Golden Waves of Goldenwave

 

All along Texas’s Bluewater Highway, the coastal route from the west end of Galveston Island to the beach towns of Surfside and Quintana, summer is coming. Fields filled with goldenwave, or plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), gleam in the sunlight: a worthy replacement for the masses of Indian paintbrush that have faded away.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Flower With Flaxen Flair

Winged flax (Linum alatum) ~ Brazoria County, Texas

In his poem “The Wreck of the Hesperus,”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes the young daughter of the prideful captain: 

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

It’s unlikely Longfellow was comparing the child’s eyes to any of our native blue flaxes (such as Linum lewisii ), since none are found in the northeast. He may have been familiar with the introduced, blue-flowered species cultivated for food and fiber, L. usitatissimum, or even with L. perenne, another introduced species sometimes included in gardens for the blue accents it provides.

Whatever the source of his analogy, the comparison is apt — at least, for eyes. In extolling the flaxen-haired beauties of myth and history, poets obviously are referencing a different sort of flax. When I discovered the yellow-orange flaxes native to Texas, I thought they might have given rise to the expression.

Berlandier’s yellow flax (Linum berlandieri) ~ Gillespie County, Texas

As it happens, neither flower is the source of the expression ‘flaxen-haired.’ During processing, fiber from the plant’s stalks becomes soft, lustrous, and flexible, and takes on the appearance of blonde hair. The use of ‘flaxen’ to mean “the pale yellow colour of dressed flax” appeared in the mid-15th century, and literary references to flaxen hair appear as early as the 1520s.

Published in 1852, Leconte de Lisle’s Chansons écossaises, or Scottish Songs, included the poem La fille aux cheveux de lin, or “The Girl With the Flaxen Hair.”

Sur la luzerne en fleur assise,
Qui chante dès le frais matin?
C’est la fille aux cheveux de lin,
La belle aux lèvres de cerise.
L’amour, au clair soleil d’été,
Avec l’alouette a chanté.
Sitting amidst the alfalfa in flower,
Who sings in the cool morning hour?
It is the girl with the flaxen hair,
The beauty with cherry lips so fair.
Love, in the summer sun so bright,
Sang with the lark for sheer delight
Berlandier’s yellow flax (Linum berlandieri) ~ Bandera County, Texas

Between late 1909 and early 1910, French composer Claude Debussy included his composition “La fille aux cheveux de lin”  in a first book of Préludes. A simple, glowing composition inspired by the poem, it suits our flaxen-petaled flax perfectly. You may recognize Debussy’s piece; you’ll surely enjoy it.

La fille aux cheveux de lin

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Rockport, Redux

Woolly globe mallow (Sphaeralcea lindheimeri)

As lovely as cemeteries filled with wildflowers can be, it’s often easy to miss the occasional or unusual delight hidden among the mass of blooms.

At the Rockport City Cemetery, I found one grave surrounded by the pure, bright orange of woolly globe mallow. Found in sandy coastal prairies and inland areas of southern Texas, the plant is a Texas endemic (native only to Texas) and is named for botanist Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer, known as the father of Texas botany.

Sandyland bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus)

On March 7, 1901, Lupinus subcarnosus became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Texas. But we have four bluebonnet species and, in time, Lupinus texensis emerged as most Texans’ favorite. To accomodate everyone’s preferences, the 1971 Texas Legislature granted equal rank to any species of Lupinus found in Texas.

Native bluebonnets tend to be blue, of course, but white variants can be found, and some had appeared next to a grave in Rockport.

Cucumber leaf sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

Another lover of sandy soil, the cucumber leaf (or beach) sunflower was scattered here and there among the mix of flowers. Common around dunes or disturbed coastal areas, it can be found any month of the year along south Texas beaches.

An uncommon feature of this one is the extra leaf that’s sprouted on the underside of the bloom. In July of 2013, Steve Schwartzman posted a photo of a similar phenomenon, noting that he’d never before seen such a thing. Now, after nearly six years, we know that there have been at least two.

Trailing wine cup (Callirhoe involucrata)

The trailing wine cup can be distinguished from the standing wine cup in a number of ways. Most obviously, the trailing wine cup forms mats near the ground, while the standing wine cup does just that: it stands, tall and erect, above surrounding plants. This trailing wine cup bud appears to be standing, but it was standing only about four inches above the ground.

The scientific name of the trailing wine cup points to another difference. If you look closely, you can see a ring of small, leafy bracts at the base of the flower. Absent in the standing wine cup, this involucre gave rise to the flower’s species name.

A bit of art deco design ~ Yucca spp.

I’m still uncertain whether all yuccas planted in the cemetery are Texas natives. I suspect not, but all were attractive: the emerging buds especially so. I found the symmetry of this one delightful, and proof enough that all stages of plant growth can be worthy of attention.

 

Comments always are welcome.