Autumn Reds

With temperatures holding at summertime levels, the autumnal colors being enjoyed elsewhere have yet to appear in my part of Texas: at least, when it comes to foliage.

Still, color can be found. The eye-catching reds of flowers, fungi, and berries may not be as obvious as a flaming maple or oak, but when seen against the dull gray of Spanish moss or on the dimness of the forest floor, they’re no less delightful.

The Turk’s Cap will linger well into December, while the berries already are being nibbled away, but for now their color counsels patience; their presence signals a turning season, and the colorful foliage yet to come.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) ~ San Bernard Wildlife Refuge
Carolina Buckthorn  (Frangula caroliniana) ~ Watson Rare Plant Preserve
Scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata) ~ Big Thicket
Jack-in-the-pulpit berries (Arisaema triphyllum) ~ Big Thicket
Scarlet waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea) ~ Watson Rare Plant Preserve

 

Comments always are welcome.

Autumn Snow

Snow-on-the-Prairie

As summer begins to ease its grip on Texas, a lovely floral ‘snow’ suggests the coming of autumn. In the western two-thirds of the state, Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) covers much of the land. In the Eastern third (and north into Oklahoma), Snow-on-the-Prairie (E. bicolor) holds sway.

Snow-on-the-Prairie can grow to a height of three or four feet, and often forms dense colonies. Its long green and white bracts, open and airy, offer a pleasing counterpoint to surrounding grasses and forbs.

The plant’s long, slender bracts sometimes are mistaken for petals, but they’re actually  modified leaves. The flowers of Snow-on-the-Prairie are quite small, and exceptionally interesting.

Plants in the genus Euphorbia possess a unique structure called a cyathium (plural, cyathia) which contains both male and female flowers, as well as small structures known as bractioles, and nectar glands. Surrounding the flowers, bractioles, and glands, small bracts called cyathophylls — which superficially resemble the petals of a flower — provide additional color.

Here, the white cyathophylls of E. bicolor add to the plant’s ‘snowy’ appearance. Since the snow is only metaphorical, the sight is entirely pleasurable; it’s possible to admire this plant on the prairie without getting frostbite.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Early Autumn Colors

 

While this rusty glow might suggest sycamore leaves floating atop a clear-flowing stream, the reality that caught my eye at the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge on Saturday was quite different.

Strong sunlight penetrating the tangled bankside growth illuminated the underlying creek bed; a combination of natural soil color and decaying vegetation probably contributed to the mixture of seasonal colors. The shifting reflections were delightful, and the colors served as a cheering reminder that everything pumpkin doesn’t require a barista.

 

Comments always are welcome.

To A Sunflower

A hint of autumn ~ Maximilian Sunflower

When I discovered the first Maximilian sunflowers of the season — a sure sign of autumn despite our current heat and humidity — my first thought echoed the first line of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “To a Skylark.”  I had fun adapting some stanzas for the flowers; you can read the original poem here.

Hail to thee, blithe Flower!
Weed thou never wert
That from Heaven, or near it,
Shinest thy full rays
In spreading gleams of unpremeditated art.
A continuation of summer ~ Common Sunflower
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a blaze of fire;
The blue sky thou seekest,
And seeking still dost grow, and growing ever singest.
Maximilian sunflower with Black-eyed Susans
In the golden lightning
Of the sinking sun,
O’er which clouds are bright’ning,
Thou dost bloom and run;
Like unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Winter Trees

On December 6, I dawdled my way to the Willow City Loop, north of Fredericksburg. Known primarily for its profusion of bluebonnets and other wildflowers in spring, it’s equally interesting in autumn and early winter. Rocks, cedars, and seedheads predominate; mistletoe and ball moss decorate bare limbs.

When I noticed the still-visible moon hanging in the sky, these lines from poet William Carlos Williams came to mind. His work titled “Winter Trees” easily divides into three haiku-like poems, as elegant as the trees they celebrate.

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

 

Comments always are welcome.