Sleek, Silky, and Semi-Spiky

Canna glauca buds ~ Brazoria County

Water Canna (Canna glauca), sometimes known as Louisiana Canna, is native to only a few southern states: Brazoria and Matagorda counties in Texas, several Louisiana parishes, and single counties in Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. Found primarily along the margins  of marshes, swamps, and ponds, it’s an impressive plant that can attain a height of six feet.

The genus name is rooted in the Greek word kanna, meaning reed. The specific epithet also comes from the Greek; glaukos gave rise to glauca, which refers to the grayish-blue color of the leaves. 

One of several September-blooming plants at the San Bernard Refuge ~ Brazoria County

Cannas commonly are propagated by dividing their underground rhizomes. Some gardening sites note that the rhizomes can be overwintered in the ground if the temperatures remain above 40F (or 50F, depending on the website). They’ve been described as temperamental, easily lost if not kept in perfect conditions, but these plants seem to have weathered last February’s freeze perfectly well.

The plants can be grown from seed. Once the flowers are spent, clusters of green, spiky pods that remind me of dog chew toys develop. The pods usually contain one to three large, black seeds which can be harvested after the pods become dry.

Fresh and dried Canna seed pods ~ Brazoria County

The transformation of the plant from one stage to another is remarkable and interesting to witness. In mid-September, I found buds galore still emerging; with luck, more photos of the flowers themselves will be possible before their season is ended.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Putting the Metal to the Petals

These gorgeous metallic sweat bees (tribe Augochlorini) were only two of dozens buzzing about a thick colony of smartweed (Persicaria pensylvanica) at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge on September 19.

Bees in this tribe are brilliantly colored, ranging from gold-flecked green to pure green to various shades of blue-green.  Some may be copper-colored, or even an unusual metallic-pink; all are easily noticed despite their small size.

Some sweat bees build nests in soil or, less commonly, in rotted wood.  Occasionally they act cooperatively, constructing nests that share a common entrance and that are protected by a guard bee.

The yearly life cycle of certain species is split into spring and summer phases.  In spring, they construct an underground nest and provision it for the new generation. After the young emerge, males leave the nest while the females remain, readying the nest for a second brood.

Given the number of bees swarming around the smartweed, I wondered if I might have been witnessing the emergence of a second, late summer brood. Whatever the reason for so many bees, an unexpected absence of mosquitoes allowed me to linger at the pond’s edge, appreciating these little jewels.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Autumn Snow

Snow-on-the-Prairie

As summer begins to ease its grip on Texas, a lovely floral ‘snow’ suggests the coming of autumn. In the western two-thirds of the state, Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) covers much of the land. In the Eastern third (and north into Oklahoma), Snow-on-the-Prairie (E. bicolor) holds sway.

Snow-on-the-Prairie can grow to a height of three or four feet, and often forms dense colonies. Its long green and white bracts, open and airy, offer a pleasing counterpoint to surrounding grasses and forbs.

The plant’s long, slender bracts sometimes are mistaken for petals, but they’re actually  modified leaves. The flowers of Snow-on-the-Prairie are quite small, and exceptionally interesting.

Plants in the genus Euphorbia possess a unique structure called a cyathium (plural, cyathia) which contains both male and female flowers, as well as small structures known as bractioles, and nectar glands. Surrounding the flowers, bractioles, and glands, small bracts called cyathophylls — which superficially resemble the petals of a flower — provide additional color.

Here, the white cyathophylls of E. bicolor add to the plant’s ‘snowy’ appearance. Since the snow is only metaphorical, the sight is entirely pleasurable; it’s possible to admire this plant on the prairie without getting frostbite.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Seventy-Seven Minute Wonder

8:06 a.m.

On September 19, five days after Hurricane Nicholas made landfall, waters in the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge ponds had receded somewhat, but this water lily still wore the necklace of detritus it had collected as it pushed its way through the water’s surface.

Other lilies already had opened, but the loop of grasses around this one’s top had prevented it from joining them. Its slightly odd shape brought to mind a garlic clove, and I paused to photograph it before continuing along the boardwalk.

After a mosquito-shortened visit to a nearby trail, I passed the lily again, forty-one minutes later. Despite impediments, a single petal had worked itself free.

8:47 a.m.

In little more than another half-hour, only two or three petals still were impeded by the grasses.

9:23 a.m.

Witness to such an opening, I couldn’t help wondering if Dylan Thomas’s famous lines were rooted in a similar experience:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Early Autumn Colors

 

While this rusty glow might suggest sycamore leaves floating atop a clear-flowing stream, the reality that caught my eye at the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge on Saturday was quite different.

Strong sunlight penetrating the tangled bankside growth illuminated the underlying creek bed; a combination of natural soil color and decaying vegetation probably contributed to the mixture of seasonal colors. The shifting reflections were delightful, and the colors served as a cheering reminder that everything pumpkin doesn’t require a barista.

 

Comments always are welcome.