Rejuvenating Rain

 

Carolina Sea Lavender

In early October, when I first discovered Carolina Sea Lavender (Limonium carolinianum) blooming at the Galveston Island State Park, it already was fading away. Despite missing the height of its flowering, I consoled myself with the thought that when next year’s summer arrived I’d know where to find the plant.

On the day before Thanksgiving, while visiting the Island for other business, I stopped by the park to see if recent rains had perked things up a bit. Halfway around one of the hiking trails, sloshing through water deep enough for boots, I discovered that ‘summer’ had come early. Sea Lavender plants were blooming again, their pretty lavender flowers a nice contrast to the sere grasses surrounding them. 

Other bits of lavender also were appearing. The bright red fruits of the Carolina Wolfberry (Lycium carolinianum) had disappeared from the landscape, no doubt consumed by the birds and other creatures who find them appealing, but warming temperatures and steady rains had encouraged new growth, and across the flats, half-inch long buds were forming.

Wolfberry bud

Scattered throughout the remnants of drought-diminished plants, their flowers seemed especially colorful. In time, their fruits will re-form: a lovely ‘second helping’ for the creatures who feed on them.

Wolfberry flower

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Incredible Lightness of Gaura

Lindheimer’s Beeblossom (Gaura lindheimeri) ~ Galveston State Park

One of the prettiest plants still blooming on the late October prairie was the Texas and Louisiana native known as Lindheimer’s Gaura, or Lindheimer’s Beeblossom. Often achieving a height of four or five feet, its loose sprays of flowers give the plant an especially airy appearance; the tendency of the flowers to sway and hover in the breeze have led to yet other names, like butterfly Gaura or whirling butterflies.

Its flowers, which open a few at a time from pinkish buds, are visited by long-tongued bees and bumblebees, as well as by butterflies.The genus name Gaura, derived from the Greek word gauros, or ‘superb,’ refers to the flowers. The specific epithet honors Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer (1801-1879), an extraordinary early Texan now known as the father of Texas botany.

The plant’s narrow, lance-shaped leaves can be tinged with red throughout the year, but autumn increases their color, making the leaves as appealing as the flowers.

In the early 2000s, taxonomic research led to Lindheimer’s Beeblossom and other Gaura species being moved into the genus Oenothera. Today, the plant is known formally as Oenothera lindheimeri, although that name has not been adopted in the horticultural industry. Both the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the Missouri Botanic Gardens still list Gaura lindheimeri as a valid name. 

Frustrating as such changes can be, one indication that the change was warranted is visible even to those without access to an electron microscope or knowledge of DNA analysis.

When Lindheimer’s Gaura is compared to other Oenothera species such as the Pink Evening Primrose, the Beach Evening Primrose, and Sundrops, one obvious similarity is the flower’s stigma.

Beach evening primrose ~ Oenothera drummondii

Oenothera stigmas are divided into four branches which form the shape of an ‘X’ — easily seen in the shadow on the Beach Evening Primrose above. Whichever scientific name is used for Lindheimer’s Gaura, one thing is certain: ‘X’ marks the genus.

The X-shaped stigma of Lindheimer’s Gaura

 

Comments always are welcome.