Spiderwort Buds and Bloom

 

 

Despite carrying the name of Ohio, this smooth spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis Raf.) is one of the most elegant harbingers of spring in Texas. Found in prairies and meadows, at woodland edges, and along roadsides, it’s flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees, especially bumblebees. Halictid bees and syrphid flies also will visit, but the syrphids simply feed on stray bits of pollen.

The genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and gardeners to Charles I of England.

The author name for the plant classification, ‘Raf.’ is for Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840),  who traveled and lived in the United States for many years. He collected specimens, and published over 6,700 binomial names for plants. He applied to be botanist on the Lewis & Clark expedition, but Jefferson chose Lewis to act as botanist, thus saving the expense of another person.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Gaggle of Gaillardia

Gaillardia pulchella, coming and going

At the end of the road, past the observation platform, around the steel gate meant to discourage cars and up again on the berm, lies an isolated hiking path at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. On the east side of the berm, a ditch deep enough to provide protection from the wind allows plants to bask in low winter sunlight; it’s one of the first places I look for early-blooming flowers: coastal germander, verbena, scarlet pimpernel.

Sometimes, there are surprises. On January 27, I found the ditch filled with short and somewhat scraggly Gaillardia pulchella, commonly known as firewheel or Indian blanket. The genus name honors M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, a French magistrate and patron of botany, while the specific epithet means ‘pretty.’  Twelve species of native blanketflower inhabit the United States; at least one species can be found in every state, with Gaillardia pulchella the most widespread.

Known for their months-long bloom, these tough, cold-hardy Gaillardia clearly weren’t faded holdovers from the fall. In their snug little corner of the world, spring has arrived.

A slightly damaged but still enthusiastic bud
A significantly darker bud, perhaps showing evidence of a recent cold snap
A seedhead, beginning to prepare for the next generation

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

 

What’s Up? Buttercups

Pastureland ~ Brazoria County

It may be January, and a good dose of cold weather may be in the forecast, but buttercups (Ranunculus spp.) are tough little flowers. Known as early bloomers, in past days they’ve been popping up everywhere, multiplying sunshine when skies are clear, and adding their buttery flavor to even the gloomiest day.

Fencing, padlocks, and a rather sturdy-looking bull kept me from a closer look at this field on two consecutive days — one sunny, one cloudy –but even from a distance, the glow of the flowers delighted.

 

Comments always are welcome.