Found on the Forest Floor

Even before most of our leaves began to color or fall, this early October pair had come to rest beneath Longleaf and Loblolly pines in the Big Thicket of East Texas.

I especially enjoyed the way the leaves’ colors were complemented by the colors surrounding them. The red, orange, and rust of the leaf above displayed well among rusty leaves and needles, while the gray and yellow of the second leaf, a short distance away, was complemented by its gray wooden frame.

In both cases, the leaves’ bits of remaining green echoed the color of the still lushly green and vibrant Sphagnum moss (perhaps Sphagnum squarrosum).

Lovely in their own right, the leaves were a fine reminder to look down as well as up for hints of autumn color.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Autumn Elegance

On September 27, I  noticed tiny purple buds developing on an unfamiliar plant at the Watson Rare Native Plant Preserve in East Texas. By November 1, it was hard to turn around without seeing what those buds had become: stands of graceful and not at all rare Downy Lobelia (Lobelia puberula) blooming across the Big Thicket.

A perennial in the bellflower family, Downy Lobelia is native in several eastern and south-central states as well as in Texas. Often found in the company of other autumn flowers, especially mistflowers, goldenrod, and the asters seen here in the background, its color can be as rich and deep as that of the red Cardinal Flower, another native Lobelia.

Characteristically, the flower produces blooms on only one side of its stem. Seen in profile, the effect is unusually charming: as appealing to the human eye as its nectar is to the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that serve as its pollinators.

 

Comments always are welcome.

White Delights: Pinewoods Rose Gentian

 

While exceptions certainly exist, most flowers in the Gentian family range from light pinks to a deeper, rosier hue. The specific epithet of the Pinewoods Rose Gentian, Sabatia gentianoides, means ‘resembling a gentian,’ suggesting that range of pinkish colors.  (The genus name honors Liberato Sabbati (1714-1778), an Italian botanist and gardener.) 

When I noticed this striking white flower in a wet area of the Big Thicket’s Sundew Trail, I thought I might have found Sabatia brevifolia, a white Sabatia species found in Florida and adjacent states. Despite both plants’ preference for boggy areas or wet pine savannahs, a closer look revealed some differences: eight petals for S. gentianoides rather than S. brevifolia‘s five, and noticeably larger flowers.

Unlike Sabatia campestris, the meadow pink common in coastal and central Texas, S. gentianoides displays flowers two or more inches wide, with seven to twelve petals. When the blooms cluster together, as they often do, they can be particularly appealing.

White forms of the meadow pink aren’t particularly common, but I have encountered them. Despite an extensive online search for a white form of the pinewoods rose gentian, I’ve yet to find a photo of another. I’m glad I found this one, tucked away in its bog.

 

Comments always are welcome.