Rejuvenating Rain

 

Carolina Sea Lavender

In early October, when I first discovered Carolina Sea Lavender (Limonium carolinianum) blooming at the Galveston Island State Park, it already was fading away. Despite missing the height of its flowering, I consoled myself with the thought that when next year’s summer arrived I’d know where to find the plant.

On the day before Thanksgiving, while visiting the Island for other business, I stopped by the park to see if recent rains had perked things up a bit. Halfway around one of the hiking trails, sloshing through water deep enough for boots, I discovered that ‘summer’ had come early. Sea Lavender plants were blooming again, their pretty lavender flowers a nice contrast to the sere grasses surrounding them. 

Other bits of lavender also were appearing. The bright red fruits of the Carolina Wolfberry (Lycium carolinianum) had disappeared from the landscape, no doubt consumed by the birds and other creatures who find them appealing, but warming temperatures and steady rains had encouraged new growth, and across the flats, half-inch long buds were forming.

Wolfberry bud

Scattered throughout the remnants of drought-diminished plants, their flowers seemed especially colorful. In time, their fruits will re-form: a lovely ‘second helping’ for the creatures who feed on them.

Wolfberry flower

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Sound of One Leaf Falling

 

Listen.
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

Although no frost occasioned the fall of this November leaf at Brazos Bend State Park, it seemed a fitting illustration for Adelaide Crapsey’s cinquain titled “November Night.”

Invented by Crapsey (1878–1914), her cinquain form relies on traditions seen in Japanese tanka and haiku, including compressed language and formal structure. The five unrhymed lines of a cinquain follow strict requirements; they consist of two, four, six, eight, and two syllables. In addition, Crapsey sought to create the sort of unexpected “break,” or juxtaposition of thoughts, typical of haiku.

Perhaps like Etheree Taylor Armstrong, who invented the poetic form known as the etheree, Crapsey was as interested in the technical problems of her form as in the poetic sentiments they included. As a reviewer in The Independent noted:

To her genuine poetic ability Miss Crapsey added a considerable technical knowledge of metrics. In the verse form which she invented and called the cinquain she has done some of her best work—clear cut ideas sharply focused: single impressions etched in a few significant lines.

 

Comments always are welcome.
For more about Adelaide Crapsey and her poetry, please click here.

Investing in Gold

November, 2022

Given recent volatility in traditional markets, not to mention the goings-on in the crypto world, it probably was inevitable that purveyors of gold would make their own run at nervous investors; their advertisements are everywhere. While I don’t intend to start stashing gold coins in the closet as a hedge against inflation, I am a great fan of gold — especially the floral variety.

Year after year, the dependable Camphor Daisy (Rayjacksonia phyllocephala) brightens our coastal landscape in nearly every month, but especially from September through January. The plant is blooming now in even our most droughty areas, and its flowers are providing nourishment for a variety of insects. Just for fun, I thought I’d look through my archives to see what past years have offered.

January, 2019

Even in January, this Calligrapher Fly (Toxomerus marginatus) and a friend found flowers in bloom. This species of hoverfly benefits gardeners; it not only sips nectar, it feeds on aphids.

January, 2019

It’s not hard to spot a Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata). This one was nibbling on the plant’s ray flowers. You can see a bit of evidence at the far left.

December, 2020

Bees of every sort adore this flower. Here, an American Bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus) uses its long tongue to gain nourishment.

December, 2021

More than bumblebees visit the flowers. This Southern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa micans), still out and about in December, seems to be luxuriating in the floral wealth.

October, 2018

The soldier fly family name, Stratiomyidae, was derived from the Greek word stratiotes, or ‘soldier.’  The name refers to abdominal markings that resemble military uniform hash marks. In this species, Nemotelus kansensis, the pattern is especially clear.

January, 2019

There was a time when I believed this pretty white-striped insect was a bee; in fact, it’s a Yellow-shouldered Drone Fly (Eristalis stipator), a species of hoverfly that’s often mentioned as a bee mimic. It fooled me.

October, 2018

In the past week, all of the refuges have received from a half-inch to an inch of rain. That’s enough to coax even more gold blooms into existence, and to coax at least a few gold-lovers into investing more time with them.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Patient Poser

Perched alongside a Brazoria County road, this Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus) had chosen to survey its territory from the tallest tree in the neighborhood: typical behavior from a bird that’s equally willing to walk a country mile in search of grasshoppers or lizards. A large bird, caracaras in the open are hard to miss, so I stopped for a closer look.

Despite being classified as a falcon, caracaras often are mistaken for eagles; in Texas, it’s not uncommon to hear them called ‘Mexican eagles.’ That said, their flight differs from that of an eagle. Rather than soaring high in the sky, caracaras tend to fly low across the land, wings flat and nearly motionless as they search for prey.

One of their most delightful characteristics is their occasional willingness to tolerate human presence. After a few quick photos taken from inside the car, I decided I had nothing to lose and stepped out onto the road. The bird, seemingly impervious to my movements, never stirred. Finally, I called out to him. In response, he stopped staring into space and turned to look at me while the wind ruffled his head feathers.

On a whim, I continued the conversation. “You know you’re handsome, so how about a better view of that shiny blue beak?” Why he raised his head I can’t say, but it’s fun to imagine that he knew he was being admired, and wanted to show off one of his most unique features.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Incredible Lightness of Gaura

Lindheimer’s Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri) ~ Galveston State Park

One of the prettiest plants still blooming on the late October prairie was the Texas and Louisiana native known as Lindheimer’s Gaura, or Lindheimer’s Beeblossom. Often achieving a height of four or five feet, its loose sprays of flowers give the plant an especially airy appearance; the tendency of the flowers to sway and hover in the breeze have led to yet other names, like butterfly Gaura or whirling butterflies.

Its flowers, which open a few at a time from pinkish buds, are visited by long-tongued bees and bumblebees, as well as by butterflies.The genus name Gaura, derived from the Greek word gauros, or ‘superb,’ refers to the flowers. The specific epithet honors Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer (1801-1879), an extraordinary early Texan now known as the father of Texas botany.

The plant’s narrow, lance-shaped leaves can be tinged with red throughout the year, but autumn increases their color, making the leaves as appealing as the flowers.

In the early 2000s, taxonomic research led to Lindheimer’s Beeblossom and other Gaura species being moved into the genus Oenothera. Today, the plant is known formally as Oenothera lindheimeri, although that name has not been adopted in the horticultural industry. Both the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the Missouri Botanic Gardens still list Gaura lindheimeri as a valid name. 

Frustrating as such changes can be, one indication that the change was warranted is visible even to those without access to an electron microscope or knowledge of DNA analysis.

When Lindheimer’s Gaura is compared to other Oenothera species such as the Pink Evening Primrose, the Beach Evening Primrose, and Sundrops, one obvious similarity is the flower’s stigma.

Beach evening primrose ~ Oenothera drummondii

Oenothera stigmas are divided into four branches which form the shape of an ‘X’ — easily seen in the shadow on the Beach Evening Primrose above. Whichever scientific name is used for Lindheimer’s Gaura, one thing is certain: ‘X’ marks the genus.

The X-shaped stigma of Lindheimer’s Gaura

 

Comments always are welcome.