Mooo-ve Over, Belle

One of Texas’s best-known advertising logos — for Blue Bell ice cream — includes the image of Belle, an entirely sweet cow known for standing in fields of central Texas bluebells. Lacking bluebells (or bluebonnets, for that matter), this cow chose to pose in a field of scattered white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora) on the historic El Capote ranch near Seguin.

Farther down the road, the hills were alive with the sight of poppies.

When their numbers are fewer, the poppies still make a lovely counterpoint to other Texas delights. Here, they’ve taken up residence next to a grove of gnarled oaks at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge.

Even a single poppy can please. Rooted in sand at the edge of San Antonio Bay, this one matches the whitecaps of a windy day.


Comments always are welcome.
For more views of this flower in a different part of the state, visit Steve Schwartzman’s Portraits of Wildflowers.

75 thoughts on “Mooo-ve Over, Belle

  1. Clever and amuusing title. All images are delightful, poppy lover that I am, although the one with the oaks is special. That cow, on closer examination, looks a bit too beefy to be a milker. South Australia in the mid north had a great ice cream maker called Golden North. Lovely creamy ice cream. But these days it’s in name only as all milk now comes from the south, and the quality is lower. Milk ain’t what it used to be….

    1. You’re right. Belle is a Jersey, and this one definitely is a beef cow. I can identify a few breeds, but I’m not sure of this one. Red Angus, maybe. There were about thirty of them in this field, some with calves. It was a lovely sight, but most weren’t so willing to stand for a photo.

      I do love these poppies. I still remember the first ones I saw. I found them alongside Highway 35 outside Angleton, Texas, and slammed on the brakes. I do that from time to time; I need one of the bumper stickers that warns, “I Brake for Wildflowers.”

      As for ice cream, here’s one of the commercials that made Belle famous.

      1. That’s interesting. The cows in the commercial had tags around their necks, where ours have ear tags. We do have a Jersey milk, which I love even though I’m not really meant to consume much milk….or cream. First time memories are special aren’t they. I remember the first time I saw persimmon hanging golden red baubles from the tree.

        1. Notice that the cow in the top photo has an ear tag; that’s standard practice here. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone responsible for the commercial thought the neck tags were somehow ‘cuter’ — like little necklaces. When I can find it, I buy milk from an all-Jersey herd, too. The dairy began in Floresville, Texas: the town where I took the photo of the mating butterflies in the cemetery.

    1. Are your coastal roses white, or another color? We have an invasive called the Macartney rose that has large, single white flowers that do resemble these poppies a bit. I enjoy white flowers, and these top my list of favorites.

        1. I see they’re salt tolerant, so they would do well at the coast. The Morton Arboretum site says they’re quite fragrant. I was surprised to see so many cultivars of them, and the note that they do well in “difficult conditions.” That no doubt contributes to the ability to spread beyond where they’re wanted.

    1. This is one flower I know we share. Best of all, the deer leave them alone. Humans tend to leave them alone, too, because of their prickliness, but they certainly are pretty.

    1. I’ve seen more poppies this year than ever before, and they’ve been spread over a larger area. They certainly were a boon to the pollinators, who were a little short on other flowers because of the freeze. Some of my favorite places to find them (like the Colorado River bridge outside Bay City) have been mowed to death, so it was good to discover them in new places.

  2. Hard to distinguish from Argemone pleiacantha, the Mexican poppy, abundant in Big Bend region of Texas. I have a sudden urge for ice cream for breakfast. Later, Linda.

    1. That’s interesting. Most articles and maps show that poppy only in Arizona and New Mexico, but it makes perfect sense that it would have made a move into your part of the state. I’ve occasionally found flowers that aren’t “supposed” to be in Galveston County blooming away. To paraphase a famous line, they don’t need no stinkin’ maps.

      While I was poking around, I did find photos of another white prickly poppy — Argemone aurantiaca — that looks the same to my untrained eye. It’s apparently limited to the Edwards plateau, but I may have seen it without realizing it.

      Ice cream for breakfast? Of course. My grandmother believed fruit pie was an acceptable breakfast food (it contained fruit, after all) and we occasionally enticed her into adding ice cream because it was made from milk.

    2. There is actually an “Ice Cream for Breakfast Day” celebrated on the first Saturday of February so start to make your plans for Feb. 5, 2022 now. And….a study in Japan showed that eating ice cream in the morning increases your alpha waves and is beneficial to having a good day. It’s bound to put a smile on your face and that is a great way to start any day.

      1. There’s a gelato company called Téo in Austin that makes some of the best gelato I’ve ever had. One of their flavors is Eggs and Bacon, which clearly belongs on the breakfast table. A pint of that, and a pint of their coffee flavor, and you’d be all set. I can’t remember ever having ice cream for breakfast, but if I did, I’d be willing to give the eggs and bacon a try.

    1. You may not be optimistic, but if your poppies are optimistic, all will be well. After all — no one planted any of these poppies, and they’ve done very well, indeed!

  3. Years ago I used to have some poppies growing in my flower bed. They were yellow and orangey yellow. This is the first time I see white poppies and what a sight! Thanks for sharing your experience. Your Moooing Cow reminds me of the Mooose I once saw near my home.

    1. There are so many varieties of poppy. California has beautiful orange ones that are native; many of the red Oriental poppies come (quite reasonably) from Asia. There are fifteen species of these prickly poppies found in various parts of North America, including a beautiful yellow one (Argemone mexicana) that I’ve never seen, but would love to come across. I wouldn’t mind seeing a mooose, either!

  4. Thanks for linking the two coincidental white prickly poppy posts. I wish I could as readily find some to portray against coastal bodies of water the way you did in your final picture. And that’s a pretty dense colony of them you’ve shown in your second photograph; call it a Seguin segue.

    1. I was lucky to find so many plants blooming along the shorelines: poppies, but greenthread and coreopsis, too. The prickly pear were recovering, and there may be blooms from them later this spring. I’m intrigued by the history of the El Capote ranch, and I’m going to try and make one more trip back there to see if some of the later wildflowers will show up.

      I don’t know if I mentioned it to you or to someone else, but Ferdinand Roemer spent time at El Capote during his travels through Texas. He didn’t mention prickly poppy in his journal, but during a brief stop by the Llano river for hunting, they bagged a turkey, and Roemer wrote: “The craw of the turkey, with the exception of a few acorns, was filled with a great number of leaves of a kind of leek (Allium) growing wild here in abundance, which gave the fish an agreeable onion-like taste.”

      That’s surely the Allium you posted recently; I love these historical accounts of the plants we come across.

        1. I didn’t know that about the garlic/leek connection, but there’s a leek lurking in my files. One of these days I’m going to design a post around a decade-old Finnish/Japanese meme involving a leek used like a twirler’s baton. There won’t be any garlic involved, but the leek’s pretty cool.

  5. Blue Bell Ice Cream. Peggy and I were just recalling that Blue Bell was dessert when we visited you, Linda. And we had a discussion comparing Oregon’s Tilamook Ice Cream with Texas’s Blue Bell. I too like prickly poppies although I have yet to find any here. I have found them in Death Valley and New Mexico, however. And it’s pretty much guaranteed that I take their picture when I do find them. On another note, I’ll be featuring cows on my Friday post. –Curt

    1. I’ve tried Tillamook, but that ‘extra creaminess’ they advertise just didn’t appeal. I ought to give it another try: maybe the hazelnut. I do like their cheese; it’s far better for everyday use than any of the other commercial brands.

      Prickly poppies like sandy soil, and they’ll take heat and dryness, so New Mexico’s certainly a likely place to find them. I can’t remember ever seeing one on Galveston Island, or the Brazoria refuges. It’s farther inland and south where they show up — although there were more of them this year than I’ve ever seen, in a variety of locations. Keep your eyes open for the Mexican prickly poppy — it’s got yellow flowers.

      1. I confess, Linda, I love that extra creamy taste.

        The prickly poppies I found in Death Valley were high up in the mountains. They are beautiful. I’ve read that the Mexican poppy has yellow sap as well as yellow petals. If we ever get back to Mexico, sigh, I’ll keep my eyes open. I could use another month being a beach bum on some remote beach in the Baja. –Curt

    1. The red ones you’ve seen probably are a version of the Oriental poppy. They’re popular as a garden flower, and easy to grow. Of course, red poppies still are used as tokens of remembrance of the war dead. “Poppy Day” was my introduction to any sort of poppy, when the veterans would sell paper ones as a fund raiser for their organizations.

    1. October’s not too bad, either! That’s our ‘second spring,’ when the heat eases and every sort of new bloom emerges. To be honest, the only months that aren’t so pleasant are August and September, because of heat and hurricanes. Otherwise, it’s a state filled with beauty.

  6. I didn’t realize poppies are white, too — most of the ones I’ve seen around here are bright reddish-orange. Love the photo of this sweet-faced cow! She looks very much like she’s posing for you!

    1. I hoped for a photo of the cow with her calf, but getting them both to stand still wasn’t going to happen. The entire herd was gorgeous. If the sun had been shining, their color would have been even more eye-catching. Speaking of critter photos — when are we going to get to see Sully again?

    1. Believe me, that cow was living the good life. The ranches in the area are big, well-managed, and often connected by generations to the first settlers in the area — back even to the Spanish land grants. If I were a cow, I’d like to live there!

  7. I love white flowers in the garden. I don’t know if it’s the same species or a relative, but I remember my many driving trips to Corpus to see family and in spring, those white poppies always stood out. So lovely! Love you shots, especially of Belle–and it’s been far too long since I had Blue Bell ice cream. I’m sort of stuck on Amy’s here in Austin!

    1. I’m certain this is the poppy you saw. I didn’t get any farther than Rockport on this trip, but the poppies were everywhere — not just along the coast, but inland too, around Refugio and Victoria. It wouldn’t have mattered this year whether you took Hwy 77 or 35; you’d have been passing through poppyland.

      I’d not heard of Amy’s. I see they have one shop in Houston, but when I saw that four shortbread cookies can be had there for $20 — well, that’s three half-gallons of Blue Bell! I am fond of another Austin product — Téo gelato. They’re marketing through HEB now, and I always make it a point to see what’s on the shelf. It’s good stuff!

      1. I love Teo, have some in the freezer! They used to have a shop on 38th street, across from Set on Hospital if you know Austin. They were really creative and had some wonderful flavors. Now that they’re only selling to HEB and Central Market, there’s not as much variety– but what there is is great.

        1. I read an interesting article about the guy who started the company, and how they eventually had to close their shop (pandemic related). That’s one reason they’ve reduced their selection and contracted with HEB. That’s not the worst marketing move in the world!

          1. Interesting, because I’m sure he closed the shop prior to the pandemic–in December ’19. I remember because they gave away free pints (can you believe it!?) and we pocketed 3 of our favorite, the Salted Caramel! I knew he was marketing at CM and HEB, but I’ve never seen the Salted Caramel, the Pistachio, or the Dried Cherry and Goat Cheese–all of which are wonderful. It seems they’re concentrating on producing flavors that they can weave in to their vanilla. I can still get the chocolate and the Coffee Cookies and Cream, which are also favorites.

            I remember last spring thinking that his timing was good, because he wouldn’t have been able to keep the shop open once the lockdown happened. I happen to drive by there just a few days ago, nothing has moved into that space.

            1. Because the closing was so near to the time of the pandemic, someone might have conflated the two, or made an assumption. In any event, it’s too bad you’re not closer. Our HEB has a good bit of the salted caramel in their freezer. If there ever is dried cherry available, I’ll certainly go with that — but I suspect that might be an expensive one to produce. I’m still waiting for someone to decide lemon is worth producing!

            2. Interesting that you can get the salted caramel. Wonder why I haven’t found it. The cherry and goat cheese was the first one I ever tried and both if those were always available in pints.

  8. I remember you mentioning Blue Bell Ice Cream in the past and thought it wasn’t available here and checking their website shows that Northern Virginia is the closest it comes. There is a Blue Bunny Ice Cream that is nearby, actually sold at a farm store just down the road from my favorite spot for sunrise…they’re not open that early so no ice cream for breakfast at their place.

    Those are quite some nice colonies of Prickly Poppies.

    1. Just for grins, I read a few evaluations of vanilla ice cream, and to my surprise Blue Bunny is at the top of nearly every list: at least, for vanilla. I know I’ve seen it, but I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted it. I’ll have to remedy that, in the spirit of scientific inquiry.

      I see these flowers every year, and sometimes there are nice colonies, but I’ve never seen anything like this year’s crop. I’m very familiar with the spot where Steve photographed his, and I’ve never seen them blooming in the spots he showed, or in combination with bluebonnets. Clearly, some of our anxiety about our post-freeze wildflower season wasn’t warranted.

      1. Well, thanks to your research I will have to pick up a pint. I’ve not had any locally but when at Acadia one of the convenience stores has that brand and I have had their ice cream treats but only chocolate. Vanilla it is next time.
        Although nothing like what you and Steve experience out there, we do also have some years when the flowers are especially numerous here. Compared to one of your fields ours are just clumps but still worthy of note.

    1. It didn’t occur to me until this evening that one reason ‘red’ and ‘poppies’ are associated in our minds may be the famous poem about Flanders field, and the practice of using red poppies for memorials. I see that your Remembrance Day makes use of red poppies, too; the same is done here, and in England, and probably many other countries.

      But, yes: there are white poppies, and not just these Texas natives. Somewhere I have a photo of red and white poppies growing together at Wildseed Farms: a well-known flower farm northwest of here. The last time I was there, an entire field — and a big one — was filled with red poppies. It was gorgeous.

    1. It’s our good fortune that deer and cattle leave both plants alone unless there simply isn’t anything else to eat. Both have toxins, and of course the poppies are prickly beyond belief. I’ve read that sheep and goats will clear a pasture of bluebonnets, but most people keep their goats penned, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a sheep down here, except for the ones the kids raise for 4-H or livestock show competitions.

      Aren’t those petals great? The flowers open quickly, too. I once watched one open — what better thing to do when drinking morning coffee? I can’t believe it was in 2017, but here it is.

    1. There’s something about a white flower, isn’t there? I found my very first ones this year just a mile or so south of Boling-lago on FM 1301. I have to laugh, now. I took a lot of photos, just in case I didn’t see any more of them this spring. I needn’t have worried!

  9. OK. Call me a purist. Poppies are red. These white ones, though, remind me of summer dresses of India(n) cotton or linen with full gathered skirts.

    1. Well, yes. Poppies are red. They’re also orange, pink, purple, white, and combinations of all those colors. I was surprised at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg to find white Oriental poppies — but you would have been more than happy with their acres and acres of red poppies. After all, they’re in the business of supplying seed that people want, and people do want to grow those red beauties.

  10. Wow, these poppies are a lovely sight, and so are those great old oaks. That seem to be leaning in and high-fiving each other. It was nice of that cow to pose so nicely for you!
    The hill are alive with the sight of poppies, hmm, what does that remind me of?
    Climb every mountain
    Ford every stream
    Follow every rainbow
    Till you find your ice cream.

    1. I was beginning to fear no one would catch that little reference, but here you are — and I love the way you expanded on it! It’s clever and perfect, and it’s going to send me to bed with a smile. Since there’s no ice cream in the freezer, a smile will have to do, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

    1. I’ve seen an article or two online about the value of these prickly poppies in the garden. They’re not only pretty, they’re full of pollen, and appeal to beetles as well as to bees and flies. They’re relatively early bloomers, and they hang on a good while; their dependability does make them great flowers for the landscape.

  11. It really is a beautiful sight and the presence of the cow makes the picture perfect. The mere mention of the Aransas NWR brings back memories of many happy days spent there. I was about to say that it seems so long ago – but it is!

    1. Doesn’t that cow look happy? I had hoped to get her calf into the photo, too, but the calf wasn’t interested in posing.

      There weren’t many birds around on this visit. I did see two Crested Caracara and a couple of hawks, but that was it. I didn’t walk the songbird trail, or another one that offers a view from an elevated platform; I saved that for another time. I did find the base to the original flagpole, and the 1942 benchmark from the Coast and Geodetic Survey — now I need to read a bit more about the establishment of the refuge.

    1. Even the Oriental poppies come in more than red. Clearly, red/orange seem to be gardeners’ favorites, but I love them all — even our thorny, prickly native one. And, yes — I smiled when I saw those oaks, and decided they needed to be in a photo of their own.

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