Shimmering Sida

Arrowleaf Sida ~ Sida rhombifolia

Several species of Sida, commonly known as ‘fanpetals,’ occur across Texas. Their flowers, about an inch in diameter, could be mistaken for those of a tiny hibiscus; the resemblance points to their membership in the Malvaceae, or mallow family. The Acadian French name for this species, Gombo de Ste. Jeanne, or St. Jeanne’s Gombo, probably alludes to those hibiscus-like flowers, since they resemble blooms of the okra used in gumbos.

A larval host for the Tropical Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus oileus), the plant is easily found along roads and pasture fencelines, as well as in low open woodlands and disturbed ground. Tolerant of droughty conditions, its silky, somewhat reflective petals shimmer in strong summer sunlight, catching the eye despite their small size.

Comments always are welcome.

Celebrating with Searockets

Coastal Searocket

From neighborhood bottle rockets to the dramatic skyrockets of Independence Day fireworks shows, the sound and color of American July 4th celebrations recall the “rockets’ red glare” of our national anthem.

A different rocket — the Coastal Searocket (Cakile lanceolata) — celebrates in its own way in the sandy soils of coastal Texas.  Named for rocket-shaped pods that bear two seeds, it easily could be missed because of its low growth habits and tiny flowers.

Occuring naturally in beach dunes and coastal strands, the plant tolerates salt, drought, wind, and the inundation that comes with storm surge. Well suited for dune stabilization, it attracts a variety of bees and butterflies, and is the larval host for the Great Southern White (Ascia monuste phileta).

Like other members of the mustard family (Brassicaceae or Cruciferae), the plant’s stems and leaves are edible, either raw or cooked. That said, I doubt that many holiday parties will include a bowl of searocket next to the potato salad and coleslaw. It’s reported to be tasty, but it’s hardly traditional.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Lingering Bits of Spring

Dwarf Blue-eyed Grass

Even though the blooms of our most recognizable irises faded long ago, some diminuitive members of the Iris family still can be found. Dwarf Blue-eyed-grass (Sisyrinchium minus), a common flower of Galveston’s Broadway cemeteries, still pops up on the west end of the island, in places like the Artist Boat Coastal Preserve and Lafitte’s Cove, where protective shade exists.

Other names for the flower, including Pink-eyed Grass and Pink Blue-eyed Grass, suggest the difficulties of naming a plant solely by the color of its blooms. In fact, when I came across this single pink flower at the Artist Boat, I thought it must have been a variant of Blue-eyed Grass. In fact, it’s another Sisyrinchuim species: Annual Blue-eyed Grass, or Sisyrinchium rosulatum.

Just to add to the color confusion, Annual Blue-eyed Grass is generally described as being pink, white, or violet, but it also can be found in yellow.

In any event, the pink and yellow combination in this tiny, half-inch wide flower is delightful: a reminder of a season that seems to have ended entirely too soon.

Annual Blue-eyed Grass

 

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Smiling in Spring

Plains Prickly Pear ~ Opuntia macrorhiza
I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.
                                  ~  Wendell Berry

 

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Something New, Something Familiar

Only one bird was swimming in the ponds at Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve yesterday: a winter resident — new to me — known as the Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola). According to the Audubon website, the bird’s common name is meant as a tribute to the buffalo, whose head it somewhat resembles.

The colorful male remained almost out of camera range on the other side of the pond, but I was able to capture a bit of the beautiful iridescence in its head and neck feathers.

Meanwhile, along Settegast Road, three early spring favorites were blooming. The blue-eyed grass, a member of the iris family, surprised me, although it appeared by mid-January last year.

Like Indian paintbrush, seaside goldenrod and crow poison can be found every month of the year, even after significant cold fronts. While no bees were visible, a bevy of tiny flies hovered around the blooms in the pleasant afternoon warmth.

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.)
Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) with hoverfly
Crow poison (Nothoscordum bivalve )

 

Comments always are welcome.