Equinox

Autumn’s first unleaving
Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,
the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back
from the particular island
of this summer ~ this now, that now, is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries – roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes: for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.
                                                            ~   Fall song ~ Mary Oliver

Comments always are welcome.

Feeling Crabby?

A broken pincer could make for a crabby crab
I suspect we’ve all experienced periods of Lucy Van Pelt style crabbiness over the past months, but this creature is ‘crabby’ all the time. It is, after all, a crab: a familiar sight in my part of the world.

 

Since I usually encounter crabs in the water, finding this one scuttling along atop a grassy levee intrigued me.  After cutting an erratic path through the grasses, it made a sudden turn, scooted down the levee’s side, and disappeared into a hole several feet above the water. Minutes passed, but the crab didn’t reappear, so I decided it had reached its destination, and went on my way.

 

 

If the crab had been our tasty blue swimming crab (Callinectes sapidus), I might have looked for its friends and turned them into supper. But the crabs I’ve known tend to stay in or very near the water, and a little research led me to suspect I’d met my first blue land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi) in that grass.

 

Usually found farther south in Texas, the blue land crab does range all along the Gulf coast into Florida, and this one had all the marks of C. guanhumi: a blue-green carapace and orange-to-brown legs, a single over-sized claw, its relatively large size and, of course, the fact that it was cruising around on land before it retreated into that hole.

 

A terrestrial species, the crab’s generally found near the shores of estuaries, creeks, and river banks. Burrowing into dense shrubbery, mud, or coastal sand hills, the crab prefers a burrow above the tide line and as much as six feet beneath the ground’s surface. Even when foraging, it doesn’t stray far from home, but uses light and sound to find the leaves, grasses, insects, and carrion it prefers. After foraging, it carries its food in its claws back to its burrow, eats until satisfied, and saves the leftovers for later.

 

The crab leads a relatively hidden and solitary life, but despite its solitary nature, on this day it seemed to welcome — or at least tolerate — an unexpected visitor. When a Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanta) stopped by for an extended visit, they seemed perfectly at ease with one another, and not at all crabby or blue.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Solo Trio

A developing flower of Xyris ambigua

 

Having shown more abstract images of a yellow-eyed grass (Xyris ambigua), it seemed only right to offer a more detailed look at this lovely plant.

Yellow-eyed-grasses not only belong in their own genus — Xyris  — they also belong in their own family: the Xyridaceae. More closely aligned with grasses than with other flowering plants, they thrive in wet places, specializing in acid or sandy soils, moist pine or oak savannas, pine flatwoods, pond shores, ditches, and bogs. These photos, taken in the wetland pine savannah of the Big Thicket Solo Tract, might just as easily have come from surrounding bogs.

A relatively tall plant that often grows to a height of three feet, its conspicuous cone-like inflorescence can be more than an inch long; tightly wound green and brown bracts subtend the pretty yellow flower.

Double or even triple flowers occasionally appear simultaneously
From bud to flower to seed

I especially enjoy the opportunity to see various stages of plant life on a single day. The experience brings to mind this passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on self-reliance:

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones… There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

Comments always are welcome.