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.

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.