A Part and Its Whole

A single flower of the longleaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia)

One of the less obvious delights of spring is the variety of milkweeds hidden away in grasslands and prairies. During a recent visit to my favorite nameless hayfield, I found green milkweed (A. viridis), slim milkweed (A. linearis), and an explosion of longleaf milkweeds, which look for all the world like vegetative fireworks.

Although quite different in structure from a daisy or rose, milkweed flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen for a variety of insects, especially native bees. For humans, they provide an unending source of visual delight.

The single flower shown above, in its larger context

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Spring, On The Wing

A Halloween pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) clasps the tip of a plant known as rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) on the Nash prairie

 

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.
                                “The Dragon-Fly” ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson (1833)

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Pair of Dune Delights

Wedgeleaf prairie clover (Dalea emarginata) with grasshopper

I would have expected to find a bee buzzing around this pretty clover; even a butterfly, beetle, or fly would have seemed reasonable.

But the grasshopper surprised me, particularly since his flowery, less than two-inch long perch emphasized the creature’s own small size. For all his wonderful complexity, the tiny creature was the smallest grasshopper I’d ever seen.

Even as I admired the grasshopper, I found myself intrigued by the plant on which I’d found him. The low-growing, long-stemmed clusters of flowers fanning out across the dunes of a Brazoria County beach reminded me of the plant known as frogfruit, despite some obvious differences.

Eventually, thanks to a website known as the Gulf Coast Vascular Plant Gallery, I found the flower. Exploring further, I learned this native thrives primarily along Gulf beaches and coastal dune grasslands in Texas. In Louisiana, where its presence has been limited to the area between Holly Beach and Johnson’s Bayou in Cameron Parish, it’s considered rare.

Even here in Texas it seems to be uncommon, or at least little-reported. In yet another first, I found no photos of the plant on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site. A few reports have been recorded at iNaturalist, but even there not a single wedgeleaf prairie clover appears with a grasshopper as a companion.

 

Comments always are welcome.