Rockport Texas in My Rear View Mirror


Spring arrives early in Texas, but circumstances — including my own inattention — meant my annual visit to the Rockport cemetery was late, and many of the flowers already had faded. Some were producing seed, although a lack of rain seemed to have diminished their numbers.

That said, many individual flowers were fresh and beautiful: ready to show off for someone who was a little late to the show.

Very little compares to a field of bluebonnets, but even a single flower can shine.

Texas bluebonnet ~ Lupinus texensis

Like yellow star grass (Hypoxis hirsuta), wolly globemallow has delightfully fuzzy buds, stems, and leaves. A true Texas endemic, it thrives in the sandy conditions of south Texas, especially near the coast. In the Rockport cemetery, it emerges in the same spot every year.

Wolly globemallow ~ Sphaeralcea lindheimeri

Another lover of sandy soil, Texas toadflax can be found from east Texas to Galveston Island; I’ve found it as far west as the area south of San Antonio. Because of the long ‘spur’ that extends from the flower, it’s sometimes confused with larkspur.

Texas toadflax ~ Nuttallanthus texanus

Every stage of the beautiful winecup, or purple poppy-mallow, is worth recording. It’s buds are especially pleasing, but who could resist this color?

Winecup ~ Callirhoe involucrata

A new flower always is a delight. This year at Rockport, it was a pretty, though non-native, species known as annual wall-rocket. Native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, it may have arrived here in ships’ ballast. A member of the mustard family, this lover of disturbed ground is edible; its leaves are said to make a fine addition to a salad.

Annual wall-rocket ~ Diplotaxis muralis

The small flowers of Drummond’s skullcap attract a variety of pollinators, including small bees and butterflies. The polka-dotted ‘landing pad’ seems perfectly designed to attract a pollinator’s attention, and the plant’s drought resistance makes it a good choice for xeriscaping.

Drummond’s skullcap ~ Scutellaria drummondii

Assorted coreopsis filled the cemetery, their numbers rivaling those of the bluebonnets. By early March, some already were completing their life cycle, providing striking images like this single ray flower in the process of decline. Because it’s the practice at this cemetery to forgo mowing until after wildflower season, their seed also will help to guarantee next season’s blooms.

Plains coreopsis ~ Coreopsis tinctoria

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For those unfamiliar with the source of the title, give a listen here.

Appetizers and Leftovers

When it comes to nature’s floral feast, buds are akin to appetizers: tiny bits of delectable beauty that whet our appetite for what’s to come. Here, a single coreopsis bud (Coreopsis basalis) gleams against the glow of bluebonnets and other coreopsis at the Rockport City Cemetery.

Even after a several-course meal, a bit of sweetness is nice. Here, a white prickly poppy, though reduced to stigma, stamens, and prickles, remains sweet enough to attract what appears to be a tiny tumbling flower beetle (Mordella sp.). The very opposite of the over-petaled example I’d seen near this spot, it attracted my eye, as well.

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The Over-achievers


Unlike the so-called standing poppy-mallow (Callirhoe digitata), the purple poppy-mallow, or winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) forms mats of colorful blooms. Usually, the flowers appear singly atop their stems, but in the midst of one thick stand in the Rockport City Cemetery, I found this pair: a beautifully colored little quirk of nature.

Not far away, a section of the cemetery was filled with white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora spp. texana), one of my favorite Texas wildflowers. I searched for the plant for at least two years without success; now I see them frequently, in places as widely separated as our coastal bays and the hill country.

What I’d never seen before my visit to Rockport was a prickly poppy with what appeared to be extra petals extending out from the same receptacle as the usual flower. Perhaps the poppy had attempted to ‘double’ in the same way as the winecup, but managed only to produce  extra petals.

In any event, I was delighted to find these little quirks of nature: good reminders that what can’t be explained still can be enjoyed.


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Rockport, Redux ~ A Most Unusual Blue

When ‘blue’ curls aren’t

One of the prettiest and most interesting plants around, bluecurls (Phacelia congesta) is named partly for its tightly coiled clusters of buds, which uncurl as the flowers develop.

Its flowers usually range from lavender to a truer blue, but bluecurls aren’t always blue, as the example above proves. I’ve seen white blue-eyed grass, white bluebells, and white spiderwort, but this was my first sighting of white bluecurls: a single plant tucked into the middle of a more typical colony.

Bluecurls in the process of uncurling

The plants are especially attractive to bees and butterflies, although a variety of flies and other insects will visit. In his Wildflowers of Texas, Michael Eason notes that bluecurls grow in moist, shady areas during dry years; its presence throughout the open and unshaded cemetery suggests that Rockport shared in this year’s coastal rains.

Butterfly? Skipper? I don’t know, but it seems happy


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Rockport, Redux ~ Pretty in Pink

Drummond’s phlox ~ Phlox drummondii

I’ve never heard someone say, “Let’s drive out to the country to see the phlox,” but several varieties of phlox grow wild across Texas, and when they spread their sweet, pink glow across the landscape, they rival even our bluebonnets for eye-catching loveliness.

In early March, Drummond’s phlox (Phlox drummondii) was in full bloom at the Rockport City Cemetery. Named for Scottish naturalist, botanist, and explorer Thomas Drummond, the plant is only one of many that bear his name. During an expedition through Texas in 1835, Drummond shipped specimens and seeds to England, where English botanist Sir W. J. Hooker declared P. drummondii to be “decidedly among the greatest ornaments of the greenhouse in the Glasgow Botanic Garden.”

Drummond’s phlox is known for soft, hairy, and sticky leaves; enlarging the first photo shows the glandular nature of its hairs. Perhaps because of their small size the buds rarely are noticed, but their opening is a delight to behold.


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