A Ninety-Degree Difference

A young friend once described dragonflies as being “all buzz and all wings.” It’s an apt description, although “jewel of the skies” seems equally appropriate.

It’s always a treat to find one at rest, showing off those jewel-like qualities. This one, which I take to be a pennant of some kind — perhaps a Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) — was kind enough to remain at rest for several minutes. From my vantage point at the side of a county road, I was able to photograph it with a background of grasses on the other side of the ditch that was attracting so many of its kind.

Then, I decided to change position. Turning ninety degrees to my right, I posed the dragonfly against the gray and not necessarily appealing ditch water; the striations in the background are reflections of the reeds on the other side of the ditch.

It’s the same dragonfly and the same perch, shown only minutes apart, but the feel of the photo has changed. As in photography, so in life: what’s offered as ‘background’ — of a person or of an issue — can make quite a difference in our perception.

Comments always are welcome.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ditch

Wild irises along Brazoria County Road 306

After returning from my recent foray into the wilds of Bluebonnetland, I realized I was in danger of repeating a mistake I’ve made in the past. Despite knowing last year’s iris leaves had emerged in the ditches surrounding the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge, I put off a return visit; by the time I saw the irises again, the flowers were gone.

Not wanting to miss them this year, I decided to make a quick trip to the refuge to see if a few irises might still be blooming. They were: another form of ditch diamond to enjoy.

A different sort of flag

Everyone seems to agree that at least three iris species are native to Texas. This Southern Blue Flag (Iris virginica) may be the best known. I first heard the phrase ‘flag pond’ after moving to Texas, and misinterpreted the phrase. I assumed it meant a pond with a flag pole next to it. A pond filled with irises never occurred to me.

Two to three feet tall, Blue Flags can vary in color from very light blue to purple, leading me to suspect that the next two photos also show Blue Flags.

The Zigzag iris (Iris brevicaulis) has different growth habits. Flowers are borne on sprawling stems which typically zig-zag to a height of no more than fives inches. The specific epithet brevicaulis means ‘short-stemmed,’ and the long, strap-like green leaves often hide the blooms.

A zigzag Iris blooming only inches above the ground

Color variations also exist among Zigzag Iris. While some sites describe the flower as lavender, others mention purple and yellow as possibilities. Given their short stature and the length of their sepals — substantially longer than their petals — I suspect this next pair might be Zigzag iris as well.

The colonies were pretty when seen from the road, but only a walk among them revealed their variety of color and form: except, of course, for the yellow iris, which demanded to be noticed.

Comments always are welcome.

The First of the Ditch Diamonds

You probably won’t find ‘ditch diamonds’ listed in any field guide to native plants. It’s my personal descriptor for a wide variety of wildflowers that prefer the damp — even wet — growing conditions that ditches generally provide.

Blue Flags, Water Canna, Alligator Flag, and Arrowhead are spring and summer delights that can be found in the ditches, along with the widespread and beloved Spider Lily (Hymenocallis liriosme) shown above. A common sight in coastal and southeastern Texas, it blooms from February through September, although our freezing weather slowed its emergence this year.

Still, the operative word is ‘slowed,’ not ‘stopped.’ Yesterday morning, as I traveled FM 2004 outside the town of Lake Jackson, a bit of white caught my eye. It was a single spider lily plant, in full bloom. Apart from the delight of finding my first ditch diamond of the year, I was amused by the timing. Commenting on my recent post about the cranefly orchid, Steve Schwartzman mentioned that our part of the state has another plant named for an insect: the spider lilies. Ever helpful, nature provided an example within twenty-four hours.

In time, ditches will fill with hundreds of these plants. For now, this single lovely specimen serves as a reminder that even when delayed, spring will not be denied.


Comments always are welcome.