One Sweet December Day

Camphor Daisy (Rayjacksonia phyllocephala)

While frost, snow, and colder temperatures make their way across Canada and into the United States, those of us who live on the Texas coast continue to enjoy our own autumn-into-winter transition.

On December 4, I spent a few hours exploring the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, where a remarkable variety of flowers continued to bloom and increasing numbers of birds were appearing. The camphor daisy shown above, though in decline, still threaded through the mud flats and ditches, and one of our tiny asters (perhaps properly identified, or perhaps not) still was being visited by butterflies and other insects.

Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum)
Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

The lotuses are gone now, but an assortment of aquatic plants remain, including mosquito fern, duckweed, and this pretty water lettuce. Its soft, slightly fuzzy leaves suggest those of common mullein.

Away from the ponds, wading birds scattered across the sloughs and flats. I crept as close to these spoonbills as I could, shooting from behind a thick screen of reeds to keep them from taking flight. It appears this is a group of juveniles; youngsters are a paler pink than the adults, and their heads are fully feathered.

Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja)

Lavender bespeaks autumn on our coast as much as red or gold. Here, tiny flowers of Texas vervain offer the smallest butterfly in North American a sip of nectar. Given the Pygmy Blue’s preference for cruising close to the ground, I was happy enough for this upside down view.

Texas Vervain (Verbena halei) and Western Pygmy Blue  (Brephidium exile)

Meanwhile, the Carolina wolfberry displays an equally pretty lavender. In time, it produces the bright red fruits that help to feed newly-arrived whooping cranes.

Carolina Wolfberry (Lycium carolinianum)
Scarlet Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis

Our version of the scarlet pimpernel generally is orange, although blue and sometimes red flowers will appear. Low-growing and only a half-inch or so across, it’s delightfully detailed for such a small flower.

I rarely see the Ailanthus webworm moth, but when I do, I think of drapery and upholstery fabrics popular in the 1940s and 1950s.

Ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea)

Past the prairie and back at the slough, I found these ibises and egrets sharing a bank that offered protection from the wind.

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) socializing with White Egrets (Egretta thula)

They didn’t seem at all disturbed by the numerous alligators sunning themselves on the same banks.

The obligatory alligator

Bright yellow cowpeas were everywhere, bringing a bit of visual warmth to the landscape.  I’d never before noticed the resemblance of their buds to those of the bluebonnet, but this time it was impossible to miss: a reminder that both are classified within the pea family, or Fabaceae.

Hairypod cowpea (Vigna luteola)

Today, a frontal passage with colder temperatures, rain, and wind has passed through, but soon enough the winds will switch to the south, and our typical December cycle will begin again.


Comments always are welcome.