Cotton Country

Snake-cotton (Froelichia floridana)

 

Growing up in corn country, I’d always thought of Texas as cattle country. In truth, cotton has been nearly as important to the state, from battles waged over the product during the Civil War to the economic benefit provided by bales leaving Galveston’s wharves.

Even today, cotton fields abound — in the Panhandle, in west Texas, throughout the midcoast — and cotton has become part of the culture. To favor something is to ‘cotton’ to it. To be secure, financially or otherwise, is to be ‘in tall cotton.’ One of my customers once named his post-retirement sailboat High Cotton, and I’ve danced more times than I can count to the “Cotton-Eyed Joe”.

Recently, I met another bit of Texas cotton: snake-cotton, a member of the Amaranth family known scientifically as Froelichia floridana: a tribute to German botanist Josef Aloys Frölich. Given the plant’s preference for full sun, dry conditions, and sandy soil, its appearance at the edge of a service road at the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary wasn’t surprising.

Its tiny, conical flowers emerge in a tight spiral, but they soon swell to become shaped like a short vase with a short narrow neck. There are no petals; the orange stamens and style are contained within the neck of the ‘vase.’

Blooms become densely woolly or cottony, giving the plant one-half of its common name. Why it’s called ‘snake cotton’ is more mysterious. While it might be that snakes commonly were found in the same area as the plant, it’s just as likely that the development of the plant itself led to the name. Young plants have short, erect spikes of blooms. As the plant ages, the spike elongates, adding weight to the stem and ‘snaking’ it down toward the ground.

Whatever the source of the common name, it’s a fascinating plant that rewards a second, closer look.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Bold and the Beautiful

Spanish dagger bud (Yucca treculeana) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

No, not that The Bold and the Beautiful. To find Brooke brokering a deal with Ridge, complicating her relationship with Thomas, you’ll have to tune in to daytime television.

Here, there’s only a reminder that spring flowers don’t always arrive clad in pastels.  Not only do their complex forms delight the eye, they often provide masses of eye-catching color.

Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) is an introduced flower that sometimes appears to be scarlet, especially in Europe. In Texas, orange and blue are the predominant colors, and the two often appear in the same group of plants. These are representative of the colonies spreading through portions of the San Bernard refuge.

Lindheimer’s sida (Sida lindheimeri), somestimes known as ‘showy fanpetals’ is slightly larger than the pimpernel flowers, but still small. In the sunlight, its color truly shines.

These are only the appetizers, of course. Sooner than we imagine, Spring’s main course will be served.

 

Comments always are welcome.
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on the image.

A Season For Sharing

 

As days grow shorter and plants increasingly transform their flowers into seed, it’s quite common to find groups of insects drawn to the flowers that remain.

Here, skippers have sought out the riches of a late-October Kansas thistle; at one point, seven skippers sipped at this single, still-substantial bloom.

 

Comments always are welcome.