From Bud to Bloom

Emerging between February’s freeze and March’s bluebonnet extravaganza, wisterias brightened our landscape considerably.

This American Wisteria (Wisteria frutenscens), a Texas native with fragrant purple flowers, covered a chain-link fence in the nearby town of Dickinson. A member of the pea family, the shape of its opening buds makes clear its relationship to other early bloomers in the Fabaceae, such as Mountain Laurel and various wild indigos.

A bit farther down the road, at the Buddhist temple in Santa Fe, white wisteria covered an archway. While the native Texas species sometimes produces white flowers, I suspect this to be a form of Japanese wisteria: Wisteria floribunda. Although listed as a noxious weed in many states — the Missouri Botanical Garden has a firm “DO NOT Plant!” notice on its site — careful pruning had confined this beauty to a single area of the garden, where it was busy delighting the bees.

 

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Autumn Elegance

On September 27, I  noticed tiny purple buds developing on an unfamiliar plant at the Watson Rare Native Plant Preserve in East Texas. By November 1, it was hard to turn around without seeing what those buds had become: stands of graceful and not at all rare Downy Lobelia (Lobelia puberula) blooming across the Big Thicket.

A perennial in the bellflower family, Downy Lobelia is native in several eastern and south-central states as well as in Texas. Often found in the company of other autumn flowers, especially mistflowers, goldenrod, and the asters seen here in the background, its color can be as rich and deep as that of the red Cardinal Flower, another native Lobelia.

Characteristically, the flower produces blooms on only one side of its stem. Seen in profile, the effect is unusually charming: as appealing to the human eye as its nectar is to the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that serve as its pollinators.

 

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A Hint of Things to Come

 

A tall and dramatic Liatris species, this prairie blazing star, Liatris pycnostachya, will come into full flower later in the summer. It blooms from the top down; here, it shows the first hints of its future color, as well as the pleasing structure of its buds.

 

Comments always are welcome.