Swept Clean ~ Restoration

Now…

By early June of this year, it was hard to remember the hurricane-ravaged beaches of Galveston’s west end. At the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail, nature had done her work; the boardwalk once again was lined with a profusion of grasses and flowers, and Hurricane Laura was only a memory.

…and then

Behind the dunes, a combination of lazy daisies and firewheel proliferated.

Along the boardwalk itself, shifting and building sands had allowed dune flowers like beach evening primrose to reestablish themselves.

One of the sand-loving flowers, the so-called ‘lazy daisy,’ is a slugabed that prefers to put off opening until mid-morning or later. That tendency is reflected in an alternate name: the Arkansas doze-daisy. Both common names are easier to remember than the flower’s scientific name, Aphanostephus skirrhobasis.

Whether over the course of several hours or on multiple days, it’s great fun to watch this daisy’s opening. Its buds hint at a red flower, but as it opens the red fades or becomes hidden, and spreading white rays reveal its brilliant yellow disc flowers.

While the lazy daisy flourishes in sandy soils behind the dunes, the Amberique bean, a member of the pea family also known as the trailing wild bean, thrives even atop the dunes, in full sunlight. The flower, about 3/4″ long, consists of a large rounded banner, a pair of slender lateral petals, and a narrow, upwardly curved keel.

Amberique bean ~ Strophostyles helvola

Pollinated by a variety of bees, especially leaf-cutters and bumblebees, the plant’s foliage hosts caterpillars of the Southern Cloudywing, the Silver-Spotted Skipper, and the Long-Tailed Skipper; seeds are consumed by a variety of birds.

As the flowers age, they become an appealing soft yellow.

Developing fruits take on the bean-like appearance that gives the plant its common name.

Two flowers, and two beans

Currently, the pretty, salmon-colored coastal pea is putting on quite a show. Recent rains have revived it, and despite being low-growing, its color is obvious all along the barrier islands. While quite common in our area, I’ve found it as far inland as Goliad and Gonzales, where sandy soils occur.

Coastal pea ~ Indigofera miniata

I’ve already featured one of my favorite dune flowers in a separate post: the obviously adaptable wedgeleaf prairie clover.

Wedgeleaf prairie clover ~ Dalea emarginata

Another plant that enjoys life on the dunes, Gulf croton extends along the Atlantic coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia to Florida and the Gulf states.  Able to withstand intense sunlight, strong winds, and sand scouring, it helps both to capture sand for new dunes and to reduce erosion of established dunes.

Gulf croton, or beach tea  ~ Croton punctatus

Perhaps the most attractive and obvious of the dune flowers are the various morning glories and primroses.

Beach morning glory ~ Ipomoea imperati
Beach evening primrose ~ Oenothera drummondii
Beach evening primrose, fading

Not every primrose prefers pure sand. The largeflower primrose and cutleaf primrose are most often found on the backside of the dunes. At first glance, they appear identical, but the cutleaf primrose is smaller. Beyond that, the indented petals of the largeflower primrose resemble a heart, and the hairs on its stem and leaves are longer and more noticeable.

Like the beach evening primrose, both of these species tend toward orange as they fade.

Largeflower evening primrose ~ Oenothera grandis
Fading largeflower evening primrose

I’ve found the cut-leaf primrose, firewheel, and lazy daisy blooming together in Galveston’s Broadway cemeteries: a testament to the island’s generally sandy soil.

Cut-leaf primrose ~ Oenothera laciniata

Along the boardwalk edges a variety of different plants emerged, including limewater brookweed. Named for the alkaline soils it prefers, the plant can be found in Nevada and Arizona as well as in Florida and Texas; it thrives in either fresh or salt water, allowing it to appear around freshwater springs in desert areas as well as in coastal marshes. The delicate flowers, only a quarter-inch across, often are tinged with pink.

Limewater brookweed ~ Samolus ebracteatus

A familiar summer-to-fall flower, the salt-marsh mallow re-emerged as one of the area’s most widespread plants. I was particularly charmed by this opportunistic plant that had chosen to grow through the boardwalk rather than alongside.

Saltmarsh mallow ~ Kosteletzkya virginica

As the recovery process continued, I was intrigued to find plants growing behind the dunes that I’d never encountered before Hurricane Laura. How the germander, bluebell, and coral bean arrived in the area is hard to say. Birds are an easy answer, but it’s also true that all three of the plants are common on the other side of Christmas Bay, in the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. It’s entirely possible that Laura’s receding storm surge carried seeds from the refuge to the barrier island.

American germander ~ Teucrium canadense
Texas bluebell ~ Eustoma exaltatum
Coral bean ~ Erythrina herbacea

Recent rains and lowering temperatures no doubt will encourage even more flowering among the dunes. Texas’s ‘second spring’ is at hand: what it will bring awaits discovery.

(part three of three)

 

Comments always are welcome.

Galveston Saturday Night

Panoramic view of Galveston, Texas ~ Saturday evening, February 20
Photo by Galveston Chaser (Click to enlarge)

 

A week and a few days ago, winter came to the Texas coast.
Tonight, the snow is gone, the lights are on,
and from a distance Galveston seems to be shining in her accustomed way.
Days and weeks of work will be required to repair the damage,
but, tonight, glasses were raised in tribute to the smaller victories.
It’s the Texas Way.

Comments always are welcome.

At Last, There’s Joy In Mudville

Early morning dew collects on a bud of Mexican primrose-willow (Ludwigia octovalvis)

A water-loving plant, Mexican primrose-willow has exploded in the weeks since Hurricane Harvey. Its pretty yellow blossoms and red stems are unmistakable, but here one of its still-green buds serves as a setting for a gem of a dewdrop.

After so many weeks of muddy water and silt, even a single drop of clear, reflective water can bring joy.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Shedding Circumstance


There’s nothing particularly charming about flood waters. Muddy, debris-filled and insistent, they rage indiscriminately, sparing nothing in their path.

Nonetheless, once waters recede, tokens of their presence can be surprisingly delicate. Unbroken grasses bend beneath invisible flows; trees wear faint watermarks with pride.

Among the jumbled plants, a few leaves dangle. Their thin, crisp coating of sand has begun flaking away; their striated surface recalls a season of growth.

Given over to death, they echo life: stirring before the wind, they murmur and sigh, casting off remnants of a strange and fearsome time.

 

Comments always are welcome.