Arrivederci, Aster

 

Asters collectively linger through autumn as other, more sensitive plants succumb to lower temperatures and lessened light, but the life span of individual flowers is relatively short.

Seen against the glow of a Gulf Coast camphor daisy, this tiny, half-inch wide aster already has begun the transition to seed head. The tendency of its ray flowers to resemble curled ribbons on a special package brought to mind a different title for this post, but ‘curl up and die’ seemed unkind. An affectionate and alliterative ‘arrivederci’ seemed better, although it will be other asters arriving to decorate next year’s spring.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Lingering Lavender

Winged loosestrife (Lythrum alatum) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

Australian blogging friend eremophila recently coined the phrase ‘Sprummer Downunder’ — her way of acknowledging that spring and summer sometimes can be hard to separate from one another.

Seasons never are as clear-cut as the human invention known as daylight saving time. As the northern hemisphere moves toward winter, I responded to her ‘Sprummer’ with ‘Sumtumn,’ my own invented word for the mixing of summer and autumn.

Silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) ~ Galveston Island

Many of our summer flowers do persist into fall, and even into winter. I’ve found asters of various sorts blooming in January after three days of freezing temperatures. Each of the native flowers shown here continues to flourish despite shortening days and colder temperatures, and while the loosestrife surely will fade soon, I expect to see the asters and nightshade for many more weeks.

Perennial saltmarsh aster (Symphyotrichum tenuifolium) ~ Seabrook, Texas

Combined with the bright yellows and golds of sunflowers and goldenrod, autumn’s lavenders and purples — berries as well as flowers — are as much a sign of the season as falling leaves. Best of all, they’re willing to stay with us for a while.

 

Comments always are welcome.

September Scarlet

This beautiful scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata) is the only red-flowering catchfly in southeast Texas. According to Rare Plants of Texas (Poole, Carr, Price & Singhurst), three other scarlet Silene species are native to Texas, but two (S. laciniata and S. plankii) are found in the mountains of the Trans-Pecos, and S. virginica is a spring bloomer limited to far northeast Texas.

As much as four feet tall and somewhat twiggy, scarlet catchfly has thin stems and narrow, grass-like leaves; compared to other catchflies, its stems and leaves are relatively smooth.  A rare plant endemic to a small area of southeast Texas and adjacent southwest Louisiana, it’s most often found in open, disturbed habitats such as the deep, sandy soils of fire-maintained longleaf pine savannahs.

In the course of a wildflower walk at the Watson Rare Plant Preserve near Warren, Joe Liggio pointed out a few developing catchfly buds.

When I returned a week later, I found several buds in various stages of development, and a few already-blooming flowers that had been nibbled and gnawed to a significant degree.

At a different site, I was pleased to find a few fresher flowers that were as eye-catching as fly-catching.

Although named for sticky, insect-trapping bands that encircle its stem between the upper leaves, catchfly doesn’t feed on the insects it traps. Presumably, other predators take advantage of its catch, celebrating their find of an easy meal.

The catchfly’s bloom time probably depends upon its location. One source says that it flowers between August and mid-September; another places the bloom between July and October, occasionally extending into November.

These August and September photos come from Hardin and Tyler counties; the U.S. Forest Service suggests the flower also can be found at the Stark Tract and Fox Hunter’s Hill in the Sabine National Forest. There still may be time to find them there.

 

Comments always are welcome.