Rockport, Redux

Woolly globe mallow (Sphaeralcea lindheimeri)

As lovely as cemeteries filled with wildflowers can be, it’s often easy to miss the occasional or unusual delight hidden among the mass of blooms.

At the Rockport City Cemetery, I found one grave surrounded by the pure, bright orange of woolly globe mallow. Found in sandy coastal prairies and inland areas of southern Texas, the plant is a Texas endemic (native only to Texas) and is named for botanist Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer, known as the father of Texas botany.

Sandyland bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus)

On March 7, 1901, Lupinus subcarnosus became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Texas. But we have four bluebonnet species and, in time, Lupinus texensis emerged as most Texans’ favorite. To accomodate everyone’s preferences, the 1971 Texas Legislature granted equal rank to any species of Lupinus found in Texas.

Native bluebonnets tend to be blue, of course, but white variants can be found, and some had appeared next to a grave in Rockport.

Cucumber leaf sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

Another lover of sandy soil, the cucumber leaf (or beach) sunflower was scattered here and there among the mix of flowers. Common around dunes or disturbed coastal areas, it can be found any month of the year along south Texas beaches.

An uncommon feature of this one is the extra leaf that’s sprouted on the underside of the bloom. In July of 2013, Steve Schwartzman posted a photo of a similar phenomenon, noting that he’d never before seen such a thing. Now, after nearly six years, we know that there have been at least two.

Trailing wine cup (Callirhoe involucrata)

The trailing wine cup can be distinguished from the standing wine cup in a number of ways. Most obviously, the trailing wine cup forms mats near the ground, while the standing wine cup does just that: it stands, tall and erect, above surrounding plants. This trailing wine cup bud appears to be standing, but it was standing only about four inches above the ground.

The scientific name of the trailing wine cup points to another difference. If you look closely, you can see a ring of small, leafy bracts at the base of the flower. Absent in the standing wine cup, this involucre gave rise to the flower’s species name.

A bit of art deco design ~ Yucca spp.

I’m still uncertain whether all yuccas planted in the cemetery are Texas natives. I suspect not, but all were attractive: the emerging buds especially so. I found the symmetry of this one delightful, and proof enough that all stages of plant growth can be worthy of attention.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Sweetly Tangled Season

Indian paintbrush and mixed grasses

Three primary components of Texas’s famous spring floral displays — red Indian paintbrush, yellow ragwort, and bluebonnets — often cover the landscape with grand, monochromatic sweeps of color.

The fields are dramatic and beautiful; they draw visitors from across the state and beyond to exclaim over them. But on our back country roads, I find myself equally attracted to the fencelines, where the flowers — tangled, half-hidden by rising grasses, often ragged or beginning to fade — present a different sort of picture.

Part of their charm is their small scale, and their easy willingness to mix with other species, including humans. You almost can hear them saying, with just a bit of a twang, “How’s about ya’ll sit a spell, and we get to know one another?”

Texas ragwort mixed with an unidentified grass or cane
Bluebonnets, Texas ragwort, and a touch of pink phlox

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Preview of Coming Attractions

Bluebonnet ~ Lupinus texensis

Every spring, Texans indulge in a statewide ritual known as “going to see the bluebonnets.” Most don’t have far to travel, since the flowers can be found in nearly every part of the state. In full bloom, they’re truly spectacular, and well worth the journey.

Originally, Lupinus subcarnosus, a bluebonnet found in sandy loam in southern parts of the state, was named the state flower, but supporters of four other Texas lupine species argued on behalf of their favorites. Eventually, a satisfactory conclusion was reached, and five species of bluebonnet were designated the state flower: L. havardii, the Big Bend or Chisos Bluebonnet; L.  concinnus, found in the Trans-Pecos region; L. plattensis, a Panhandle species also known as the dune bluebonnet; and L. texensis, the brilliant blue flower whose colonies carpet central Texas in spring. Should a new species of bluebonnet be discovered, it, too, will become a state flower.

Thanks to geneticists and plant breeders, seeds for maroon or white bluebonnets can be purchased, and differently colored flowers — pink, purple, and white — sometimes are seen in nature.

When I found the burgundy-tinged flower shown above thriving on the Willow City Loop outside Fredericksburg  last weekend, I thought it especially elegant. Whether a touch of cold weather affected its color, or whether it’s a natural variant, I can’t say, but I thought it lovely, and delightfully different from the early bluebonnets surrounding it.

A truly blue example of L. texensis

It’s still too early to experience the flowers in their full glory, but when their time comes, I’ll be “going to see the bluebonnets” myself.

Comments always are welcome.