A centerpiece for nature’s table
Discovering one charming group of rain lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen) at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge was immensely satisfying, but nature had another surprise in store: a second bouquet so beautifully arranged it might have been created by a professional florist.
After admiring the second clump of flowers, I turned my attention to individual lilies scattered along the roadside, and found them teeming with life. Emerging rain lily buds, elegant as the flowers themselves, played host to a number of tiny grasshopper nymphs who hugged the slender stems.
Among the blooms, a dozen or more Lesser Meadow Katydid nymphs (genus Conocephalus ) roamed and nibbled.
Tempted by pollen and nectar, hoverflies joined the party.
Some insects secreted themselves within the flowers’ depths, closing the door behind them. Here, a spider or caterpillar might have been at work. Despite my curiosity, I chose to imagine a ‘Do Not Disturb” sign and moved on.
One camera-shy crab spider retreated beneath the petals so quickly I missed a clear image, but she’d found a beautiful place to await her prey. Rather than spinning a web, many of these spiders engage in lurking: snatching up unwary visitors seeking nectar or seeds.
Even a few minutes of roadside observation confirms an important truth: as much as we enjoy decorating our homes with flowers, innumerable creatures consider the flowers themselves to be their homes: places of shelter and sustenance. We’re lucky they’re willing to invite us in.
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Eleven lilies and a bud
On July 4th, I found the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge nearly deserted; only a few birds and even fewer humans stirred in the heat. In some areas, a different sort of emptiness prevailed. Since my last visit, mowers had been at work, cutting wide roadside swaths, as well as entire fields, neatly to the ground.
Since the refuge is managed for wildlife, particularly waterfowl, it makes sense that wildflowers might not be the first consideration, but it was disappointing to find stubble where I’d hoped to find flowers.
On the other hand, an unexpected treat awaited me. Rain lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen) decorated the road leading into the refuge, and had spread throughout the refuge itself. Despite our consistent rains, it hadn’t occurred to me that they might be appearing, but hundreds already had bloomed, rising from bulbs undisturbed by the mowing.
Despite being so numerous, the flowers were too scattered for their fragrance to be detectable. Still, the occasional clumps of fresh, white flowers were delightful, and even a single rain lily pleases the eye.
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Texas Bluebonnet ~ Lupinus texensis
While individual reddish-pink or white bluebonnets can be found in nature, a red, white, and blue color scheme is typical for the state flower of Texas.
The top blue petal, known as the ‘banner,’ provides a way for the plant to communicate with bees seeking nectar. If the lower part of the banner is white, bees know that nectar still is available. Once a flower is fertilized, it stops producing nectar and the lower part of the banner changes to red. Since bees don’t see that color, they direct their attention to younger flowers still filled with sweetness.
Older flowers aren’t ignored, of course. Those with red markings still have plenty of pollen for bees to gather, packing it on their hind legs in special pollen ‘baskets.’ Mixed with honey, the pollen will nourish developing larvae.
Bumblebee filling its pollen ‘baskets’
For the bees, red, white, and blue are practical rather than patriotic, but the combined colors of this Texas flower are a fitting reminder of our nation’s flag and what it stands for. This year’s bluebonnets may be gone, but our founding and our history remain, and are worthy of celebration.
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