A Delight of Basket-flowers

American basket-flower ~ Plectocephalus americanus (formerly Centaurea americana)

As spring transitioned into summer, I began to fear I had missed seeing my beloved basket-flowers this year. Finally, around mid-June, they began to appear: along abandoned rail tracks and in ditches; tucked into unmowed corners of vacant lots; lurking at the edge of a shipyard. By July, seeds I’d given to friends began to produce as well, and their reports of successful germination pleased me immensely.

Generally speaking, basket-flowers bloom a soft, lovely pink, or various shades of lavender. As they age, the intricately woven ‘basket’ containing the slender disk flowers turns golden, becoming the center of attraction as the seeds form.

Occasionally, as with this flower from a colony in Kemah, Texas, the fading bloom darkens, taking on shades of bronzed purple and red.

Sometimes, white basket-flowers appear. Near Tres Palacios Bay on Texas’s mid-coast, this lovely example stirred in the wind: a reminder of the surprising variety nature offers to even the most casual observer.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Rockport, Redux ~ Pretty in Pink

Drummond’s phlox ~ Phlox drummondii

I’ve never heard someone say, “Let’s drive out to the country to see the phlox,” but several varieties of phlox grow wild across Texas, and when they spread their sweet, pink glow across the landscape, they rival even our bluebonnets for eye-catching loveliness.

In early March, Drummond’s phlox (Phlox drummondii) was in full bloom at the Rockport City Cemetery. Named for Scottish naturalist, botanist, and explorer Thomas Drummond, the plant is only one of many that bear his name. During an expedition through Texas in 1835, Drummond shipped specimens and seeds to England, where English botanist Sir W. J. Hooker declared P. drummondii to be “decidedly among the greatest ornaments of the greenhouse in the Glasgow Botanic Garden.”

Drummond’s phlox is known for soft, hairy, and sticky leaves; enlarging the first photo shows the glandular nature of its hairs. Perhaps because of their small size the buds rarely are noticed, but their opening is a delight to behold.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Pair of Palafoxes

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.