When it comes to autumn color, trees hold pride of place. During my years in the midwest and mountain west, Sunday afternoon drives “to look at the trees” were a beloved seasonal ritual.
In parts of Texas, perfect conditions can produce equally colorful trees, but on the coastal plain autumn color is less easily seen from the road. On a recent visit to Galveston State Park, the reds, golds, lavenders, and oranges of the marshes were best encountered on foot.
Carolina wolfberry blooms with a pretty purple flower from May through October, although it sometimes blooms even in December. Its vibrant red fruits typically ripen in October and November, when migrating whooping cranes arrive on the Texas coast. The cranes’ winter diet consists primarily of blue crabs, but wolfberries provide as much as one-quarter to one-half of the birds’ energy needs in early winter.
Wolfberry and goldenrod blooming simultaneously provide a charming variation on autumn’s many purple and gold combinations. Seaside goldenrod thrives among the other salt-and-sand loving plants of our coastal counties, and often blooms in tandem with other goldenrod species.
As other flowers begin to decline, autumn goldenrods offer sustenance to a variety of insects, including bumblebees.
Even the lowly glassworts shine in autumn. Both Virginia glasswort (Salicornia depressa) and Dwarf glassroot (Salicornia bigelovii) begin life as green, low-profile members of the marsh community, but by early October their changing colors start to catch the eye.
The taller and many-branched dwarf glassroot often becomes especially attractive, with colors ranging from a true red to this rusty orange. Granted, it’s not as obvious as a maple or sweetgum dressed for autumn, but it decorates its marshy home perfectly well.