Lagniappe for Lagniappe

Home of Ferdinand Lindheimer ~ Father of Texas Botany
New Braunfels, Texas

In 2017, as my interest in native plants and prairies began to develop, I created this second blog as a place to share images of the flowers, grasses, and creatures that increasingly intrigued me. Meant only as ‘lagniappe’ — a little something extra for myself and for interested readers of The Task at Hand — it became much more: a tool of discovery; a way to hone photographic skills; and a way to satisfy my own curiosity about the new worlds I’d begun to encounter.

When I announced my intention to begin a new blog to readers of The Task at Hand, one commenter wondered how maintaining two blogs would go for me. How it’s gone, at least from my perspective, is wonderfully well. It’s been a good bit of work –especially if you include travel time! — but the knowledge I’ve gained from my readers and from others has equaled the enjoyment my explorations have brought.

What I never expected was that Lagniappe would be gifted some lagniappe of its own. When I learned this blog would receive the Native Plant Society of Texas’s Digital Media Award for 2021, it would be an understatement to say I was shocked.  Only the arrival of my plaque** made the award seem tangible and real.

During the awards ceremony on October 9, another surprise was yet to come. A yearly photo contest invites entrants to submit one photo from each of Texas’s twelve ecoregions. In 2019, I sumitted three photos; last year, I submitted four. This year, having traveled more extensively, I was able to submit photos from five regions; of those five, four were declared winners.

Once the awards ceremony was over and the excitement had died down, a friend asked if I was going to set any new goals for myself. Laughing, I told her I planned only to continue as I have in the past: traveling the state, learning more about our native plants, and becoming more skilled as a photographer. Then, I paused. “Maybe next year,” I said, “I’ll be able to submit photos from seven ecoregions.”

 

Comments always are welcome.
** Observant readers may have noticed that the title on the plaque isn’t “Lagniappe,” but the blog’s tagline. A new, ‘edited’ plaque is on its way, and I’ll update the image when it arrives.

One Tree, Two Seasons

In April of 2016, the fuzzy little buds covering the nondescript tree at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge seemed to invite touching. Both softer and more stiff than I’d imagined, they offered no hint of what they might become.

Two weeks later, with the tree in riotous bloom, identification became easier. I’d found an example of a south Texas tree commonly known as Mexican olive.

Flowers and buds of the Anacahuita, or Mexican Olive  (Cordia boissieri)

Native from the Rio Grande valley of Texas south to San Luis Potosi in Mexico, it consistently blooms year-round. Where it’s been introduced into landscapes farther north, in areas such as Austin and San Antonio, its flowering is most intense in late spring and early summer.

Through the spring of 2016, I admired its buds and flowers, but never saw the tree actually bearing fruit. Then, in July of this year, I was scanning the garden at the refuge entrance when I saw a strange, acorn-shaped object that had fallen onto the ground.

Looking up, I realized it had fallen off the Mexican olive. After more than a year, I finally had seen the completion of the tree’s natural cycle: from bud, to flower, to fruit.

Despite my fantasies about Texas tapenade, I learned the fruit is best left to birds, squirrels, deer, and livestock, since the tree is part of the Borage family and isn’t related to edible olives. Although sometimes made into jelly, its consumption can lead to side effects such as dizziness, and it’s generally considered unpalatable to humans.

That said, it’s a beautiful Texas native and a reminder that, when it comes to nature, return visits can yield unpredictable delights.

Comments always are welcome.