A Night at the Winecup Hotel

Tall Poppy Mallow ~ Gonzales County, Texas

Several species popularly known as winecup or poppy mallow bloom in Texas. In my area, the Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) spreads along the ground, forming low, dense mats across prairies, fields, and roadsides. Its deep magenta, cup-shaped flowers are common from mid-spring to fall.

The closely-related Tall Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe leiocarpa), a spindly, erect plant of the hill country that often reaches a height of two to three feet, produces single blooms atop long, leafless stems like the one shown above. Its dark purplish-red to wine colored flowers close each evening, and remain permanently shut after pollination.

When I found a few Tall Poppy Mallows re-opening on the morning of April 5 outside Cost, Texas, one held a surprise. The small flower, less than an inch across, held an even smaller sleeping bee that had checked into the Winecup Hotel for the night. As I looked into the tiny cup, the bee awoke and stirred, then peered over the edge of the petals. Perhaps it was hoping for room service.


Comments always are welcome.

53 thoughts on “A Night at the Winecup Hotel

  1. Oh, this made me smile! I could envision a whole field of blazing hotels with little buzzing insects inside. Then, in the morning, the flowers open, and out the insects all fly, going into the world to pollinate and bring life to us all.

    1. The best thing about your narrative is that it’s true. Of course, some insects prefer to stay out all night carousing among flowers that prefer to bloom at night, but that’s the great thing about nature’s arrangement; there’s something for everyone.

  2. What a treasure to see the bloom open and then see its special guest. I’m sure most don’t have that opportunity. I think you are “chosen” by certain flora and fauna to have such magical experiences!

    1. I think it’s easier than that, Jeanie. There are bees sleeping in flowers all around us. All we have to do is look. On the other hand, I’ll grant you there are times when I experience a sudden compulsion to jstop at some location — perhaps nothing more than a county road intersection — and then find something unexpected or unusual. It’s like a treasure hunt without clues, and it’s a lot of fun.

    1. I got an early start that morning, and I was glad for it when I found the bee. Had I been an hour later, it probably would have been up and gone.

      You might be interested in this TP&W update about rabbit hemorrhagic fever that arrived in my inbox today. At this point, it seems to be more common in western counties.

  3. Bees sleeping in flowers was new to me Linda— but why not. I looked it up and found that it isn’t uncommon. Thanks for a new insight.
    Our California poppies are beginning to bloom. I think we have four. Soon we will have hundreds. I talked with them about giving shelter to tired bees. –Curt

    1. After I found this cutie, I learned that bees not only sleep in flowers, certain species of bees sleep only in certain flowers. A species known as the globe mallow bee (Diadasia diminuta ) not only feeds on the globe mallow flowers, it has sleep-overs in them as well.

      I’m not sure of the bee species, but I found confirmation that bees sleep in California poppies, too. The behavior’s been noted for over a century. A woman named Grace Hibbard celebrated the sleeping bee/poppy connection in a 1901 poem..

      1. Ha, I’ll have to keep an eye on our California poppies that are just now beginning to bloom. In terms of sleep-inducing, I always think of the Wizard of Oz and the opium poppies that put Dorothy and company to sleep.
        I’ve noted before that once the poppies start to bloom, the deer abandon the normal path they follow through the area. –Curt

    1. If this little fellow had been the only treat of the day, he would have been enough. I really enjoyed watching him wake up — although he might have wished that the big creature lurking around would just go away and let him sleep a little longer.

  4. Terrific shots! The first one’s great to see that plant really extending itself to hold out the flower for us to admire. And I love the bee snoozing in the Winecup Hotel. In old books, I’ve seen someone mentioned sometimes, who was “in his cups,” arguing with a mailbox, fighting, or purchasing plaid pants, etc. But this bee looks it found a fantastic place for a snooze, and I love seeing it peer over the edge. Saying to itself, “Whoa, what time is it? Just how much nectar did I have last night? I bet the whole hive will be buzzing about this.”

    1. Believe it or not, that first photo’s cropped a bit; the stem was even longer than it appears here. In fact, I’m sure it’s the longest stem I’ve ever seen. The force driving through that green fuse might even have amazed Dylan Thomas.

      As for being in one’s cups, I found an amusing exploration of that phrase here. The piece reads like one of your historical blog entries: a fact which is, of course, a great compliment to the Word Detective.

      Seeing the bee stir and raise itself to consider the world outside was pure delight. I’m glad I got a shareable photo of the moment.

    1. The good news is that this one wasn’t ready to fly, let alone sting. There’s something about “small” that’s appealing, and this combination of a small flower and a small bee was especially charming. The fact that these flowers close at night made it an especially good choice, since the closing would offer a little extra protection. I’ll bet he even found his lodging without having to consult Travelocity!

  5. Oh my gosh! Linda, what a delightful find. and such excellent photos as usual. I had a wine cup plant in a small planter that survived for three years, blooming for me every spring but eventually it died.

    1. I grinned when I saw your post about the poppies this morning; you even mentioned their bees. I knew you’d enjoy seeing this — it was so unexpected, and such a fun discovery. Everything I read about the various Callirhoe species mentioned wet soils as an issue for them; some will take more shade than others, but they all need drier conditions. Since the drought of 2011, it’s been relatively wet. Maybe that was a problem for yours. One thing’s certain; they’ve shaken off the freeze.

    1. They are gorgeous flowers. The winecups around here are such deep, rich colors: more burgundy and cabernet than red. When there aren’t any bees sleeping in them, the color is a treat all on its own.

    1. It sure is! I hadn’t heard of that species, which makes sense, since the Missouri Botanical Garden says it’s “an uncommon herbaceous perennial that is native to approximately 50 scattered locations in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.” Lucky you, to have it in your garden.

    1. There are some Wine Cup cabins, including one in Fredericksburg, but ‘Wine Cup’ just doesn’t have the same ring when combined with ‘cabin’ instead of ‘hotel’ — at least, to my ear. If I ever build a hotel, it would be a great name.

      I enjoyed the challenge of getting that last photo of the bee. I don’t think the wind dropped below 20 mph the whole time I was gone, and it mostly was 25-30 mph. I couldn’t have asked for a better ‘wind photography workshop.’

  6. I love the wine cups and remember them from our farm so many years ago. The bee in the wine cup is so sweet. Such a strong and dedicated creature and yet so vulnerable and at the mercy of birds and the elements and humans that use pesticides..

    1. The wine cups are one of my favorites, too. They always look so nice when I find them mixed in with the pink evening primrose. If I were a bee, I’ll bet I’d like them even more. Like you, there are special flowers that are a part of my past; remembering them is a pleasure, just like meeting these new ones is a pleasure. I hope you have a spring filled with flowers and bees!

      1. Thanks. Linda. I hope the same for you. I always look forward to seeing your new discoveries out in the field. I wish sometimes that an artist would paint what you have captured with your camera.

        1. Maybe you should give it a try, Yvonne. Have you ever done any painting? You could get one of those little water color sets like we used as kids and see what you could do. You wouldn’t have to show the results to anyone!

            1. You sound like me. I love to varnish, but hate to paint. Some people think they’d be much the same activity, but they’re not. Knowing our strengths is important!

    1. I always enjoy finding insects and other critters among the flowers. It often happens once I put a photo on the computer screen, but when I see one at the time, it’s especially delightful — as it was here.

  7. First things first – those shots of the bee in the winecup are wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like them.

    As to winecups, we have a small patch of them near our walkway that returns year after year. I haven’t seen them yet this year and I’m hoping they were just delayed by the drought and cold we’ve had. They add a nice “welcome home” touch to our pathway when they are in bloom.

    1. I’ve photographed only one other sleeping insect — a moth on a rainlily. That was two years ago. It may be a common occurrence, but it certainly hasn’t been a common sight for me. A little research revealed that certain bees prefer to sleep in the same flowers they pollinate, like the globe mallow bee. Globe mallow is another cup-shaped flower, which makes sense. It would be easier to sleep in a wine cup or globe mallow than in a bluebonnet: at least, for a bee. Where the hoverflies and larger bees take their ease, I can’t say.

      It seemed to me last weekend that drought was as much of an issue as the cold, at least for the wildflowers. Even in a single county, areas that received rain post-freeze were more colorful. I did notice some mountain laurels leafing out, despite losing outer limbs to the cold. Our palms are beginning to come back, too, and all of the bald cypress here have decent foliage now.

    1. Isn’t that the truth. I abandoned one port for another last weekend; this bee was lucky or smart enough to choose wisely from the beginning. As for the bee in its flower, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such affection for an insect.

  8. That bee certainly knows how to choose high class accommodation! And lucky for us you were out and about early to capture these wonderful images for us. Had I been with you I would have been straining my eyes and ears for birds, and doubtless would have missed this gem.

    1. You would have had to strain to find your birds that morning. I surprised a couple of vultures pondering a roadside snack, but otherwise both the bee and I seemed to be up before the birds. I’ve seen large flocks in the area before, but I suspect they were migratory, since I didn’t recognize them and they seem now to be gone.

      This little bee in its flower was a gem, indeed. One of the things I love about wandering nature with a camera is that sights that never will be seen again can be captured for later enjoyment. Only two days after I found the beetle on barbed wire, it was gone. I suspect it wasn’t two hours before this bee left its flower to begin the day.

    1. When the title came to me I was amused, and thought others might be, too. This is one of those special images that always intimidates me — it’s so good I always wonder if I can manage to meet or surpass it. The answer to that little conundrum, of course, is to set it aside and just keep wandering.

    1. Such kind words, Dina! I can’t tell you how amused and pleased I was to find this little bee in his little bed. There’s something about small things that’s always pleased me, from the days when I had a doll house filled with tiny furniture. If I’d had a tiny coverlet to put over the bee, I just might have done it.

    1. They are! You and Dr. M. certainly have done a good job of providing places for your bees (and others) to feast. I sometimes think they’re having as much fun gamboling around as we are when we watch them.

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