Waiting for ‘Fall Day’

  Brazoria Wildlife Refuge ~ September 19

Eric Berger and Matt Lanza, two of Houston’s most trusted meteorologists, maintain a website called Space City Weather. Yesterday, Eric wrote:

A few years ago Dan Reilly, the warning coordination meteorologist at the local National Weather Service, and I were discussing fall cool fronts. We agreed the first day it truly felt like fall in Houston should be a holiday.
Every year since, Space City Weather has designated the first day it will truly feel like ‘fall’ in Houston as Fall Day. This year, that day comes on Wednesday, September 22, after a front moves through overnight and brings much cooler and drier air to the region. It may not be an official holiday, but it sure should be one after we survive summer.

‘Survival’ seems precisely the right term. As August drags into September, the combined pressures of heat, humidity, and hurricanes weigh ever more heavily. Memories of our extraordinary February freeze began to fade in the rising summer heat, just as the browns and grays of a stunned landscape turned once again to green.

Wolf Lake ~ February 28
Big Slough ~ August 8
Teal Pond ~ June 13

Despite our eagerness for autumn, summer’s greens — along with summer’s heat and humidity — will linger into October. But a freshening breeze from the north will make the waiting more bearable, and the first hints of color will make the summer that remains even sweeter. It’s a happy coincidence that this year’s ‘Fall Day’ will occur on the autumn equinox. We’re ready.

 

Comments always are welcome.

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.

Never Say Never

New growth emerging from freeze-damaged branches

Despite its name, the Mexican Olive, or Anacahuita, doesn’t produce true olives. A member of the Borage family, Cordia boissieri is more closely related to flowers such as Comfrey, Heliotrope, and Forget-Me-Not. 

Butterflies and hummingbirds frequent the blooms, while the fleshy fruits — which do resemble an olive in shape and color — are palatable to birds, deer, and cattle. Don’t add one to your martini or tapenade, though; the fruits’ slight toxicity makes them unfit for human consumption.

Native to only a few counties in far south Texas and to portions of northeastern Mexico, the plant rarely exceeds a height of twenty feet. It tends toward shrubbiness, but can be pruned to become more tree-like. No matter its shape, it blooms through most of the year with showy, trumpet-shaped flowers that glow against its dark leaves.

Pest and disease free, Texas olive’s greatest downside is its dislike of cold weather. In the normally frost-free region of south Texas, Mexican olive thrives, but survival in areas like Austin and San Antonio is less certain. At that northern limit of its range, the trees often are smaller, and deciduous or evergreen depending on the weather.

After Texas’s state-wide freeze last February, the single specimen tree at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge seemed to have succumbed to the harsh conditions; its leafless branches suggested it never would survive. Then, I noticed a few leaves, followed by small but perfectly formed buds. In time, normally-sized flowers once again bloomed: delighting my human eyes as well as the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that find it so appealing.

 

Comments always are welcome.

I Think I’ll Call Him ‘Freckles’

A pied beauty cruising a local pond

Bands of color help newly-hatched and young alligators hide themselves from predators. As they grow, the patterns and colors remain visible, although they begin to fade; asked to name the color of an adult alligator, most people suggest gray, black, or brown.

The alligators I see cruising our ponds and bayous or sunning on their banks tend toward a solid gray, so it was quite a surprise when this freckle-faced fellow surfaced at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. Over the course of three weeks, I watched him take on several challengers in what I assume were territorial squabbles; by the time I took this photo, he seemed to be the ruler of his pond.

He was by any measure the most beautiful — and unusual — alligator I’ve encountered. While alligators weren’t a part of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s world, I’m sure he would have recognized him as one of the ‘pied beauties’ celebrated in his poem.

Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

 

Comments always are welcome. As always, you can click on the image for greater size and detail.