Gaillardia, Too

Lanceleaf blanketflower (Gaillardia aestivalis)

One of our most widespread and beloved wildflowers, Gaillardia pulchella — commonly known as Indian blanket or firewheel — isn’t the only Gaillardia species abroad in the land.

During my recent visits to the Attwater Prairie, I found no firewheels, but Gaillardia aestivalis, the lanceleaf blanket flower, or prairie Gaillardia, was plentiful. Its distinct ray flowers surround a center that becomes even more striking as the plant matures, suggesting a floral version of a geodesic dome.

Seeing a lanceleaf blanket flower, it’s impossible to miss its resemblance to the rare Winkler’s blanket flower (Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri), a plant limited to the sandy soils of Tyler, Hardin, and Newton counties in the Big Thicket.

A purple version of Winkler’s blanket flower known as ‘Grape Sensation’ was developed by Dawn Stover at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center in Nacogdoches. It does resemble the color of grape soda, and has its fans, but for me these two natives far outshine the various cultivars.

A developing Winkler’s blanket flower seedhead

 

Comments always are welcome.

Caught Up in Her Work

Orchard Orb-Weaver (Leucauge venusta)

 

Even people who fear or dislike spiders often admire the beauty of their dew-covered webs. For the spiders themselves, the web’s purpose is more practical than aesthetic — a way of sensing predators, or catching dinner — but it’s fun to imagine them stopping to admire their handiwork from time to time. 

Finding a web isn’t difficult, but surprising a spider in the process of building or repairing a web is less common. On a late, cloudy afternoon, this colorful orb-weaver was putting her practical skills to use in an especially pleasing way.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Another Good One Gone

It was the summer of 1973, and I was unpacking boxes in a Houston apartment. When Kinky Friedman and his Texas Jewboys came on the radio with their rousing rendition of “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed,” I became fairly certain, fairly quickly, that I’d left Iowa behind.

That same summer, Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band were in Luckenbach, recording Viva Terlingua. It wasn’t long before I made it to Luckenbach, not to mention Austin’s Broken Spoke, Gruene Hall, and Crider’s Dance Hall and Rodeo. Along the way, names like Guy Clark, Gary P. Nunn, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Michael Martin Murphey began to resonate like a good guitar on a back porch.

There’s a lot to like about Texas, especially the variety and quality of our music. Jerry Jeff was one of our best, and it’s good that his music remains: evoking memories, and easing grief over his passing.

“We play country music. We’re just not sure what country it is.”

Jerry Jeff Walker March 16, 1942 – October 23, 2020

 

Comments always are welcome.