View from the Big Slough boardwalk ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge
When August-like heat, typical Houston haze, and Saharan dust combine to create nearly-unbearable days and uncomfortable nights, a trip to the water is in order.
Some prefer Gulf beaches, but for those whose taste runs to fewer people, less traffic, and fewer beer-fueled antics, one of the area’s wildlife refuges can be the perfect destination. A new boardwalk over the Brazoria refuge’s Big Slough provides occasional glimpses of alligators and birds, while inviting admiration of aquatic plants thriving there in the summer’s heat.
Water lily (Nymphaea spp.)
With blue sky above and clear water below, this lily’s reflection couldn’t have been more refreshing.
At first, I assumed it to be our native white water lily — Nymphaea odorata — but that plant floats on the water and closes by noon or early afternoon. These flowers stood well above the water, and continued to bloom until late afternoon. The spots on their sepals suggested they might be dotleaf water lily, but the leaves didn’t seem quite right.
Whichever species they might be, their afternoon display was lovely.
Here, a flower and bud are surrounded by a combination of duckweed and Carolina mosquito fern: velvety green fronds that turn reddish in full sun. A staple in still or slow-moving waters, the fern sometimes is confused with the so-called red tide: a microscopic algae (Karenia brevis) that occasionally appears in Gulf waters. But this plant is harmless unless it completely covers a pond, when it can reduce the water’s oxygen content.
Water lily and bud surrounded by Carolina mosquito fern (Azolla caroliniana)
Like blue water, these tiny red plants provided a fine backdrop for the white lilies. Elsewhere, a more subtle green was the order of the day, as a different sort of bud — still unidentified — rose from the water.
Lovely as red, blue, and green might be, no summer is complete without a bit of yellow. Only two hours after I arrived at the boardwalk, several of these gorgeous native water lilies began to open. The common name ‘banana lily’ hardly fits such a beautiful flower; another common name — ‘sun lotus’ — seems more appropriate.
Yellow water lily (Nymphaea mexicana)
The Saharan dust is moving on and rain is in the forecast, but there are weeks of heat ahead. I can’t think of a better way to cope than by revisting this slough, and these lilies.
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