Mornings with Monarda

Spotted beebalm with phlox ~ Medina County

Named in honor of 16th century Spanish physician, botanist, and pharmacologist Nicolas Bautista Monardes (1493-1588), native Monarda species are widespread across Texas.

Monardes himself never traveled to the New World, but Spanish captains engaged in trade with the Americas knew of his interest in plants, and kept him well-supplied with new species. Monardes established a museum in Seville to house his growing collection — the first such museum in Western Europe — and brought the plants’ therapeutic values to the attention of his colleagues.

Drought tolerant, clump-forming members of the Lamiaceae, or mint family, Monarda species thrive in sunny areas with dry soil. During a visit to the Texas hill country on May 7-9, I found colonies of both Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata) and Lemon Horsemint (M. citriodora) giving clear notice that late spring is turning into summer.

Spotted beebalm ~ Medina County
Lemon horsemint ~ Wilson County
Lemon horsemint with firewheels  ~ Gonzales County

 

Comments always are welcome.

My Favorite White Delight

A just-opened White Prickly Poppy

The beauty of bluebonnet and Indian paintbrush-filled fields can’t be denied, but a more widespread if less well-publicized native flower always makes me smile. The White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora) blooms for weeks across wide swaths of Texas: not always in dense colonies, but equally lovely in isolated stands. I found at least a few near every stopping point on the weekend of April 9 and 10.

I once had the pleasure of watching one of these poppy buds open; it took less time than drinking my cup of coffee. While I’ve missed that sight this year, the still-crinkled flower in the first photo recalled that experience, while spreading petals of more mature blooms glowed against a background of bluebonnets and phlox.

That said, little compares to the sight of these flowers, wind-blown and delicate above their otherwise prickly buds, stems, and leaves, shining against a blue Texas sky.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Red and Blue ~ Those Texas Hues

Indian Paintbrush

Perhaps a true appreciation for Texas’s size requires leaving its cities and taking  time to roam among its unincorporated areas and settlements. Many places carry names even most Texans never have heard and, depending on your chosen spot to roam, the appearance of the land can vary wildly.

Last weekend, I chose to roam north and somewhat west of home, in the territory generally referred to by coastal dwellers as North of I-10.  Among its unfamiliar settlements — Burleigh, Sunny Side, Monaville — unbroken swaths of familiar wildflowers covered the land, unseen by flower-seekers cruising the primary highways. Sometimes, red Indian paintbrush served as the primary attraction; elsewhere, bluebonnets held sway. Occasionally, the flowers combined in a single field, creating an extraordinary sight.

Even the most skilled photographers can’t truly capture the glow of these flowers, or the bluebonnets’ fragrance. But if you enlarge each photo, you may get a glimpse of their wondrous beauty; I wish you had been there to see it.

Bluebonnets

Bluebonnets with perennial rye grass (Lolium perenne)

 

Comments always are welcome.

Nature’s Alchemy

Even in a post-freeze year marked by continuing drought, Texas wildflowers can put on quite a show. It’s tradition here to set aside at least one spring weekend for “going to see the flowers,” and last weekend was mine.

Many consider our fields of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush to be iconic, but they’re often rivaled by other wildflowers. The Christian City Fellowship, a large congregation between Sealy and Bellville, has allowed acres of flowers to bloom on their property; the huge patch of yellow flowers there certainly caught my eye.

After a quick U-turn, I pulled into a parking lot at the back of the church and found myself gazing at the largest colony of Nueces Coreopsis (Coreopsis neucensoides) I’ve ever seen. With its pretty red detailing and frilly ray florets, it’s an especially attractive flower, but the history of the field was equally compelling.

The church was open, so I ventured inside to ask permission to roam the property. A young man offered permission with a smile, then mentioned that the flowers had changed dramatically. In past years, the fields had been covered with bluebonnets. This year, only an occasional bluebonnet bloomed amid the coreopsis; Nature as alchemist had transformed blue into gold.

Was the change due to last year’s freeze? Had drought played a role? Whatever the reason for the change, the result was beautiful, and I lingered a good while luxuriating in the sight — until I remembered that bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush were waiting down the road.

Nueces Coreopsis

 

Comments always are welcome.

Spring’s Sweet Tangle

Texas Redbud ~ Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Every spring, a variety of blooming redbud trees abounds in my town’s yards, at the edges of commercial parking lots, and in public gardens. Nicely shaped, well trimmed and well fed, they’re both a dependable sign of spring’s arrival and a colorful addition to the urban landscape.

In the woods, things aren’t always so tidy. This native Texas Redbud is no less colorful but, left to its own devices, it’s wandered a bit among the junipers and oaks. Still, the sight of a blooming tree in the midst of a thicket is enormously charming: presenting a good reason to get off the proverbial ‘beaten path.’

 

Comments always are welcome.