Wild and Beautiful

In the pastures and along the roads, nature is showing its color.

It’s easy to walk right past Algarita (Berberis trifoliolata) because it’s flowers and berries are so small.

When you step up close, the scent of the yellow flowers, the patterns of the crisscross  branches, and the shape of the leaves become noticeable.  But, beware, it is prickly.

The red berries, which are edible and are used for jelly, are just starting to form.  Usually, it blooms from February to April.

To see many of the flowers this time of the year, one must look down.  The flowers of Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron modestus) are tiny:  about 1/2″ to 3/4″ across.  Everyone I spotted had a bug on it.

There are two varieties of Rain Lilies in Texas.  The ones that bloom in the spring are Cooperia pedunculata and have shorter floral tubes.

Water from one of the tanks is still spilling over even though we haven’t had any significant amounts of rain recently.

The bright yellow of the Fringed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) is the only reason one would notice this small plant.  All these small flowers can easily be trampled without seeing them.

Fringed Puccoon was used by the native tribes and early settlers to make dye from the roots.  The roots also has medicinal properties.  The Blackfeet people burned the dried leaves and flowers as an incense.

My old pals, Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) are back.  I love these pretty little flowers that are so plentiful.

Driving between Goldthwaite and San Saba, I just had to stop to snap a picture of  this massive field of bright yellow.  This photo only shows about one third of the field.

I think the plants are Bastard Cabbage (Rapistrum Rusosum).  Although the solid yellow fields are pretty, the plants are extremely invasive and unwanted.

Not sure, but think this is a native blackberry bush that just showed up outside our gate.

Native Redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) seem to be springing up everywhere.

To see their beauty, get up close enough to hear all the bees.

And to see the two different shades of pink  that make up their blossoms.

Nature is offering the first colors and beauty this time of the year.

“Be selective in your battles.  Sometimes peace is better than being right.” unknown author

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Ranch Animals

Exotic animals, big game from other countries, are common in Texas and exist mostly on private land where they live in large enclosed areas.  Although this seems like a relatively new phenomenon, the King Ranch first brought in Nilgai antelope from India in 1930.  Today it is estimated that well over 200,000 exotics roam freely on private land.

As an experiment way back in 1856, the army brought 33 camels to Camp Verde to use as pack animals to carry supplies to forts.  The building of railroads eliminated the need for them.

During the severe drought of the 1950’s, more exotics were brought in to supplement the population of hunting animals.  About half of the 254 counties have exotics, but most are concentrated in certain areas where hunting is popular.  But there are also several places where they exist for breeding and to preserve the species.

The dates on the pictures are from different years because I’ve taken pictures over the years but haven’t used them on this blog.

When we bought our property in 2001, there was a small group of Blackbuck Antelope on the property.

The most popular exotics include different species of deer, antelope, and sheep.  But the largest group of introduced animals is the European wild swine.  No wonder we have a huge wild hog problem in many parts of Texas.  They are massive, aggressive, and reproduce at an alarming rate.

Today the numbers of certain species are larger in Texas than in their native lands, where they are endangered.  The climate here is similar to Africa and other locales where exotics come from.

A few female blackbuck are gathered at the fence behind our backyard.  A buried pipe from our water softening system drains salt to this area.  It’s a favorite lick spot for native deer, cattle, and blackbuck.

The purple flowers are Tormpillo or Silverleaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium), which is a common weed in western North America.  It also grows in South America, the Middle East, and South America.  A reader recently commented that it is used in some Mexican cheeses.

Blackbuck get their name from the fact that the males get darker as they age.  The top of the back of a really old male is black.

Sadly, we do not get to enjoy these beautiful creatures with their bouncing straight up as they run anymore.  They have become prey to a native animal – the coyote.  And those are not cute, humorous Wiley B. Coyote like in the cartoon.  Coyotes decimate cattle and other preferred animals.

Another popular group of exotics are Llamas from South America.  This one was given to us by the man who leases our pasture land.  Leah was to replace the mate of the widowed white male seen in the background.

The tiny purple flowers in the pasture are native Prairie Verbena.

Leah was pretty old before she died last year.

I always felt sorry for her in the heat of the summer.

A more unusual exotic is the Bongo.  These are on a ranch that we pass by on the county road whenever we leave the ranch.  The man who owns these is involved in preserving species of animals that are becoming endangered.

Both the western lowland and eastern mountain bongos are native to Kenya and are endangered.

This group is thriving and adding young each year.

We enjoy the animals that enhance the beauty of the land.

“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.”  Max Lucado

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Wildflowers Dance in the Wind

Last autumn we scraped a plot in the field near our house in order to rough up the soil.  Then we scattered wildflower seeds.  Over the last few years, I had accumulated several mixed seed packets from different sources.  Most were free from meetings.

Because we had some rain in late fall and in the spring, some are blooming now.  Hooray.

fieldofwildflowers01These tiny little flowers were the first flowers from the seeds to bloom.  I think they’re Drummond’s Phlox (Phlox drummondii).

fieldofwildflowersI had hoped a red poppy would bloom, but I’ll take a pink one instead.

The small light purple bloom close to the ground is the only wildflower that we see consistently every year.  That is Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida).

fieldofwildflowers2The area is about 7 ft. by 14 ft.

fieldofwildflowers3The one seed package I bought was American Basket Flower (Centaurea americana) from the Native American Seed company in Junction.  Some nursery catalogues sell them as Powder Puffs or Sweet Sultan.

Basket Flowers look a little like Thistle but without the prickly stems. They are also more desirable.  The flowers are 2 to 3 and half inches wide on a strong stem.  They bloom from May to August.

fieldofwildflowers4Purple Horsemint or Lemon Beebalm (Monarda citriodora) often forms colonies.  That would be lovely.

fieldofwildflowers5Indian Blankets or Fire Wheels (Gaillardia pulchella) are old standbys seen in many parts of Texas.  Books say that they bloom from April to May or June.  Actually, they last longer than that here.

fieldofwildflowers6We’ve seen Horse Mint in a couple of spots on our property once or twice.   My hope is that all these wildflowers will reseed and expand over the years.

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fieldofwildflowers7From the top of this picture there is Horsemint,  Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), and Clasping Coneflower (Dracopis Amplexicaulis).

fieldofwildflowers8The wind is causing this Coreopsis to sway.   Surely the frequent days of wind will scatter seeds when the flowers have dried.

fieldofwildflowers9Don’t know what the bug is, but pollinators love wildflowers.  That’s a very good thing.

fieldofwildflowersdAs I was walking back to the house, I noticed one of the old fashioned irises planted in this field has a seed pod.  It’s possible to plant the seeds, but the chances aren’t good that it will be same color flowers or as big.  To propagate irises, it’s better to dig up the bulbs and separate them.

Pods needs to be removed so that the plant will focus its energy on the roots and other parts.

I’m tickled that the wildflower patch is doing well.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”   Proverbs 22:1

Summer Wildflowers

The spring flowers in the fields and byways are all gone.  But summer brings another show with equal beauty.  Some of these will survive into the hot months while others will disappear.

earlysummerThe bar ditches along our county road are filled with a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes of flowers.  The rocky, caliche, disturbed areas is where these wildflowers thrive.

earlysummer1I think this bright yellow primrose is a Western Primrose (Calylophus Hartweggii).  It grows low on the ground.

earlysummer2White Milkwort (Polygala alba) is small but attractive in a group.

earlysummer4A bouquet of Indian Blanket, Cut-leaf Groundsel, and Queen Anne’s Lace.

earlysummer5Indian Blankets (Gaillardia pulchella) usually have more shading on the petals than these do.

earlysummer7Before it gets too hot, Queen Anne’s Lace carpets the edges of the road.

earlysummer6Now, after these pictures were taken, they’ve already started to fall away.

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earlysummer9Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) will bloom into the summer and fall as will Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida).

earlysummeraLove the drive along this road.

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earlysummerhA lone Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum) breaks the white span of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota).

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earlysummerbNot sure, but think these daisies are Engelmann’s Daisy (Engelmannia peristenia).

earlysummergSumacs growing full and filling in the roadside.

earlysummercTexas Bindweed’s (Convolvulus eqitans) small white flowers are 3/4″ to 1 1/2″ inches wide.  They aren’t noticeable unless one looks closely at the ground.

earlysummereBlackfoot Daisies (Melampodium leucanthum) are hardy little souls that form small rounded clumps.  I tried these in the yard but they really don’t want more water than nature provides.  They will bravely last until late fall.

earlysummerjAs I pull into our property, another sight of late spring, early summer appears – lots of baby calves.  The cattle is not ours but belong to a man who leases the pasture land.

earlysummerkCute.  Reminds me of Norman in ‘City Slickers’.

earlysummerlTall grass from all the rain almost hides the little ones.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

Irises, Mostly

Irises starting to bloom is spring welcoming us to her beauty.  On recent cloudy days, blustering spring winds bite and made us doubt that spring has arrived.  But there probably won’t be any more true cold weather coming.

iris6Many years ago in a field next to the yard around the house I planted old fashioned, pass along iris bulbs from different friends and family members.

iris2During the first few years, I was diligent about fertilizing them on or near Valentine’s Day and Halloween, which are the recommended times.  Now they’re lucky to be fertilized anytime.

iris4Over the years, the neglect has taken a toll on them.  They need to be divided.  So far, I haven’t taken care of that.  The weeds and cactus have been pulled or hoed at different times, but that is a daunting, never ending chore.

iris7They keep plugging along, but each year the stems are a little less tall and the flowers a little smaller.  Poor dears.

irisdIn that same field there are many tiny flowers that carpet the area.

irisbPretty sure these yellow flowers are Texas Groundsel (Senecio ampullaceus).

iris9I haven’t had much success trying to research the many yellow wildflowers of Texas, as well as the many small flowers.  As I thumb through the wildflower pictures, the similarities are too close for definitive identification.

iris8Patches of Sweet William or Prairie Verbena are starting to dot the landscape.

iris3These are the first flowers to appear in the field where we prepared the soil and planted wildflower seeds.  We scattered several packages of mixed seeds as well as specific ones, so I don’t know what these red flowers are.

irisIn the yard, these re-blooming Irises were planted about seven years ago.  I have divided them and planted some in different beds around the yard.  While the native irises don’t need much water, these do well in the yard because they do need regular watering.

iris1First color to bloom.

springyard9Behind the irises is a Crape Myrtle and a Bridal Spirea.  Coming up in the bed are Coneflowers and other perennials.  Although I have weeded the area, there are probably more weeds showing their persistent little heads.

“Never put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.”  Unknown

They’re Back

It’s that time when wildflowers start to pop up along the roadsides. Texans’ pride puff up.  What a joyous sight.

springwildflowersNothing says Texas wildflower like the native Bluebonnets.  Five species of Lupinus grow in Texas, and all have been designated as the state flower. The most common species is Lupinus texensis, the Texas bluebonnet, which starts flowering in mid-March.

springwildflowers3 As historian Jack Maguire so aptly wrote, “It’s not only the state flower but also a kind of floral trademark almost as well known to outsiders as cowboy boots and the Stetson hat.  The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland.”

springwildflowers1Another Texas native, Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) has not fully opened yet, but the pink among the Bluebonnets is iconic.

Further up the slope is the lavender colored Prairie Verbena.

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springwildflowers4Then, there are the many varieties of yellow flowers that cover the fields and bar ditches.  A reader suggests that these are Four Nerve Daisies

springwildflowers7Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) is a compact small plant that grows in hard soil.
springwildflowers8It doesn’t need or want much water, or do well in flowerbeds that receive TLC.

springwildflowers9As I’ve stated before on this blog, I need a primer course on native yellow flowers of Texas.  They’ve everywhere.

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springwildflowerscI’ve heard this shrubby plant called Bee Bush.  But I’m not labeling it with any certainty.  It tends to grow along fence lines.

springwildflowers5Another mystery – the yellow flower covered fields in our area.  A group of us at Garden Club were discussing them.  No one knew their name.  Someone thought they might be a type of mustard, but someone else disagreed.

springwildflowers6The Midland-Odessa area in far West Texas labels itself the ‘Land of the Big Sky.’  To me, that title also belongs to us.

Can any Texas name any of the yellow wildflowers shown in this blog?

springwildflowersbThe shape of this small tree against the sky fascinated me.  Spring is all about new growth and savoring the world around us.

“I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world. The best land and best prospects for health I ever saw and I do so believe it is a fortune to any man to come here.” Davy Crockett

Ready or Not

Most years everyone would be anxious for signs of spring.  This year, however, since trees and plants are leafing out so early, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop – a late freeze.

earlyearlyspringIn Brownwood there are lots of Mexican Plum trees (Prunus mexicana) covered in blossoms.  The plums on this native tree are small and hard but make good jams and jellies.

earlyearlyspring1So pretty.

earlyearlyspring2Along the highway near us, the native Redbuds (Cercis canadensis var. texensisare) are flowering.

earlyearlyspring6In our yard a Cherry Laurel  (Prunus laurocerasus) is covered with racemes.   I read recently that Cherry Laurels will not grow in alkaline soil, and if it is growing, it will die at some point.  I definitely hope that person is wrong.

This one came from a sucker in my friend’s yard 12 years ago.  I would really hate to lose it because it’s evergreen and a nice shape.  Plus, it provides a thick shade.

earlyearlyspring7Although I couldn’t see them, inside the tree bees were loudly buzzing.

earlyearlyspringdIn the field between the house and the barn is this jumble of small shrubs.  The blooming Algarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) caught my eye.

earlyearlyspring4To the right of it is a Mesquite, I think.  When they leaf out, that is an omen that there will be no more freezes this winter.  It doesn’t have a single leaf on it.

earlyearlyspringeThe shape of the Algarita leaves with the sharp tips are pretty, but those and their thorns make it a look, don’t touch bush.  Some brave souls gather the berries for tea jelly.

earlyearlyspringaSpotted a few Sweet Williams or Prairie Verbenas the other day as we were out walking.  Their toughness makes me smile.  In a few weeks, there will be clusters of them in all the fields.

earlyearlyspring9Last fall we scrapped a place in the field to plant wildflower seeds.  The directions from the owner of Wild Seed Farms in Fredricksburg were to rough up the ground, toss the seeds, and then move the top soil around a little.  Soon we’ll know if we were successful.

earlyearlyspring8I’m thinking or hoping that the little plant in the center of this picture is a Bluebonnet.  The leaves look right.

earlyearlyspringfAlso, in that field are rows of Irises.  These were planting years ago.  Some years there are lots of flowers.  Other years, not so much.  I’m not as faithful about fertilizing them as I used to be.

Guarding them is a vulture made from a shovel.  I found this at a second hand place in Brownwood.  It’s call This Old House and is on the highway 279 to Brownwood Lake.  They have several pots and yard art pieces as well as furniture and knick-knacks.

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”   unknown

Springtime in Texas

Nothing is better than early spring in Texas.  The weather is cool, the trees and fields turn green, seemingly overnight, and the wildflowers are spectacular.

So I’m going to interrupt the posts about Costa Rica again because this subject is current.

springroadThe color of the Texas Redbud trees (Cercis canadensis var. texensis)  is stunning.

springroad1Can’t remember what this bush next to the Redbud is.  I think it’s in the blackberry family.

springroad2Beautiful.  Sadly, they’re a flash in the pan.

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springroad4This flowerbed of Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) in front of the library in Mason has a wow factor.

springroad5Unfortunately, all my pictures from this day have a blurry spot from a fingerprint smudge on my camera lens.  I didn’t notice it until I saw the pictures on my computer.  Sorry.  I hope it isn’t too off putting.

springroad6The author of Old Yeller, published in 1956, was written by a Mason native, Fred Gipson.  The book won a Newbery, a national award for children’s books, and was made into a very popular Disney film.

springroad7South of Mason, the fields and roadsides were a patchwork quilt of colors.

springroad9Here Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, and a variety of Verbena dot the landscape.

springroadaTexas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is the variety of paintbrush familiar to most Texans.

springroadbOf course, Bluebonnets are the star of the show every year, although they are short lived.

springroaddYellow flowers abound everywhere.  As I’ve mentioned before, there are so many different ones that it’s hard for me to identify them.

springroade

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springroadhPaper Daisy or Slender-stem Bitterweed (Hymenoxys scaposa)

springroadjMaybe a Tickseed Sunflower (Bidens aristosa)

springroadkDowny Paintbrush (Castilleja sessiliflora), like other paintbrushes, is almost impossible to dig up and transplant because it is semiparasitic on other plants.  It must be started from seeds.

springroadl

bluebonnetfieldA picture from the internet that shows a vast coverage of Bluebonnets.  I’ve never seen a sight like this one.

Just loving these days before the summer heat arrives.

“Why are cowboy hats turned up on the sides?  So that three people can fit in the pickup.  Unknown

A Walk Following Freezes

One sunny afternoon a couple of weeks ago, we took a walk through some pastures.

winterwalkLots of tall dried Broomweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) or Broom snakeweed to get through.  Fortunately, cows had made a passable path.

Bloomweed is a prenniel with small yellow flowers from June to October.  It can take over pastures preventing grasses from growing.

It is also toxic to cattle, sheep, and goats.  So Broomweed is not a desirable plant.

winterwalk2Lots of dead grasses shine in the late afternoon sun.

winterwalk3An old plow use to till the soil.  I think.

winterwalk4Don’t know what decade this is from.

winterwalk5Garden chairs like this rusting one can often be seen in “antique” stores.

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winterwalk9This tiny Prairie Verbena still blooming was a surprise.  They are hardy, though.

winterwalkaA Live Oak that has succumbed to Oak Wilt.  A sad reality that is widespread in Texas.

winterwalkb Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) is an evergreen.  I recently read that it’s a good barrier shrub because it is so prickly.

winterwalkcAn overturned old deer blind lies next to a Live Oak.  The low sun provides interesting shadows.

winterwalkdAt the bottom of this dead oak is a deep hole – probably a fox lair.

winterwalkeOne area of our property has some Post Oak trees.  Those are not common here, so the soil must have just enough sand to suit their needs.  Post Oaks are finicky and don’t like human interference.  But their leaf production is prolific.

winterwalkiBare branches with a pretty form.

The small sign beside this tree is one of a Burma Shave style of old road signs.  Our group states that “Life is too short to live in the Metroplex.  Amazing Grace Ranch.”  Although we lived in the metroplex of Ft. Worth/Dallas for over 30 years, our personal lifestyle choice now embraces country living.

winterwalkhThis wagon is from the 1880’s.  Love to muse on where it traveled and what it meant to the survival of someone.

winterwalkj

winterwalkgThis iron brace may have been added later.

Beauty is all around us, even in stark winter.

“Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.”  Doug Larson

Among the Rocks and Weeds

Now that the weather has jumped almost overnight from spring temperatures to summer ones, there are two times of day for activities outside.  One is early morning and the other is just before the sun sets.  If I do any gardening, it’s in the a.m.  Then we take out daily constitutional in the evening.  The following pictures were taken during an early evening walk.

verbenarocksJust love the way these Prairie Verbena look among the white caliche rocks.

pincushion4All my life I’ve heard the term Pincushion Cactus for this low growing, almost flush against the ground cactus.  But I can’t find that name in my books or on-line.  I do find Claret Cup or Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) which looks similar.  That may even be the correct name.

pincushion5If you have not searched the internet for types of cactus lately, you’d be amazed at how many different varieties there are.

pincushion3Since these Pincushion Cactus grow so low and are among many types of weeds, there are difficult to see.  The bright red fruit is what catches your eye.

pincushionLooks like strawberries in a basket, but too prickly to touch.

yuccaThis type of yucca never seems to have a stalk with blooms.  They grow close together, colony style.

indianblanketThis Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) doesn’t have much of a yellow tip on the petals like most do.  If it did, it would be obvious how they got their nickname.   They resemble the color and weave of the old hand-woven American Indian blankets.

I wonder if hand-woven blankets are still being created.

coreopsisbushI think this is a Thelesperma (Thelesperma filifolium).  But it could be a Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria).

yellowdaisyThis “stand up straight” stance gives a perky hello.

At this time of the year, it’s still possible to take an evening stroll without smothering heat.  One can enjoy the scenery, mostly without sweating.

“The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones that do.”  Unknown