One Lily, Two Views

Evening rain lily  ~ Zephyranthes chlorosolen

If rain lilies forcing their way through a construction site’s packed dirt exemplify nature’s energy and exuberance, this solitary lily is pure elegance.

Blooming undisturbed and undamaged at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, it seemed to demand a photo session. After all,  for white flower lovers, there never can be too many rain lilies.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Summer’s Flight

One last fling for a sunflower

Colored leaves drifting from maples, oaks, and sycamores may evoke the coming of autumn, but flowers also have an end; falling petals and withering leaves betoken changes to come. 

Given the amount of spider silk wrapped around this sunflower (Helianthus annuus), I assumed its apparently airborne rays still were attached to the plant. They may have been dragging a bit of silk behind them, but when I discovered them missing in the following frames, I realized the truth. However inadvertently, I’d captured a perfect illustration for Emily Dickinson’s gentle farewell to the season: a sunflower’s beautiful ‘light escape.’ 

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away —
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy —
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon —
The Dusk drew earlier in —
The Morning foreign shone —
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone —
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.
                                               Emily Dickinson

Comments always are welcome.

Swept Clean ~ Restoration

Now…

By early June of this year, it was hard to remember the hurricane-ravaged beaches of Galveston’s west end. At the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail, nature had done her work; the boardwalk once again was lined with a profusion of grasses and flowers, and Hurricane Laura was only a memory.

…and then

Behind the dunes, a combination of lazy daisies and firewheel proliferated.

Along the boardwalk itself, shifting and building sands had allowed dune flowers like beach evening primrose to reestablish themselves.

One of the sand-loving flowers, the so-called ‘lazy daisy,’ is a slugabed that prefers to put off opening until mid-morning or later. That tendency is reflected in an alternate name: the Arkansas doze-daisy. Both common names are easier to remember than the flower’s scientific name, Aphanostephus skirrhobasis.

Whether over the course of several hours or on multiple days, it’s great fun to watch this daisy’s opening. Its buds hint at a red flower, but as it opens the red fades or becomes hidden, and spreading white rays reveal its brilliant yellow disc flowers.

While the lazy daisy flourishes in sandy soils behind the dunes, the Amberique bean, a member of the pea family also known as the trailing wild bean, thrives even atop the dunes, in full sunlight. The flower, about 3/4″ long, consists of a large rounded banner, a pair of slender lateral petals, and a narrow, upwardly curved keel.

Amberique bean ~ Strophostyles helvola

Pollinated by a variety of bees, especially leaf-cutters and bumblebees, the plant’s foliage hosts caterpillars of the Southern Cloudywing, the Silver-Spotted Skipper, and the Long-Tailed Skipper; seeds are consumed by a variety of birds.

As the flowers age, they become an appealing soft yellow.

Developing fruits take on the bean-like appearance that gives the plant its common name.

Two flowers, and two beans

Currently, the pretty, salmon-colored coastal pea is putting on quite a show. Recent rains have revived it, and despite being low-growing, its color is obvious all along the barrier islands. While quite common in our area, I’ve found it as far inland as Goliad and Gonzales, where sandy soils occur.

Coastal pea ~ Indigofera miniata

I’ve already featured one of my favorite dune flowers in a separate post: the obviously adaptable wedgeleaf prairie clover.

Wedgeleaf prairie clover ~ Dalea emarginata

Another plant that enjoys life on the dunes, Gulf croton extends along the Atlantic coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia to Florida and the Gulf states.  Able to withstand intense sunlight, strong winds, and sand scouring, it helps both to capture sand for new dunes and to reduce erosion of established dunes.

Gulf croton, or beach tea  ~ Croton punctatus

Perhaps the most attractive and obvious of the dune flowers are the various morning glories and primroses.

Beach morning glory ~ Ipomoea imperati
Beach evening primrose ~ Oenothera drummondii
Beach evening primrose, fading

Not every primrose prefers pure sand. The largeflower primrose and cutleaf primrose are most often found on the backside of the dunes. At first glance, they appear identical, but the cutleaf primrose is smaller. Beyond that, the indented petals of the largeflower primrose resemble a heart, and the hairs on its stem and leaves are longer and more noticeable.

Like the beach evening primrose, both of these species tend toward orange as they fade.

Largeflower evening primrose ~ Oenothera grandis
Fading largeflower evening primrose

I’ve found the cut-leaf primrose, firewheel, and lazy daisy blooming together in Galveston’s Broadway cemeteries: a testament to the island’s generally sandy soil.

Cut-leaf primrose ~ Oenothera laciniata

Along the boardwalk edges a variety of different plants emerged, including limewater brookweed. Named for the alkaline soils it prefers, the plant can be found in Nevada and Arizona as well as in Florida and Texas; it thrives in either fresh or salt water, allowing it to appear around freshwater springs in desert areas as well as in coastal marshes. The delicate flowers, only a quarter-inch across, often are tinged with pink.

Limewater brookweed ~ Samolus ebracteatus

A familiar summer-to-fall flower, the salt-marsh mallow re-emerged as one of the area’s most widespread plants. I was particularly charmed by this opportunistic plant that had chosen to grow through the boardwalk rather than alongside.

Saltmarsh mallow ~ Kosteletzkya virginica

As the recovery process continued, I was intrigued to find plants growing behind the dunes that I’d never encountered before Hurricane Laura. How the germander, bluebell, and coral bean arrived in the area is hard to say. Birds are an easy answer, but it’s also true that all three of the plants are common on the other side of Christmas Bay, in the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. It’s entirely possible that Laura’s receding storm surge carried seeds from the refuge to the barrier island.

American germander ~ Teucrium canadense
Texas bluebell ~ Eustoma exaltatum
Coral bean ~ Erythrina herbacea

Recent rains and lowering temperatures no doubt will encourage even more flowering among the dunes. Texas’s ‘second spring’ is at hand: what it will bring awaits discovery.

(part three of three)

 

Comments always are welcome.

It’s Time to Boogie Into Fall

Lumbering in East Texas

Mississippi may have birthed juke joints and the blues, but East Texas lays claim to boogie woogie: a musical form created in piney woods railroad and lumber camps of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Musicologist John Tennison describes the 360-mile stretch of US 59 between El Campo and Texarkana as the ‘Boogie Woogie Highway,’ and the sound certainly did travel; today, the hard-driving music is performed and enjoyed around the world.

Henri Herbert, an extraordinary musician who specializes in boogie woogie, will be playing one of my favorite Texas venues this fall: not locally, but close enough that a visit with friends and an evening of boogie already is being planned. Born in France and raised in England, Herbert calls Austin home for now, but he can show up anywhere, including public pianos at St. Pancras and King’s Cross stations in London.

Jon Aizlewood of the London Evening Standard once described Herbert as being “like Jools Holland possessed by Jerry Lee Lewis and the Devil himself.” Here’s a taste of what he offers, and what I’m looking forward to experiencing in person.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Life’s Force

Recent rains, sufficient to leave roadway puddles and the occasional flowing ditch, have enouraged new plant growth everywhere. Crepe myrtles are reblooming, shrubs are leafing out as though it were April, and the voice of the lawnmower is heard in the land.

From our schoolyard lawns to the highway medians of Galveston, one of the most prolific bloomers just now is a native rain lily (Zephyranthes chlorosolen). Aptly described by an online acquaintance as “all those little white flowers that come out of nowhere right after it rains,” they might also be described as “those little white flowers that bloom anywhere they darned well please.”

This small group had pushed its way through the hard clay of a construction site in what I imagined to be a natural call-and-response. The rain called, the flowers responded, and everyone who’s noticed is exclaiming in delight at their sudden appearance.  

 

Comments always are welcome.