The First of the Ditch Diamonds

You probably won’t find ‘ditch diamonds’ listed in any field guide to native plants. It’s my personal descriptor for a wide variety of wildflowers that prefer the damp — even wet — growing conditions that ditches generally provide.

Blue Flags, Water Canna, Alligator Flag, and Arrowhead are spring and summer delights that can be found in the ditches, along with the widespread and beloved Spider Lily (Hymenocallis liriosme) shown above. A common sight in coastal and southeastern Texas, it blooms from February through September, although our freezing weather slowed its emergence this year.

Still, the operative word is ‘slowed,’ not ‘stopped.’ Yesterday morning, as I traveled FM 2004 outside the town of Lake Jackson, a bit of white caught my eye. It was a single spider lily plant, in full bloom. Apart from the delight of finding my first ditch diamond of the year, I was amused by the timing. Commenting on my recent post about the cranefly orchid, Steve Schwartzman mentioned that our part of the state has another plant named for an insect: the spider lilies. Ever helpful, nature provided an example within twenty-four hours.

In time, ditches will fill with hundreds of these plants. For now, this single lovely specimen serves as a reminder that even when delayed, spring will not be denied.


Comments always are welcome.

Those Serendipitous Sunflowers

Show all the blooms, but show them slant (with apologies to Emily Dickinson)

For weeks I chased Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) like a birder in hot pursuit of a rare species. Initially, I thought I’d found them at the Attwater refuge, but after both a friend and a member of the refuge staff persuaded me that my glorious find was swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), I knew I’d have to look farther.

One morning, in the process of just roaming around, I passed a patch of vibrant yellow leaning against a pasture fence.  Even at 60 mph, it seemed unusually substantial, so a mile down the road I turned around in a driveway and hustled back to the fence. My instincts had been right. The flowers were Maximilians: beginning to fade, but still glowing as they slanted into the rising light.

I’d always assumed Maximilians were a central-Texas-and-north flower, but I’d missed seeing that the USDA map suggested otherwise. I began looking more closely, and on a small patch of land less than a quarter mile from the Galveston/Brazoria county line, I found them again. Well on their way to forming seed, their little patch of land had escaped both public and private mowers.

As the day progressed, haze from burning fields obscured the morning’s pure blue skies, but added a certain delicacy to some of the images. Here are a few of my favorites from that unexpected encounter.

If one bloom is good, more can be better
A few clouds provide a pleasing background
When it comes to growth, horizontal does as well as vertical
Hazy skies and scattered grasses lend a delicate air
This feels as old-fashioned as my grandmother’s kitchen
A photo-bombing leaf? It’s odd, but I like it
An attractive combination of seed head and bloom
The plant’s graceful leaves deserve equal time
A late season treat for pollinators


Comments always are welcome.