Not Warts, But Worts

 

Beautiful though the Maryland milkwort may be, that little “bouquet in a blossom” is far from the only milkwort in Texas. Several species bloom across different regions of the state, including this pretty Polygala alba, or white milkwort, found on a rocky slope near Willow City on July 1.

The genus name Polygala comes from the Greek for ‘much milk,’ as the plants were thought to increase milk yields in cattle. The ‘wort’ in ‘milkwort’ is simply an old word for ‘plant’ which appears in the names of many species; bladderwort, St. John’s wort, bellwort, and lungwort are some of the better-known.

Three hundred miles away and two weeks earlier, in the Big Thicket, the pinebarren milkwort (Polygala ramosa) was coming into its own. An uncommon plant that prefers wet pine savannas and bogs, it’s found primarily in far southeastern Texas.

Another half-dozen Polygala species can be found in southeastern or far eastern Texas, but most bloom in spring; finding them probably will have to wait until next year’s explorations.

 

Comments always are welcome.
There is a plant known as thewart-wort‘, but, etymologically, ‘wart’ and ‘wort’ are unrelated. If you’re interested, you might enjoy this article from the Columbia Journalism Review.

 

Would You Prefer Breakfast or Brunch?

 

One of the more amusing plant names I’ve come across belongs to Corydalis curvisiliqua, sometimes known as curvepod or curvepod fumewort. Once a member of the Fumariaceae, or fumewort family, it’s been moved into the poppy family, but its wonderful popular name still survives: scrambled eggs.

Given the every-which-way-ness of its blooms, the name makes sense. When I found the small colony that included this plant alongside the Willow City loop on February 25, the early blooming, deer-resistant plant looked for all the world like a plate of scrambled eggs. Even had I not known the popular name, I might have described the flowers in exactly that way.

An interesting feature of the flower is the way its two outer petals enclose two inner petals which often aren’t noticed. Here, they can be seen in the bottom bloom.

To be honest, I can’t help wishing we had a biscuit-bush and some slimleaf sausage to go with the scrambled eggs.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Preview of Coming Attractions

Bluebonnet ~ Lupinus texensis

Every spring, Texans indulge in a statewide ritual known as “going to see the bluebonnets.” Most don’t have far to travel, since the flowers can be found in nearly every part of the state. In full bloom, they’re truly spectacular, and well worth the journey.

Originally, Lupinus subcarnosus, a bluebonnet found in sandy loam in southern parts of the state, was named the state flower, but supporters of four other Texas lupine species argued on behalf of their favorites. Eventually, a satisfactory conclusion was reached, and five species of bluebonnet were designated the state flower: L. havardii, the Big Bend or Chisos Bluebonnet; L.  concinnus, found in the Trans-Pecos region; L. plattensis, a Panhandle species also known as the dune bluebonnet; and L. texensis, the brilliant blue flower whose colonies carpet central Texas in spring. Should a new species of bluebonnet be discovered, it, too, will become a state flower.

Thanks to geneticists and plant breeders, seeds for maroon or white bluebonnets can be purchased, and differently colored flowers — pink, purple, and white — sometimes are seen in nature.

When I found the burgundy-tinged flower shown above thriving on the Willow City Loop outside Fredericksburg  last weekend, I thought it especially elegant. Whether a touch of cold weather affected its color, or whether it’s a natural variant, I can’t say, but I thought it lovely, and delightfully different from the early bluebonnets surrounding it.

A truly blue example of L. texensis

It’s still too early to experience the flowers in their full glory, but when their time comes, I’ll be “going to see the bluebonnets” myself.

Comments always are welcome.