Uncurling Blues

Anyone coming upon the tightly clustered buds of Phacelia congesta for the first time could be forgiven for assuming its flowers would be white. Instead, they emerge as a beautiful purple to lavender-blue, giving the plant its common name of ‘blue curls.’

As the buds mature, they begin to separate and uncurl, providing a second common name for the plant: caterpillars. A favorite Texas garden flower because of its abundant nectar — and deer resistance — blue curls grow easily from seed, and often form large colonies.

Most references indicate a March to May bloom time for blue curls; as summer heat arrives, they fade from the scene. In fact, the first three photos showing plants in various stages of opening were taken in Goliad on March 5.

That said, only one day prior, in the Rockport cemetery, the process of uncurling was nearly complete; many of the flowers already were beginning to fade. Goliad and Rockport are only sixty miles apart; it was a good reminder that local conditions, including temperature, hours of sunlight, and rainfall can make quite a difference in a plant’s life cycle.


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Waiting for the Fog to Lift

On March 5, the fog enshrouding Goliad lifted slowly, allowing time to seek out and photograph flowers other than the white prickly poppies that first had claimed my attention. In the midst of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, assorted yellow and pink blossoms added interest to the fields, and fog condensing into droplets added interest to the flowers.

Since cutleaf evening primrose usually blooms at night, this one probably was closing; the small yellow blooms often show a wash of pink or orange as they age. Here, the heart-shaped petals had begun to fold; the droplets on their surface suggested hobnail glass.

Cutleaf Evening Primrose ~ Oenothera laciniata

Once included with the gauras, various beeblossoms now are members of the Oenothera genus. One clue to their identity is the deeply divided four-part stigma visible here. In a bit of an understatement, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes that “the genus is easily recognized, but the species are sometimes difficult, due partly to a great deal of hybridization.” That said, the leaves and stems of this one suggest Lindheimer’s beeblossom.

Lindheimer’s Beeblossom ~ Oenothera lindheimeri

Huisache daisy was named for its tendency to grow among huisache trees: a species of acacia abundant in Texas scrublands. Several unique features contributed to this plant being assigned its own genus, such as semitransparent, papery, square-topped scales that form the pappus, rather than hairs or spines. When in bloom, its domed disc flowers are especially attractive; when covered in dew, the fine hairs along its stem become visible.

Huisache Daisy ~ Amblyolepis setigera

The graceful curve of velvet weed has led to another common name: lizard-tail gaura. As the plant develops, it can become four to six feet tall, making it easy to spot in the landscape.

Velvetweed ~ Oenothera curtiflora

Like Maximilian sunflower, bush sunflower, and Illinois bundleflower, Engelmann’s daisy is one of Texas’s most recognizable perennial forbs. Named for George Engelmann, the German-American physician and botanist who helped to found the Missouri Botanic Garden, it begins to flower in early spring, and sometimes re-blooms in the fall.

Also known as cutleaf daisy because of its deeply lobed leaves, it often appears along roadsides in the company of green milkweed, phlox, and coreopsis. On the other hand, livestock, antelope, and deer find it highly palatable; over the years, foraging animals can graze it out of a pasture. Gardeners in deer-rich urban settings should be mindful that this beautiful and tasty combination might be difficult to sustain.

Engelmann’s Daisy ~ Engelmannia peristenia


Comments always are welcome.