The Color Peddler


In rural Texas, anyone inclined toward roads less traveled eventually notices cultural differences as well as changes in the landscape. On farm-to-market and county roads — paved or unpaved, usually numbered but sometimes named — you can travel for miles or days without seeing a single Amazon Prime delivery van or a Tesla. Pickups and cattle trailers abound; sometimes, working cowboys on live horses supplant horsepower.

Fairly well off the beaten path during my recent explorations, I discovered a hand-lettered sign saying “No Peddlers’ tacked to a fence. The old-fashioned word triggered memories of peddlers from my childhood, although in those years the term ‘peddler’ had been upgraded to ‘door-to-door salesman’ in towns. Still, peddlers they were: working the neighborhoods with their encyclopedias, cooking pots, or vacuum cleaners, hoping to close a sale or two before day’s end.

I couldn’t help being curious about the person who posted the sign, or what sort of visitor had occasioned it. No doubt too many peddlers could be annoying, but my grandmother regularly welcomed a fellow who sold sewing notions: threads of every sort, lace trims, needles and pins.

He also carried a heavy book filled with fabric swatches like those still used for wallpaper or upholstery samples. Once home, I couldn’t help seeing the assortment of floral landscapes I’d photographed as swatches of color, or thinking of nature as a peddler of sorts — roaming the countryside and showing off her wares. Personally, I’m more than willing to invest in them, especially since this year’s offerings have been of exceptional quality.

Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush ~ Lavaca County
Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Huisache Daisy ~ Goliad County
Phlox and Texas Toadflax ~ Gonzales County
    Bluebonnets, Huisache Daisy ~ Goliad CountyIndian Paintbrush, Huisache Daisy ~ Goliad County
Bluebonnets, Pink Phlox ~ Aransas County
Texas Groundsel, Mixed Phlox, Bluebonnets ~ Gonzales County
Red and Pink Phlox, Texas Toadflax ~ Gonzales County


Comments always are welcome.
And if you should have the impulse to get out and about, looking for spring color, for heaven’s sake don’t hesitate.

Pink, You Say?

Indian Paintbrush ~ Castilleja indivisa

Texas bluebonnets often are accompanied by Indian paintbrush: a gorgeous red-to-orange flower that perfectly compliments the bluebonnets’ color.

Sources affirm that the flowers sometimes produce white or yellow variants, but on the morning of March 4, I discovered one sporting pink bracts: the modified leaves surrounding the actual flowers. Not only was the paintbrush fresh and undamaged, it also provided a nice look at its flowers emerging from among the bracts.

That same weekend, another treat was waiting, tucked into this field.

Amid the sea of blue, a bit of pink was growing: a young Texas bluebonnet that for one reason or another had emerged in a different color.

Texas Bluebonnet ~ Lupinus texensis

Because the flower was behind a fence and some distance away, I put my telephoto lens to work, sticking it through the wires for a better look at the little anomaly.

Pondering the images later, it occurred to me that the flower was a young one, and still developing. I couldn’t help myself. Five days later, I returned to the field on a hunch, and was rewarded by the sight of the same flower: now more fully opened, and as pretty as any pink flower I’ve ever seen.


Comments always are welcome.

Painting the Ditches Red

Indian Paintbrush ~ Castilleja indivisa

In Texas, nothing says ‘spring’ like the appearance of our most common Indian paintbrush. In time, its flowers will overspread the state, combining with bluebonnets to create a riotous display of color. Today, scattered orange and red patches along various Brazoria County roadsides were enough to evoke smiles; appearing a bit later than usual, the flowers seemed to be making up for lost time.

The plants’ vibrant color comes not from petals, but from bracts surrounding their flowers; the small, greenish-yellow flowers can be seen peeking out from the bracts in the first two photos.

Castilleja species are hemiparasitic. While they develop ordinary roots of their own, once those roots touch the roots of other plants — primarily grasses, but also bluebonnets — they penetrate those roots to obtain a portion of their nutrients. The flowers I found today seemed very well fed; both their color and their number hint at a very good season ahead, and a lot of smiles.

View of the flowers and bracts from above
A more delicately-colored paintbrush


Comments always are welcome.

Red and Blue ~ Those Texas Hues

Indian Paintbrush

Perhaps a true appreciation for Texas’s size requires leaving its cities and taking  time to roam among its unincorporated areas and settlements. Many places carry names even most Texans never have heard and, depending on your chosen spot to roam, the appearance of the land can vary wildly.

Last weekend, I chose to roam north and somewhat west of home, in the territory generally referred to by coastal dwellers as North of I-10.  Among its unfamiliar settlements — Burleigh, Sunny Side, Monaville — unbroken swaths of familiar wildflowers covered the land, unseen by flower-seekers cruising the primary highways. Sometimes, red Indian paintbrush served as the primary attraction; elsewhere, bluebonnets held sway. Occasionally, the flowers combined in a single field, creating an extraordinary sight.

Even the most skilled photographers can’t truly capture the glow of these flowers, or the bluebonnets’ fragrance. But if you enlarge each photo, you may get a glimpse of their wondrous beauty; I wish you had been there to see it.


Bluebonnets with perennial rye grass (Lolium perenne)


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Spring’s Primary Colors

Anagallis arvensis ~ a blue form of the more commonly salmon-colored Scarlet Pimpernel

In another month or two, Indian paintbrush, Engelmann’s daisies, and bluebonnets will cover the land with their bold primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.

Just now, a combination of factors have created a landscape given to brown, light brown, sort-of-brown, and gray, but as February comes to an end, newly-emerged flowers are beginning to shine.

In areas of the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge on February 20, the blue form of the so-called Scarlet Pimpernel had begun to emerge.

Even on a somewhat gloomy day, scattered Butterweeds provided bright yellow accents in the ditches.

Butterweed ~ Packera glabella

While not a pure red, the indefatigable Indian paintbrushes were scattered throughout the refuge, completing the traditional triad of colors and suggesting that spring’s full flowering may arrive sooner than we imagine.


Comments always are welcome.