The Last Rose of Autumn

Macartney Rose (Rosa bracteata) ~ Galveston Island

Lovely though it may be, Macartney rose rivals the Chinese tallow tree as a scourge upon the land. Another native of China, introduced into the United States as a landscape plant or means of natural fencing, it arrived in southeast Texas in the past century. Thanks to the wide dispersal of seeds by birds and cattle, it’s now spread to pastures and rangeland, and can be found in every nature center or wildlife refuge I visit.

Although not considered a noxious plant, it’s considered invasive for good reason. According to the TexasInvasives database:

Macartney rose forms dense thickets, displacing native grasses such as the endangered white bladderpod, and altering native wildlife habitat. [Its presence] greatly decreases forage productivity of cattle pasture and adds to the economic burden of land managers.

Still, its flower is undeniably lovely, blooming late into the year — even into December — near the coast. It requires nothing more than a change from ‘summer’ to ‘autumn’ (or even ‘winter’) for the words of Thomas Moore’s 1805 poem to capture the poignancy of its increasingly sparse flowers as true winter approaches.

‘Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.
I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.
So soon may I follow
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone.

 

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.

While We Weren’t Looking

It was little more than a hunch, but I sensed a change. The wind had been brisk, the temperature change sharp, and the nights cool enough to require jackets. It might have happened, I thought.

And so it had. From refuges to farms, across windbreaks and fencelines, color had come: wild, exuberant, and as glorious as in any remembered autumn.

Unfortunately, the color was gracing the despised and denigrated, cursed and criticized abomination known as the Chinese tallow tree. As ubiquitous an invasive as can be found, it creeps across prairies and sneaks toward woodlands,  displacing native grasses and forbs as it goes.

Still. For a very few days in autumn, its colors — yellow and taupe, pumpkin-rich orange, burgundy, the almost unearthly saturated red shown above — arrive to gladden the heart. Today, the weekend’s color surely is gone, thanks to the winds of our first strong cold front. But I was there to see it and, seeing it, to remember Emily Dickinson’s own paean to the colors of autumn.

The name of it is “Autumn”
The hue of it is Blood
An Artery upon the Hill
A Vein along the Road
Great Globules in the Alleys
And Oh, the Shower of Stain
When Winds upset the Basin
And spill the Scarlet Rain
It sprinkles Bonnets far below
It gathers ruddy Pools
Then eddies like a Rose away
Upon Vermilion Wheels

 

Comments always are welcome.