An Explosion of Eryngo

Early growth in the pasture ~ May 30

When I heard the name ‘sea holly’ applied to the plant I’d come to know as Eryngo, it surprised me; I’d only seen it inland, and relatively far from the sea. Eventually, I learned that several native Eryngo species exist in the United States, and while Eryngium aquaticum, a coarse, aquatic perennial found in coastal marshes and bogs from New Jersey to Florida received its scientific name because of its preference for a wet environment, the prickly nature of that seaside plant made ‘sea holly’ perfectly understandable.

Our most common local species is Eryngium hookeri, or Hooker’s Eryngo. Named for William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865), Director of Kew Gardens from 1841-1865 and founder and editor of the Journal of Botany,  it’s an interesting and attractive plant that’s common to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas, as well as to the coastal prairies of Texas. For several years, large colonies could be found along Brazoria County roads, as well as in the refuges there.

This year, I’d been searching for the plant without success. Then, a friend called. “Guess what’s in the pasture?” she said. “The Eryngo is up.” Thanks to its prickly nature, it doesn’t appeal to her horses, and by May 30 it had achieved some height. The color change has come slowly, but by July 9 the pretty purple highlights were obvious, and innumerable spiders had begun using its prickly structure as the basis for their webs.

Beginning to color ~ July 9

While its flowers aren’t as large or as dramatically colored as those of the Leavenworth’s Eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii) found in central Texas, fully colored Hooker’s Eryngo are quite lovely. The plant’s primary flowering comes in July-September, so in a few weeks, its lavender glow should be even more pronounced.

Even as its blooms begin to decline, the structure of the plant catches the eye as surely as those prickly bracts and leaves can catch the finger of a gardener — or a photographer.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Pre-Freeze Pastels

Despite our current freezing temperatures, a new season is ready to spring forth across the Texas coast. On the last weekend of January, these delicate but familiar beauties already had appeared: a welcomed sign of things to come.

Along a Brazoria County road, one of several species of Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) was flowering in small patches. A member of the Iris family, its blooms eventually will fill ditches and cover roadsides.

Several Oxalis species are found in Texas. Some are native; others, like this Oxalis debilis blooming at a local nature center, have arrived from the tropics and made themselves at home. Often found at woodland edges, its flowers regularly host a variety of bees and flies.

Less toxic than the Celery-leaved Buttercup, Early Buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis) can appear seemingly overnight, filling pastures and vacant city lots with its pleasant glow. Favored by bees, a variety of flies, and butterflies, they bloom in numbers capable of attracting human attention as well.

While each of these may have been set back by ice and cold, a bit of sunshine and warming temperatures will be all that’s needed to encourage them back into bloom.

Comments always are welcome.

Our Glorious Grasses ~ Gulf Muhly on a Less Airy Day

In my previous post, I mentioned that two common names for Gulf Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) are ‘hair grass’ and ‘hair-awn muhly.’ Both refer to the light and delicate appearance of the plant: especially its tendency to blow about in the breeze.

Everyone can have a bad hair day, of course, and this ‘hair grass’ is no exception. When it’s been awash in fog long enough for droplets of water to weigh down its apparent weightlessness, the plant becomes attractive in a different way.

Both photos were taken on the same October morning at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge in Arkansas’s Ouachita Mountains. In the first image, near-zero visibility fog meant very little light, and another common name, ‘purple muhly,’ applied. In the second photo, the fog had begun to lift, and the grass took on its more usual color.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Pleasing Prairie Combination

After weeks of steady, soaking rains, a sudden swerve into the hot and sunny weather more typical of our Gulf Coast summers encouraged a second flush of growth on the prairies, as well as the development of wildflowers not yet in full bloom.

Finding these graceful Texas bluebells (Eustoma exaltum) combined with the prickly starbursts of Hooker’s eryngo (Eryngium hookeri) was especially pleasing. The transformation of this eryngo from green to lavender or purple isn’t always predictable; it often takes place after the bluebells have faded, and in some years the color is less deeply saturated.

This year, both species seemed to glow among the grasses at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge: their lovely lavenders a cooling note in the rising mid-summer heat.

 

Comments always are welcome.