Dallying With A Dalea

A view from above

An especially pretty plant, Wedgeleaf Prairie Clover (Dalea emarginata) thrives primarily along Texas beaches and coastal dune grasslands, although it can be found inland as far north as Llano and Travis counties. Along the coast, it creeps into Louisiana, although its presence there is limited to an area between Holly Beach and Johnson’s Bayou in Cameron Parish.

The genus name — Dalea — pays tribute to Samuel Dale (1659-1739), an English botanist and physician who maintained a medical practice in Essex. The species name — emarginata — fooled me at first. I assumed it referred to wavy margins on the leaf, but in fact ’emarginate’ refers to a notch at the tip of a leaf.

 As the low-growing, long-stemmed clusters of flowers fan out across the dunes, some remain upright, displaying concentric rings of color as they develop. Others begin to nod, creating graceful arcs against the sand.

I first encountered Dalea emarginata two years ago, in the same spot where I found these flowers: the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail on Follet’s Island, a thirteen mile long, Gulf-facing barrier island in Brazoria County. On that occasion, I found one plant hosting a visitor. The tiny grasshopper amused me greatly: so much so that I decided to let him share the spotlight one more time.

 

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