Monday, August 4, 2008

More Wildflowers Than I Expected

I hope that you are not tired of wildflowers. I love to see them, and I'm always trying to learn new things about them, such as their bud form, how long the blossoms last, and how they look when they go to seed.

Purple Sage or Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) is fairly common in our area. After a rain it is covered with beautiful lavender flowers. It is known as "the barometer bush" and some folks believe that it blooms before rain comes. However, I believe the presence of blooms is more apt to indicate a recent rain rather than forecasting a rain to come. We had a 2" rain last week and we are being told that tropical storm Edouard should bring us rain on Tuesday or Wednesday. So I wonder what the blooms could mean this time?

After publishing the post last week I started looking for wildflowers, and I really didn't expect to see as many as I found. Another surprise is the number of insects and spiders that I found, not when I'm looking at the plant, but when I've got the picture on my screen. 

We had some rain last week, and there is hope that the tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico will bring some rain to the Hill Country. Wouldn't that be nice!

The Cut-Leaf Gilia (Gilia incisa) flower is incredibly small, around 1/4 inch, and  the whole plant is only 10 inches tall growing in the dry limestone soil where I found it. It is delicate and beautiful, but unless I know where to look to find them, they are so small and insignificant looking that I just don't see them.

This is another plant with a small flower. The white cup of the Evolvulus (Evolvulus sericeus) resembles a morning glory, which is the family it belongs to. The flower is a little less than one half inch to 5/8 inch wide. When conditions are dry like it has been here, they grow very close to the ground.

Grey Golden-Aster (Heterotheca canescens) forms colonies on dry calcareous soils in the Hill Country. A light colored dense coat of hairs on the leaves give it the greyish color. The yellow flower heads are small, around 1/2 inch. The colony pictured here is about 3 feet wide. I am only showing a small portion of it here.

Generally speaking I don't find Mexican Hats (Ratibida columnaris) very attractive plants. Their leaves are deeply divided and look kind of scraggly, but in looking at the flower up close I saw an elegance I didn't see before. Be sure to click on the photo to see a large version of it, and you'll see that each yellow stamen is a little yellow star.

On Sunday when I took this picture of our Purple Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) by the SW corner of the ranch house there was not a single blossom on it, but it was covered with buds.

When I went back out on Monday to see what was happening with the Purple Sage it was blooming! There are a multitude of buzzing bees on it today and hopefully they are making some good honey for us.

Queen (Danaus gilippus) butterflies look a lot like Monarchs and they are in the same subfamily (Danainae) but the white dots on orange in the forewing is not seen in Monarchs. Their caterpillars eat milkweed plants as Monarchs caterpillars do, and they too are distasteful and slighly poisonous, which keeps their predators from eating them. This Queen is getting nectar from a Blue Mist-Flower (Eupatorium coelestinum).

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) is not a yucca and it isn't red. It is however, a nice plant to have around your house, as long as it has plenty of sun. Their buds and blooms are very pretty, and they bloom all summer.

The seed pods of Red Yucca can be quite large. They turn brown eventually, and open up dropping their seeds.

Rough Sunflower (Helianthus hirsutus) forms colonies near water in the Hill Country. The stiff hairs on their leaves makes them rough to the touch. Queen butterflies like them for their nectar, and the colony by Madrone Lake was full of butterflies, mostly Queens.

Snow-On-The-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) blooms from the middle of summer to early fall. The white margin on the leaves near the blossoms and the white cup around the actual flower make the plant look showy, and I think very attractive. If you look at a large version of this photo you'll see the spider legs in the cluster on the bottom right.

I like this unusual view of Snow-On-The-Mountain. You can see a blossom clearly, and you can also see how hairy parts of it are, especially the stem.

Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. Drummondii) looks to me like its bud forgot to open. But folks, this is the flower in its full bloom. This plant likes shade, usually near water.

Zexmenia (Zexmenia hispida) plants seem to have flowers all summer long even when it is too dry for most other plants to bloom. Look at the tip of the petal on the upper flower on the right and you'll see another critter which I didn't notice when I took the picture. I did however clearly see when the picture was on my screen.

Not everything that is pretty is a flower. The Broadleaf wood-oats grass (Chasmanthium latifolium) plant has wonderful seed heads which I find beautiful. At this time of the summer the seeds are still green. Later they will turn brown, and they are excellent food for wildlife, especially birds.

Texas Snowbell (Styrax texanus) seedpods are still green. In the fall when they are ripe, they turn dark and split open. Some pods hold one seed and some hold two or three. J David and Steven collect them in the fall. After several months in damp spagnum moss in the refrigerator they start to sprout. They are planted at that stage and kept in the greenhouse until it gets warm in the spring when they are moved outside.

As I walked along the Nature Trail between the Center and Madrone Lake I was struck by how much cooler it wasin the shade than out in the sun. The sunshine and shadows, the colors and textures of different leaves formed a green tapestry that was lovely.

I hope that you have places nearby that you can visit where you can see flowers & trees, hear wind & birds, and enjoy wildthings. I feel that we all need those special times to chill out and remember how important nature is to our spirits.

I have recently been reading a book called Earth Prayers from Around the World. I would like to share one with you that I particularly like. It is from Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav:

Grant me the ability to be alone,
May it be my custom to go outdoors each day
among the tress and grasses
among all growing things
and there may I be alone,
and enter into prayer
to talk with the one
that I belong to.

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