At Last, There’s Joy In Mudville

Early morning dew collects on a bud of Mexican primrose-willow (Ludwigia octovalvis)

A water-loving plant, Mexican primrose-willow has exploded in the weeks since Hurricane Harvey. Its pretty yellow blossoms and red stems are unmistakable, but here one of its still-green buds serves as a setting for a gem of a dewdrop.

After so many weeks of muddy water and silt, even a single drop of clear, reflective water can bring joy.


Comments always are welcome.


A Flood Of Surprises

Aquatic milkweed ~ Asclepias perennis

On my first post-Harvey visit to the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, I couldn’t help smiling at the profusion of water-loving plants I found in and along the ditches: Mexican primrose-willow (Ludwigia octovalvis), salt marsh mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica), Texas spider lily (Hymenocallis liriosme), and broadleaf arrowhead  (Sagittaria latifolia).

Equally eye-catching, though not at all familiar, was a small collection of milkweeds growing not far from one of the open roads on the refuge. I’d already seen large colonies of slim milkweed (Asclepias linearis) and green antelopehorn (Asclepias viridis) in bud or bloom, so the presence of another milkweed wasn’t so surprising. What did surprise me was the structure of the plant, and the beautiful white flowers.

When I consulted one of my favorite online guides to milkweed identification, published by Texas Parks and Wildlife, it showed an image similar to the plants I had found, and described its usual habitat as moist, bottomland hardwood forests of river deltas, marsh edges, sloughs, swamps, and coastal prairie potholes.

A note had been appended to the plant’s description: “This milkweed species has heavily declined in Texas. Please notify us via email if you document a population of this milkweed in Texas.”

Of course I sent an email, with a copy to Thomas Adams, a botanist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who works at the Texas Mid-Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes the Brazoria refuge.

He confirmed the identity of the plant, adding in an email that it isn’t common in the area of Brazoria  County where the refuge is located. In an interesting side note, he added:

The larger populations are in and around bottomland forests.  I consider this plant #1 for attracting monarchs, but the danger is the plant grows in standing water. Therefore, larvae can be trapped when they need to move on to pupate.

While I didn’t see any monarchs — or butterflies of any sort — around the milkweeds, I did find some interesting little creatures hidden among the flowers. Perhaps they were equally pleased to find such unusual plants blooming in an area that has tended to be — prior to Harvey — grassy and dry.

To paraphrase an old saying, a flood may taketh away, but sometimes a flood giveth as well.

Comments always are welcome.

Shedding Circumstance

There’s nothing particularly charming about flood waters. Muddy, debris-filled and insistent, they rage indiscriminately, sparing nothing in their path.

Nonetheless, once waters recede, tokens of their presence can be surprisingly delicate. Unbroken grasses bend beneath invisible flows; trees wear faint watermarks with pride.

Among the jumbled plants, a few leaves dangle. Their thin, crisp coating of sand has begun flaking away; their striated surface recalls a season of growth.

Given over to death, they echo life: stirring before the wind, they murmur and sigh, casting off remnants of a strange and fearsome time.


Comments always are welcome.