Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wildflower Field Day on May 10

On Saturday morning 41 people gathered at the Historical Marker on Bamberger Ranch Preserve for a morning devoted to looking for and identifying wildflowers.

We saw 89 different species of wildflowers between 9 AM and 1 PM as we walked through areas that had a good mixture of flowers, and rode on the Bluebonnet trailer to new areas. We covered a number of different habitats, but of course there is no way to cover 5500 acres in 4 hours. It has been a very dry winter and spring, and there were no fields of mixed wildflowers that were obvious. However there were areas where the careful examination of 41 people means that you find a lot of different wildflowers.

There are plants that are blooming around the ranch that I know aren't on the list of 89, and a quick calculation tells me that I've seen at least 25 additional ones. I've been out twice this week trying to get some good pictures, and I've chosen a few to share with you. Some are large and showy, some are small, and some I never see unless I'm sitting on the ground and happen to look down.

The beauty of this little plant only shines when you look at it closely. If you click on this picture to see a larger one, you will see the delicate almost transparent petals on the flowers. Cedar Plantain (Plantago helleri) [Plantain family] is common and in wet years I see it everywhere. It is usually between 2 and 4 inches tall.

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) [Caltapa family] has beautiful pale pink & lavender flowers that are 1 to 2 inches long. It blooms much of the year from May to September when it rains. It is a pretty tree with narrow leaves. It originally came from West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. You can buy them in nurseries and they adapt well to Hill Country conditions.

This beautiful Dogbane Leaf Beetle (Chrysochus auratus) was sitting on a Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) [Dogbane family] plant last year in late April, and I took this picture. Our Dogbane grows on the dam of a small tank fed by a spring. It is blooming now, but I decided to share my picture of the beetle with you.

The plants in this picture are leaning out from under a small bridge to catch the sun. Skullcap (Scutellaria sp.) [Mint family] is a pretty plant, and in spring I find it in lots of places.

Frog-Fruit (don't you love that name?) (Phyla nodiflora var. incisa) [Verbena family] is common on Selah, and I find it along our roads and ditches. It blooms from May through October, so I can almost always find some. I wonder how it got its name, so if anyone knows please tell me.

Greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium) [Aster family] was given its name because instead of having broad leaves it has many very narrow leaves that look more like threads than leaves. Navajo Tea looks similar but has yellow flower centers, and fewer threads. I like plant names that describe them.

Green Lilly (Schoenocaulon texanum) [Lily family] has blades that look like grass. In April and May when it blooms, I see flower stalks (1 to 2 feet tall) sticking up here and there in grass fields . The flowers are in a slender spike 1 to 3 inches long. Click for a large version to see yellow pollen.

Ground Cherries (Physalis sp.) are short plants in the Nightshade family, which is the same family as tomatoes and potatoes. The flowers remind me of tomato flowers.

Hierba de Zizotes (Asclepias oenotheroides) [Milkweed family] grows in lots of places and is an important plant for Monarch caterpillars. When leaves look chewed on I look for a caterpillar.

Purple Milkweed Vine (Matelea biflora) [Milkweed family] usually has 2 flowers at each spot where 2 opposite leaves meet on the vine. However, this year, probably because it has been so dry out here, this was the only flower I saw.

Sometimes plants that are closely related don't look at all alike. Purple Milkwort (Polygala lindheimeri) [Milkwort family] is a small plant that you wouldn't see unless you were sitting on the ground looking for little plants. It looks totally different from White Milkwort in the next picture, which is in the same genus.

White Milkwort (Polygala alba) is common here. It has slender racemes (flowers clustered on a stem) 1 to 3 inches tall. The plant stands from 8 to 12 inches tall. I love to see these mixed with other spring wildflowers.

I think that Prairie Brazoria (Brazoria scutellaroides) [Mint family] is one of the prettiest spring flowers. It is usually only 6 to 12 inches tall. With plenty of rain they may grow to 18 inches tall and frequently in a large group.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia sp.) [Cactus family] is common in Texas. There are many different varities, and I don't know which one this is. I love this picture because the flowers and new green pads are arising from an old "grandma" pad.

This vine has such pretty red flowers. However, the 5 red "petals" are actually sepals which are usually the green parts under a flower head. The real flower is in the center. Ratany (Krameria lanceolata) [Ratany family] grows close to the ground. The one in this picture is growing down in the grass close to the ground.

This is a common tree on the ranch that likes moist areas and is found along the creeks or ponds. Rough Leaf Dogwood (Cornus Drummondii) [Dogwood family] has little flowers in a cluster. In the spring when blooms make them easy to see, it is fun to note how many of them live here at Selah.

The Scarlet Leatherflower (Clematis texensis) [Buttercup family] only grows in the Texas Hill Country. It is a climbing vine that I find near Madrone Lake and the trail along Miller Creek. When we see a vine starting to grow we build it a little trellis for it to climb on. The seeds develope in a cluster and you can see one on the right side of the picture.

Scarlet Pea (Indigofera miniata) [Pea family] is a small plant which usually lies close to the ground. Its flowers are around 1/2 inch long, and their leaves are covered with soft hairs. It blooms from April to October, so they provide a bright spot of color from spring to fall. The Scarlet Pea is one of my favorite wildflowers.

Wand Psoralea (Pediomelum cyphocalyx) [Pea family] is a tall plant up to 3 feet, with pale purple-blue flowers. I don't find them often, but I'm always excited when I do.

White Evolvulus (Evolvulus sericous) [Morning Glory family] is a very small plant with stems 3 to 9 inches long, that may stand up or lay on the ground. This plant was about 2.5 inches tall. It's little white cup-shaped flower was a around 1/2 inch wide. This is another of my favorites.

Yellow Flax (Linum regidum var. Berlandiere) is a spring plant that stands 6 inches tall. It is common on Selah and I usually find in grassy areas. The flowers are from 3/4" to 1" inch across. Inside the flower red lines start in the center and spread toward the outer edge of petals. It is a beautiful but very delicate flower. When I pick them their petals fall off.

Our Smoke Tree (Cotinus obovatus) [Sumac family] has bloomed and the remaining blossoms that have gone to seed which looks almost like smoke from the tree. In summer the leaves are olive green above and fuzzy and pale green below. During fall the oval leaves turn red, so I think it's a very nice tree to have in all seasons.

I'm not a botanist, but I am an avid nature lover, and plants are among my favorite living things to look for and to learn about. If anyone questions my identifications, please let me know. I certainly want to be doing a good job, and I'm not above being corrected.

We had a rain shower last night (Monday), and the morning is cool. So enjoy those wildflowers before it get too hot.

1 comment:

Mike Whittemore said...

What a great blog! I'm interning in ND and this post helped me identify white milkwort. I have plenty of eastern field guides but a sparse collection of western resources. Now I have your blog in my collection!