A Pleasing Prairie Combination

After weeks of steady, soaking rains, a sudden swerve into the hot and sunny weather more typical of our Gulf Coast summers encouraged a second flush of growth on the prairies, as well as the development of wildflowers not yet in full bloom.

Finding these graceful Texas bluebells (Eustoma exaltum) combined with the prickly starbursts of Hooker’s eryngo (Eryngium hookeri) was especially pleasing. The transformation of this eryngo from green to lavender or purple isn’t always predictable; it often takes place after the bluebells have faded, and in some years the color is less deeply saturated.

This year, both species seemed to glow among the grasses at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge: their lovely lavenders a cooling note in the rising mid-summer heat.


Comments always are welcome.

59 thoughts on “A Pleasing Prairie Combination

    1. Both of these are flowers I’ll actively search for — as do pollinators of various sorts. After admiring photos of another species, E. leavenworthii for several years, I finally figured out why ‘my’ eryngo didn’t look like ‘those’ eryngo; they were different species. Leavenworth’s eryngo is somewhat larger, and a deeper purple; it’s more common in central Texas. There’s a third, east Texas species that’s smaller, tending toward blue rather than purple

  1. A very attractive combination, no doubt benefitting from all the moisture over the last few weeks.

    1. It’s unusual for us to enter August with things still so lush and green, but so it is. Of course, it’s a big state, and not everyone has been so blessed. West Texas and the Panhandle have quite different conditions, as this graphic makes clear.

    1. It is a sweet tangle, isn’t it? I enjoy isolating flowers to better show their details, but that’s not how they live, and sometimes it’s fun to include some of their friends and neighbors.

  2. Lovely combination and something that we’d be trying to emulate in our gardens here. I can see why there is a fascination with ‘prairie gardens’ here but the real thing is much more exciting.

    1. One of my favorite ‘old’ books (published in 1900), is Neltje Blanchan’s Nature’s Garden. She sees all of nature as a garden, and the subtitle is especially interesting: “An aid to knowledge of our wild flowers and their insect visitors.” We’re not the first to notice the relationship between plants and pollinators!

      She’s quite a writer, too, but I couldn’t find either of these plants in her book. Of course not everything can be included, and geography no doubt influenced her familiarity with and selection of flowers. Still, she makes her point, and when someone asks me, “Don’t you wish you had a garden?” I just smile.

      1. Sounds like an interesting book – and if you see nature as a garden, then your garden is limitless.

    1. There’s always a mix of flower colors in every season, but I do associate lavender with early to mid-summer. Along with these, we have silverleaf nightshade, passionvine, wild petunias, winged loosestrife — so many beauties! Of course, I grew up associating the violets of early spring with Easter; they were one of our first blooms in Iowa. More than a few May baskets were filled with violets.

      1. I associate forsythia with Easter because my mother would cut some branches from our back yard and use it for an Easter egg tree.

    1. I was a little concerned that the eryngo wasn’t going to appear this year, or that I had missed it. Like our basketflowers, it seems to have come on later than I expected. I still haven’t found any white bluebells, but it seems the time for looking isn’t over.

  3. love the photo. the eryngo is new to me. don’t think I’ve ever seen it. and I love the bluebells. I tried buying some in a nursery a couple of times but they didn’t do well. guess they need the wild prairie.

    1. The eryngo can be hard to spot if it hasn’t turned purple, or if the grasses take a growth spurt and cover it. Even at the Brazoria refuge, I’ve had trouble spotting it only a couple of weeks after initially finding it. A friend has it in her pasture outside Alvin every year, and I’ve found it along 442 outside Needville, so it’s surely in your neighborhood. I’ll be posting some wider views of the entire plant.

    1. It was fun to be able to include buds and a fading bluebell, too. There’s a lot going on in the photo, but it didn’t seem “too much” to me. I think the color is what makes it work, especially since the match between the flowers is so close. Watercolors might work, I think!

  4. These are lovely, Linda — both the color and the composition. I guess I never realized that bluebells are actually almost purple in hue. The eryngo looks like it could slice your finger, though, if you’re not careful around it!

    1. That’s the danger of common names. While most Texans call these bluebells, another name is prairie gentian. They’re not related to the English bluebells, which are a ‘truer blue,’ even though they also can tend to purple. The fields of Texas bluebells surrounding Brenham are what gave Bluebell ice cream its name!

      Those eryngo are prickly as can be. The good news is that, unlike a cactus or other thorny plants, they almost never leave parts of their prickliness stuck in our fingers.

      1. ps: I just looked up the color that’s called ‘gentian,’ and found it described as a ‘purplish blue.’ I suspect that’s how the flower got that name.

    1. Sometimes it seems there’s no end to our pretty flowers! The central Texas species of the eryngo — Eryngium leavenworthii — makes it to your county. It might be a nice addition to your wildflower area. Wildseed Farms doesn’t stock it, but I found its seed at Native American Seed.

    1. I never hear or read the phrase ‘lavender blue’ without thinking, “Dilly dilly.” I’ve never heard the Dinah Shore version; my memories are of Sammy Turner. His version came out during my junior high years, when we could go across the street to the YMCA for lunch, grab a burger, put some change in the jukebox (three plays for a quarter!) and dance to some good music.

    1. It was quite something to see such a nice color match between the different species, Sheila. Lavender sometimes can seem faded, but that wasn’t the case here.

  5. That is a nice combo–great catch, Linda. I see the bluebells around here sometimes, but rarely the eryngo. That one does have very nice color.

    It’s been an odd year. Trees frozen, dead or permanently disfigured, wildflowers and perennials (especially natives) bursting forward with vim and vigor and blooming beyond their “normal” times.

    1. Even now, there are surprises. Down the road from me, a long fence — certainly a half-block long — had been covered with a line of huge oleanders. They must have been well over 20′ high. After the freeze, they seemed kaput, and a couple of weeks ago they finally were cut down. Only their stumps, about a foot high, were left. When I passed by them yesterday, the new growth is thick, and already two feet tall. Never say never, botanical version! Your poor trees are a different matter, but even our palms are continuing to come back, one by one. It’s clear that a few won’t make it, but the people in charge have been patient, and it’s paying off.

    1. Maybe I don’t know where you are, Eliza. I thought you were in Steve’s area — Massachusetts. I don’t know anything about gardening, but it surprises me that E. hookeri would thrive there. That species is relatively limited, and is found primarily in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

      I took a look at GoBotany, and while there are three native Eryngium species listed for New England, their distribution is very, very limited: they almost aren’t there. I suppose it might be a case of a plant native in one place being usable where it’s not native.

      It did occur to me that I’ve seen English gardeners mention Eryngiums which go by the name of sea holly. When I looked at that list, I thought I recognized some what I’ve seen in gardens here. They’d be a great addition, that’s for sure. For one thing, deer (and horses!) leave them alone.

      1. My source reported it to be hardy to zone 6b. I’m close to Steve, yes, at 5b, but with our mild winters of late, it is possible to plant in warmer pockets around the house to boost the rating. I grew E. planum once and ended up pulling it out as it self-sowed way too easily and it threatened to take over. I’m not totally in love with spiny plants, but some sea hollies are quite beautiful.

        1. The nice thing about these is that even though they’re spiny, they’re not going to attack. Even when I’m ploughing through a patch of them, they don’t scratch me up as badly as some will.

    1. The bluebells’ scientific name reminds me of the collective noun for a certain bird: “an exaltation of larks.” Both deserve the description, I’d say.

    1. How’s this for an imaginary conversation between these two?

      Eryngo, to the Bluebell: “Why can’t you ever get to the point?”
      Bluebell, to the Eryngo: “Eventually, I’ll get ’round to it.”

  6. Simply lovely combination!
    Nice job in spotting them together.

    Some species of Eryngium in Florida sport some color in their blooms, but as you point out, timing is everything! And mine is usually not so good.

    Thank you for sharing these blue/lavender blooms!

    1. Two or three weeks ago, I found another Eryngium in bloom: Rattlesnake Master, or E. yuccifolium. A portion of Nash Prairie had been burned, and it came back with enthusiasm. I’ve never seen so much in one place, and the fragrance was marvelous. I’ve never noticed fragrance with this Eryngo, but with that color, who cares?

    1. I thought so. It really is an interesting study in similarities (like the color) and differences (the shapes). In this instance, the photo might be more pleasing than the actual sight of the flowers was. I suppose part of that is a result of being able to isolate these from all the other hub-bub around them.

    1. These were so perfectly matched they might have been planted by a gardener. It surprised me that the photo doesn’t feel at all ‘busy’ to me. I think that might be due to the perfectly matched colors that pull the image together.

    1. Aren’t they? The color’s like a little bit of spring lingering into mid-summer. I wondered if there was some of the same color in your temperature blanket, and sure enough — there it is!

    1. That would be an understatement. Both are flowers I look for every year, and to find them in combination, with their colors so perfectly matched, was special indeed. Having the flowers joined by buds and a fading bloom just added to the fun.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.