One Lily, Two Views

Evening rain lily  ~ Zephyranthes chlorosolen

If rain lilies forcing their way through a construction site’s packed dirt exemplify nature’s energy and exuberance, this solitary lily is pure elegance.

Blooming undisturbed and undamaged at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, it seemed to demand a photo session. After all,  for white flower lovers, there never can be too many rain lilies.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Life’s Force

Recent rains, sufficient to leave roadway puddles and the occasional flowing ditch, have enouraged new plant growth everywhere. Crepe myrtles are reblooming, shrubs are leafing out as though it were April, and the voice of the lawnmower is heard in the land.

From our schoolyard lawns to the highway medians of Galveston, one of the most prolific bloomers just now is a native rain lily (Zephyranthes chlorosolen). Aptly described by an online acquaintance as “all those little white flowers that come out of nowhere right after it rains,” they might also be described as “those little white flowers that bloom anywhere they darned well please.”

This small group had pushed its way through the hard clay of a construction site in what I imagined to be a natural call-and-response. The rain called, the flowers responded, and everyone who’s noticed is exclaiming in delight at their sudden appearance.  

 

Comments always are welcome.

Never Say Never

New growth emerging from freeze-damaged branches

Despite its name, the Mexican Olive, or Anacahuita, doesn’t produce true olives. A member of the Borage family, Cordia boissieri is more closely related to flowers such as Comfrey, Heliotrope, and Forget-Me-Not. 

Butterflies and hummingbirds frequent the blooms, while the fleshy fruits — which do resemble an olive in shape and color — are palatable to birds, deer, and cattle. Don’t add one to your martini or tapenade, though; the fruits’ slight toxicity makes them unfit for human consumption.

Native to only a few counties in far south Texas and to portions of northeastern Mexico, the plant rarely exceeds a height of twenty feet. It tends toward shrubbiness, but can be pruned to become more tree-like. No matter its shape, it blooms through most of the year with showy, trumpet-shaped flowers that glow against its dark leaves.

Pest and disease free, Texas olive’s greatest downside is its dislike of cold weather. In the normally frost-free region of south Texas, Mexican olive thrives, but survival in areas like Austin and San Antonio is less certain. At that northern limit of its range, the trees often are smaller, and deciduous or evergreen depending on the weather.

After Texas’s state-wide freeze last February, the single specimen tree at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge seemed to have succumbed to the harsh conditions; its leafless branches suggested it never would survive. Then, I noticed a few leaves, followed by small but perfectly formed buds. In time, normally-sized flowers once again bloomed: delighting my human eyes as well as the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that find it so appealing.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Brookweeds Will Not Brook Being Ignored*

While I found the fully-opened flowers of the Limewater Brookweed (Samolus ebracteatus) charming enough to be featured in my previous post, I was equally taken with their plump little buds, and the interesting, vase-like form of the flower when seen from the side.

Like flowers of the dewberry or rain lily, they can be touched with a hint of pink which fades as the flower matures.

 

Comments always are welcome.
* While the construction ‘brook no’ is old and generally uncommon, it still shows up in phrases like “He would brook no criticism” or “She brooks no dissent.” It means not to allow, tolerate, or accept something.
The etymology of ‘brook’ in this sense is interesting, as this condensed passage from the LanguageHat blog demonstrates:
The Old English strong verb brúcan is historically the same as the German brauchen and has the same meaning: ‘to make use of, have the enjoyment of, enjoy.’  A specialized usage is found in the Oxford Annotated Dictionary’s second sense: “To make use of (food); in later usage, to digest, retain, or bear on the stomach.”  Citations of early usage include Thomas Raynalde (Roesslin’s Byrth of mankynde, 1540): “If she refuse or cannot brooke meat.” The first OED citation is found in Palsgrave’s 1530 “Lesclarcissement de la langue françoyse”: “He can nat brooke me of all men.”

No Brook, but a Brookweed

The distribution of this tiny flower  — Limewater Brookweed, known scientifically as Samolus ebracteatus — is interesting. It can be found in every Texas coastal county save one, but after skipping a good bit of territory, it also appears in central Texas and the hill country before making its way west into a bit of New Mexico, where it’s sometimes known as Mojave Water Pimpernel.

The plant’s willingness to grow near springs and intermittent rivers in desert areas, as well as in the wetlands and salt marshes of coastal Texas, makes clear that Brookweed doesn’t require a brook in order to thrive.

Its flowers, measuring no more than a quarter-inch to a half-inch wide, appear on short stalks arrayed along a long wand. They mature from the base upward; as the season progresses, the plant continues to produce new blooms while fruits mature from the older flowers and release seeds.

The flowers of this in the Primulaceae (the Primrose family) attract the Southern Carpenter Bee, hoverflies, and butterflies. When I found this example at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail in Brazoria County, other Brookweeds were being visited by an assortment of Sulphurs.

 

Comments always are welcome.