Oddly, perhaps, I can’t remember ever seeing crocuses in bloom. Years ago in Iowa, tulips were the preferred spring flower. Today, Gulf coast garden gurus advise that growing crocuses is fraught with so many difficulties — especially our heat and humidity — that failure is almost guaranteed, and that probably explains why I’ve never seen one here.
No matter. Even as more northerly gardeners begin posting photos of their glorious crocuses, several species of our native spiderworts (Tradescantia spp.) have begun to shine. On March 6, I found these newly emerged plants at Brazos Bend State Park, blooming in the midst of a dewberry thicket. The mixture of pink, blue, and lavender flowers was lovely.
After deciding that I’d found T. ohiensis, the so-called Ohio spiderwort, I learned an interesting detail about that species: “When touched in the heat of the day, the flowers shrivel to a fluid jelly.” That helps to explain why the edges of the pink pair shown above seemed to be liquifying in the noontime sun.
With their open structure and obvious pollen, the flowers were drawing a substantial number of hoverflies and metallic bees. The insects were able to navigate easily through the dewberry vines encasing the still-short flowers. In time, taller plants will make it easier for a photographer.
Still, even at ground level it was possible to record one of the most appealing features of spiderworts: their feathery stamens. Color-coordinated with the petals, they’re one of the prettiest sights of spring.