The Butterfly that Didn’t Fly

When I spotted this lovely, pinkish spiderwort blooming along a roadside outside Palacios last Sunday, I had to stop for a closer look.

Most spiderworts I’d seen that day had been purple, like this impressive clump of prairie spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis). At more than two feet tall, it was larger than anything I’d seen outside a garden, and definitely eye-catching.

While admiring the pink spiderwort, I noticed that the stem held two blooms, not one. As I circled the plant, trying to focus on both flowers, I found myself seeing them them as one creature: a sweet, pink butterfly far more willing to pose than most of the fluttery ones that tease me with their flight.


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Dew Points


Although less vividly purple than another species of eryngo found in Texas (Eryngium leavenworthii), the soft greens and lilacs of the Eryngium hookeri overspreading local pastures and fields is no less delightful. A member of the carrot family and thistle-like in its prickliness, it’s often called sea holly.

On this early morning prairie, far from the sea, the only water in evidence was the dew, collecting and shining in the rising light of dawn.


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Gulf Coast Autumn: Purple

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

To my eye the loveliest of our autumn fruits, the elegant beautyberry is more than a local delight. Spreading across the eastern third of Texas into Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, its form and autumn colors are unmistakable. As its leaves begin to yellow, they complement the developing fruit; once the leaves have fallen, the rich, purple berries decorate winter gardens and landscapes.

Birds enjoy its fruit throughout the fall and early winter, scattering its seed so widely the plants can appear almost anywhere: in goldenrod-filled fields; along stream edges; in vine-filled thickets.

Should seeds drop in open areas and fine conditions allow the plants to thrive, their enthusiasm for growth is obvious. Reaching high above their companions, they showcase their fruits against the thinning autumn sky: as heart-stopping as any flaming maple, as compelling as the sounds of migration.

Once the beautyberry has turned, the season has turned, as well.


Comments always are welcome.