Tropical blue water lily (Nymphaea elegans) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge
Unlike the fragrant white water lily (Nymphaea odorata), which floats upon the water, the tropical blue water lily rises several inches into the air on a slender peduncle, or stalk.
Native to Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, the flower shows off its color as a young plant, fading from blue to white as it ages. Its specific epithet, elegans, suggests the entirely elegant flower could have served as Rainer Maria Rilke’s model when he wrote his poem, “Water Lily.”
My whole life is mine, but whoever says so
will deprive me, for it is infinite.
The ripple of water, the shade of the sky
are mine; it is still the same, my life.
No desire opens me: I am full,
I never close myself with refusal —
in the rhythm of my daily soul
I do not desire — I am moved.
By being moved I exert my empire,
making the dreams of night real;
into my body at the bottom of the water
I attract the beyonds of mirrors.
Comments always are welcome.
Rosy palafox (Palafoxia rosea) ~ Brazoria County, Texas
History connects Pensacola, Florida with a small group of lovely flowers scattered across the southern United States, including Texas. Both the genus — Palafoxia — and Palafox Street, the boulevard that lies at the heart of Pensacola’s colonial town, are named after General José de Palafox y Melzi, a Spanish nobleman and military hero.
The connection is understandable, since Pensacola is the site of the nation’s oldest European settlement.
Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna sailed into what we know as Pensacola Bay in August of 1559, charged by Spain’s viceroy of Mexico, Luis de Velasco, with establishing a settlement there.
Luna arrived in Pensacola six years before Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés reached Florida’s Atlantic Coast and founded St. Augustine, generally regarded as the oldest city in the United States. Had it not been for a hurricane, Pensacola might have held on to that honor, but as the Smithsonian points out, only the Menéndez colony endured:
On September 19, 1559, only weeks after he dropped anchor, a powerful hurricane blew in from across the bay, sinking all but three of Luna’s ships.
Luna dispatched a remaining ship to Veracruz, Mexico, in hopes of enlisting rescuers. For more than a year, the settlers hung on, their numbers and stores dwindling. At last, some vessels arrived to transport survivors to safe haven in Havana. By spring of 1561, only a military outpost remained; in August, its handful of soldiers abandoned the site and returned to Mexico.
It would be 1698 before Spain established another garrison in Pensacola.
Reverchon’s palafox (Palafoxia reverchonii) ~ Hardin County, Texas
Whether those earliest Spanish explorers noticed Florida’s coastal plain palafox (P. integrifolia) or its endemic relative (P. feayi) is hard to say. But eventually the flowers did get noticed and named.
By the 1800s, botanical exploration was common, and Julien Reverchon, a French botanist who collected in Texas during the late 1800s, was honored by having his name attached to one of our state’s several species.
Comments always are welcome.
To see yet another Texas Palafox species, visit Steve Schwartzman’s Portraits of Wildflowers, here.