The Road Warriors

One of our earliest-blooming wildflowers, pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) often covers fields, highway verges, and vacant urban lots with a dazzling combination of pink and white blooms. Despite its common name, the flowers sometimes open in the morning, inviting insects such as this tumbling flower beetle (Mordella sp.) to visit.

Despite their drought tolerance, these primroses don’t flourish in the temperatures of late summer; as the heat rises, the flowers begin to disappear from the landscape.

That said, I had to smile when I found this isolated group blooming away in the middle of a caliche road. Undeterred by late July temperatures or their less than perfect soil, they clearly deserved to be honored as botanical road warriors.

 

Comments always are welcome.

No Brook, but a Brookweed

The distribution of this tiny flower  — Limewater Brookweed, known scientifically as Samolus ebracteatus — is interesting. It can be found in every Texas coastal county save one, but after skipping a good bit of territory, it also appears in central Texas and the hill country before making its way west into a bit of New Mexico, where it’s sometimes known as Mojave Water Pimpernel.

The plant’s willingness to grow near springs and intermittent rivers in desert areas, as well as in the wetlands and salt marshes of coastal Texas, makes clear that Brookweed doesn’t require a brook in order to thrive.

Its flowers, measuring no more than a quarter-inch to a half-inch wide, appear on short stalks arrayed along a long wand. They mature from the base upward; as the season progresses, the plant continues to produce new blooms while fruits mature from the older flowers and release seeds.

The flowers of this in the Primulaceae (the Primrose family) attract the Southern Carpenter Bee, hoverflies, and butterflies. When I found this example at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail in Brazoria County, other Brookweeds were being visited by an assortment of Sulphurs.

 

Comments always are welcome.

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.