I found some scented heaven, jonquils, and also some wattle.
    I’m a slight shade of green from all the blooms mentioned here.

    1. I’ve been trying to sort this out, and I’m still not sure I have it right. But: this genus has only two (or maybe three) species. Eustoma flowers are either single (like this one) or double, and it seems that the double flowers are E. russellianum. That’s the one that goes by the name Lisianthus, and that’s usually meant when people in the floral trade talk about Texas bluebells. I’ve never seen E. Russellianum — this USDA map shows why that probably is. It doesn’t come all the way down to the coast.

      1. Great, I thought you’d be able to sort it out. They were really popular in Adelaide in the 90’s and I planted lots for customers, but now when I wander, I don’t see them. Just petunias.

  9. It’s a beauty, I can see why this is one of your favorites, and it sounds like you’ve got quite an assortment going on in your area. This one does have a handbell look to it, I visited a Methodist church one time that had a handbell choir, and they held them with the open end up like this, so to me they looked upside down, but I guess that’s how it’s done.

    1. I don’t know much about handbells. I’ve always associated them with church (though I’ve never heard them there), but I went poking around YouTube and found a handbell choir doing this version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” I wouldn’t have thought that would work, but it sort of does.

      Of course, it pales in comparison to Adele herself in this live performance at a Dutch radio station in 2010. Settings like that may be the best way to judge a vocalist; take away the production crew, and see what happens.

      1. That handbell choir sounded kind of pretty, like a music box. I was just reading this morning, that the Canadian Parliament has an official carillonneur, who plays 53 bells up on top of the peace tower. 188 steps to get to work. but it seems like the carillon is a good investment, it would save you a fortune in labor costs over a bell choir.

          1. I went to a carillon concert once, at the University of Rochester, pre-epidemic, and a lot of people were having picnics on the grass of the quad. But the buildings made the bells echo so much, you couldn’t follow the tune, and it made you feel almost drunk. I moved out closer to the river, and then it was a real treat, the notes just go floating out in the air, and you can almost see the vibrations, pretty cool.

  10. “My favorite flower tends to be the one I’m looking at.” Laughing. Can’t argue with that one Linda. Each one has a unique personality! Even the tiny ones. –Curt

  11. This is a beautiful bloom, Linda. Yes, you have a lot of ground to cover! In my world we called damn snow on the mountain because once it gets into the yard, it IS your yard! Rick tore all his out and then something grew up in there that was even worse! I think I’d like it much better in your world!

    1. I have a sneaking suspicion that you may be talking about a different snow-on-the-mountain. The one I mentioned gets to Michigan, but it’s not common. There’s another “snow on the mountain” that looks like this. Is this what you and Rick have? It’s scientific name is Aegopodium podagraria, and I found lots and lots of articles about its willingness to take over city blocks if you’d let it!

    1. That’s one of the nicest things about the flower; it continues to bloom for some time. Some plants have only two or three buds, but sometimes I find a plant with as many as a dozen. Great fun!

  12. That is a lovely flower and nature is a superb designer. We’ve been in the eighties the last few days so summer does seem to be upon us quicker than expected…or hoped. We haven’t had much rain lately either, but it looks like a small hurricane or tropical storm is headed this way in a few days.

    1. BTW, just as an aside…I had to try three times to post that comment. Twice I got the message that it couldn’t be posted…who knows why…but it did eventually post. WP can be an enigma at times.

      1. That happens to me from time to time: generally, when I’ve left a tab open for a while. When it happens, I simply copy the comment, refresh the page, and re-enter the comment. It’s always worked.

        1. That is what I ended up doing. There have been times when it worked the second time but after that…copy and paste. I’d never be able to recreate exactly whatever it was that I wrote.

    2. We had quite a storm late yesterday afternoon: inches of rain, 60 and 70 mph winds, hail — the whole thing. It took the roof off my favorite bait stand/fish market down on the Texas City dike: just what they didn’t need after a complete rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. But, all of the birds and squirrels seem present and accounted for, and the rain certainly will be good for the wildflowers — these included.

      1. That’s a shame about the bait shack. Super frustrating for them. I wonder if a small business like that in a somewhat historically hazardous location can get insurance. Red wigglers just went up $0.25/squirmer. We’ve got some weather coming in tonight and tomorrow morning but the real stuff will arrive in a few days it seems.

        1. I haven’t heard yet whether they were insured. I suspect so; whether they can get flood insurance I wouldn’t know, but I’m sure they have a policy that covers this sort of damage. They have a huge customer base, run fishing contests, sell crawfish by the hundred pound sacks, and so on. The operation supplies hundreds of fishermen and tables, so they’ll do all right. If they’re not insured, a gofundme project probably would get them the cash they need in a week.

    1. I’m lucky to have so many refuges open and easily accessible from home. Two hours or so in any direction puts me on the beach, in the piney woods, or on a prairie. Some of my favorite spots still are closed, but I’m hopeful that they’ll reopen before some of my favorite flowers do!

  13. This amazing flower also grows here but I looked it up it as it’s from Mexico too. Its name there is: “Lira de San Pedro”. I also read it grew in West Indies, but all I could find was “genciana de la tierra, o de la costa, similar to the other name you have ‘seaside gentian’.

    1. This is another one whose common name can cause confusion. Many people here call it Prairie Gentian, even though it isn’t even in the same genus as another Prairie Gentian (Gentiana puberulenta). From that perspective, ‘seaside Gentian’ isn’t quite right, either — even though it grows in wet conditions, and looks somewhat like a gentian. Of course, it’s not a bluebell, either — thank goodness for scientific names! Of course, no matter the name, it’s a beauty.

    1. What’s especially nice about them is that the colors and patterning can vary a good bit. Some are deeper lavender; some are very pale, and sometimes I’ll find white ones. The white can be completely white, or have that deep purple center. Looking inside one to see how it’s arranged is part of the fun.

    1. They are a lovely, graceful flower. We’ve had good rain and plenty of hot, sunny days are upcoming, so I’m sure they’ll be in full bloom before long. I’m hoping so, anyway.

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