Hidden Mirrors

Venus’s Looking Glass ~ Triodanis perfoliata

This small member of the bellflower family probably received its common name because its seeds resemble the shiny, round seeds of a related European bellflower species. The seeds of this ‘looking glass’ are lens-shaped as well, but too small to appear reflective without magnification.

After reading that the plant flourishes best in gravelly or sandy soil, it made sense that I’d found it along the prairie trail at Brazos Bend State Park. About eight inches tall, its flowers were only a half-inch across; they appear sequentially, with only one blooming at the same time.

Its lovely purple petals are complemented by its white throat and prominent white pistil and stamens. Gazing into its center, I saw only summer loveliness: a fair reward for rising summer heat and mosquitoes.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Bluebonnets, with Friends

Nothing says — or shouts — ‘Spring!’ like bluebonnets in Texas. Together with Indian paintbrush, they’re among our best-known and best-loved wildflowers.

For many people, bluebonnets and paintbrushes are the only wildflowers worth seeking, but in Colorado and Lavaca counties last Saturday, one of our bluebonnet species (Sandyland Bluebonnet, or Lupinus subcarnosus) was sharing the stage with several other flowers, including the Texas toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus) shown here.

Six bluebonnet species grow in Texas; wisely enough, all six have been declared our state flower. Whether spread across a field in a blaze of blue glory or serving as a backdrop to other floral delights, they always bring a sigh of satisfaction and relief. When pecan trees bud and bluebonnets bloom, spring is well and truly here.

 

 

Comments always are welcome.

Spring Song

Part of the Lamiaceae, or mint family, lyre-leaf sage grows from a small basal rosette of dark green leaves. Oval and somewhat hairy, the leaves eventually develop purple stems, edges, and veins, as well as deep lobes suggesting the shape of the musical instrument known as the lyre. In 1753, that resemblance led Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus to name the plant Salvia lyrata.

The plant also develops square, hairy stalks from one to three feet tall. Essentially leafless, the stalks fill with buds which go on to bloom from the bottom to the top, attracting a wide range of bees and butterflies with their nectar. Sometimes a single plant produces multiple stems, and while the stems aren’t framed by the leaves, it still can be fun to imagine them as the ‘strings’ of a lyre.

Last week, when I found this plant along a roadside near Santa Fe, Texas, the curved and visually pleasing stem also suggested a plucked lyre string; it reminded me of The Epitaph of Seikilos — the oldest complete musical composition in existence.

Engraved on a stele (or gravestone) almost two millennia ago in the town of Tralles, near modern-day Aydin in Turkey, it is signed from Seikilos to Euterpe, who may have been his wife. Discovered in 1883, the stele passed from hand to hand for years, until it was reclaimed from an owner who was using it as a pedestal for a flower pot. Today, it resides in the National Museum of Denmark.

Signs and symbols included on the stele indicate the melody, which musicologists have transcribed into modern notation. Here, one translation of the words, combined with the sound of the lyre, recall love’s flowering.

While you’re alive, shine;
never let your mood decline.
We’ve a brief span of life to spend;
Time necessitates an end.

Comments always are welcome.