Purple Haze

Deer-pea Vetch ~ Vicia ludoviciana

A far cry from the lead song featured on The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 debut album, this ‘purple haze’ sings a different tune: emerging in spring to cover Texas roadsides, vacant lots, pastures, and woodlands. One of our most common vetches, it seems to color the air as it spreads along mowed roadsides; spied in vacant lots or pastures, it presents pleasing piles of purple. Everywhere, it attracts a variety of hungry pollinators.

Where it mounds upon itself, as in the photo above, the form of the flowers becomes less noticeable than the pretty color. A closer look reveals their lovely details, and especially their variety.

Walden West
Vacant lot ~ Dickinson, Texas
San Bernard Wildlife Refuge
Roadside, Lake Jackson, Texas
Colorado County roadside


Comments always are welcome.

50 thoughts on “Purple Haze

    1. That little skipper flew into view while I was photographing the flower, so I didn’t even have to chase it. I didn’t have time for many shots, either, or time to adjust my settings a bit. It came and went in only a few seconds: now you see it, now you don’t!

    1. I know it’s a Skipper, but that’s the best I can do. It flew into the frame while I was focused on the flower, had a few sips of nectar, and then flew off. I did read that skippers are frequent pollinators of the plant, along with bumblebees and other small bees.

    1. I found a stretch of road where this vetch was combined with Indian paintbrush and lovely white fleabane, and it was so pretty. I don’t know quite how to describe this one’s appearance in the landscape. Often, it’s like a purple watercolor wash over everything.

    1. I knew someone would spot that p-laden phrase! I purposefully plunked it into the paragraph, and your response surely qualifies you for the 2022 Alliter-off: a contest rooted in the Weather Underground blog pages of yore. The champion alliterator also was the one who came up with the best-ever definition of a computer as an’ infernal persnickety timesucker.’

        1. That took a few reads, but Alvin and his coin helped me to understand a phrase I’ve used from time to time with only an intuitive understanding: “possible, but not probable.” Not only that, there were some other articles that were interesting, even when I didn’t fully understand them. “The Confusion Matrix” would make a good book title.

    1. I was thinking about you last weekend when I made my April visit to Walden West. That pond is in a wooded area, too, and it’s only on the fringes that any wildflowers appear. On the other hand, the shade-loving Turk’s Cap plants are beginning to grow; it will be interesting to see when they begin to bloom.

    1. These are pretty: so much so that if anyone dared criticize them (the flowers, not the photos!) I’d kvetch up with them and give them a talking-to.

    1. I love those striations. I have another photo that shows flowers with a good bit of white in them; I nearly added that image, too, but it occurred to me that they might be another species. More research is required!

  1. We have our fair share in back. Cannot bring myself to let them be mowed. Yet. The bees love them. There’s quite a hum low to the earth and higher up because the willow is in full flower as well.

    1. You’re absolutely right about the bees loving them — butterflies and other insects, too. They’re a great source of food when other flowers are scarce. The clump at the top of the page had so many bees buzzing around I could hear them easily — just like yours.

  2. These are so pretty … and the colors so delicate! I’m truly impressed with how many variations you find in nature where you live, Linda. But then, everything’s bigger in Texas, right?!!

    1. Well, I’ll say this — these tiny flowers certainly do pile themselves up into great big heaps. I’m fascinated by their colors, especially the way pink fades to blue fades to lavender. They’re enthusiastic growers, that’s for sure; they spread for miles and miles along the roads.

  3. There’s lots of purple in my garden now. Early spring and August sees the garden in purple of all shades and forms. Your photos are great–I especially like the skipper-on-vetch (fiery skipper?)–those colors, insect and bloom, are stunning together.

    1. I know you have spiderwort — what else is growing in your garden now? I can think of some ‘blues,’ but other lavenders and purples don’t come to mind. Well, except for the mountain laurel, of course! Do you have iris? I can imagine you’re busy as can be getting things back in order now — not to mention helping next door.

  4. Dang… Now I’m going to have a “Purple Haze” earworm the rest of the week! lol

    Vetch is pretty to look at and it is a wonderful plant for pollinators. A field of it in full bloom does make a statement. I’d just rather not have it in my yard.

    It migrated over from next door. The owner there does no home or yard maintenance. There’s always one in the neighborhood.

    The biggest draw I have for bumble bees is my spiderwort.

    1. It seems more than a few lifetimes ago that I bought that first Jimi Hendrix album — and in those days, they were albums! There were only a couple of songs on it that I’d listen to, and I never bought another of his albums, but I sure haven’t forgotten that one. I hope “Purple Haze” didn’t linger too long!

      The nice thing about vetch-in-a-yard is that it fades away in the heat; at least, it does here. It’s already showing signs of weariness, since we’ve been up into the 80’s. It’s an enthusiastic grower, for sure. Turn your back on it, and it’s Little Shop of Horrors time. A friend watched some twine up the umbrella pole in the center of her patio table: a foot a day was common. No wonder yours traveled in from next door.

  5. Vetch is sort of an ugly sounding word and yet these are just so beautiful — both at a distance (I can imagine a field of these!) or, as you shared, up close and personal. They really are exquisite blooms. What gorgeous flowers you have down there!

    1. ‘Vetch’ does suggest ‘retch,’ or ‘wretched,’ doesn’t it? But it”s rooted in an old French word that means ‘to bind’ — and that’s exactly what this plant does. Once it finds something to attach itself to, it’s hard to pull it off; it’s a true-blue ‘clinging vine’!

  6. There are purples there that teeter on the brink of blue. What a lovely cap for a fairy lady to wear. Like a Spanish doña with those elaborate Spanish combs, but with a mantilla of cobwebs.

    1. So many of these flowers that contain shades and shades of color remind me of some of the yarns you use; it’s hard to pinpoint any color change, as the shades just fade into one another. Beyond the natural gradations in the flowers themselves, differences in computers, eyes, and so on can make the colors even more ‘teetery,’ but they’re all lovely.

  7. You’re so lucky to get that fab portrait of the skipper. I think they are among the fastest-flying insects and are notorious for not staying very long in one place.

    1. Well, you know the saying: it’s better to be lucky than good. I was focused in on the flower, intent on photographing it, when the skipper flew in and started sipping. It sure didn’t stay long, but while it was there I just kept shooting, and ended up with this nice portrait. I love that the proboscis came out so clear: nature’s marvelous soda straws.

  8. One thing I’m often impressed with is the complexity and variety in some of the flowers out there, especially when they are physically small flowers. I wonder if some of the purple flowers I’m seeing here now along roadsides and beside parking lots in parks are of the same or a similar species. One day I’ll have to take the time to get down on my stomach and photograph them so I can look them up.

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised. According to the BONAP map there are several species in your area. Another small flower that can spread wildly down here is blue-eyed grass, which also comes in several species. It tends to clump rather than twine, but in areas where it’s common, the blue haze it creates is just as compelling. It’s another that will spread even in the city where conditions are right. There’s quite a lengthy spread of it that’s just popped up in a power line easement I pass every day. It’s in the Iris family, and some species range as far north as Massachusetts.

    1. Aren’t they fun? The top photo is from a vacant lot along Highway 3 in Dickinson. I had stopped there to see if some delights from last year were blooming again (they were — white spiderwort) so that nice pile of vetch was ‘lagniappe,’ indeed.

    1. The fluttery one is a skipper rather than a moth, but never mind that: every sort of butterfly, bumblebee, and other native bees were loving the vetch. It’s interesting that I didn’t see any hoverflies around the vetch; they were partying on nearby spiderworts!

    1. It’s hard to believe that song is over fifty years old. I never liked the song, particularly, but I certainly have remembered it. I never imagined its title would prove so useful!

  9. Outstanding example of how our senses are affected in different ways by the same subject. In a field covered with similarly-colored flowers, we “ooh” and “ahh” due to the overwhelming blanket of color. Your photographs of the individual flowers cause us to “ooh” and “ahh” at the intricate design of a bloom.

    I really much prefer your “Purple Haze” to that of the album.

    All in all, one could say you have presented us with a pitch-perfect purpureal panoply providing perpetual pleasure. For that, we thank you!

  10. Oh, this is wonderful! It’s rampant in the front and back among the bluebonnets. Amazing how much the individual flowers look like wisteria. Which is blooming now on the shop fence.

  11. Although I do enjoy alliteration, I cannot add to yours nor that of Steve and Wally.

    We have a similar vetch here that shows up in the summer. Cow vetch-Vicia cracca is a non-native that can be invasive but prefers roadsides so just addds color to the dusty borders.

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