Sometimes a Star, Sometimes a Supporting Character

Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, and Nueces Coreopsis near La Vernia, Texas

When spring arrives and blankets of blue wrap around the pastures and hills of rural Texas, “Let’s go look at the flowers” is a common invitation: one that generally means, “Let’s go look at the bluebonnets.” Still, as the season progresses, those blue beauties are joined by a multitude of other colors.

My own preference is for these fields of mixed flowers. When I see them, the red, yellow, and blue finger paints of my pre-school years come to mind, along with the little red, yellow, and blue chairs in my first grade reading circle. Discovering the same colors shining in the sunlight always brings a smile.

Here, Engelmann’s daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) stand out against a multi-colored background that also includes what I first took to be a variety of sneezeweed (Helenium spp.), but now know to be huisache daisy (Amblyolepis setigera).

Engelmann daisies and friends ~ Goliad, Texas

Sometimes, even a weed can add color, as when wind-blown dock (Rumex spp.) provides an impressionistic touch to a hidden parcel of flowers.

Curly Dock, Toadflax, and Groundsel on an unnumbered road outside Smiley

Far from any town, a pleasing winecup serves to accent fading bluebonnets and blue curls. At the right of the image, you can see the fuzzy bluebonnet seed pods already forming.

A fading but still bright collection of flowers at an intersection of two county roads

Despite drought and freeze, nature’s spring production is continuing its run, and there’s still time to catch the show.


Comments always are welcome.

75 thoughts on “Sometimes a Star, Sometimes a Supporting Character

  1. I remember La Vernia from the great wildflower spring of 2019. The yellow flowers in your photograph of the winecup seem to be huisache daisies, which we saw a lot of on a property southwest of La Vernia close to I-37.

    1. Thanks for solving a bit of a mystery for me. You’re right about the huisache daisy, and now I know that’s what’s in the background of the second photo; I revised the text to include both my first hunch and a proper ID. It’s a flower I first saw in 2019 in Yoakum. What’s intriguing is that huisache itself is found in coastal counties, but this flower isn’t. Apparently the tree adapts to a wider range of conditions.

      Anyway: this photo of yours shows the ray flowers beginning to fold and droop. That’s the characteristic I’d not been able to find in other photos. Once I had a name and started browsing images, I found the droopiness confirmed.

      1. Yup, the photo you linked to shows the good colony I mentioned finding in 2019. Coincidentally, I found a good patch on Friday in far west Travis County (or possibly far east Burnet County), which surprised me because huisache daisies are rare in Travis County.

    1. It’s a wonderful world out there right now. Not only are the flowers blooming beautifully, the summertime heat hasn’t arrived, and neither have the mosquitoes. Perfection!

    1. Thanks, Becky. I fear this is going to be another day when housecleaning and such is going to be set aside in favor of the flowers. I need to see what’s been happening along the coast while I’ve been wandering the hill country!

  2. A total delight to enjoy this lagniappe post, Linda, with the glorious wildflowers on your TX backroads. A wildflower extravaganza, and much appreciated. I espec. like that last photo, so blissfully close-up, and appreciated you pointing out the stunning winecup and the bluebonnet seedpods.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the colorful details, Jet. While there’s much to admire about a well-planned garden, I enjoy coming across thick plots of flowers like these, which might have been planned, but weren’t. They just ‘are,’ and they’re delightful.

      What’s unseen in the photo is the beautiful hunting dog who bounded out of his master’s truck bed as they passed by and came over to visit. When his owner finally realized he’d lost a dog, he backed down his lane, honked the horn, and the dog obediently ran over and jumped back in the truck. I do love the country!

    1. A lot of us worried that the freeze would have significant effects this year, and there were some; one of my favorite trees apparently didn’t put on a bloom anywhere in the state. But if the wildflowers were slow, they’re appearing, right on time. Some people are being deprived because of drought, but there’s rain in the forecast, and a chance for summer flowers. I’m glad you enjoyed these!

    1. I have a photo or two of the daisies from another location where they have pride of place. The sheer intensity and variety of colors can be nearly overwhelming, especially where people allow the flowers to take over part of their property. I’ve still got a pile of yellow, pink, and white photos to go through!

    1. Absolutely. She sets a beautiful table, too. The number of pollinators buzzing around these flowers really surprised me. I’m sure they’re even more grateful for the emerging flowers than we are.

  3. Oh, my gosh, your photos make me happy! I can’t imagine what it’s like to see those fields in person.

    1. It’s breathtaking, Jean — in the most literal way possible. I wish I could transport you down here to spend a day with me enjoying them. Your artist’s eye wouldn’t know where to look first!

  4. Beautiful set of shots, Linda. Love all of those. I just bought some Engelmann Daisies for my SIL. My garden is too shady, though I used to grow the daisies and winecup, and I still have some blue curls, which I spotted in your last photos. Ah, spring!!

    1. I found a stand of blue curls at an intersection that was fabulous. It was high noon, and they were mixed into other foliage, so the light was just too contrasty for a decent photo, but it sure was fun to see them. As a matter of fact, there were a lot of ‘your’ gaillardia there, too. It’s always more surprising than it should be to find what I’ve come to know as garden flowers just popping up in the most unlikely places.

  5. These are marvelous photos. Finding the clump of curly dock blooming with the bluebonnets and other flowers is quite lovely. I really like the blend of colors. Your pics are satisfying my desire to get out and drive the country roads.

    1. That dock really surprised me. I’ve only seen it in summer or fall, when it’s tall, and green or brown. I took some photos of single stems, and I was surprised by the intensity of their color. So many plants’ new growth is reddish before it turns, and it really is pretty.

      The more isolated the road, the more I like it. When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me to ‘stop piddling,’ but I piddled a lot on this little trip, and was rewarded for it. I sure am glad you enjoyed the photos!

    1. So many things make winecups especially nice flowers, including the subtle gradations in color. Some can tend toward a little pinkiness, while others truly do have the color of a good cabernet. I found some mixed in with bright yellow primroses. Now, that’s a contrast!

  6. The two sisters who, together with their friend, built the duplex I lived in once upon a time had bluebonnets in the back yard during their tenure. I got the odd volunteer even after a decade. When I investigated planting some more, the seed packet said to scour the seeds with a metal file to get them to sprout. Apparently, bluebonnet seeds are quite resiliant and hardy and have to “weather” a while before they will sprout.

    1. They’re hardy, that’s for sure. Scarifying the seeds seems essential for a good germination rate, but friends have followed the advice to plant in the fall and let winter weather naturally scarify the seeds, and it’s worked well for them. Bluebonnets form a basal rosette of leaves in fall, develop their root systems through the winter, and then send up their flowers in spring; it’s been fun learning to recognize the plants in December just by their leaves.

    1. It’s a beautiful flower, and my current fav among the coreopsis clan.The USDA map is pretty accurate, although I can affirm that it’s plentiful in Wilson and Refugio counties; I photographed it in both places. I made it to Aransas Wildlife Refuge for a brief time, but didn’t see it blooming there. The story of the day at Aransas was the white prickly poppy, and I was focused on those.

    1. I think it seems even more dazzling this year because of our concerns over the freeze and the on-going drought. There were some early-blooming trees that had their blooms wiped out, but it’s pretty clear that many wildflowers shook off the cold and said, “So we get a couple weeks longer in bed. So?” I just caught a glimpse of your new post, and it looks as though your part of the world has awakened, too. Hooray!

    1. What’s especially fun is the pride people take in them. When I stopped along the road in front of one house to photograph the field next to it, a woman came running out and said, “If you’d like, you can come on in and see them from the back yard. That’s a pretty view, too!” Visiting this splendor is great fun; living in the midst of it must be intoxicating.

  7. Smiling here, too, Linda! What beauties you’ve captured. There’s something almost magical about your photo of the scarlet winecup, too!

    1. Those winecups can be absolutely gorgeous. When they’re fresh and new, I can’t stop looking at them. They tend not to fill an area like bluebonnets will; they’re more like accent pieces — or punctuation marks. As a period, they say ‘stop,’ and as a question mark they say, ‘aren’t I gorgeous?’

    1. Now, that’s a benefit I’d never thought of, but if I can cheer up any little corner of the WordPress site, I’m happy. I’m happy you enjoyed the photos, too! I hope your new area’s filled with such beauty.

  8. Wow, your flowers have really taken off, Linda. Ours are no match! I don’t think we will see such displays until summer when we get into mountain meadows. –Curt

    1. Your time will come. I’ve seen your photos from past years! The best part of it all is that once our spring flowers are gone, the summer beauties will appear — and then we’ll get our ‘second spring’ when the weather cools and new flowers arrive. On the other hand, we have some flowers coming out now that will continue to bloom into December, depending on conditions. Apparently they can’t help themselves.

      1. There is a place up on Highway 88 near Carson Pass (elevation 8573) south of Lake Tahoe that is renowned for its wild flower display. Maybe I’ll wander that way this summer. For now it is covered in several feet of snow.
        Our California poppies are long blooming. The first came out three days ago. I just went and counted 24 blooming. Soon they will be a hundred or so. They keep it up into the fall. –Curt

        1. Lake Tahoe’s gorgeous with or without flowers. It’s amazing to think of it still covered in snow, but on the other hand, I do have a photo of my dad and I sitting next to the Continental Divide sign with snow still on the ground in July.

          1. When I was running Treks in the Sierra’s, Linda, one of the most important decisions was timing… after the snow was melted and before water became scarce. June was normally too soon and August too late. There was even a more specific factor. I wanted it dried out enough that we wouldn’t be attacked by thousands of mosquitoes when passing through meadows.

            1. Ah, yes. The mosquitoes. I’d wondered how long it would take for them to rebound, post-freeze, and now I know — to my chagrin.

            2. I’ve come close to running through meadows Linda with hundreds in pursuit of me. You enter the meadow and the first thing you here is the hummmm.

  9. The scenes are chaotically colorful!

    We squint our eyes (or “unfocus” the camera lens) and, voila! Instant Monet or Van Gogh. Conversely, one could kneel or lay down and take detailed photographs of individual blooms (or parts of blooms and leaves and stems) all day long for “portraits in beauty” or a “detailed study of the scientific analyses of Texas flora”.

    On the other hand, I shall just be happy to express the voice of my inner child: “Purty!”

    It truly is a beautiful world.

    Thank you for sharing a bit with us all.

    1. I had a decision to make: flowerful fields first, and then the individual portraits, or vice-versa. I thought it best to begin with the collective, and then isolate the individuals — so stay tuned! (The pink, lavender, and white still are to come.)

      Your ‘purty!’ made me smile. I’ve often said that when I first began paying attention to wildflowers, my response generally was, “Look at the pretty flower!” I’ve learned a good bit since then, but it’s a funny thing; everything I’ve learned has made them even more beautiful to me.

      And here’s a true tease. My next post on The Task at Hand is (I think) titled “Morning with Monet,” and I was inspired similar flowers I found in Mississippi.

  10. Thank you for sharing these lovely, colorful impressions of springtime in Texas. The hyazinths, daffodils, and crocuses have been making appearances in people’s yards, but the wildflowers are taking their sweet time, as is smart at this early time of spring, when blizzards occur not infrequently.

    1. Latitude and altitude make a big difference, not only in timing but in species. I can’t remember ever seeing hyacinths or crocuses around here, so in a sense these are our consolation prizes. You have lupines and paintbrush, though — although I suspect your species are mid-summer bloomers. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing these, just as I did.

      1. Yes, there are definite differences based on a variety of factors. I’m hoping to see some pasqueflowers soon, they should be blooming in the wild by now. The others, such as lupines and paintbrush, will wait until May and June.

    1. Thank goodness we have photos to capture at least a degree of the flowers’ beauty. They won’t bloom forever, but we can look at their images a good long time!

    1. I’ve not been out that way for years. When I looked at the map, I saw a few names that always are on the bluebonnet maps: Brenham, Chappell Hill, and so on. It must have been a wonderful trip for you. That’s the area where my mother saw her first Texas wildflowers, and was completely astounded. A friend and I have been talking about making a trip up to the Bellville Meat Market; we should go a little farther and see how things are.

    1. Contrary to what the makers of Western movies would have you believe, Texas as more than cattle and cactus (although we have some very handsome cattle, and cactus flowers are gorgeous). These may be our flashiest flowers, but thank goodness they’re only the beginning of a long season of blooms.

      1. I’m sure where you are in Texas makes a huge difference. What little I remember seeing of it as a kid when visiting the grandparents was on the dry side (West Texas.) But I’ve had layovers in Houston, where flying in things looked pretty green. It’s a big state.

        1. The first time I flew into Houston, I thought I’d caught the wrong plane. We came in over huge pine trees, and a lot of them. They don’t call the area northeast of Houston the piney woods for nothing.

    1. I’ve never noticed much of a scent around these flowers, although a whole field of bluebonnets can be fragrant. Given how vibrant they are visually, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve been looking and looking at that last photo, trying to figure out what it reminds me of, and I finally got it. I can imagine a teeny-tiny Henri Rousseau type tiger staring out from the tangle of growth: maybe between the wine cup and the blue curls on the left.

  11. How on Earth could I not have noticed this before? Your Bluebonnet (w/ Winecup) photo which has those wonderful fuzzy seedpods that I instantly recognised this morning as (a very close relative of) the Wild Lupine that grow everywhere on the gravel roadsides in the ski country of Québec, just a few hours east of here…

    1. And, in that same photo (lowest of bottom right corner) a single, white-tipped bud cluster of tiny florets that I also recognise as something which grows wild right here in my yard…

      1. That little plant is Valerianella radiata — beaked corn salad. Here’s an image of it. It’s everywhere here, although it doesn’t seem to make it into Canada, but there are other Valerianella species that do. The odd name seems to be a result of the same genus being named in England and other countries where the name for wheat and other grains was ‘corn,’ and the Valerianella, which is edible, showed up in the fields.

    2. Those pods are recognizable, aren’t they? Even some of our smaller peas have pods that declare their membership in the family if the shape of the flower isn’t enough. I’m glad they brought a happy memory for you, and I’m more than glad to see you here. I think of you often, and wonder how things are going for you!

      1. Thanks so much Linda; your thoughts are very much appreciated and think of you often as well. Things have been very complicated for such a long while; and, while there are still many miles to go, we are approaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

        1. Whatever’s been involved, seeing that light always is a good experience! Life can become complicated in a multitude of ways, but sometimes it can unknot itself more easily than every imagined. I hope that’s true for you!

          1. Time; miles and one foot in front of the other Linda… But I have never been more certain that the invisible connection between all of us has been integral in powering that progress.

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