Snug as a Spider in a Blossom

Two expressions bookmarked my childhood days. When it was time to rise after sleep, I often heard my father saying, “Good morning, Sunshine.” At night, as I was tucked into bed, my mother would say, “There. Now you’re snug as a bug in a rug.”

When I find a spider that’s tucked itself (or its eggs) into a flower or leaf, I always remember those snug bugs, and smile. In the photo above, strands of silk used by a spider to create a secure spot are just visible on either side of a Downy Lobelia flower (Lobelia puberula).

In mid-October, these relatives of the Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) were blooming prolifically in east Texas. The genus name honors Matthias de L’Obel, a Flemish herbalist; the specific epithet, puberula, comes from a word meaning ‘downy,’ and refers to the hairs on the plant.

Downy Lobelia’s preference for a combination of sun and moisture makes its autumn appearance in low-lying areas of the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary and the Big Thicket’s Solo Tract somewhat predictable. The creative spider making use of one of the plant’s flowers was, of course, lagniappe.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Barbara, Unbuttoned

A blooming Button in the Big Thicket’s Solo Tract

The pretty flower known as Grassleaf Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia graminifolia) occurs naturally in flatwoods, bogs, seepage slopes, wet prairies, and savannas; it’s quite common in east Texas’s Big Thicket.

All species in the genus commonly are known as Barbara’s buttons, although the identity of ‘Barbara’ is unknown. The common name first appeared in John Kunkel Small’s Flora of the Southeastern United States; published in 1933. The genus name, Marshallia, honors American botanists Humphry Marshall (1722-1801) and his nephew Moses Marshall (1758-1813), while the species epithet refers to the plant’s grasslike leaves.

Although a member of the sunflower family, the flower heads are composed only of disc florets; ray florets, often sometimes called ‘petals,’ are absent. In bloom, the flower’s compact form makes a comparison with buttons understandable; as buds, they seem even more button-like.

An interesting aspect of the flower is the way it sometimes comes into bloom: asymmetrically, if not erratically. I’m often amused by the forms it takes. Here, Barbara looks less like a button and more like a pig-tailed bud that’s cute as a button.

I caught this flower presenting a tentative wave to the world. Perhaps it felt a bit buttoned-up, and sent one of its florets to determine if it was safe to bloom.

 

Comments always are welcome.