A Spoonful of Sotol

 

Texas Sotol (Dasylirion texanum) and Texas oaks ~ Bandera County

A variety of Sotol (Dasylirion wheeleri) found in Mexico’s Chihuahua region grows as far north as Arizona, New Mexico and extreme west Texas. A distillate made from the plant, also known as Sotol, is akin to Mezcal and Tequila, although those more familiar spirits are produced from a variety of agaves.

A succulent with long, spiny leaves, Sotol became known as ‘desert spoon’ because of concavities at the base of its leaves. Those leaves are edged with tiny, upward-pointing serrations, while its inflorescence consists of thousands of small, white flowers in a dense, vertical plume.

Tiny but dangerous spines on Texas Sotol

Another species of Sotol, Dasylirion texanum, is similar, and more common across Texas; Texas distillers are putting it to good use. One company near Austin, Desert Door, is producing a fully made-in-Texas Sotol; their website is well worth visiting — both for photos of our native Sotol and for information about their distilling process. The section related to conservation is especially interesting.

Take a closer look ~ it might be Sotol, not Yucca

When I stopped to photograph the colorful oaks along the highway outside Bandera, I assumed I’d parked next to a species of Yucca. Later, when photos revealed the serrated edges of the leaves, they served as a first clue that I’d found Sotol — another reward for exploring unfamiliar territory.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Plant for All Seasons

Inland Sea oats in August ~ Watson Rare Native Plant Preserve

The plant variously known as inland sea oats, inland wood oats, and Indian wood oats may have received those common names to help distinguish it from the ‘sea oats’ (Uniola paniculata) which grow in sandy coastal areas. 

Inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) aren’t found anywhere near the ocean. A clump-forming, upright grass, the plant grows along the rocky slopes of streams and rivers, in woodland areas, and in flood plains. A shade and drought tolerant ornamental grass that also can thrive in full sunlight, it’s often used for erosion control, and is prized by wildlife both for cover and for food.

Easily recognized because of its flat, drooping seed heads and arching stems, the plant is native to the eastern United States from Pennsylvania to Florida, and thrives as far west as Wisconsin and Texas. While it can become a little tatty at the very end of its growing cycle, it soon re-emerges, ready to delight the eye.

Inland Sea oats in December ~ Lost Maples State Natural Area

 

Comments always are welcome.

Something New, Something Familiar

Only one bird was swimming in the ponds at Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve yesterday: a winter resident — new to me — known as the Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola). According to the Audubon website, the bird’s common name is meant as a tribute to the buffalo, whose head it somewhat resembles.

The colorful male remained almost out of camera range on the other side of the pond, but I was able to capture a bit of the beautiful iridescence in its head and neck feathers.

Meanwhile, along Settegast Road, three early spring favorites were blooming. The blue-eyed grass, a member of the iris family, surprised me, although it appeared by mid-January last year.

Like Indian paintbrush, seaside goldenrod and crow poison can be found every month of the year, even after significant cold fronts. While no bees were visible, a bevy of tiny flies hovered around the blooms in the pleasant afternoon warmth.

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.)
Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) with hoverfly
Crow poison (Nothoscordum bivalve )

 

Comments always are welcome.