The Best Little B&B in Texas

Early buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis) with sleeping bee


After a long day of foraging, what bee wouldn’t enjoy the opportunity to take its ease on a buttercup’s petals, or to indulge in complimentary pollen once it awoke?

This bee continued to sleep until increasing sunlight and warmth caused it to stir, shake its wings, and fly off. Perhaps it had reservations at an equally elegant and well-appointed buttercup down the road.


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Pre-Freeze Pastels

Despite our current freezing temperatures, a new season is ready to spring forth across the Texas coast. On the last weekend of January, these delicate but familiar beauties already had appeared: a welcomed sign of things to come.

Along a Brazoria County road, one of several species of Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) was flowering in small patches. A member of the Iris family, its blooms eventually will fill ditches and cover roadsides.

Several Oxalis species are found in Texas. Some are native; others, like this Oxalis debilis blooming at a local nature center, have arrived from the tropics and made themselves at home. Often found at woodland edges, its flowers regularly host a variety of bees and flies.

Less toxic than the Celery-leaved Buttercup, Early Buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis) can appear seemingly overnight, filling pastures and vacant city lots with its pleasant glow. Favored by bees, a variety of flies, and butterflies, they bloom in numbers capable of attracting human attention as well.

While each of these may have been set back by ice and cold, a bit of sunshine and warming temperatures will be all that’s needed to encourage them back into bloom.

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Buttercups and Berries

Celery-leaved buttercup

By late January, occasional patches of native buttercups begin appearing in city lots and rural pastures. One of our earliest spring blooms, two or more buttercup species flower in every region of Texas, although populations tend to be more dense in the eastern third of the state. Water-loving, they often can be found decorating seeps, mud flats, ditches, or standing shallow water.

This year, my first buttercup sighting involved a species new to me: Ranunculus sceleratus. Known as the celery-leaved buttercup, it also bears the names blister buttercup and cursed buttercup, thanks to the plant’s ability  to blister human skin and lead to illness or death in livestock.

While all buttercups are toxic due to the presence of a substance called protoanemonin, the ‘cursed’ buttercup contains the highest amount of the chemical, and should be treated with respect.

The appearance of buttercups serves as a reminder to begin looking for the so-called Indian Strawberry (Potentilla indica, formerly Duchesnea indica). Introduced from southern Asia as an ornamental, its name refers to the country of India rather than to Native Americans. Unlike the native wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca), this ‘mock’ strawberry’s flowers are yellow, not white, and its fruit is edible but tasteless.

Despite being non-native, the flowers attract a variety of small bees and flower flies; hoverflies appear especially drawn to them.

As the drupes develop, they remains erect, enclosed by the flower’s sepals.

Despite their small size — about a half-inch across — the ripened drupes are attractive. Their resemblance to cultivated strawberries probably has led more than a few people to give them a try.

Despite their bland taste, this ‘mock strawberry’ serves another purpose. It’s a reminder that strawberry picking will have begun again at Froberg’s Farm. A long-standing local tradition, their strawberry season runs from mid-to-late January until early May. With Froberg’s berries already available to purchase or pick, there’s no need to resort to the Indian strawberry.


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What’s Up? Buttercups

Pastureland ~ Brazoria County

It may be January, and a good dose of cold weather may be in the forecast, but buttercups (Ranunculus spp.) are tough little flowers. Known as early bloomers, in past days they’ve been popping up everywhere, multiplying sunshine when skies are clear, and adding their buttery flavor to even the gloomiest day.

Fencing, padlocks, and a rather sturdy-looking bull kept me from a closer look at this field on two consecutive days — one sunny, one cloudy –but even from a distance, the glow of the flowers delighted.


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