Red and Blue ~ Those Texas Hues

Indian Paintbrush

Perhaps a true appreciation for Texas’s size requires leaving its cities and taking  time to roam among its unincorporated areas and settlements. Many places carry names even most Texans never have heard and, depending on your chosen spot to roam, the appearance of the land can vary wildly.

Last weekend, I chose to roam north and somewhat west of home, in the territory generally referred to by coastal dwellers as North of I-10.  Among its unfamiliar settlements — Burleigh, Sunny Side, Monaville — unbroken swaths of familiar wildflowers covered the land, unseen by flower-seekers cruising the primary highways. Sometimes, red Indian paintbrush served as the primary attraction; elsewhere, bluebonnets held sway. Occasionally, the flowers combined in a single field, creating an extraordinary sight.

Even the most skilled photographers can’t truly capture the glow of these flowers, or the bluebonnets’ fragrance. But if you enlarge each photo, you may get a glimpse of their wondrous beauty; I wish you had been there to see it.

Bluebonnets

Bluebonnets with perennial rye grass (Lolium perenne)

 

Comments always are welcome.

Spring’s Primary Colors

Anagallis arvensis ~ a blue form of the more commonly salmon-colored Scarlet Pimpernel

In another month or two, Indian paintbrush, Engelmann’s daisies, and bluebonnets will cover the land with their bold primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.

Just now, a combination of factors have created a landscape given to brown, light brown, sort-of-brown, and gray, but as February comes to an end, newly-emerged flowers are beginning to shine.

In areas of the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge on February 20, the blue form of the so-called Scarlet Pimpernel had begun to emerge.

Even on a somewhat gloomy day, scattered Butterweeds provided bright yellow accents in the ditches.

Butterweed ~ Packera glabella

While not a pure red, the indefatigable Indian paintbrushes were scattered throughout the refuge, completing the traditional triad of colors and suggesting that spring’s full flowering may arrive sooner than we imagine.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Christmas Wishes from the Wetlands

So favored by Whooping Cranes it’s fruits sometimes are called ‘crane candy,’ the plant known as Carolina Wolfberry (Lycium carolinianum) also is known as Christmas Berry.  A member of the nightshade family, its rich purple flowers begin forming fruit in late fall — just in time to feed hungry cranes arriving from the north, and to fill wetlands and ditches with the vibrant red and green traditionally associated with Christmas.

When I found this unusually tall and well-formed plant, I couldn’t help but smile. It seemed joyful and festive: a perfect Christmas-berry ‘tree’ to mark the season. I hope it brings you a smile, too, just as I hope your own season is filled with peace and joy.

Comments always are welcome.

Autumn Reds

With temperatures holding at summertime levels, the autumnal colors being enjoyed elsewhere have yet to appear in my part of Texas: at least, when it comes to foliage.

Still, color can be found. The eye-catching reds of flowers, fungi, and berries may not be as obvious as a flaming maple or oak, but when seen against the dull gray of Spanish moss or on the dimness of the forest floor, they’re no less delightful.

The Turk’s Cap will linger well into December, while the berries already are being nibbled away, but for now their color counsels patience; their presence signals a turning season, and the colorful foliage yet to come.

Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) ~ San Bernard Wildlife Refuge
Carolina Buckthorn  (Frangula caroliniana) ~ Watson Rare Plant Preserve
Scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata) ~ Big Thicket
Jack-in-the-pulpit berries (Arisaema triphyllum) ~ Big Thicket
Scarlet waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea) ~ Watson Rare Plant Preserve

 

Comments always are welcome.

Down By the Waterside

Climbing Hempvine ~ Mikania scandens

It’s not a river that runs through the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge, but Cocklebur Slough. In drought or in flood, it’s an interesting place: a sweet tangle of growth buzzing with the sounds of insects and tiny tree frogs as well as the calling of well-hidden birds.

On September 26, the heart-shaped leaves and pretty white flowers of climbing hempvine were flourishing: even taking advantage of supple tree limbs to arc out over the water. Despite being a member of the Asteraceae, the family of sunflowers and daisies, this flower lacks the ray flowers commonly called petals; its disk flowers resemble those of plants like shrubby boneset (Ageratina havanensis).

At the water’s edge, I found my first cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis). I was surprised to find the plant in standing water, but that was due only to my own ignorance; I’ve since learned that its preferred habitat includes ditches, woodland edges, stream banks, swamps, and areas near lakes or ponds.

Cardinal flower ~ Lobelia cardinalis

Another surprise was this pair of pretty white fungi. Having associated mushrooms with rotting wood and wet lawns for most of my life, I wondered: had these grown up around the tree before it fell into the water, or had the rising waters of the slough surrounded them?

Eventually, I learned that different marine habitats also support fungal communities. Fungi can be found in ocean depths and coastal waters as well as in mangrove swamps and estuaries with low salinity levels, like Cocklebur Slough. Whether this species prefers a watery environment I can’t say, but even without certain identification, it’s possible to enjoy their unexpected presence.

 

Comments always are welcome.