Bud, Bloom, and Banquet

Purple leatherflower bud ~ Dudney Nature Center, League City

One of my favorite native vines, the Purple Leatherflower (Clematis pitcheri), typically climbs over and around woodland margins, road cuts, fence rows, and disturbed ground such as construction sites. While its stems can grow to a length of ten feet or more, its flowers usually are less than an inch long. Solitary and simply shaped, the sepals of the blue-to-purple flowers have recurved, slightly ruffled margins; the plant blooms from late spring through summer.

The genus name is derived from the Greek klematis: a word which designates climbing plants. The specific epithet pitcheri honors Dr. Zina Pitcher (1797-1872), a surgeon with the United States Army, Regent of the University of Michigan, and botanist in the Great Lakes region.

Purple leather flower in bloom ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

Seeds begin to form even while the plant still is blooming. Held in clusters, they mature from light green to dark red or brown, with slightly hairy tails that some describe as spider-like.

The flowers are pollinated primarily by bumblebees, although other insects such as flower-feeding thrips and caterpillars of various Thyris moth species feed on the foliage. The vine is used as cover and nesting habitat by songbirds, and although no specific butterflies are associated with the plant, this Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) seems to have found it a congenial resting place. Whether it was sipping a bit of leftover nectar or pondering its next stop on the vine, I can’t say.

Painted Lady on developing C. pitcheri seed head ~ Brazos River bank, East Columbia

 

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.

From Bud to Bloom

Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) ~ Midfield, Texas

Despite similarities among the buds shown in my previous post, the flowers themselves may not immediately suggest their membership in the iris family. When I met blue-eyed grass, it certainly didn’t seem iris-like. Only later did I learn that the rhizomes from which it grows, its tall, blade-like foliage, and its six petals all point to its connection to our more familiar irises.

Despite its common name, it isn’t a grass; it’s often lavender, violet, or white rather than blue; and the ‘eye’ in the center of the flower is yellow. Its name isn’t always hyphenated, but when it is, ‘blue eyed-grass’ would be a better choice than ‘blue-eyed grass.’

Blue-eyed grass spreads along roadsides and across fields in huge numbers, but I seldom encounter dense colonies of prairie nymphs. Individual flowers spreading across a large area seem more common, but their delicate color and intricate design make even a single flower worthy of attention.

Prairie nymph (Herbertia lahue) ~ Cost, Texas

The flowers bloom in succession over a two to three week period in early to late spring. Each flower lasts only a day, opening above narrow, sword-shaped leaves in the morning and closing by late afternoon.

The flowers themselves are two to three inches across, and their height seems to depend on whether mowing has occurred. Along roadsides or in cemeteries, they may be only a few inches tall, but on prairies or untended land, they often grow to be six to twelve inches in height. Rich in pollen and nectar, they hold special appeal for hoverflies and native bees.

Purple pleatleaf, sometimes called propeller flower, is found in the eastern third of Texas. Unlike blue-eyed grass or the prairie nymph, this is a flower that prefers a bit of shade.  It’s often found along woodland edges; these were blooming in the Big Thicket, alongside a road leading to the Sundew Trail.

The ‘pleat’ in the name comes from the plant’s leaves, which are folded along their length as they rise from the ground. Taller than the prairie nymph, with a mostly leafless stem, purple pleat-leaf seems to me the most iris–like of the trio, and it certainly is eye-catching.

Purple Pleat-leaf (Alophia drummondii) ~ Warren, Texas

To my chagrin, I realized only this morning that I failed to mention another member of the iris family in these posts: a favorite from the hill country that I’ve seen only twice. As the saying goes, “So many flowers, so little time!” ~ so I’ll save the neglected one for another time.

Comments always are welcome.