The Road Warriors

One of our earliest-blooming wildflowers, pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) often covers fields, highway verges, and vacant urban lots with a dazzling combination of pink and white blooms. Despite its common name, the flowers sometimes open in the morning, inviting insects such as this tumbling flower beetle (Mordella sp.) to visit.

Despite their drought tolerance, these primroses don’t flourish in the temperatures of late summer; as the heat rises, the flowers begin to disappear from the landscape.

That said, I had to smile when I found this isolated group blooming away in the middle of a caliche road. Undeterred by late July temperatures or their less than perfect soil, they clearly deserved to be honored as botanical road warriors.


Comments always are welcome.

40 thoughts on “The Road Warriors

  1. They are warriors. I guess the plant needed to get its blooming in before winter. My Rain Lilies only like to bloom after receiving rain water not sprinkler water, but during a drought they will finally give in and bloom.

    1. There are quite a few seed capsules on the plant, so it may be that it was finishing its cycle and then was rejuvenated by rain, or lowering temperatures. It’s almost impossible to say when it comes to plants that aren’t handy for daily observation, but it certainly was fun to see these in the middle of the road.

  2. What a nice surprise to see it blooming so late in the year! Interestingly, many of my spiderwort never disappeared this summer. Typically, the green foliage fades with the heat, but not this year. And, I’ve watered less this year, too, so it’s not like the individuals that have remained green are getting an extra drink or two. It’s been a fairly mild summer, as Texas summers go.

    Nice shot of that lovely black beetle surrounded by pink!

    1. As we’ve often said, the post-freeze world has been a little strange. I’ve noticed that some Ruellia and Turk’s cap are reviving and putting on masses of flowers and lots of new foliage. Both usually bloom well into the fall, but it’s a little strange to see them almost voluptuous! It has been relatively mild; maybe that’s what they like. This is the first summer I remember that we haven’t gone over a hundred degrees — even though the humidity has made it far from comfortable.

  3. Enjoyed this tribute to the pink evening primroses, Linda. Your last photo of the blooming bouquet in dry and rocky soil was a good example of their road warriorness. I liked the title, and the beautiful close-up with beetle, too.

    1. Those little beetles are among my favorites. A time or two I’ve actually caught one ‘tumbling,’ and it’s great fun to see. It’s relatively common to see plants scattered about in the limestone and caliche of our hill country, but I’m more accustomed to seeing these primroses in more meadow-like settings. Isolated as this clump was, it was delightfully eye-catching.

  4. What a terrific name to give such a seemingly delicate flower!

    The plants are true survivors and, yes, totally worthy of the name “warriors”. When I encounter a flowering plant that has managed to thrive in the middle of a road-less-traveled, I carefully navigate around it and, if possible, inevitably stop and examine it more closely.

    More often than not, just as you discovered, there will be an insect hiding or hunting among the petals or leaves.

    Flowers in the middle of the road. What a wonderful discovery!

    1. Flowers in the middle of the road certainly beat the creature in the middle of the road that we used to sing about: something about a dead skunk, as I recall.

      Before long, we’ll be rounding into the season when any blooming flowers will have a nice complement of pollinators. I’m sure you see the same thing; eager for pollen or nectar, the insects become willing to share, even with other species.

      Of course, more than flowers can be found in the road. As I recall, you’re fond of the Cara Cara. This isn’t at all a publishable photo, but every time I look at it, I laugh. Hard day, much? (He was fine. I thought perhaps he’d gone after some prey and failed. He was back in the air after about ten minutes.)

    1. I suspect we’ll see even more as the temperatures moderate — and after the coming rain, perhaps. Everything should freshen up after that, as long as it doesn’t turn into a flood.

  5. Hearty little guys. I’ve been watering my plants most every day, plus we have thundershowers and I still find plants wilting now and then.

    1. A friend calls it end-of-summer syndrome. Are your plants in the ground or in pots? My friend has her flowers in pots, and she discovered that they did better when she collected rainwater for them. I suppose that’s not as easy for in-ground plants, unless you have a really extensive catchment system. My suggestion? Put in a work order with Mother Nature, requesting a half-inch of rain every other day!

  6. You’ve got a good eye, Linda, and I’m always surprised (and pleased!) by the beauties you find to photograph for us. The color of this one is delightful, and this little clump in what looks to be the middle of nowhere is making me smile.

    1. I like to call discoveries like this ‘accidental gardens.’ Whether it’s flowers in the middle of the road, or a dandelion peeking up through a crack in the sidewalk, they make me smile, too. A field filled with them is wonderful to see, but we’re going to have to wait for next spring — and hope there’s no poorly-timed freeze.

  7. May all your tumblings be via flower beetles.

    Pink evening primroses certainly go way down in the hottest part of the year, as you said, and yet it’s not unusual in Austin to see stragglers flowering through the summer and into the fall.

    1. A tumbling beetle beats a tumble off a dock, that’s for sure.

      I see the same thing with Indian paintbrush, firewheel, and such. They don’t seem to have clearly defined seasons. If the conditions are right, they’ll pop up again, or linger past the time of their ‘usual’ departure. Just as they don’t carry maps so they know where to bloom, they don’t have calendars that tell them it’s the ‘wrong’ month to shine forth. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether they’re early or late.

  8. First time I saw these were on a friend’s hillside garden. So delicate and sweet, I thought. Then I planted some at my (then) duplex’s narrow garden and they popped up everywhere; roots ran under pavers, seedlings crept up between blades of grass, clumps took up residence next to rose canes…. It took years (and probably a few fierce summer temperatures) to finally eradicate.

    1. Your comment gave me a smile. In reading about this plant, I kept bumping into garden forums where people were agreed on “Yes, but” when it came to recommending this plant. Yes, they’re pretty, and great for pollinators, but they’re thuggish as can be. In a nice, big field out in the country, that’s not a problem, but of course for a gardener it’s a different story. Hummingbird moths do love them — that’s a plus — and if you want something that will crawl over rocks, they do just fine.

    1. I made a note of where I found them. Next year, I’ll go back to the spot and see if all those seed pods did what they were supposed to do. Anything from flooding to road maintenance could keep them from reappearing, but it never hurts to look. I’m not sure they’re hiding, but I surely will be seeking!

  9. I see a lot of primrose along the roadsides but I can’t recall seeing one in late summer caliche. I’ll be keeping an eye out this season to see if our odd weather this year has encouraged them. We finally had a few 100 degree days this year, but we dodged them until last week.

    1. Despite the fact that everyone has complained for weeks about our heat, we never broke 100. Apparently it’s true that it isn’t the heat; it’s the humidity. It was extra comfortable yesterday and I made a quick run down to Brazoria. Sure enough, there was a fresh, new pink evening primrose, blooming away — although the Indian paintbrush seem to have given it up for now.

    1. Tough, or stubborn, or persistent. Who knows? But they were fun to discover, and hard to miss, right there in the middle of the road: road life, rather than road kill.

  10. The close -up of the primrose is so pretty. I just have to add this tidbit here. I am on a web page/site on FB for a local garden club (you know the name of my town). Anyhow back in the spring a lady posted some photos of parts of her garden/yard that had a very beautiful array of wildflowers. She especially mentioned the “buttercups” that were blooming in a huge plot in all their glory. I need to say here that I grew up calling them “buttercups” and never knew the proper name until well into my thirties when I finally bought my first field guide of wildflowers.

    Anyhow, one of the commenters chastised the poster in a very blatant manner and informed the poster that the flower is not a “buttercup” but an evening primrose. I, of course, came to the poster’s defense and wrote that I still called them “buttercups.” The person that was making the correction was adamant that anyone commenting should use the proper botanical name but she never mentioned its proper botanical name of oenothera. And she didn’t even try to be nice or tactful. Needless to say, one person commenting can dissuade folks from posting something very worthwhile.

    1. I had dinner with friends last night, and one is from Amarillo. When we started going out to the refuge together a couple of years ago, she mentioned that she hoped we’d see a field of buttercups. When we came across a spread of what I call pink evening primrose, she was excited beyond words to see the ‘buttercups.’ Of course we both meant the same flower. To paraphrase Shakespeare, a primrose by any other name still looks as pretty.

      Scientific names are a blessing in a number of ways; for one thing, they help us sort out what’s meant when different common names are used. I just peeked at, and found these names listed: Pink Evening Primrose, Showy Evening Primrose, Mexican Evening Primrose, Showy Primrose, Pink Ladies, Buttercups, Pink Buttercups. If Buttercups made it onto that page, I say ‘pffft’ to the critical facebooker.

      You’re right, of course, that there’s no need for nastiness or snark when it comes to plant names. You’re also right that it can keep people from posting, or asking question. I got the full “My goodness, aren’t you stupid?” treatment on iNaturalist once, and it kept me off the site for a good while.

      1. Oh no! Not you too. That must have been quite a lelt down to be called stupid. I have never used inaturalist and probably never will because my little brain can’t remember the botanical names. I remember a few names from long ago but I just concentrate on mostly the beauty and the common names of plants tree. shrubs, and woody vines.

    1. In spring, I sometimes see these mixed with blue-eyed grasses. The combined colors create a pretty lavender haze; it’s different from the purer pink of hundreds of these, but just as appealing. As eager as we are around here for fall, it’s still nice to have these as reminders of spring!

    1. I could have termed them “a small but discrete roadside colony,” but that doesn’t quite capture the spunkiness I saw in them, or the humor in the phrase “road warrior.” It pleases me that they delighted you, too!

    1. Different worlds, different words. I can’t tell you the number of ‘Britishisms’ I’ve had to look up thanks to another English blogger; names for the various soils is only the start of it!

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