Those Serendipitous Sunflowers

Show all the blooms, but show them slant (with apologies to Emily Dickinson)

For weeks I chased Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) like a birder in hot pursuit of a rare species. Initially, I thought I’d found them at the Attwater refuge, but after both a friend and a member of the refuge staff persuaded me that my glorious find was swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), I knew I’d have to look farther.

One morning, in the process of just roaming around, I passed a patch of vibrant yellow leaning against a pasture fence.  Even at 60 mph, it seemed unusually substantial, so a mile down the road I turned around in a driveway and hustled back to the fence. My instincts had been right. The flowers were Maximilians: beginning to fade, but still glowing as they slanted into the rising light.

I’d always assumed Maximilians were a central-Texas-and-north flower, but I’d missed seeing that the USDA map suggested otherwise. I began looking more closely, and on a small patch of land less than a quarter mile from the Galveston/Brazoria county line, I found them again. Well on their way to forming seed, their little patch of land had escaped both public and private mowers.

As the day progressed, haze from burning fields obscured the morning’s pure blue skies, but added a certain delicacy to some of the images. Here are a few of my favorites from that unexpected encounter.

If one bloom is good, more can be better
A few clouds provide a pleasing background
When it comes to growth, horizontal does as well as vertical
Hazy skies and scattered grasses lend a delicate air
This feels as old-fashioned as my grandmother’s kitchen
A photo-bombing leaf? It’s odd, but I like it
An attractive combination of seed head and bloom
The plant’s graceful leaves deserve equal time
A late season treat for pollinators

 

Comments always are welcome.

All Buttoned Up in the Bog

Bog Buttons along the Sundew Trail  ~  Big Thicket

Like the Baby’s Breath used by florists as a filler for cut-flower arrangements, Ten-Angled Pipewort (Eriocaulon decangulare) fills a multitude of spaces in east Texas bogs, wet prairies, and wet pine flatwoods. In the United States, the species generally is found in southeastern states and along the Atlantic coastal plain, while Seven-Angled Pipewort is found in the northeastern states and Canada.

The genus name, Eriocaulon, is rooted in the  Greek words for ‘woolly’ (erion) and ‘stem’ or ‘stalk’ (kaulós). The species epithet decangulare (and the common name ‘ten-angle’) refers to the number of ribs generally found on the plant’s long scapes.

Other common names, such as ‘hat pin’ and ‘bog button,’ reflect the flower’s appearance; a small, firm cluster of densely packed white flowers sitting atop a stalk that averages two to three feet in height. While individual flowerheads are solitary, a plant may produce a dozen or more blooms simultaneously. Wind pollinated, the plant reproduces from seed.

This developing bud was only a quarter-inch in diameter.

Mature flowers range from one-half to three-quarters of an inch across; their miniscule white to grayish-white flowers develop into the form of a compact ball.

In time, the balls elongate a bit. As they do, black nectar glands become visible, and the button-like appearance lessens somewhat.

Some sources suggest a relatively short bloom time for the plant, but I’ve seen it flowering in the Big Thicket from March until November. Like so many flowers, it’s attractive in all its stages; the fluffiness that appears near its end — causing it to look more like a pompom than a button — is especially appealing.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Whispering Goodbye

Clustered flowers of the Pinewoods Rose Gentian ~ The Big Thicket
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for
the birds that will come—six, a dozen—to sleep

inside their bodies?
And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
                        Song for Autumn  ~  Mary Oliver

 

Comments always are welcome.
For some views of  this flower in its prime, see my previous post.