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.

 

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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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