Budding Blue, Blooming Blue

more quiet than dawn
faint ripples of lavender
summer’s sweet ending

 

silent explosion
splitting the green-starred darkness
a whiff of blue scent

 

Comments always are welcome.
A Texas native, the blue water lily (Nymphaea elegans) blooms in spring and summer. These were found at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge on September 5.

A Dayflower in Every Pot

Our beloved bluebonnets may be gone for the year, but a new blue is gracing Texas roadsides. These masses of native wildflowers, known collectively as dayflowers, are ephemeral; each plant produces successive blooms, but individual flowers last only one day, opening in the morning and closing by afternoon.

The dayflowers (Commelina erecta) spreading through Brazoria County just now are one of three native species found here. Sometimes known as ‘erect dayflowers’ because of their growth habits, they also go by the common name ‘whitemouth dayflower.’ The name refers to the white third petal; because of its color, as well as its smaller size and placement, it suggests the appearance of a small white mouth.

Another common name, ‘widow’s tears,’ resulted from the discovery that the  purse-like spathe surrounding the buds is filled with liquid.  If squeezed, a ‘tear drop’ of liquid will emerge.

Initially, a fourth common name made no sense to me when I found it described as “herb of the (cooked) chicken.” In fact, the Spanish name for the plant is Hierba del pollo, and its flowers, leaves, and shoots are edible. In some areas of the world, the flowers are grown as a leafy vegetable crop: an interesting addition to any stewpot.

Colorful as the common names for the plant can be, its scientific name is especially interesting. In John and Gloria Tveten’s Wildflowers of Houston & Southeast Texas, they note:

Swedish botanist Linnaeus…named this genus for three Dutch botanists, the Commelin (or Commelijn) brothers. Two of the brothers, Jan and Kaspar, published widely in their field; the third died before becoming well known. Linnaeus thought the unequal petals of the dayflower nicely represented the talents of the three brothers.

Most sites describe Commelina erecta as having two large blue petals and a smaller white petal, with long, curved stamens and bright yellow pistils. Still, as many have noted, this is a highly variable species. As I browsed the dayflower-covered roadside, I found one with pretty blue stamens: something I’d never noticed.

And, as a special treat, I discovered one nearly pure white flower, with the barest hint of blue in its larger petals. As the saying goes, “Vive la différence.”

Comments always are welcome.

A Blue Bird that Brought Happiness

When I spotted a bit of bright blue along the edge of a Brazoria County mudflat, newly filled with water from recent rains, my first thought was, “I wish people would stop dumping their trash.” Then I glanced back, and realized that the bit of blue wasn’t plastic; it was joined to eyes, a body, and legs.

I’d never seen anything like it and, to be quite honest, I’m not sure I could have imagined it. But there it was: a tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor) in full breeding plumage. For most of the year, it’s feathers are a subtle mix of blue-gray, lavender, maroon, and white, but in breeding season, it develops a bright blue bill with a black tip, cobalt blue lores (the area surrounding the eye), bright red eyes, and white head plumes. Most descriptions mention pink legs as well; these don’t seem particularly pink, but the color transformations might not have been complete.

For a few minutes it remained partly visible, stalking its way down the flat amid the grasses. I suspect some lady tricolored heron already has joined me  in noticing and appreciating its fine appearance.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Sometimes a Star, Sometimes a Supporting Character

Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, and Nueces Coreopsis near La Vernia, Texas

When spring arrives and blankets of blue wrap around the pastures and hills of rural Texas, “Let’s go look at the flowers” is a common invitation: one that generally means, “Let’s go look at the bluebonnets.” Still, as the season progresses, those blue beauties are joined by a multitude of other colors.

My own preference is for these fields of mixed flowers. When I see them, the red, yellow, and blue finger paints of my pre-school years come to mind, along with the little red, yellow, and blue chairs in my first grade reading circle. Discovering the same colors shining in the sunlight always brings a smile.

Here, Engelmann’s daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) stand out against a multi-colored background that also includes what I first took to be a variety of sneezeweed (Helenium spp.), but now know to be huisache daisy (Amblyolepis setigera).

Engelmann daisies and friends ~ Goliad, Texas

Sometimes, even a weed can add color, as when wind-blown dock (Rumex spp.) provides an impressionistic touch to a hidden parcel of flowers.

Curly Dock, Toadflax, and Groundsel on an unnumbered road outside Smiley

Far from any town, a pleasing winecup serves to accent fading bluebonnets and blue curls. At the right of the image, you can see the fuzzy bluebonnet seed pods already forming.

A fading but still bright collection of flowers at an intersection of two county roads

Despite drought and freeze, nature’s spring production is continuing its run, and there’s still time to catch the show.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Bluebonnets, with Friends

Nothing says — or shouts — ‘Spring!’ like bluebonnets in Texas. Together with Indian paintbrush, they’re among our best-known and best-loved wildflowers.

For many people, bluebonnets and paintbrushes are the only wildflowers worth seeking, but in Colorado and Lavaca counties last Saturday, one of our bluebonnet species (Sandyland Bluebonnet, or Lupinus subcarnosus) was sharing the stage with several other flowers, including the Texas toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus) shown here.

Six bluebonnet species grow in Texas; wisely enough, all six have been declared our state flower. Whether spread across a field in a blaze of blue glory or serving as a backdrop to other floral delights, they always bring a sigh of satisfaction and relief. When pecan trees bud and bluebonnets bloom, spring is well and truly here.

 

 

Comments always are welcome.