Walden West ~ June & July

Walden West ~ A hidden vernal pool

Thanks to the unexpected loss of transportation I’ve written of elsewhere, my June visit to the spot I call Walden West was significantly delayed. Arriving nearly at the month’s end, I found oppressive heat, swarming mosquitos, biting flies, and a dearth of blooms: a combination that quickly enough persuaded me to shorten my visit. Instead, I returned twice in July, combining June and July’s offerings into a single entry.

Over time, I’ve come to recognize the ‘pond’ at Walden West as a vernal pool: a small wetland with a seasonal cycle of flooding and drying. Some vernal pools flood in spring, due to melting snow, rain, or high groundwater, before drying by summer’s end. Others fill with rain in autumn, hold water through winter and spring, and then dry by late summer. In either case, the cycle of filling and drying makes them unique among wetlands, and plays a key role in determining which creatures can be found there.

By the end of June, heat and lack of rain had dried Walden West, leaving its depression filled with the dark, matted leaves typical of vernal pools. That said, some moisture remained, encouraging new growth. Mature hackberry trees in the area provided seed for their next generation. As for the shrub known as Groundsel Tree (or Eastern Baccharis), its fluffy white seeds can travel some distance; the seedling I found could have arrived from anywhere in the general neighborhood.

Hackberry seedling ~ possibly Celtis laevigata
Groundsel tree ~ Baccharis halimifolia

Despite the lack of surface water, dragonflies were everywhere: no doubt drawn to the area by those bothersome mosquitoes. This female Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida ) had perched in what’s known as the obelisk posture: a handstand-like position created by raising the abdomen until its tip points at the sun. With the surface area exposed to solar radiation minimized, overheating is less likely.

Another common dragonfly, this female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) paused from hunting to show off her beautiful colors atop a plantain stem.

A few damselflies flitted near the ground. One tiny, inch-long creature may have been an Eastern Forktail ((Ischnura verticalis) given its splendid green eyes, the pigmented area on the back of its eye (called an ‘eyespot’), and the solid green stripe along its thorax.

Fragile Forktails (Ischnura posita) are similar, although the male’s black thorax is marked with broken green shoulder stripes that resemble exclamation marks. Whatever the species, this was the smallest damselfly I’d ever encountered. Both Fragile and Eastern Forktails can be found in a wide variety of wetlands, including vernal pools.

Forktail damselfly (Ischnura spp.)

For insects seeking pollen or nectar, drought-tolerant choices were available. Hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of brilliant red Turk’s Caps (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) filled the woods. These shade-loving plants bloom from May until November; their small, edible apple-like fruits develop in tandem with newly-formed flowers. Turk’s Caps bloom most abundantly during summer heat, so July was a perfect time to find them.

The plant’s scientific name honors Scottish naturalist Thomas Drummond, who spent about two years collecting plants in the region of the Colorado, Guadalupe, and Brazoria Rivers. Since Walden West lies in Brazoria County, Drummond might well have seen the Turk’s Caps as he passed through.

His name also has been attached to about a dozen plant species, the moss genus Drummondia, and one mammal: the wood-rat Neotoma cinerea drummondii.

Unlike most members of the mallow family, Turk’s Cap flowers never fully unfurl. Instead, as the stigma develops, it extends above the petals: an open invitation to passing pollinators.

Another member of the Mallow family, the hisbiscus-like Salt-marsh Mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica) was equally abundant along the roads leading to Walden West.

A sun-lover, it doesn’t find the area around the pond especially congenial, but this single flower had found a bright spot in which to bloom.

Yet another mallow already was past its prime. The structurally attractive seed heads of the Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) were scattered about, but I had to turn to my archives to find an image of one blooming at the edge of a creek that runs through the refuge. At times, their flowers are pink rather than white; I’ve seen only one plant with pink blooms, and that was in east Texas.

Swamp Rose Mallow seed head
Swamp Rose Mallow Flower ~ Hibiscus moscheutos

Other signs of a turning season were visible, including this nearly-dried stem of Virginia Wildrye (Elymus virginicus)…

and a few remaining fruits on dwarf palmettos. In time, the fully-ripened fruits will blacken, but eager creatures already seem to have been nibbling away.

Dwarf palmetto fruits

While there may have been Monarch butterflies in the neighborhood, I saw only Queens and Viceroys. Queen butterflies can be identified by the white spots on their wings; Viceroys have a dark, horizontal line paralleling their wings’ edge.

Queen butterfly on a late season Greenthread
Queen butterfly on Mexican Hat
Viceroy butterfly just hanging out on a branch

On this trip, huge spider webs decorated the woods, crossing every trail and opening; most seemed to have been spun by the Golden Silk Orb-weaver (Trichonephila clavipes ). One of our largest spiders, it’s easily recognized by its size, the colorful patterns on its body, and the fuzzy ‘gaiters’ on its legs that remind me of the baggywrinkle used on sailing vessels.

A special treat was finding this very small example of a favorite spider: a Green Lynx (Peucetia viridans) less than an inch long.

Larger green lynx and crab spiders were lurking among some familiar flowers, although none was inclined toward a photography session. No matter. The flowers themselves provided attractive bits of color, and a foretaste of autumn’s typical golds and purples.

Spotflower ~ Acmella repens
Wild Petunia ~ Ruellia nudiflora
Arrowleaf Sida ~ Sida rhombifolia
Looseflower Water Willow ~ Justicia lanceolata

It took some time to identify the Water Willow — at least provisionally. As so often happens, location helped. Justicia ovata, which has similar leaves and flowers and carries the same common name, isn’t found in Texas, and J. americana isn’t found along the coast. When I return to Walden West, I’m hoping to find more easily photographed flowers in order to confirm their identity.

A last mid-summer mystery was this plant, which at first glance I took to be alligator weed: a common invasive introduced into this country in 1894. In fact, I had found a different non-native: Indian Heliotrope (Heliotropium indicum). Several other Heliotropium species are native to Texas, including Salt Heliotrope (H. curassavicum), but obvious differences in the leaves made clear which I had found.

Like the sunflower genus Helianthus, heliotropes were named for the belief that the plants turned their rows of flowers to the sun as the day progressed: in Greek, helios means ‘sun’ and tropein, the source of ‘tropium,’ means ‘to turn.’ This heliotrope certainly turned my head; perhaps I’ll find a native version when I return to Walden West.


And so the seasons went rolling on into summer,
as one rambles into higher and higher grass.
Walden ~ Henry David Thoreau

Comments always are welcome.

79 thoughts on “Walden West ~ June & July

    1. They’re spines: stiff, but not prickly. Most spiders have modified hairs called spines on their limbs. Sometimes, they’re more numerous and larger on the front legs; they assist in capturing and holding prey, or help males hold females during mating.

  1. The cancer center where I go for treatment has enlarged “scenic” nature photographs hung in all the rooms as artwork. While they are lovely photographs, they’re more “mood” pieces than actual fine examples of nature photography. There’s not a picture on this page (except maybe the spiders!) that wouldn’t have made a better replacement for any of those “artworks”. If you had a website and a good giclee printer, you could do a nice little business on the side.

    That said, the Salt Marsh Mallow blossoms look like satellite dishes. If I was going to have a satellite dish, I’d want one like that.

    1. You really tickled me with that comparison to a satellite dish. I never would have thought of that, but now that you mention it, I see it. I wonder what kind of signals from what kind of universe we could pick up with one of those?

      Although I want all of my photos to be appealing — or at least useful, as with the seedlings and spiders — there are two photos in this series I especially like: the swamp rose mallow seedhead, and its flower with the buds in the background. Those two would pair nicely — and it’s nice that you can imagine them in such a setting.

  2. This post’s a treat Linda! Wonderful variety of colours and form. Even the spider is very attractive with its cinnamon and black colouring! Lovely flowers too, and the Eastern Pondhawk is a stunner!

    1. I enjoy the physical appearance of the Golden Orb-weavers, but I hate walking into their webs. They’re huge, and usually at just the right height for me to get a faceful of silk. I’ve read that they build their webs across trails and openings to catch prey that flies through, but I’m pretty sure they don’t appreciate some lumbering human taking out their work. The silk is strong, too; trying to get it off can be harder than I’d ever imagined. Any dragonfly that gets ensnared doesn’t have much of a chance.

      It was fun to find so many pretty flowers. Some that usually bloom at this time of year weren’t around, and I suspect the droughty conditions had affected them. But August is almost here, and if some rain comes, I expect changes will come as well.

        1. Walking into a web can be unpleasant, for sure. On the other hand, there’s a lot to admire about a two-inch insect that can create such a thing — especially with that tensile strength — even though I could do without the stickiness!

  3. Another wonderful nature lesson, Linda. An introduction to vernal pools; the different kinds of dragonflies, damselflies and other insects; lovely flowers – and your usual marvellous photography

    1. I certainly have learned a lot by repeated visits to this spot, Derrick. One of the best lessons? While suburban lawns and flower beds are crisping up in our heat, the native plants around Walden West are doing pretty well. Obviously, those that prefer a truly wet environment have faded or been slow to develop, but a good rain or two (or more) should take care of that. And now, ‘vernal pool’ is part of my vocabulary, too.

  4. Great post. I really haven’t seen that many mallows in the wild. I do grow some. During spider web season, I always carry a stick in front of me when I walk in my wooded area.

    1. It didn’t take me long to learn your stick trick on this visit. Sometimes, if I spotted the web first, I could duck down and go under it, but just as often I missed seeing one, and had to apologize to the spider for taking out her work. One thing I didn’t know about the Golden Silk spider is how much larger the female is than the male. In one photo, I thought I’d captured the image of a female and a youngster, but I realize now that it was a male and female. There’s always something to learn.

  5. Our front yard /field has a lovely big dip, and could possibly be called a vernal pool; depending on the melting snow cover it’s a few inches to almost a few feet deep in March. Come July; however, it’s often too dry here to support much of anything. Happily, there’s a marsh just a hundred yards down the road that keeps us supplied with all the mosquitos one could ever wish for.

    I really love your dragonfly photos – their colours are the very definition of ‘jewel toned.’

    1. Given our lack of rain, I’d hoped that the mosquito population would have lessened, but no such luck. Part of the problem’s our salt marsh mosquito, which I think is Aedes sollicitans. They bite day or night; even walking through tall grasses where they’re resting will cause them to take flight and attack. What’s really amazing is their long flight distances. I’ve read that populations can be found more than 30 miles inland from the nearest coastal swamp; clearly, there doesn’t need to be water at Walden West for the mosquitos to show up.

      Dragonflies really are beautiful. There are even more colorful ones; when I see them, my photographic skills aren’t equal to their quick flight!

  6. That hackberry seedling didn’t look strong enough to hold up its leaves.
    All the pictures are great, Linda. I’m always enjoying your posts.

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying this series, GP. When I took another look at the seedling with your perspective in mind, I had to smile. It’s as though it’s reached the toddler stage — except that human toddlers can reach out and hold on to something as they struggle to stay upright. Our little hackberry has to make it on its own.

  7. Beautiful images with fabulous detail! I love the variety of flowers and insects you found, but I don’t think I’d be happy about walking into huge spider-webs, urg! (So hard to get rid of the stickiness from normal small webs.) ‘Baggywrinkle’ is a wonderful word, hehe!

    1. Even though I know what they are, ‘baggywrinkles’ always sound to me like a descriptor for an elderly Bilbo Baggins. I do wrinkle my nose a bit when I walk into one of those webs. Even though I know they’re around, and keep reminding myself to look out for them, something else catches my attention, and, to paraphrase the old song, “another web done gone.”

    1. Have you ever heard of the Vernal Pool Association? Apparently it got its start in Massachusetts. This group of photos and the description on the page helped to confirm Walden West’s identity as a vernal pool. It will be interesting to see how it changes the rest of the year.

      And, yes: that Salt-marsh mallow is gorgeous. In early June, I’d thought it wasn’t going to be especially prolific this year. By July, it was blooming more than I’d ever seen. It could have been that my timing was just right, but it was quite a treat.

      1. Vernal pools have a big following here so I’m not surprised that they started here. The biggest event of the year is when the spotted salamanders migrate on the first ‘warm’ rainy night in March to breed in these pools. Armies of ‘crossers’ man the known roadways where salamanders are most populous, stopping cars and escorting the critters safely across with gloved hands. Lots of folks volunteer for it.

  8. What a compendium: over two dozen photographs from one place. I don’t recall that you ever posted so many pictures in a single post.

    Your dragonfly section got me to wondering whether anyone has crafted an obelisk that includes a dragonfly in the obelisk pose. A search turned up obelisks per se and various representations of dragonflies, but no instance of the two things combined.

    1. Now that I think about it, I’m amused that trips I expected to yield few discoveries because of heat and drought ended up providing so many photos. After you wrote “over two dozen,” I thought, “Oh, surely not.” But I went back and counted, and you were right. Of course, two dozen isn’t so many when you consider that the post covered two months!

      It is interesting that I didn’t see a single bird on these trips, and only heard a bit of chirping from a lone Chickadee. Apparently everything has its season, and this was mosquito, dragonfly, and spider season.

  9. I have turk’s cap blooming in the yard. I used to have marsh mallow when I lived in Houston, had collected seeds by the roadside in Galveston, but eventually they quit reseeding. I had a golden orb weaver that built a web between the house and the pink angel trumpet but when I went to check on her the other day she was gone.

    1. There’s a lot of Turk’s Cap around here, too. Most of it’s not the native, though. What I see in landscaping is mostly Malvaviscus arboreus var. mexicanus. Some people call it ‘sleepy hibiscus’ because its longer flowers are pendulous; they hang down instead of staying upright like the native version.

      I was sure you’d posted a photo of the orb weaver you described, but when I searched your blog I couldn’t find the post. What I did find was the post showing your piece called Boxed Lunch. What a treasure!

  10. During the nineties the woods behind our place were a vernal pool of massive proportions from late fall/early winter until late spring/early summer. Water stood, sometimes almost a foot deep over an area of some 5 acres. My wanders thru the woods during those months required a good pair of “chore boots”. Until now I never realized I was in a vernal pool. And many of the flowers you captured look familiar to my wanders thru that wet woods.

    The woods have been mostly gone for a few years now and water hasn’t stood back there since the early 2000’s… except during Harvey.

    1. Ah, yes. Harvey. The storm that turned to Allison and said, “Hold my beer.”

      Where did you five acres go? Natural changes? Sale? Developers? It’s been quite something to watch the changes along FM 2004 down on the Galveston/Brazoria line. The richest wildflower mix I ever saw grew in a few acres there. Now, the land’s been sold, scalped, and large portions of it seem to have fallen to TXDOT and their expansion plans. So it goes. At least there still are some places to find beauty.

      1. My five went to a sell and grinding to become cow pasture… I at least had an input to saving the non-invasive trees in the woods. Sadly, there weren’t that many. At the very least, the cows are fairly good neighbors. Much more so than the rodeo bulls that used to wander thru the yard from pasture that is becoming subdivision right now.

  11. I’m sure you are glad you returned to Walden West in July, as the sampling of the local flora and fauna you shared bespeaks the local beauty and variety. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Of course I would have returned regardless of conditions, but I certainly was pleased to find fewer insects and slightly lower temperatures in July. I’ll confess to being surprised by the profusion of both spiders and Turk’s Caps, but that’s part of the fun: never knowing that will be around. I suspect that some of the plants that were developing so nicely in February may be stunted because of the lack of rain, but only time will tell.

  12. Thanks for the update on Walden West. It’s hard to believe the summer is so swiftly passing into Autumn, but all you have to do is watch Nature. It’s dark when I get up now, and our daylight hours are shorter. Hope your car situation is back to normal!

    1. August 1 ~ my goodness. Time is rolling along. The good news is that a lowering sun will make even hot days more bearable, and down here we’re more than ready for that. I suspect that even a slight decline in temperature and a bit of rain will bring some August surprises to Walden West, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s not to predict what I’ll find.

      Princess is doing fine. In fact, my sense is that she’s running better than ever. I am paying close attention, though — prevention beating cure every time.

  13. (Still having trouble commenting – weird. So trying this way) If it wasn’t so darn hot, I’d be tempted to go out and find these beauties. What lovely picture with the deep dark green backgrounds. Great pix of the various dragonflies and spiders. It is weird how quiet the birds are right now – guess it’s too darn hot for them too (But we have seen fuzzy juvenile night crested herons playing in sprinklers at dusk – the one around the corner finally gave up staring forlornly at his nest.) If we can all endure the next 6 weeks, then maybe a cooler breeze. Yes, spare the webs when you can…none to let a spider hitchhike to you house!

    1. I suspect part of the reason for the birds’ silence is that we’re past mating and nesting time: at least, for the most part. Even the lonely mockingbird who was continuing to call finally has grown silent. My hope is that he found a mate. If not, he’s given up.

      I have fewer squirrels now that the tree trimming’s done. I suspect that territories are being renegotiated. With the seed balls on the cypress trees ripening, the squirrels are spending more time in those trees. There’s one cypress over at Lakewood that’s loaded with seeds; you can’t walk beneath it without getting bonked on the head with a seed ball a squirrel’s rejected or finished with.

      You say six weeks; I say eight. October 1 is when I start to breath a little easier as far as rain with a name goes, although I wouldn’t mind a little tropical critter to ease the drought and begin filling up Walden West.

  14. I have returned to this post a couple of times so that I can take it all in. The pictures and the accompanying narrative are both first rate with something for everyone. Even the most fearful arachnophobe must surely be drawn to these beauties. From a purely artistic standpoint my favourite picture is that of Hibiscus moscheutos. I find that one quite stunning. I noted the comment above regarding the therapeutic impact of nature scenes on cancer patients, and I have little doubt that most of the images here would be quite sublime for those so afflicted. You have outdone yourself with this collection, Linda.

    1. I’m pleased you share my affection for the Hibiscus moscheutos. I was glad to find an image showing the lines of the buds, as well as one that shows those lines still present in the seed head.

      I smile now and then when I remember the days when I tended to shy away from spiders. I wasn’t exactly afraid of them, but I wasn’t ready to make friends with them, either. Now, I find them fascinating: not always beautiful, but certainly worthy of interest.

      I’m honored that you returned for a little more exploration. John Muir put it well: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” That’s as true at Walden West as in the universe at large; it’s impossible to convey the rich complexity of the place without at least a mention of both flora and fauna. That necessarily means longer posts — and more work to figure out what I’ve seen! — but I think it well worth the effort.

  15. Remarkable finds in this special habitat. All of your photos are lovely, but I was especially drawn to the dragon and damsel flies–exquisite captures! I’ve seen something (maybe the same thing) as the larger green one. I have trouble identifying them as there are so many that are similar, with slight differences. Of course, that could be said for many insects, I guess. Great post!

    1. Unless they have truly distinctive wing patterns, I still have a good bit of trouble with the dragons and damsels. Sometimes there’s a feature that makes it easier, like the bright green eye on that damselfly, but there are so many slight variations I’m often happy to find the right genus. That silly damselfly couldn’t have been more than three inches above the ground. I read later that they prefer to stay near the ground and all I could think was, “No kidding!”

      Have you come across our native heliotropes? The common name of one in your area is pasture heliotrope: Heliotropium tenellum. Steve has a couple of blog posts that show them. They’re rather different in appearance, and quite pretty.

    1. I was especially pleased that the spiders were willing to pose, Becky. The flowers aren’t so inclined to skitter away, although the wind can be a bit of an issue, even in the woods.

  16. What an amazing post and those damsels with not a stress in sight. How extraordinary and casual nature often presents itself, just like that and on offer.
    And what is man doing to it?

    1. It does amaze me when I stop to think how much is happening in nature — the blooming, the mating, the territorial squabbles — that goes entirely under our human radar, so to speak. The flowers don’t care one whit whether they’re seen by us. They simply bud, bloom, and seed: true to their nature and oblivious to our desires.

  17. Ah, what a lovely selection of flora and fauna – Walden West does indeed serve you well! It was nice seeing the mallows/malva – especially that last one in white with the crimson center. I had ‘forgotten’ about those! Found in the Neotropics in lavender and in that classic white, the “Scorpion’s Tail” made a good finale for your images

    1. I learned just yesterday that there’s another heliotrope species in central Texas that looks quite different from this one. Steve posted some photos of it a couple of years ago. Now, thanks to your reference to ‘scorpion’s tail,’ I’ve been introduced to yet another species. The Florida Wildflower Foundation has a great page dedicated to Scorpion’s tail (Heliotropium angiospermum), even though I can’t bring myself to write it as one word!

  18. I am impressed with the number of flowers you found during such an inhospitable weather pattern. I am not finding many flowers during my treks here and our heat wave/drought can’t compare to yours.
    The Golden-silk Orbweaver is a gorgeous spider. Your comment above, similar to others you’ve made regarding spider webs, reminded me of this.

    1. What’s interesting is that so much of what I found is heat-loving, like the Turk’s Cap. Several sites made a point of mentioning that it was a plant that preferred heat, and that certainly seemed to be true. On the other hand, there was no evidence of the vining clematis that I’d looked forward to watching develop. There are a few spots where I’ve seen it in the past, and it probably would be worth checking those out to see if its absence at Walden West is a quirk.

      Gary Larson cartoons are the best, and that’s a good one. I still love this one, too. I hope I don’t have to drag it out again this year.

    1. What a wonderful compliment! To paraphrase Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that anyone who starts taking photos of flowers eventually will also be taking photos of insects, and birds, and rocks, and grasses, and ….”

  19. A nature-lovers’ banquet!
    Specialty dishes for discerning diners.
    Appetizers, entrees, desserts.

    Please, Ma’am, may I have some more?

    Trekking to a “pond” which may not even hold water during the hottest part of the year likely thinking to oneself: “What the heck am I doing out here?” Cool air-conditioning beckons you to give up this folly.

    Thank you for turning a deaf ear to that siren song.

    Even considering these images were the result of different visits, the amazing diversity is an outstanding example of how nature rambles along no matter the season, no matter the visitors.

    For me, the Swamp Rose Mallow seed head epitomizes why I return to nature so often. To paraphrase somebody or another, I may not be a botanist, but I know what I like. Beauty and art in a plain brown wrapper.

    Some of the birds we might expect to find at this time of year may be hiding and silent due to having young ones to protect or some may be molting and would be very vulnerable to predators as their ability to fly is impaired.

    I really, really enjoyed this visit to Walden West. Thank you.

    1. I hadn’t thought of molting. I don’t know much about the process, but if a bird’s ability to fly is limited by it, that certainly could contribute to the silence — and the hiddenness. I’m a little attuned to their comings and goings during mating and nesting season, and their occasional disappearance when natural food is abundant, but I need to learn more about molting.

      I didn’t know if anyone else would find that Rose Mallow seed head as attractive as I do, but it had to be added to the post. I love their texture as well as their shape; the flowers are beautiful, but the seed heads are remarkable.

      Had I not been grounded for most of June, I no doubt would have had a separate entry. Thinking back on it, I’ve realized that during that three weeks that I couldn’t get out and about, we really heated up and the flying hordes hatched out. Once I’d made adjustments for the changed environment, all was well.

    2. It’s a good thing you mentioned molting, or I would have panicked when I looked at the window just now and saw a pair of bluejays that appeared to be at death’s door. Funny?!? Oh, my. The sudden disapperance of head and neck feathers makes for quite a sight — but they didn’t seem to have lost any of their appetite!

    1. When I began trying to photograph in the woods instead of on the prairie, there was quite a learning curve, but I’m slowly learning some tricks. I still have trouble with strong sunlight mixed with deep shade — conditions the Turk’ Caps love! — but I was more than pleased with the mallows and spiders.

  20. As always, Linda, the photos are stunners. But those dragonflies, especially, are remarkable. I love that Eastern Poundhawk (?) — the green and gorgeous one. Beautiful sightings with butterflies and so many blooms. I’m sorry your trip was delayed but you have made the most of these times there and it’s absolutely stunning.

    1. Isn’t the pondhawk lovely? That’s such a vibrant green. I think that surely must be a “fresh” dragonfly. Like butterflies, they can become a little tattered in time. As for the delay… let’s just say getting to work and getting to the grocery store became priorities when I was without wheels. That experience had its own lessons to teach!

  21. What a post! So many wonderful images and plants in here! All of the mallows *Drool*. I’m growing some wooly hibiscus (lasiocarpus) and pineland hibiscus (aculeatus) in my native bed in the edible garden and can’t wait for them to bloom. Next year!

    So, the Justicia ovata thing is very interesting because it *is* in Texas, I’ve seen it in various natural areas in east Texas, it grows naturally in our yard, too. I always assumed it was native but now I see the range maps on BONAP and PLANTS and both aren’t over here…which is odd. There are definitely entries in Texas and Louisiana on iNaturalist and I would hazard to guess it is even more common west of the range maps listed. Very bizarre. Going to consult the latest flora from Weakley…brb…(as if this is a live convo hah)—ok, according to the new Flora of SE US by Weakley, it appears Justicia ovata and lanceolata have been split. Lanceolata was a ssp or var of ovata. But taxonomy is confusing and iNaturalist hasn’t adopted that yet. So…I don’t know what to call my ovata, which is definitely different than lanceolata, IMO. Wish I could see the front of your flower.

    1. By the time I finally got to Walden West, I was going to make the most of my visit, that’s for sure. Despite everything, it was a satisfying few hours that sometimes almost edged into fun. You know about that!

      When I found the Hibiscus aculeatus at the Watson preserve, I couldn’t believe how pretty it was. I’m going to do a post about that flower separately, because of the nectaries that are so interesting. I ought to do that soon, as a followup to these mallows.

      I saw that business of lanceolata being a var. of ovata, but I couldn’t sort out what was going on, since the sources often disagreed with one another. Now, I feel better. I sure wish I could have seen the front of the flower, too. Unfortunately, it was growing far enough into the water that I would have needed boots to get to it, and even though I had boots, I would have had to trample a good bit of plant life in the process, so I decided to do what I could with leaves, height, location, companion plants, and so on. I’m hoping that on my next visit there will be more plants, especially if we get some encouraging rains — which seem to be coming this weekend.

  22. That’s an excellent batch of photos. I particularly like the Swamp Rose Mallow Flower shot, and its black background. Did you use a flash, or was the BG naturally dark?

    1. No flash for the mallow image. I almost never use flash, although I’ve found it useful when trying to photograph things like overhead-hanging spiders. I shot the mallow with my 100mm macro lens: f/11 and 1/160, with the light behind me and the dark woods behind the flower.

    1. I am going to have to get myself in gear and make my trip to Walden West before August is over. I can’t believe a week of the month already is gone. It won’t be long until we’re muttering about September, and then…well, have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

  23. Another very productive group of trips to this location. The hotter months certainly can make this kind of project more difficult. There are several areas I’d have liked to visit more but have skipped over the past month or so. I absolutely love the spider photos, such incredible detail and fascinating creatures, ones I’ve always been drawn to.

    1. There are a lot of people who’ve commented about a certain — reluctance — to get out and about during the past month or two. Quite apart from the heat and humidity, flowers have reduced their blooming and ponds have dried, making their usually resident birds hard to find. But tonight? We’ ve had an inch or so of rain, the highs today stayed below 100F, and tonight I can hear both cicadas and frogs making a little noise. It’s going to be interesting to see what Walden West looks like this month, since they haven’t gotten more than a few hundredths of an inch of rain. I suspect the pond is going to stay dry until something more substantial shows up.

  24. Linda, your photography rewards us with your patience and perseverance. A nearby nature park features vernal ponds, but they are well-hidden off the trail. I am curious to look deeper into this treasure.

    1. They certainly are treasures, and I’m glad to finally have a name for them! Now, we just need our autumn rains to put some water back in ours. All of the ponds are drying, and while we had some intermittent rains for a while, they’re gone again. As almost everyone says, now that we’re past any hurricane threat, it’s time to moisten up!

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