A Little Old, A Little New

Dwarf palmetto leaf with gold yaupon ~ Artist Boat, Galveston Island

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, we mark the move from one year to the next with ringing bells, fireworks, and more-or-less accomplished versions of “Auld Lang Syne.” On New Year’s Day, different human conventions hold sway. We change calendars, make resolutions, and eat special foods to ensure luck or money in the coming year.

But these are human foibles. Nature hangs no calendar and watches no clock. Old and new keep comfortable company at year’s end, and at the Artist Boat on Galveston Island, I found a lovely year-end mix.

The golden yaupon shown above — probably the cultivar known as Saratoga Gold — is a new addition to the Artist Boat landscape. Several trees line the boardwalk leading to the bird observatory now, and the birds obviously enjoy the berries.

On the other side of the boardwalk, a relative of the better-known silverleaf nightshade, known as eastern black nightshade or West Indian nightshade, bloomed prolifically. Despite its common name, it’s a Texas native, with tiny flowers only a half-inch wide when fully opened.

The day I found it blooming, great clouds of bees skillfully “buzzed” the banana-like anthers, vibrating the flowers with their bodies to encourage the flowers’ pollen to fall from the anthers’ tips.

Lovely Gaillardias were everywhere, in every stage of bud, bloom, and decline.

At least two native plants in Texas carry the name Spanish needles: Bidens bipinnata, and this lovely Bidens pilosa (also known as Bidens alba). I don’t remember finding these before, and was delighted to discover a few in a corner of the preserve.When I noticed this striking seedhead forming, it took me a minute to realize it was the same Macartney rose I’d shown blooming in a previous post. As pretty as the flower is, this seemed even more striking to me: a summery, sunny glow at the turning of the year.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Seedy Elegance ~ Bladderpod

 

Despite its unromantic names, bladderpod or bagpod (Sesbania vesicaria) is an attractive member of the legume family. Growing as much as six to ten feet tall, it’s found in the eastern half of Texas, where it becomes especially noticeable in fall when the entire plant turns yellow or gold.

The seed pods responsible for the plant’s common names consist of two distinct layers; an outer, thicker membrane conceals another which is papery, flexible, and thin. Each pod holds two or three seeds, and the pods remain on the plant long after the leaves have fallen and the seeds have been dispersed.

The almost skeletal structure of the plant makes it possible to focus on individual pods as they ripen and release their seeds. In the first photo, the top pod is beginning to release two seeds. The middle pod, which seems to hold only one seed, still is fully intact, and the bottom pod is empty.

In the second photo, the papery membrane has detached but still is clinging to one pod; it appears those seeds already have fallen.

 

Comments always are welcome.