Anemones, Again

 

Ten-petal anemone bud

One of our earliest spring flowers, the ten-petal anemones (Anemone berlandieri) had begun to appear in late January, until the February freeze put an end to their eager opening. Undiscouraged, they began blooming again once temperatures moderated.

The plant’s scientific name honors French naturalist Jean Louis Berlandier, who was active in both Texas and Mexico during the 1800s, but the common name ‘ten-petal anemone’ is somewhat misleading. The plant has sepals rather than petals,, and the number of sepals can range from seven to twenty-five. This pretty white example has eleven.

In Brazoria and Galveston counties, white flowers seem to predominate, so I was pleased to find a lavender example in Palacios, and a strikingly pink flower near Cost.

No matter the color, the flower’s sepals eventually fall away, leaving the cone-like structure that gave rise to the common name ‘thimbleweed’. Eventually, the individual pistils begin to dry. The developing fruits, designed for wind dispersal, provide yet another common name for the plant: windflower.

As summer approaches, the plant becomes dormant in response to the rising heat. Their appearance may be a sign of spring, but their disappearance is a sign of summer, and the fresh set of floral delights it will bring.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Willie Nelson’s Birthday Thistle

When I found this so-called horrid thistle (Cirsium horridulum) in a pasture down the road, only three disc florets had begun to emerge. It looked so much like a birthday cake with candles that I decided to save the photo for just the right occasion.

Yesterday, that occasion arrived; it was Willie Nelson’s birthday. But we’re not late to the party, since Willie claims today as his birthday, too. Despite being born on April 29 — 88 years ago, now — the Abbott, Texas county courthouse didn’t record his just-before-midnight birth until the next morning, making April 30 his second birthday. At least that’s Willie’s story, and he’s sticking to it.

This thistle is the perfect birthday flower for a character like Willie. It’s a Texas native, prickly around the edges, but with a pink or yellow flower as soft and sweet as his heart. The bees may seem to be overindulging in its pollen from time to time, but they know how to party: just like Willie and Waylon and the boys.

Everyone changes over time, and Willie’s no exception. The ‘Outlaw’ country sound of the ’70s and ’80s may have become the more reflective tunes of today, but it’s still Willie singing, and there’s nothing horrid about that.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

No Fleas, but a Cranefly

One of our most abundant spring wildflowers, Philadelphia Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus), is everywhere just now: in vacant city lots, alongside roads, and spread across the rural landscape. ‘Fleabane,’ a word rooted in Old English,  may refer to the plant’s odor (said to repel fleas), the ability of dried flowers to send fleas on their way, or the size of the plant’s seeds, which are no larger than fleas.

However accurate the common name, in a field filled with the flowers I found no fleas, but an assortment of bees, skippers, and flies were rejoicing in the nectar and pollen they offered. The surprise was this cranefly, which seemed simply to be resting on the flowers in the early morning stillness. I usually see craneflies on the sides of buildings or fluttering above sidewalks; this one had the good sense to choose a more appealing spot to spend the morning.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Surprising, but Seasonal, Survivor

On February 27, just one week after the last hard freeze warning was lifted for the Houston area and any remaining snow and ice had disappeared,  this hardy, ten-petal anemone (Anemone berlandieri) was blooming beside a Brazoria County road.

In normal years, the Anemone is one of our earliest signs of spring. Appearing in late January or early February, it blooms only through April or May. Despite its apparent delicacy and small size — an inch or inch-and-a-half in diameter —  it clearly can cope with sub-freezing temperatures and icy insults.

Like other anemones, this Texas native sometimes is called ‘windflower,’ although ‘thimble flower’ is equally common. The species epithet refers to Jean Louis Berlandier (c.1805-1851), a French botanist who studied plants in Mexico and Texas.

Berlandier joined the Mexican Boundary Commission in 1826 as a botanist and zoologist. In 1829, he settled in Matamoros, Mexico, where he served as a physician and pharmacist. Unfortunately, his life ended in 1851 when, while crossing the San Fernando River on horseback, unusually swift currents pulled him under, and he wasn’t able to survive.

 

Comments always are welcome.