In the Country of the Wild-Haired Corn

 

I don’t know
if the sunflowers
are angels always,
but surely sometimes.
Who, even in heaven,
wouldn’t want to wear,
for awhile,
such a seed-face
and brave spine —
a coat of leaves
with so many pockets —
and who wouldn’t want
to stand for a summer day
in the hot fields,
in the lonely country
of the wild-haired corn?
This much I know —
When I see the bright
stars of their faces
when I’m strolling nearby,
I grow soft in my speech,
and soft in my thoughts,
and I remember how everything will be everything else,
by and by.
                    “By the Wild-Haired Corn” ~ Mary Oliver

 

Comments always are welcome.

Rockport, Redux

Woolly globe mallow (Sphaeralcea lindheimeri)

As lovely as cemeteries filled with wildflowers can be, it’s often easy to miss the occasional or unusual delight hidden among the mass of blooms.

At the Rockport City Cemetery, I found one grave surrounded by the pure, bright orange of woolly globe mallow. Found in sandy coastal prairies and inland areas of southern Texas, the plant is a Texas endemic (native only to Texas) and is named for botanist Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer, known as the father of Texas botany.

Sandyland bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus)

On March 7, 1901, Lupinus subcarnosus became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Texas. But we have four bluebonnet species and, in time, Lupinus texensis emerged as most Texans’ favorite. To accomodate everyone’s preferences, the 1971 Texas Legislature granted equal rank to any species of Lupinus found in Texas.

Native bluebonnets tend to be blue, of course, but white variants can be found, and some had appeared next to a grave in Rockport.

Cucumber leaf sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

Another lover of sandy soil, the cucumber leaf (or beach) sunflower was scattered here and there among the mix of flowers. Common around dunes or disturbed coastal areas, it can be found any month of the year along south Texas beaches.

An uncommon feature of this one is the extra leaf that’s sprouted on the underside of the bloom. In July of 2013, Steve Schwartzman posted a photo of a similar phenomenon, noting that he’d never before seen such a thing. Now, after nearly six years, we know that there have been at least two.

Trailing wine cup (Callirhoe involucrata)

The trailing wine cup can be distinguished from the standing wine cup in a number of ways. Most obviously, the trailing wine cup forms mats near the ground, while the standing wine cup does just that: it stands, tall and erect, above surrounding plants. This trailing wine cup bud appears to be standing, but it was standing only about four inches above the ground.

The scientific name of the trailing wine cup points to another difference. If you look closely, you can see a ring of small, leafy bracts at the base of the flower. Absent in the standing wine cup, this involucre gave rise to the flower’s species name.

A bit of art deco design ~ Yucca spp.

I’m still uncertain whether all yuccas planted in the cemetery are Texas natives. I suspect not, but all were attractive: the emerging buds especially so. I found the symmetry of this one delightful, and proof enough that all stages of plant growth can be worthy of attention.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Going, Going… But Not Gone

Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) mixed with native grasses

While such people may exist, I’ve yet to meet anyone who actively dislikes sunflowers. The willingness of common sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) to put down roots almost anywhere — construction sites, vacant lots, rural fencelines — can bring a smile to the face of even the most determined curmudgeon.

But there are many versions of the sunflower, including three of my favorites: swamp sunflower (H. augustifolius), silver-leaf sunflower (H. argophyllus), and Maximilian, named for Prince Maximilian Alexander Philipp of Wied-Neuwied, a German explorer and naturalist who traveled through the United States in 1832–34.

Swamp and silver-leaf sunflowers prefer conditions farther south; Maximilians appear in my area, but erratically, and sometimes in the most unexpected places. When I noticed a patch of them decorating a narrow strip of land in Brazoria County, I stopped for a visit. Despite being well past the peak of their flowering, they were a delightful discovery.

Clustered blooms and height help to make them noticeable. Commonly four to six feet tall, and even taller where conditions are right, Maximilians are tough and adaptable. Their flowers appear late in the season, often blooming in tandem with goldenrod.

Occasionally, skyward-reaching stalks provide an interesting view of their slender, alternate leaves.

Gravity often pulls tall, flower-laden stalks down to the ground, but shorter stalks will lean as well, even in the absence of wind.

Every sort of pollinator is attracted to them, especially butterflies. Here, a Gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) pauses for a sip of nectar.

A special treat was finding a new example of a favorite autumn color combination in the field. Here, purple bindweed (Ipomoea cordatotriloba) clambers up a Maximilian stem, showing off its leaves in the process. 

Since I discovered this colony, winds associated with cold and warm fronts have been strong. Whether the sunflowers will be going strong when I next pass by is hard to say, but I suspect that they won’t be gone.

Comments always are welcome.