No Fleas, but a Cranefly

One of our most abundant spring wildflowers, Philadelphia Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus), is everywhere just now: in vacant city lots, alongside roads, and spread across the rural landscape. ‘Fleabane,’ a word rooted in Old English,  may refer to the plant’s odor (said to repel fleas), the ability of dried flowers to send fleas on their way, or the size of the plant’s seeds, which are no larger than fleas.

However accurate the common name, in a field filled with the flowers I found no fleas, but an assortment of bees, skippers, and flies were rejoicing in the nectar and pollen they offered. The surprise was this cranefly, which seemed simply to be resting on the flowers in the early morning stillness. I usually see craneflies on the sides of buildings or fluttering above sidewalks; this one had the good sense to choose a more appealing spot to spend the morning.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Surprising, but Seasonal, Survivor

On February 27, just one week after the last hard freeze warning was lifted for the Houston area and any remaining snow and ice had disappeared,  this hardy, ten-petal anemone (Anemone berlandieri) was blooming beside a Brazoria County road.

In normal years, the Anemone is one of our earliest signs of spring. Appearing in late January or early February, it blooms only through April or May. Despite its apparent delicacy and small size — an inch or inch-and-a-half in diameter —  it clearly can cope with sub-freezing temperatures and icy insults.

Like other anemones, this Texas native sometimes is called ‘windflower,’ although ‘thimble flower’ is equally common. The species epithet refers to Jean Louis Berlandier (c.1805-1851), a French botanist who studied plants in Mexico and Texas.

Berlandier joined the Mexican Boundary Commission in 1826 as a botanist and zoologist. In 1829, he settled in Matamoros, Mexico, where he served as a physician and pharmacist. Unfortunately, his life ended in 1851 when, while crossing the San Fernando River on horseback, unusually swift currents pulled him under, and he wasn’t able to survive.

 

Comments always are welcome.

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.