Mooo-ve Over, Belle

One of Texas’s best-known advertising logos — for Blue Bell ice cream — includes the image of Belle, an entirely sweet cow known for standing in fields of central Texas bluebells. Lacking bluebells (or bluebonnets, for that matter), this cow chose to pose in a field of scattered white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora) on the historic El Capote ranch near Seguin.

Farther down the road, the hills were alive with the sight of poppies.

When their numbers are fewer, the poppies still make a lovely counterpoint to other Texas delights. Here, they’ve taken up residence next to a grove of gnarled oaks at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge.

Even a single poppy can please. Rooted in sand at the edge of San Antonio Bay, this one matches the whitecaps of a windy day.

 

Comments always are welcome.
For more views of this flower in a different part of the state, visit Steve Schwartzman’s Portraits of Wildflowers.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ditch

Wild irises along Brazoria County Road 306

After returning from my recent foray into the wilds of Bluebonnetland, I realized I was in danger of repeating a mistake I’ve made in the past. Despite knowing last year’s iris leaves had emerged in the ditches surrounding the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge, I put off a return visit; by the time I saw the irises again, the flowers were gone.

Not wanting to miss them this year, I decided to make a quick trip to the refuge to see if a few irises might still be blooming. They were: another form of ditch diamond to enjoy.

A different sort of flag

Everyone seems to agree that at least three iris species are native to Texas. This Southern Blue Flag (Iris virginica) may be the best known. I first heard the phrase ‘flag pond’ after moving to Texas, and misinterpreted the phrase. I assumed it meant a pond with a flag pole next to it. A pond filled with irises never occurred to me.

Two to three feet tall, Blue Flags can vary in color from very light blue to purple, leading me to suspect that the next two photos also show Blue Flags.

The Zigzag iris (Iris brevicaulis) has different growth habits. Flowers are borne on sprawling stems which typically zig-zag to a height of no more than fives inches. The specific epithet brevicaulis means ‘short-stemmed,’ and the long, strap-like green leaves often hide the blooms.

A zigzag Iris blooming only inches above the ground

Color variations also exist among Zigzag Iris. While some sites describe the flower as lavender, others mention purple and yellow as possibilities. Given their short stature and the length of their sepals — substantially longer than their petals — I suspect this next pair might be Zigzag iris as well.

The colonies were pretty when seen from the road, but only a walk among them revealed their variety of color and form: except, of course, for the yellow iris, which demanded to be noticed.

Comments always are welcome.

Seeing Double

Expansive fields of wildflowers can be breathtaking: so much so that the individual blooms which make up their grand sweep of color tend to disappear. Looking among the flowers to find some fresh and photogenic examples, I discovered a surprise: a doubled Nueces coreopsis, shining in the sun.

Nueces coreopsis ~ Coreopsis nuecensis

Both the scientific and common names offer a clue to this Texas endemic’s location. Flowing from its headwaters in Edwards and Real counties, the Nueces River was called Rio de las Nueces, or ‘River of Nuts’ by early Spanish explorers — an apparent reference to pecan trees growing along its banks. More than a flower bears the river’s name. Today, it ends in Nueces County and enters Nueces Bay at Corpus Christi.

 

Occasionally there are other ‘double’ surprises. Of course these swallowtail butterflies are individuals, but for a moment they ‘doubled up,’ and enjoyed the Floresville cemetery sunshine in their own way.

Black swallowtails  ~ Papilio polyxenes

Comments always are welcome.