A Gaggle of Gaillardia

Gaillardia pulchella, coming and going

At the end of the road, past the observation platform, around the steel gate meant to discourage cars and up again on the berm, lies an isolated hiking path at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. On the east side of the berm, a ditch deep enough to provide protection from the wind allows plants to bask in low winter sunlight; it’s one of the first places I look for early-blooming flowers: coastal germander, verbena, scarlet pimpernel.

Sometimes, there are surprises. On January 27, I found the ditch filled with short and somewhat scraggly Gaillardia pulchella, commonly known as firewheel or Indian blanket. The genus name honors M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, a French magistrate and patron of botany, while the specific epithet means ‘pretty.’  Twelve species of native blanketflower inhabit the United States; at least one species can be found in every state, with Gaillardia pulchella the most widespread.

Known for their months-long bloom, these tough, cold-hardy Gaillardia clearly weren’t faded holdovers from the fall. In their snug little corner of the world, spring has arrived.

A slightly damaged but still enthusiastic bud
A significantly darker bud, perhaps showing evidence of a recent cold snap
A seedhead, beginning to prepare for the next generation

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

 

Remnants

 

Yucca treculeana, known variously as Spanish dagger, Spanish Bayonet, Don Quixote’s Lance, or Palmito, is a familiar sight in Texas. It begins life as a small, sharp-leaved shrub (see some examples here) but can grow to several feet in height while producing the large clusters of impressive, cream-colored flowers that draw people’s attention.

As the plant grows, dead leaves collect and hang beneath the living. Occasionally, the weight of those leaves, combined with the death of the plant, will topple the yucca to the ground, where it offers shelter to nesting birds, refuge to various other creatures, and opportunities to a photographer.

This one, on the Willow City Loop north of Fredericksburg, Texas, pleased me especially.