A Night at the Winecup Hotel

Tall Poppy Mallow ~ Gonzales County, Texas

Several species popularly known as winecup or poppy mallow bloom in Texas. In my area, the Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) spreads along the ground, forming low, dense mats across prairies, fields, and roadsides. Its deep magenta, cup-shaped flowers are common from mid-spring to fall.

The closely-related Tall Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe leiocarpa), a spindly, erect plant of the hill country that often reaches a height of two to three feet, produces single blooms atop long, leafless stems like the one shown above. Its dark purplish-red to wine colored flowers close each evening, and remain permanently shut after pollination.

When I found a few Tall Poppy Mallows re-opening on the morning of April 5 outside Cost, Texas, one held a surprise. The small flower, less than an inch across, held an even smaller sleeping bee that had checked into the Winecup Hotel for the night. As I looked into the tiny cup, the bee awoke and stirred, then peered over the edge of the petals. Perhaps it was hoping for room service.

 

Comments always are welcome.

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.

John Burroughs Considers the Bee

A bumble bee judges the thistle “Cirsium horridulum” to be not at all horrible

“Into the material gathered from outward nature the creative artist puts himself, as the bee puts herself into the nectar she gathers from the flowers to make it into honey. Honey is the nectar plus the bee, and a poem, or other work of art, is fact and observation plus the man.”

“Our best growth is attained when we match knowledge with love, insight with reverence, understanding with sympathy and enjoyment: else the machine becomes more and more, and the man less and less.”

                                      John Burroughs ~ from “Science and Literature” (1914)

Comments always are welcome.