Eleven Mile Blues

No, I wasn’t goin’ down the road feelin’ bad, and I certainly wasn’t singing the blues. As I lollygagged down 11 Mile road on the west end of Galveston Island, some blues caught my eyes rather than my ears, and I pulled over for a closer look.

Blue-eyed grass ~ Sisyrinchium spp.

To my complete delight, the bits of blue turned out to be wildflowers. Blue-eyed grass, a collection of species in the Iris family, are among our earliest wildflowers, and these were putting on a bit of a show. A recent mowing had left them shorter than usual, and their color wasn’t quite as vibrant as it will be later in the year, but on January 9, who could quibble over that?

It was enough to see the buds and the blooms: early tokens of a season only weeks away.


Comments always are welcome.

74 thoughts on “Eleven Mile Blues

    1. Looking through my archives, it’s amazing how many flowers tend to begin blooming by January’s end. The best wildflower months are down the road — but sightings like this one are saying, “Pay attention.”

  1. Our cool weather has brought hibiscus out all around town. It is great to see, just as these beautiful blue wildflowers are. Wildflowers are something I surely miss here.

    1. I’m glad you’re getting some of that vaunted Florida color again. Our tropical hibiscus didn’t fare at all well during the freeze, except for potted ones carted into houses or garages. We do have some lovely natives in the family, though, so in time they’ll begin bearing new flowers. Even though we don’t have long, harsh winters, it’s always great to see the wildflowers appear again.

    1. I’ll vote for harbinger. Even though we’ll surely have more cold snaps — or worse, as we did in The Great Freeze of ’21 — there are signs of spring all around, including the flocks of arriving robins.

        1. Obviously, the key word is ‘eventually.’ But there’s never a clean transition. We’ll have more cold and wet before we get sunny and warm — and flowery.

  2. Totally delightful! There is something extra special about such tiny beauties. You have to come near to them to appreciate them in full…Mother Nature drawing us close!

    1. Mother Nature drew me so close to these that a woman in the neighboring house came out to check on me. Now, she knows about Blue-eyed Grass, too. I suppose it’s no mistake that so many early flowers are small, and grow close to the ground. It’s time to start watching for our wild strawberries, too. Last year, our local cultivated strawberry fields opened for picking in late January. They had to close for a while because of rain, but those early berries were delicious.

    1. The flowers are large enough to admire even without the addition of a macro lens, but that bud was tiny: about 1/3″ long. I wasn’t sure I could manage that one, but it came out nicely.

    1. I knew I had an even earlier example, and I found it. On January 4, look what was blooming on Settegast Road, a differently-named portion of Eleven Mile Road. There’s a mention in that post of the previous year, when Blue-eyed Grass was blooming in mid-January. It seems there’s something about that area that encourages an early bloom.

    1. Dare I say those little hairs tickled me? At least, the image did. The bud was so small — just about a third of an inch in length — that I wasn’t sure I could manage its detail. The tip is a bit out of focus, but the hairs were the fun part, anyway.

    1. And they are blue, indeed. For a two to three inch tall flower less than an inch wide to attract the attention of someone in a car — well. That says all you need to know about their color!

  3. And *this* is why I miss living in the South! Just knowing that the change of seasons is right around the corner lifts your spirits. Here, as you’re well aware, we’ve had a rather mild (all things considered) winter thus far, but we all know we’re going to pay for that somewhere down the road (probably by wearing boots and coats to Easter Services!) This is a lovely blue wildflower, and it makes me smile just to see it!

    1. I laughed at your comment about coats for Easter. I still remember, and refer to, the tulips that were blooming away on Easter Sunday — with their pretty flowers neck deep in snow. It didn’t hurt them one bit, but it sure was funny. I wish I had a photo, but back then it never would have occurred to any of us to take a picture of such a thing.

      This flower always brings a smile. I’m hoping to find a field of them later this year. They can set up such a blue glow it sometimes seems the air above them is colored.

    1. It certainly was. I’ll say that I don’t necessarily favor blue flowers, but even if they’re not my favorite I’ll never pass a sight like this without appreciation and a smile.

    1. It’s like blue water and blue skies both have condensed into a tiny flower. They do have a delicate appearance, but they’re clearly tough little things, and able to bounce right back after spates of winter weather. Let’s hope we can bounce back as well as they do!

    1. At first, I didn’t think I’d ever heard ‘blue-eyed’ used in that way, and then memory stirred and I remembered this odd little poem of e.e. cummings, where I first ran into the expression. For some reason, it seems like it’s part of a bluegrass or Appalachian or string band song, too, but I can’t pull it up.

      Now I’m wondering if that’s how this flower got its name. It’s always seemed curious to me that it was called ‘blue-eyed’ even though the center, or the ‘eye,’ is yellow. You may have hit on it!

      1. “Mother’s favorite blue-eyed fair-haired golden boy with a heart of gold” would cover more of the bases but kinda long. I’ll ask my aunt who plays “old-time” Appalachian music, maybe she’ll know the tune.

    1. Flowers like these can keep me happy for a good while. That’s one of my favorite things about nature photography. Even after the grass dies or the flower fades, there still is a record of their beauty.

    1. Occasionally I’ll congratulate myself on the cleverness of a title, and I sure did with this one — thanks for confirming its appropriateness! The flower is a pretty one. Eventually, there will be colonies of these to appreciate.

  4. That first image has such a nice detailed and satiny quality. Hooray for the first of most any wildflower for the year. I’ve gotten over my envy of your early springs and now am able to just enjoy them completely from afar and ignore our current frozen mud for these happier images.

    1. These photos are an example of third time’s a charm. Rain, wind, and other factors meant two sets of photos just weren’t good. But, not knowing when I’d see more in bloom, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I made a third trip down to the island, and managed these. The bud was lagniappe!

      I’m still trying to get over my envy of your fall foliage, so I guess we’re even. I’m working on it: more or less successfully.

    1. I really do enjoy buds, and this is a fine one. Photos like this always make me appreciate my macro lens all over again; even a bud only a third of an inch long can shine when seen that way.

    1. And more specifically the west end of the island. I’ve gone back through my files, and January has produced Blue-eyed grass multiple times, and as early as January 4. By mid-January, Scarlet Pimpernel has shown up, and even an Indian Paintbrush. Oldfield daisy, too. Of course there’s Crow Poison everywhere. There can be a pause now, especially if we get a long cold stretch, but there’s a stirring afoot!

  5. This is so pretty. I rarely see blue ones here. Even the cultivated bloom, like the iris, seem rare compared to the other rainbow of floral hues. This one is incredibly beautiful.

    1. We have quite a variety of blue wildflowers, although it seems to me — purely subjectively — that yellow is the most common color. It’s interesting to me that the first three flowers I’ve seen this year are shades of the primary colors: blue, yellow, and red. Maybe nature’s filling up her palette, getting ready to paint the landscape.

    1. The only thing about those bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush is that they linger for a relatively short time. I’m willing to be happy with these first bits of color, so I have a little more time to appreciate what we know is yet to come!

    1. But you have your anemones! Isn’t it interesting how the same plant will bloom in one place and not another, or bloom in one spot for years and then ‘disappear.’ That’s part of what makes the seasons so much fun: waiting to see what’s going to pop up, both where and when.

  6. At Brazos Bend State Park, the 40-Acre Lake parking lot has a great collection of Blue-eyed Grass, and there is another great stand of them in Sandberry Cemetery, on Crabb River Road, just north of FM-2759. That’s a beautiful spot when the morning sun over the neighboring subdivision hits all those little blue stars. Gorgeous!

    1. The first thing I had to do was look up Crabb River Road, and FM 2759. I had no idea where either might be. Now that I know, I’m laughing. In my world, that would be the area where old maps would say, “Here be dragons!” Now that I’ve bumped into the George Ranch high school and the George Ranch Historical Park, I think I know why it’s the George Observatory at Brazos Bend. Since I do travel SH 36 from time to time, I should strike out into the wilds of suburbia and do some exploring.

      Thanks for the tip on the Blue-eyed grasses. In turn, I’ll tell you that yesterday I found a group of Sandhill Cranes just off the Bluewater Highway, between Jamaica Beach and San Luis pass. Per usual, they were a little far away for my lens, but they were close enough for at least decent photos: ones that show them as more than gray blobs!

  7. In winter we are thankful for any sign from nature that the season will end. Some of us are in warmer environments where those signs appear earlier than in lands of snow and ice. And we are thankful.

    Great photographs of these miniature bits of blue!

    1. I hope you’ve warmed a bit from those 30s you mentioned. I still remember the first time a friend on Florida’s east coast (but farther south) mentioned falling iguanas. Given a choice between snow and ice or falling iguanas, I think I’d still take the iguanas — as long as they weren’t so deep they needed to be shoveled!

      That’s what these bits of blue are: a sign. On the other hand, when I was out yesterday, the Crow Poison had multipled enormously: so much so that I think another post may be required to show the beauty of the opened flowers.

  8. Those Texas roads must have broad shoulders. Seems like you’re always simply pulling over to capture some spot of color that grabbed your eye whilst cruising along. This is another nice one.

    1. Sometimes they’re broad, and sometimes there’s no shoulder at all: or, it’s so muddy it would be risking the need for a tow if I pulled off. In either case, it’s emergency flashers to the rescue. If anyone slows down, I raise up the camera, they grin, and we both go back to our business.

  9. I do so love blue-eyed grass. Such beautiful flowers, the colors, the shapes, just perfect. And I enjoyed seeing that curled up bud with all those little hairs along its length. Fantastic!

    1. I was prouder than I perhaps should have been to manage that image of the bud. When something’s so small — about a third of an inch long and two inches or so above the ground — there’s nothing for it but to throw inhibition to the wind and go to ground myself. They are beautiful flowers. One was being visited by a hoverfly, but it didn’t linger long enough to have its portrait made.

  10. You prompted me to run out to the garden to see if my blue-eyed grass is blooming yet, but no sign of it so far! I’ve never seen a lot of this wildflower blooming in the wild, but it does grow here and there in the local foothills.

    1. There are so many species of this little lovely, and I suppose they have varying bloom times. From looking at my files, it seems their peak doesn’t come until late February-mid-March for us, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m not so good at taking photos of large expanses of flowers, but if I get the chance this year with these, I’ll spend some time with them.

  11. I always get a kick out of blue eyed grass. I always have this Looney Tunes flash of a stand of tall grass dotted with blinking eyes. Right up there with the lamb showing off her legs (to off screen wolf whistles). But I do like that blue, though. Such a nice shade.

    1. Here’s one for you: one of my readers brought up the point that ‘blue-eyed’ has for centuries been an idiom that means ‘fair,’ or ‘handsome,’ or ‘greatly admired.’ I’ve always wondered how the phrase got attached to these flowers, since their centers are yellow. Now I’m wondering if the name might have been attached because they were admired for their beauty. It makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s true!

      1. I’ve not seen many blue flowers. The first time that I came across blue flowers was when we lived in the San Gorgonio mountains. They were blue flax flowers. I was a happy camper.

    1. Speaking of the Buckeye state, are you being affected by the train derailment there, and all of the subsequent events? It’s been very interesting to compare reports from mainstream media and posts elsewhere from people who may (or may not! — this is social media) have been affected by it all.

      At any rate, here’s to a safe and colorful spring; I hope it arrives sooner rather than later!

        1. That’s good to know. Living as close as I do to the Houston Ship Channel and our petrochemical industry, and having witnessed a couple of significant explosions, it’s the sort of incident that I follow pretty closely.

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