Caught Up in Her Work

Orchard Orb-Weaver (Leucauge venusta)

 

Even people who fear or dislike spiders often admire the beauty of their dew-covered webs. For the spiders themselves, the web’s purpose is more practical than aesthetic — a way of sensing predators, or catching dinner — but it’s fun to imagine them stopping to admire their handiwork from time to time. 

Finding a web isn’t difficult, but surprising a spider in the process of building or repairing a web is less common. On a late, cloudy afternoon, this colorful orb-weaver was putting her practical skills to use in an especially pleasing way.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The First Iris of Spring

 

No, it isn’t the bearded iris, that sun-loving, hardy perennial beloved of gardeners, and it isn’t the familiar blue flag, a native, clump-forming iris that thrives in marshes, swamps, wet meadows, and ditches around the country.

This small and delicate beauty, known as blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.), isn’t a grass at all, but another member of the iris family named for its grass-like leaves. At least a dozen Texas species exist; most show a typical yellow ‘eye,’ although the color of the flowers can range from blue, to purple, to rose and white. I suspect this one, found in a Brazoria county ditch, may be Sisyrinchium augustifolium.

Several clumps of these flowers were in full bloom on February 1, and I wasn’t the only one enjoying them. This little syrphid fly found the flower to be just his size: a perfect source of nectar and pollen.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Part and Its Whole

A single flower of the longleaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia)

One of the less obvious delights of spring is the variety of milkweeds hidden away in grasslands and prairies. During a recent visit to my favorite nameless hayfield, I found green milkweed (A. viridis), slim milkweed (A. linearis), and an explosion of longleaf milkweeds, which look for all the world like vegetative fireworks.

Although quite different in structure from a daisy or rose, milkweed flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen for a variety of insects, especially native bees. For humans, they provide an unending source of visual delight.

The single flower shown above, in its larger context

 

Comments always are welcome.