Bejeweled

 

Last Sunday, I made a first visit to Brazos Bend, a highly regarded state park known for alligators, a multitude of hiking and biking trails, and star parties at the George Observatory.

I was less interested in the alligators than in reports that alligator flag, a plant I’d seen only once, could be found there. In the end, I found the plant, but I found much more, including lotuses.

Among the day’s delights, I found this feather. Despite its watery environment — so different from Georgia O’Keeffe’s beloved Southwest — it reminded me of such paintings as White Feather 1941, one of her many studies of feathers, rocks, and leaves.

I found my feather, with its jewel-like droplet of water, interesting. As O’Keeffe herself once said, “Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.”

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Delight of Basket-flowers

American basket-flower ~ Plectocephalus americanus (formerly Centaurea americana)

As spring transitioned into summer, I began to fear I had missed seeing my beloved basket-flowers this year. Finally, around mid-June, they began to appear: along abandoned rail tracks and in ditches; tucked into unmowed corners of vacant lots; lurking at the edge of a shipyard. By July, seeds I’d given to friends began to produce as well, and their reports of successful germination pleased me immensely.

Generally speaking, basket-flowers bloom a soft, lovely pink, or various shades of lavender. As they age, the intricately woven ‘basket’ containing the slender disk flowers turns golden, becoming the center of attraction as the seeds form.

Occasionally, as with this flower from a colony in Kemah, Texas, the fading bloom darkens, taking on shades of bronzed purple and red.

Sometimes, white basket-flowers appear. Near Tres Palacios Bay on Texas’s mid-coast, this lovely example stirred in the wind: a reminder of the surprising variety nature offers to even the most casual observer.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Last Rose of Autumn

Macartney Rose (Rosa bracteata) ~ Galveston Island

Lovely though it may be, Macartney rose rivals the Chinese tallow tree as a scourge upon the land. Another native of China, introduced into the United States as a landscape plant or means of natural fencing, it arrived in southeast Texas in the past century. Thanks to the wide dispersal of seeds by birds and cattle, it’s now spread to pastures and rangeland, and can be found in every nature center or wildlife refuge I visit.

Although not considered a noxious plant, it’s considered invasive for good reason. According to the TexasInvasives database:

Macartney rose forms dense thickets, displacing native grasses such as the endangered white bladderpod, and altering native wildlife habitat. [Its presence] greatly decreases forage productivity of cattle pasture and adds to the economic burden of land managers.

Still, its flower is undeniably lovely, blooming late into the year — even into December — near the coast. It requires nothing more than a change from ‘summer’ to ‘autumn’ (or even ‘winter’) for the words of Thomas Moore’s 1805 poem to capture the poignancy of its increasingly sparse flowers as true winter approaches.

‘Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.
I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.
So soon may I follow
When friendships decay,
And from Love’s shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone.

 

Comments always are welcome.