Sometimes a Star, Sometimes a Supporting Character

Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, and Nueces Coreopsis near La Vernia, Texas

When spring arrives and blankets of blue wrap around the pastures and hills of rural Texas, “Let’s go look at the flowers” is a common invitation: one that generally means, “Let’s go look at the bluebonnets.” Still, as the season progresses, those blue beauties are joined by a multitude of other colors.

My own preference is for these fields of mixed flowers. When I see them, the red, yellow, and blue finger paints of my pre-school years come to mind, along with the little red, yellow, and blue chairs in my first grade reading circle. Discovering the same colors shining in the sunlight always brings a smile.

Here, Engelmann’s daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) stand out against a multi-colored background that also includes what I first took to be a variety of sneezeweed (Helenium spp.), but now know to be huisache daisy (Amblyolepis setigera).

Engelmann daisies and friends ~ Goliad, Texas

Sometimes, even a weed can add color, as when wind-blown dock (Rumex spp.) provides an impressionistic touch to a hidden parcel of flowers.

Curly Dock, Toadflax, and Groundsel on an unnumbered road outside Smiley

Far from any town, a pleasing winecup serves to accent fading bluebonnets and blue curls. At the right of the image, you can see the fuzzy bluebonnet seed pods already forming.

A fading but still bright collection of flowers at an intersection of two county roads

Despite drought and freeze, nature’s spring production is continuing its run, and there’s still time to catch the show.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Cheers for Our Christmas Cactus

No, not that Christmas cactus. While most people think of various species of Schlumbergera  as the traditional Christmas cactus, the plant variously known as Tasajillo, Christmas Cactus, Pencil Cactus, and Christmas Cholla (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis) spreads its color across the Texas landscape well into the winter months.  

Growing at altitudes between 500 and 5000 feet, west of the Brazos River in South and West Texas grasslands, chaparral, and oak-juniper communities, the plant often escapes notice until other desert shrubs lose their foliage and its bright red fruits become apparent.

Leptocaulis means slender-stemmed, and those stems often twist together to form inpenetrable thickets. The thickets provide nesting sites for cactus wrens, while white-tail deer, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, and other birds and small mammals feed on the fruits.

Tasajillo has seemed especially abundant this year: a boon to the creatures depending on it for food and shelter, and a colorful addition to our season of celebration.

Comments always are welcome.

Found on the Forest Floor

Even before most of our leaves began to color or fall, this early October pair had come to rest beneath Longleaf and Loblolly pines in the Big Thicket of East Texas.

I especially enjoyed the way the leaves’ colors were complemented by the colors surrounding them. The red, orange, and rust of the leaf above displayed well among rusty leaves and needles, while the gray and yellow of the second leaf, a short distance away, was complemented by its gray wooden frame.

In both cases, the leaves’ bits of remaining green echoed the color of the still lushly green and vibrant Sphagnum moss (perhaps Sphagnum squarrosum).

Lovely in their own right, the leaves were a fine reminder to look down as well as up for hints of autumn color.

 

Comments always are welcome.