Meanwhile, Back at the Ditch

Wild irises along Brazoria County Road 306

After returning from my recent foray into the wilds of Bluebonnetland, I realized I was in danger of repeating a mistake I’ve made in the past. Despite knowing last year’s iris leaves had emerged in the ditches surrounding the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge, I put off a return visit; by the time I saw the irises again, the flowers were gone.

Not wanting to miss them this year, I decided to make a quick trip to the refuge to see if a few irises might still be blooming. They were: another form of ditch diamond to enjoy.

A different sort of flag

Everyone seems to agree that at least three iris species are native to Texas. This Southern Blue Flag (Iris virginica) may be the best known. I first heard the phrase ‘flag pond’ after moving to Texas, and misinterpreted the phrase. I assumed it meant a pond with a flag pole next to it. A pond filled with irises never occurred to me.

Two to three feet tall, Blue Flags can vary in color from very light blue to purple, leading me to suspect that the next two photos also show Blue Flags.

The Zigzag iris (Iris brevicaulis) has different growth habits. Flowers are borne on sprawling stems which typically zig-zag to a height of no more than fives inches. The specific epithet brevicaulis means ‘short-stemmed,’ and the long, strap-like green leaves often hide the blooms.

A zigzag Iris blooming only inches above the ground

Color variations also exist among Zigzag Iris. While some sites describe the flower as lavender, others mention purple and yellow as possibilities. Given their short stature and the length of their sepals — substantially longer than their petals — I suspect this next pair might be Zigzag iris as well.

The colonies were pretty when seen from the road, but only a walk among them revealed their variety of color and form: except, of course, for the yellow iris, which demanded to be noticed.

Comments always are welcome.

Sometimes a Star, Sometimes a Supporting Character

Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, and Nueces Coreopsis near La Vernia, Texas

When spring arrives and blankets of blue wrap around the pastures and hills of rural Texas, “Let’s go look at the flowers” is a common invitation: one that generally means, “Let’s go look at the bluebonnets.” Still, as the season progresses, those blue beauties are joined by a multitude of other colors.

My own preference is for these fields of mixed flowers. When I see them, the red, yellow, and blue finger paints of my pre-school years come to mind, along with the little red, yellow, and blue chairs in my first grade reading circle. Discovering the same colors shining in the sunlight always brings a smile.

Here, Engelmann’s daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) stand out against a multi-colored background that also includes what I first took to be a variety of sneezeweed (Helenium spp.), but now know to be huisache daisy (Amblyolepis setigera).

Engelmann daisies and friends ~ Goliad, Texas

Sometimes, even a weed can add color, as when wind-blown dock (Rumex spp.) provides an impressionistic touch to a hidden parcel of flowers.

Curly Dock, Toadflax, and Groundsel on an unnumbered road outside Smiley

Far from any town, a pleasing winecup serves to accent fading bluebonnets and blue curls. At the right of the image, you can see the fuzzy bluebonnet seed pods already forming.

A fading but still bright collection of flowers at an intersection of two county roads

Despite drought and freeze, nature’s spring production is continuing its run, and there’s still time to catch the show.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Night at the Winecup Hotel

Tall Poppy Mallow ~ Gonzales County, Texas

Several species popularly known as winecup or poppy mallow bloom in Texas. In my area, the Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) spreads along the ground, forming low, dense mats across prairies, fields, and roadsides. Its deep magenta, cup-shaped flowers are common from mid-spring to fall.

The closely-related Tall Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe leiocarpa), a spindly, erect plant of the hill country that often reaches a height of two to three feet, produces single blooms atop long, leafless stems like the one shown above. Its dark purplish-red to wine colored flowers close each evening, and remain permanently shut after pollination.

When I found a few Tall Poppy Mallows re-opening on the morning of April 5 outside Cost, Texas, one held a surprise. The small flower, less than an inch across, held an even smaller sleeping bee that had checked into the Winecup Hotel for the night. As I looked into the tiny cup, the bee awoke and stirred, then peered over the edge of the petals. Perhaps it was hoping for room service.

 

Comments always are welcome.