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.

 

Sympathy For A Snake

Plain-bellied water snake ~ Nerodia erythrogaster

If I’d had a machete or side arm at hand and an evil intent in my heart, this beautiful creature wouldn’t have had a chance, and it appears to know it.

Which of us was most surprised by our encounter is hard to say. Curled near the base of a tree in a pool of late spring sunshine, the snake seemed more inclined toward napping than attacking. As I changed lenses and took a few quick photos, it never moved, but fixed its gaze on me with an expression that, even at the time, seemed like supplication. I could imagine its thoughts: Please, lady…

As we looked at one another, sensing that neither of us posed a threat to the other, an ages-old enmity began to dissolve. As it did, I recognized what I was feeling, and couldn’t help smiling. Sympathy for a snake, I thought. Who could have imagined that?

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Pleasure of Unexpected Treasure

Yellow rain lily (Zephyranthes pulchella)

After a friend and I discovered great swaths of bluebells and eryngo at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, I decided to return for a day of solo exploration, and July 4 was my opportunity. 

Stopping for a quick survey of the planted gardens, I noticed what I assumed to be a late Texas dandelion blooming in the mowed grass edging the parking lot. A second look revealed something entirely different. A yellow rain lily was glowing in the sunlight, and at the very moment I recognized it, my day was complete.

I first encountered one of these lilies at a local nature center, and spent a good bit of time trying to identify it. Later, I found patches of them at Armand Bayou, and in the process of writing about them, satisfied myself that I’d found Zephyranthes smallii.

Still, my original identification had been provisional, so I emailed a pair of photos to Thomas Adams, botanist at the Mid-Coast National Wildlife Complex, which includes the Brazoria refuge. After noting that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between Zephyranthes citrina and Zephyranthes pulchella, he added that, given the equal size of the stamens and the short perianth tube, it seemed likely that I had stumbled across Zephyranthes pulchella: a Texas native that historically has been found close to Brazoria County.

Other surprises would come that day, but nothing could equal this bit of explosive color — an example of floral fireworks that seemed made for a day of celebration.

 

Comments always are welcome.