Anemones, Again

 

Ten-petal anemone bud

One of our earliest spring flowers, the ten-petal anemones (Anemone berlandieri) had begun to appear in late January, until the February freeze put an end to their eager opening. Undiscouraged, they began blooming again once temperatures moderated.

The plant’s scientific name honors French naturalist Jean Louis Berlandier, who was active in both Texas and Mexico during the 1800s, but the common name ‘ten-petal anemone’ is somewhat misleading. The plant has sepals rather than petals,, and the number of sepals can range from seven to twenty-five. This pretty white example has eleven.

In Brazoria and Galveston counties, white flowers seem to predominate, so I was pleased to find a lavender example in Palacios, and a strikingly pink flower near Cost.

No matter the color, the flower’s sepals eventually fall away, leaving the cone-like structure that gave rise to the common name ‘thimbleweed’. Eventually, the individual pistils begin to dry. The developing fruits, designed for wind dispersal, provide yet another common name for the plant: windflower.

As summer approaches, the plant becomes dormant in response to the rising heat. Their appearance may be a sign of spring, but their disappearance is a sign of summer, and the fresh set of floral delights it will bring.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Night at the Winecup Hotel

Tall Poppy Mallow ~ Gonzales County, Texas

Several species popularly known as winecup or poppy mallow bloom in Texas. In my area, the Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) spreads along the ground, forming low, dense mats across prairies, fields, and roadsides. Its deep magenta, cup-shaped flowers are common from mid-spring to fall.

The closely-related Tall Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe leiocarpa), a spindly, erect plant of the hill country that often reaches a height of two to three feet, produces single blooms atop long, leafless stems like the one shown above. Its dark purplish-red to wine colored flowers close each evening, and remain permanently shut after pollination.

When I found a few Tall Poppy Mallows re-opening on the morning of April 5 outside Cost, Texas, one held a surprise. The small flower, less than an inch across, held an even smaller sleeping bee that had checked into the Winecup Hotel for the night. As I looked into the tiny cup, the bee awoke and stirred, then peered over the edge of the petals. Perhaps it was hoping for room service.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Prickly But Pretty

Opuntia cacanapa ~ El Capote Ranch, Gonzales County

By early July, the peak flowering of assorted Texas cacti has come to an end. The plants — claret cup, lace, hedgehog — fade back into the landscape, and even the more obvious pencil cactus can be hard to spot without its bright red fruit.

Even the best-known of our cacti, the prickly pear, rarely shows deep summer blooms. Still, occasional plants were producing their delightful flowers across the Texas hill country the first weekend in July.

Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri  ~ Old Willow City Road, Gillespie county

There are more species of prickly pear than I’d ever imagined, and distinctions among them sometimes depend on such small details as the number and arrangement of spines and glochids: a part of the cactus that, once encountered, never is forgotten. Flower color isn’t the best guide for prickly pear, since color variation occurs in all species.

I’m relatively certain that the identification of the first cactus, O. cacanapa, is correct. It’s worth noting that German geologist Ferdinand Roemer, for whom so many of our plants are named, visited the El Capote ranch during his collecting trip to Texas in 1845-1847.

While the other identifications are ‘best guesses’ based on size, spine color, and other factors, there’s no doubting the plants’ membership in the the genus Opuntia, or the beauty of their flowers.

Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa) ~ Sabinal river crossing, Bandera County

 

Comments always are welcome.