Blue Eyes Shining in the Sun

Although their season is coming to an end, the lovely spring ephemerals known as Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) still can be found. Not a grass at all, but a member of the iris family, their several species add a pleasing dash of color to the spring landscape. That color can range from a clear, light blue to a deeper shade of blue tinged with lavender or purple, but all are lovely.

As time goes by, other grasses begin to overtake these small, half-inch wide flowers, encouraged by the rising warmth of a changing season.  In its way, the casual tumble of flowers and grasses is as pleasing as any first view of earlier blooms. Some blue eyes may cry in the rain, but for a few short weeks these blue eyes shine in the sun.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Pre-Freeze Pastels

Despite our current freezing temperatures, a new season is ready to spring forth across the Texas coast. On the last weekend of January, these delicate but familiar beauties already had appeared: a welcomed sign of things to come.

Along a Brazoria County road, one of several species of Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) was flowering in small patches. A member of the Iris family, its blooms eventually will fill ditches and cover roadsides.

Several Oxalis species are found in Texas. Some are native; others, like this Oxalis debilis blooming at a local nature center, have arrived from the tropics and made themselves at home. Often found at woodland edges, its flowers regularly host a variety of bees and flies.

Less toxic than the Celery-leaved Buttercup, Early Buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis) can appear seemingly overnight, filling pastures and vacant city lots with its pleasant glow. Favored by bees, a variety of flies, and butterflies, they bloom in numbers capable of attracting human attention as well.

While each of these may have been set back by ice and cold, a bit of sunshine and warming temperatures will be all that’s needed to encourage them back into bloom.

Comments always are welcome.

From Bud to Bloom

Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) ~ Midfield, Texas

Despite similarities among the buds shown in my previous post, the flowers themselves may not immediately suggest their membership in the iris family. When I met blue-eyed grass, it certainly didn’t seem iris-like. Only later did I learn that the rhizomes from which it grows, its tall, blade-like foliage, and its six petals all point to its connection to our more familiar irises.

Despite its common name, it isn’t a grass; it’s often lavender, violet, or white rather than blue; and the ‘eye’ in the center of the flower is yellow. Its name isn’t always hyphenated, but when it is, ‘blue eyed-grass’ would be a better choice than ‘blue-eyed grass.’

Blue-eyed grass spreads along roadsides and across fields in huge numbers, but I seldom encounter dense colonies of prairie nymphs. Individual flowers spreading across a large area seem more common, but their delicate color and intricate design make even a single flower worthy of attention.

Prairie nymph (Herbertia lahue) ~ Cost, Texas

The flowers bloom in succession over a two to three week period in early to late spring. Each flower lasts only a day, opening above narrow, sword-shaped leaves in the morning and closing by late afternoon.

The flowers themselves are two to three inches across, and their height seems to depend on whether mowing has occurred. Along roadsides or in cemeteries, they may be only a few inches tall, but on prairies or untended land, they often grow to be six to twelve inches in height. Rich in pollen and nectar, they hold special appeal for hoverflies and native bees.

Purple pleatleaf, sometimes called propeller flower, is found in the eastern third of Texas. Unlike blue-eyed grass or the prairie nymph, this is a flower that prefers a bit of shade.  It’s often found along woodland edges; these were blooming in the Big Thicket, alongside a road leading to the Sundew Trail.

The ‘pleat’ in the name comes from the plant’s leaves, which are folded along their length as they rise from the ground. Taller than the prairie nymph, with a mostly leafless stem, purple pleat-leaf seems to me the most iris–like of the trio, and it certainly is eye-catching.

Purple Pleat-leaf (Alophia drummondii) ~ Warren, Texas

To my chagrin, I realized only this morning that I failed to mention another member of the iris family in these posts: a favorite from the hill country that I’ve seen only twice. As the saying goes, “So many flowers, so little time!” ~ so I’ll save the neglected one for another time.

Comments always are welcome.

 

That Family Resemblance

Blue Flag iris ~ (Iris virginica)

I suspect most people can recognize an iris; its popularity as a flower and its appearance on everything from dinnerware to stationery has helped to ensure that. But the iris family — the Iridaceae — is immense, and many of its members aren’t immediately recognizable as fringe relatives.

Three of my favorite native Texas wildflowers — blue-eyed grass, prairie nymph, and purple pleatleaf — belong to the Iridaceae. Their flowers aren’t particularly iris-like, but their buds provide a glimpse into the family relationship. In my next post, I’ll show the flowers that emerge from these entrancing little buds.

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.)  ~  Midfield, Texas
Prairie Nymph (Herbertia lahue) ~ Cost, Texas
Purple Pleatleaf  (Alophia drummondii) ~ Warren, Texas

Comments always are welcome.

Something New, Something Familiar

Only one bird was swimming in the ponds at Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve yesterday: a winter resident — new to me — known as the Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola). According to the Audubon website, the bird’s common name is meant as a tribute to the buffalo, whose head it somewhat resembles.

The colorful male remained almost out of camera range on the other side of the pond, but I was able to capture a bit of the beautiful iridescence in its head and neck feathers.

Meanwhile, along Settegast Road, three early spring favorites were blooming. The blue-eyed grass, a member of the iris family, surprised me, although it appeared by mid-January last year.

Like Indian paintbrush, seaside goldenrod and crow poison can be found every month of the year, even after significant cold fronts. While no bees were visible, a bevy of tiny flies hovered around the blooms in the pleasant afternoon warmth.

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.)
Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) with hoverfly
Crow poison (Nothoscordum bivalve )

 

Comments always are welcome.