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.

Painting With a New Brush

Texas Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

Of the three Indian paintbrush I found blooming at the Brazoria refuge on January 6, this was the most vibrant and fully developed, with its small, greenish flowers easily visible among the glowing red bracts.

Like other beloved spring wildflowers, particularly bluebonnets and pink evening primrose, Indian paintbrush won’t begin spreading across the land for another two or three months. Still, it’s not uncommon to find isolated blooms as early as January, and this isn’t the earliest I’ve found. Although somewhat stunted and less colorful, another paintbrush had contributed to nature’s artistry on January 5 in 2018.

Comments always are welcome.