The Sweet Grass

 

Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?
Behold, I say — behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this gritty earth gift…
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
thrillingly gluttonous.
For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.
                              from “To Begin With, the Sweet Grass” ~ Mary Oliver

 

Comments always are welcome.
The native Texas grass shown in the photo, giant bristle grass (Setaria magna) occurs in only a few counties, primarily along the upper coast.
For the complete text of Mary Oliver’s poem, please click here.

 

Summer’s Mixed Bouquets

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) & horsemint (Monarda citriodora)
Matagorda County

As much as I enjoy fields overspread with blocks of single floral colors or the detailed portraits of individual flowers, there’s something about a mix of wild summer blooms that always makes me smile.

Each of these photos was taken within twenty feet of a Texas farm-to-market road — proof that native wildflowers can be as accessible as they are beautiful.

Engelmann’s daisy (Engelmannia peristenia) & Maroon fire-wheel (Gaillardia amblyodon)
Gillespie County
Texas bluebell (Eustoma exaltatum) & Hooker’s eryngo (Eryngium hookeri)
Brazoria County
Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) & Maroon fire-wheel (Gaillardia amblyodon)
Kerr county
Horsemint (Monarda citriodora) & Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
Gonzales County
Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) & American basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus)
Galveston County

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Ball Moss in Bloom

This nondescript and messy little bundle of plant life is ball moss: Tillandsia recurvata. Not a true moss at all, this epiphytic member of the bromeliad family commonly clings to the limbs of trees, barbed wire fencing, and utility wires.

While its own wiry roots attach the plant to a host, they don’t draw nutrients from that host; the plant isn’t a parasite. Instead, it absorbs minerals and moisture from the air through scales on its leaves called trichomes: a characteristic of another epiphyte, Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides).

Not everyone loves ball moss, although spiders and other insects seem to enjoy taking up residence inside its tangled leaves. If the plant’s flowers were more obvious, they might get more respect, but most people never see the tiny blooms.

Ball moss in bloom

When I found this little ball of moss in the middle of a parking lot, I noticed its buds, and wondered what would happen if I brought it home and fussed over it a bit. I’d read that the plant enjoys high humidity, so I laid it in a pot next to a prickly pear cactus, and misted it when I thought about it. In about a week, some of the buds — from 3/8″ to 1/2″ long — had opened.

I was able to see the flowers without magnification, but only at close range. Even then they were difficult to discern, so it’s no wonder people looking at the plants from a distance never glimpse the flowers.

In a day or two, the petals began to droop, and a separation appeared as the seed head began to form.

As the seed head continued to dry, the split became more obvious.

Eventually, the seed pod opened and tiny seeds began to drop, ready to be dispersed by the wind. Those that find a congenial place to land, like crevices in tree bark, will begin developing roots almost immediately, and a new plant will form. Each flower can produce up to a hundred seeds, so it’s no wonder that, once established, ball moss becomes a recognizable part of the southern landscape.

Opened pod with dangling seeds

 

Comments always are welcome.