Those Unpredictable Rain Lilies

Eleven lilies and a bud

 

On July 4th, I found the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge nearly deserted; only a few birds and even fewer humans stirred in the heat. In some areas, a different sort of emptiness prevailed. Since my last visit, mowers had been at work, cutting wide roadside swaths, as well as entire fields, neatly to the ground.

Since the refuge is managed for wildlife, particularly waterfowl, it makes sense that wildflowers might not be the first consideration, but it was disappointing to find stubble where I’d hoped to find flowers.

On the other hand, an unexpected treat awaited me. Rain lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen) decorated the road leading into the refuge, and had spread throughout the refuge itself. Despite our consistent rains, it hadn’t occurred to me that they might be appearing, but hundreds already had bloomed, rising from bulbs undisturbed by the mowing.

Despite being so numerous, the flowers were too scattered for their fragrance to be detectable. Still, the occasional clumps of fresh, white flowers were delightful, and even a single rain lily pleases the eye.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Ornaments for the Roadside

American basket-flower with common sunflowers

In 1862, General Albert Sidney Johnston lost his life during the Civil War’s Battle of Shiloh, but before his death, he and his wife, Eliza Griffin Johnston, lived and traveled in Texas. The details of their life together are beyond the scope of this post, but Eliza was a keen observer of the world around her, an accomplished artist, and a great lover of wildflowers. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, she created a watercolor record of Texas wildflowers; eventually, she bound her images into a book and presented them to her husband as a birthday gift.

In 1894, Rebecca Jane Fisher, a member of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, began seeking Republic of Texas artifacts for a museum. When she asked Eliza for something that had belonged to the General, Eliza donated her wildflower book. It remained in an Austin bank vault for years; today the book, containing more than a hundred watercolor images and wonderfully descriptive text, is available under the titleTexas Wild Flowers. It pleased me to find that Eliza had included my beloved basket-flower in her collection. She writes:

In passing through north western Texas, the traveler will frequently find his path bordered for miles by this flower mingled with sunflowers. The seed, falling from a single cluster of each will stock many acres; by being caught up by passing wheels, or clinging to horses’ feet, they are planted, and thus become ornaments for the roadside.
Emerging basket-flower ~ Dudney Nature Center, League City

Today, these ‘roadside ornaments’ are equally common. Named for the stiff, straw-colored phyllaries (modified leaves) which form a kind of woven basket at the bottom of the flower, they seem to be especially fond of disturbed ground or seemingly odd locations.

Abloom at the base of a billboard ~ Clear Lake Shores

Their considerable height — often as much as six to eight feet  — makes it easy to use the sky as a pleasing background for the only native Centaurea species in the U.S. (It should be noted that the name I learned and that still is most often used — Centaurea americana — has been changed to Plectocephalus americanus on many sites. Caution: taxonomists at work!)

Along a Brazoria County road

Even though their appearance seemed late this year, their locations were predictable. The small colony that’s decorated the bank of a Brazoria Wildlife Refuge canal for as many years as I’ve been visiting was in full bloom, and offered up a surprise.

Banking on predictability ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

Pink and lavender, combined with cream, may be the usual basket-flower colors, but occasionally a white one appears. Along the same Brazoria Refuge canal where I found my dependable colony, one white basket-flower was blooming: a joy for my white flower loving heart, and as pretty a natural variation as could be found.

One white flower, two views ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge canal

 

Comments always are welcome.

Three Cheers for Individuality

Not purple, but a pleatleaf nonetheless ~ Alophia drummondii

Slight variations in color, size, or shape are common enough among the flowers we enjoy, but more dramatic differences occasionally appear. Flowers typically associated with specific colors — bluebonnets, red Indian paintbrush, blue eyed grass, meadow pinks — all produce white variants from time to time, and discovering one always is fun.

Still, I was surprised to find this unusual purple pleatleaf tucked among a loose cluster of more traditionally colored flowers in east Texas’s Big Thicket. In this case, another name commonly applied to the plant — ‘propeller flower’ — seems apt.

The absence of the bold color and intricate patterning that usually mark the flower, shown in my previous post, made its membership in the iris family more obvious, and I enjoyed finding different ways to portray its beauty.

 

Comments always are welcome.