Spigelia Times Two

 

During my explorations of the area surrounding the San Bernard Oak, the most intriguing discovery involved this tiny flower. I’d never seen anything like it and, as it turned out, there’s a very good reason.

Spigelia texana, or Texas pinkroot, is one of our state’s endemics. Unlike other members of the genus found in the state, it’s considered rare, and occurs in only a few counties.  A member of the family Loganiaceae, the genus contains around sixty species; Spigelia honors Adriaan van den Spiegel (1578-1625), professor of anatomy at Padua. Most plants in the genus are known as pinkroots.

Spigelia texana can be found in bottomland hardwood forests along the east Texas coastal plain, in soil containing sand or clay. Only a few inches tall, its funnel-shaped flowers are about a half-inch long, and marked inside with the greenish lines that help to identify it. Another species found in the state, the prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea), is similar in appearance, but contains lavender lines inside the flower.

A third species known as Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), is far more common, reaching from Florida across the Gulf coast states to far eastern Texas. Its bright red and yellow flowers are favored by gardeners because of its color, it’s tendency to clump, and its attractiveness to hummingbirds.

Jason, of Garden in the City, was kind enough to share photos of his Indian pinks. Once I’d identified Texas pinkroot, its similarity in shape to Indian pinks became obvious.

As its name suggests, the prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea), is found farther inland. This photo by Bob Harms shows the clear resemblance to the Texas pinkroot; since prairie pinkroot grows in areas I also visit, I may recognize it if I come across it there.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Whistlers of Brazos Bend

 

Black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) are described by the Cornell birding site as ‘boisterous,’ and a better word couldn’t be chosen. Whether in flight or calling to one another from the treetops, their loud, piercing whistle is unmistakable, and their tendency to form large groups only increases the racket.

Although they will nest on the ground, their preference for nesting in tree cavities and perching on open branches makes them relatively easy to spot. Their brightly colored bills often can be seen even when the birds are hidden away in reeds or grasses.

At Brazos Bend, the few dead and dying tree trees allowed to stand at the edge of Elm Lake provided a resting spot for these birds after a night of foraging among the abundant lotuses, duckweed, and smartweed.

Seen at close range, these large, colorful ducks are among my favorites: their appearance seems as bold and brash as their behavior. Their breeding range extends somewhat to the north, but they can be found throughout the year in coastal Texas: a fact that pleases me greatly.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Little Hurricane Humor

 

No, hurricanes aren’t a laughing matter, but in truth, humor helps. One of the classics that’s been passed around meteorological circles for years is this cartoon by Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side. Flying into the eye of a hurricane’s no joke, but even those intrepid hurricane hunters laugh at this one.

If you’ve never watched a Hurricane Hunters video, this one, provided by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, offers a nice overview of their work.

 

Comments always are welcome.