Summer, Rising

White water lily ~ Nymphaea odorata

Today, rising creeks and rivers are afflicting some parts of our state, but soon enough the rains will depart and summer will arrive: its rising heat and humidity making February’s freeze seem even more improbable.

A different sort of rising is taking place in area freshwater ponds and lakes. This weekend, I found three species of native water lily thriving at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. Michael Eason describes the white water lily shown above, Nymphaea odorata, as the most freeze-tolerant of our native species.

Lampazo amarillo, or yellow water lily ~ Nymphaea mexicana

On the other hand, the yellow water lilies also seem to have prospered through the winter months; a dozen or so already were in bloom.

Tropical water lily ~Nymphaea elegans    

The tropical water lily doesn’t float on the water’s surface, but rises above it on peduncles, or stems, several inches in length. Its sepals are marked with the same colors as its leaves, which are purple on the bottom and green above.

The genesis of one common name for Nymphaea odorata, ‘alligator bonnet,’ is easy to understand. Innumerable alligators, both young and old, were cruising among these flowers; its easy to imagine one of the creatures rising to the surface, flower-bedecked and smiling.


Comments always are welcome.

Willie Nelson’s Birthday Thistle

When I found this so-called horrid thistle (Cirsium horridulum) in a pasture down the road, only three disc florets had begun to emerge. It looked so much like a birthday cake with candles that I decided to save the photo for just the right occasion.

Yesterday, that occasion arrived; it was Willie Nelson’s birthday. But we’re not late to the party, since Willie claims today as his birthday, too. Despite being born on April 29 — 88 years ago, now — the Abbott, Texas county courthouse didn’t record his just-before-midnight birth until the next morning, making April 30 his second birthday. At least that’s Willie’s story, and he’s sticking to it.

This thistle is the perfect birthday flower for a character like Willie. It’s a Texas native, prickly around the edges, but with a pink or yellow flower as soft and sweet as his heart. The bees may seem to be overindulging in its pollen from time to time, but they know how to party: just like Willie and Waylon and the boys.

Everyone changes over time, and Willie’s no exception. The ‘Outlaw’ country sound of the ’70s and ’80s may have become the more reflective tunes of today, but it’s still Willie singing, and there’s nothing horrid about that.


Comments always are welcome.


Sometimes a Star, Sometimes a Supporting Character

Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, and Nueces Coreopsis near La Vernia, Texas

When spring arrives and blankets of blue wrap around the pastures and hills of rural Texas, “Let’s go look at the flowers” is a common invitation: one that generally means, “Let’s go look at the bluebonnets.” Still, as the season progresses, those blue beauties are joined by a multitude of other colors.

My own preference is for these fields of mixed flowers. When I see them, the red, yellow, and blue finger paints of my pre-school years come to mind, along with the little red, yellow, and blue chairs in my first grade reading circle. Discovering the same colors shining in the sunlight always brings a smile.

Here, Engelmann’s daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) stand out against a multi-colored background that also includes what I first took to be a variety of sneezeweed (Helenium spp.), but now know to be huisache daisy (Amblyolepis setigera).

Engelmann daisies and friends ~ Goliad, Texas

Sometimes, even a weed can add color, as when wind-blown dock (Rumex spp.) provides an impressionistic touch to a hidden parcel of flowers.

Curly Dock, Toadflax, and Groundsel on an unnumbered road outside Smiley

Far from any town, a pleasing winecup serves to accent fading bluebonnets and blue curls. At the right of the image, you can see the fuzzy bluebonnet seed pods already forming.

A fading but still bright collection of flowers at an intersection of two county roads

Despite drought and freeze, nature’s spring production is continuing its run, and there’s still time to catch the show.


Comments always are welcome.