Bluebonnet Bonanza

Because the Bluebonnet season is so short, any time a Texan sees a field of them, it’s an obligation to stop.  Usually, it’s necessary to turn around and find a safe place to park on the side of the highway.

This season is the time to beware of red tail lights in front of you because natives and tourists alike will come to a screeking halt and hop out for photographs.

As we were returning home yesterday from College Station, it was raining and the temperature dropping.  But I couldn’t resist tromping around in the mud to get a few shots.

There are actually four different varieties of Bluebonnets, but the Lupinus texensis is the one seen most often.  Dramatic sweeps in fields along the roadsides of Central Texas make an impressive sight.

A few Indian Paintbrushes were scattered around.  There are also several varieties of Castilleja.  Some have deeper color.  I don’t know which one this is.

Bastard Cabbage is an invasive that ranchers hate in their fields.  But the yellow made a nice contrast to the blue.

Bluebonnets like rocky, uncultivated soil and need good drainage.  That’s why they’re often seen like water flowing down a hillside.

The foliage of Bluebonnets show up nicely here.  Just as the winter is ending, these distinctive little leaves lie close to the ground before it’s bloom time.

The wind was whipping around chilling me to the bone.  Even close to the ground, it was pushing these Pink Primroses (Oenothera speciosa) sideways.

The wind blurred this, but it’s the only one near me where the inside of the flower was open.

Prairie Verbenas (Glandularia bipinnatifida) are also blooming.  They will last a long time, until late fall.  Loved by many because they survive the hot, dry summers.

A wet, misty day, but lovely.

“Life’s like bluebonnets in the spring.  We’re only here for a little while.  It’s beautiful and bitter sweet.”  Aaron Watson

Poppy Season

An overnight trip took us south to Austin and Fredericksburg.  Bright colors abound at one of my favorite nursuries:  Wildseed Farms.

Two of my husband’s favorite places are Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant and Mamacita’s Restaurant.  We indulged in both..

Guess our motto is never pass up a nursery or Mexican restaurant.

Red Corn Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) and Showy Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) were blooming everywhere on the nursery grounds.

Very tall Chollo Cactus tower about eleven feet high in the air.

Rocket Larkspurs (Delphinium ajacis) stand primly in place.  Way too early for them in our zone 7b area.

Think this is Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus coccineus).  Also known as Claret Cup Cactus or Scarlet Beehive Cactus, they grow farther west, starting around San Angelo.  Guess it stays warm enough in the winter for them at the nursery.

Of course, this time of the year means Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis).  It’s nearly the end of their prime time.  The yellow Poppies are probably California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica).

The metal cactus are attractive and look great in the nursery setting.

Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) is a great pollinator plant.  Mine froze this winter, even though labels say it is cold hardy to zone 7a.

More Primroses.  The word “sweet” comes to mind when I see them.

Wow!  Wow! Wow!  How gorgeous is that.  Fields of Red Corn Poppies are so bright.

This sight reminded me that red poppies are worn to honor veterans.  The practice started after WWI.

The blue strip behind the Poppies are Bluebonnets.

The Wildseed Farms grow all these flowers for the seeds.  The owner uses larger properties near Houston to raise even more flowers.  Early last year, floods covered those fields and wiped out much of his seed supply for this year.

The Poppy petals are as thin as one-ply toilet paper and more fragile.  They flutter in the wind creating constant movement.

There are lots of walking trails near the wildflower fields and closer to the buildings, making it a pleasure to visit in a garden-like setting.

Don’t know what this tree is.  Maybe a Waterfall or Laceleaf Weeping Japanese maple?

Waterlilies in a small pond beside the tree in the previous picture.

One last look at Poppies as we exit the area.

Composed at the battlefield on May 3, 1915, during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium, following the death of a close friend.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.”

Canadian John McCrae

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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

springroadfgjpg

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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

Country Lanes

Texas has five distinctive areas:  the Panhandle with extreme cold winters and dry barren landscapes; East Texas with plentiful rainfall and deep woods; Central Texas with tree covered hills and mild weather; West Texas with dry, sandy flat land and little rain; and South Texas with harsh desert conditions, some rocky mountains and flat lands.

We like to consider ourselves as being at the top of the Hill Country or Central Texas.  That’s stretching the truth a little – actually, a lot.  Truthfully, we have some characteristics like West Texas such as the dry climate, but we also have hills and trees and other plants like the Hill Country but colder winters.

All this to explain more about life in Texas than you may have wanted to know.

Countylanes4As we pull out of our gate this time of the year, these small native Redbuds are in our view.  They are small because the county machines chop them down every year or every other year.

Countylanes5Up close the buzzing of the bees is loud.

Countylanes6But they flew away when I approached them, so I didn’t get a picture of them.  I guess it’s a good thing rather than being attacked.

CountylanesFurther down our county road these bushes bloom in the spring.

Countylanes16jpgA botanist friend is willing to identify plants for me from pictures.  He tells me that are seven native plum trees in our area making identification difficult.  But this one is Sand Plum (Prunus gracilis).

Countylanes16jpgHe said it blooms later in the spring than others.  Thanks, Jack, for the info.

Countylanes3Spider web?  Information from a reader:  this is a pupa from a Tent Caterpillar

Countylanes7When I took this picture, I thought the red on this Ocotillo was berries.  But they look like flowers in this picture; they do bloom in March, so I’m not sure which it is.  Ocotillo is indigenous to the desert southwest in the US.  It is also called Candlewood, Slimwood, Coachwhip, Vine Cactus, Flaming Sword, and Jacob’s Staff.

It grows here because the rocky soil provides good drainage, and the summers are hot.

Correction:  this might be a different variety of an Ocotillo  or a Pencil Cactus or something else entirely.  Anyone know?

Countylanes8Little patches of Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) dot the countryside.  It’s near the end of their blooming season.

Countylanes10The Green Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) is abundant in our area.  The larvae of monarch butterflies eat only milkweed providing a necessary nutrient needed to develop.

The silky fluff from the seed was used by pioneers to make candle wicks.  They would card it and then spin it like cotton.

Countylanes11The White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora) or Texas prickly poppy oblviously gets its name from the stems.   Their stems are short now, but most will be a foot and a half tall in the summer time.

Countylanes123jpgThe native Americans used this plant in medicines.  What kind, I don’t know.

Countylanes12Among all the other more prominent wildflowers are a few Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata).  They are a hardy, drought tolerant native to Texas and the central US. They are a full sun bloomer with the flowers closing each evening.  The dark color is spectacular.  I would love to see a full patch of them, but that’s rare here in nature.

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.” Native American Proverb

Native Plant Sale

Every spring in April the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a plant sale.  Friday is members day.  We shop then because the crowd is somewhat smaller and the supplies are plentiful.

LBJjThe eager shoppers line up at least an hour before opening.  Most bring their own wagons to carry home their treasures.  The center has a few carts but recommend that people bring their own.  As they wait, people get acquainted and swap plant advice.

LBJkThe line continues even further past the archway.  The prices of the plants are okay but not fantastic.  The real draw is that only natives are sold.  Believe it or not, it’s difficult to find natives in nurseries.  Local nurseries have some but much less than here.

LBJWhile my husband holds our spot in the line, I wander around enjoying the plants.  The above Columbine is the only native one to Texas.  A solid yellow one had adapted and grows very well here.

LBJl The shape of Wild Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) flowers are unique among Texas natives and is basically a woodland plant.

LBJmThe Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) is in full bloom.  I’m told that it’s a very dependable showstopper.  Just love it.

LBJfI really appreciate public parks and gardens that label the trees, shrubs, and other plants.  This one also provides other useful information.

LBJeAlthough I didn’t find a label for this one, I’m pretty sure that it’s California Poppy, also known as the Golden Poppy.

LBJdMore Cross Vine.  I’m got to get me one of these.  Just need something for it to grow on.  And it needs to be big, because they grow and grow up to 50 ft. long.

It blooms from March through May in full sun or part shade and has low water needs. A friend told me that they are evergreen.   Of course, butterflies and hummingbirds love the tubular flowers.

LBJcOthers also enjoy this area of sunny plants in raised beds.

LBJaThis Eve’s Necklace (Styphnolobium affine) is larger than any that I’ve seen.  Mine was planted two years ago and is now two feet tall .  But they can grow as large as 15 to 30 feet tall and can live on limestone slopes.

LBJbThe seeds look just like they’ve been strung on a cord.  I can hear Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” in my head.  But the seeds are said to be poisonous.

LBJ6Noontime is not the best time to take pictures.  Even in this partly shaded area, the strong sun is washing out the pictures.

LBJ5Red buckeye (Aesculus pavis var. pavia) blooms from March through May along streams and creeks or in moist woodlands.

LBJ7This is not what I had pictured as Bunch Grass (Nolina texana) from the Lily Family.  But I’m sure the botanists here know.  It grows in rocky soil from Central Texas into Northern Mexico.

LBJ8The sign says it all.

LBJ9A Maidenhair Fern in a natural type setting.

LBJ2Even a fire hydrant is dressed up with Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis).

LBJ1 It’s impossible to live in Texas and not love the native flowers.  They define spring here.  Sure, most are short lived, but boy, do they fill the land with gorgeous beauty.

Thankfully, there are also some summer wildflowers that can endure the heat.

LBJiThe light is diffusing the blossoms on this tree.

LBJhThe Crab Apple (Malus angustifolia) flowers show up a little better here.  Fruit follows the flowers on this Texas native.  The wildlife enjoy the fruit, but it’s messy in a yard.

LBJgA semi-shady nook as a calm retreat.

LBJ4As we walk out the center, the areas around the parking lots are filled with more wildflowers.

LBJ3It’s easy to see why Lady Bird loved Central Texas and the wildflowers.

LBJnThe name Indian Paintbrushes always confuses me.  I guess they look like brushes dipped in paint, but so do other flowers.  Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is native to Texas and Oklahoma.

It also is a spring bloomer and grows among grasses and other plants.  Their roots invade the roots of other plants to obtain a portion of their needed nutrients.

This time of the year brings special joy to all who enjoy native plants and especially, flowers.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

Is It Really Spring?

130 miles south of here it sure looks like spring has arrived.  On Sat. we drove to Austin where Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes were blooming in great abundance along the roadsides.  The state highway department seeded heavily in the Austin area.  The consistently warm weather and some rains in that area has provided green trees and some flowers.

mayfieldpark3As we stepped out of the parking lot at Mayfield Park, a patch of Bluebonnets greeted us.

mayfieldparkThe high pitched “Help Me, Help Me” of the peacocks can be heard throughout the park.  They have free roam and don’t even seem to notice all the people walking around.

mayfieldpark2I wondered if this peacock and the squirrel would react to one another, but they just kept to their own business.   Obviously, their meeting was old hat to them.  Ho, hum, boring.

mayfieldpark4Beside the parking lot was this small Redbud tree.  They are seeded by birds and spring up just about anywhere.

mayfieldpark5These native Giant Spiderworts (Tradescantia gigantea) are so pretty.  Last year I planted one but it didn’t bloom; maybe it will this year.

mayfieldpark8Mine was planted in full sun.  These are partly shaded.

mayfieldpark7First, we walked through the nature area with many different kinds of native trees.  This bunch of plants with the tiny white flowers was eye catching.

mayfieldpark6It’s probably a plant that only grows in shade.  And that, I don’t have.

mayfieldpark9Many of the trees leaned with crooked and twisted shapes.

mayfieldpark10This lavender clusters of flowers were growing on a small tree.

mayfieldpark11Could it be a fruit producing plant?  Loved the butterfly.

mayfieldpark12Growing on the edge of a drop off, this bush or small tree was covered with blooms.

mayfieldpark13I think this is a Rusty Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum) which usually grows as an understory tree but can grow in full sun.

mayfieldpark14This unusual tree had the oddest leaves at the end of the branches.

mayfieldpark15Looking up, I wondered if those were the leaves or if it was a fungus that had killed the real leaves.

mayfieldpark16Another mystery.

mayfieldpark17This tree looks like it’s growing out of a rock, but it must be connected to the tree on the left.

mayfieldpark18This city park was a residence at one time.  The whole neighborhood is on the edge of Lake Austin.  This property seems to back up to an inlet of the lake.

mayfieldpark19Coming out of the wooded area, this stand of yuccas are in full bloom.  The ones further north are not even close to blooming yet.  What a difference a few degrees of latitude make.

mayfieldpark20A big area of native wildflowers beside the yuccas.

mayfieldpark21A bed next to the parking lot that also contains native plants.

On my next post, I’ll show the area inside the yard of the house area.

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Wildseed Farms

A trip to Fredericksburg without a visit to the Wildseed Farms is insane.  And in the springtime, it’s required.

poppiesPoppies and Bluebonnets line the dramatic entry road.

poppies5Red poppies (Papaver rhoeas)  sway in the wind so beautifully.  If only these Corn Poppies weren’t so difficult to get started.  I’ve been told that if you ever can get them to germinate, they will reseed and return yearly.  So far, I haven’t had any luck with them.

poppies2Aren’t these bright and different?

sign2Just a few of the opportunities to spend your money at the Wildseed Farms.  Or you can just stroll through like we did.  It’s like a botanical garden of Texas natives.

potsThe choices of pots are vast.

morepots

rockpotsThese are carved from native limestone.  The pots are fascinating but expensive.  Limestone is prevalent all over central Texas.  So the cost must be in chopping the blocks into shapes and in reaming out the centers.

redbluewhitebonnetsPatrioticTexas bluebonnets.  Botanists have successfully developed these red and white colors.  Some pinks ones occur rarely in nature.

waterfallA few water features present a sense of calm and a cooling effect.

windmillRain catchment barrels are big in the media and garden programs now, so they sell well.  The ones in front of the fence are small.  Many people are installing huge ones, as tall as their houses.

larkspurA friend gave me larkspur seeds last year.  I’m anxious to see if mine look as great as these purple beauties.

poppypatchFields of poppies and other wildflowers are grown for the seeds.  There are also some experimental flower fields.

poppies3

seedsThis is what it’s all about – seeds.  There is one section of the large gift shop that has all kinds of packaged native seeds.  Wildseed Farms also have a successful catalog business.

seeds2All sorts of items are sold in the gift shop, including dishes with poppy or bluebonnet designs as well as scarves, clothes, and whatever else people would be willing to buy.

It’s always inspiring to spend some time at this nursery that focuses on Texas plants and related items.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”  Napoleon Hill

Nature Hike

Thursday the weather was gorgeous:  sunny and mild temperatures – a perfect day for a country drive.  From San Sabe to Fredericksburg, the Bluebonnets formed sections of blue carpet along the highways.

bluebonnets4bluebonnets7Of course, the Bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus) is the state flower.  In truth, there is more than one variety and the historical debate over which one should be chosen is explained at http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/flowers/tx_bluebonnet.htm

bluebonnets1In the foreground is an Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja).  The sun washed out the color.  It’s still early for them, so we only saw a few.

In Fredericksburg, we visited a locally owned used bookstore that we always enjoy.  http://berkmanbooks.com/ They have rare signed books as well as some first editions.  It’s not like your usual big city store.  Very fun to browse.

blackberriesWe took a walk through the Fredericksburg Nature Center in the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.  http://www.fredericksburgnaturecenter.org/  In the ten acres, there are seven distinct habitats. To be honest, we couldn’t identify but about three different ones.   May or June would probably be better months there because many plants have not bloomed yet.  Actually, it was a lot like walking around our ranch at this time of the year.

I think the above picture is blossoms on a wild blackberry bush.

bluebonnets5This shot emphases how hardy Texas plants are.

bluebonnethatflower Ever wonder where the name “Bluebonnet” came from?  It refers to the bonnets the early female settlers wore to protect their faces and necks from the harsh sun.  Look at the second blossom from the bottom on the left.

bonnetCompare the flower to the bonnet above and rotate the bonnet in your mind and imagine the flap covering the neck flared out a bit.  So each flower stalk contains several “bonnets”.

dragonfly3This dragonfly seemed very confident of its camouflage.

grassbushThere are many types of plants in the yucca family.  This one has the clusters of blooms close to the base rather on long stems.

grapevines2The grapevines along this fence impressed us by the length of their vines.

grapevines

lizardNice  day to bask in the sun.

lizard2Don’t bother me.  This is heaven.

Spring wildflowers and warm days makes April through early June one of our loveliest times of the years.

“Texas is a heaven for men and dogs but hell for women and oxen.”  Unknown early Texas pioneer

Singing in the Rain

Praise God.  Manna from heaven in the form of rain.  On Tuesday and Wednesday this week it rained a total of 2 inches.  In the broad scheme for many places, that isn’t much.  But for this location, it’s a wonderful blessing.

Some places nearby received an additional inch or more a few days earlier.  So we’re seeing bright green grasses and chartreuse-colored new leaves on trees.

yellowflowersEven before the rain, I noticed these clumps along the highway.  There are so many varieties of small yellow flowers that one has to be more knowledgeable than I am to differentiate between them.

yellowflowers4This could be a Dwarf Dandelion, also called Jimmyweed or Rayless Goldenrod of the aster family.

yellowflowers3This looks like Parralena or Common Dogweed in the aster family.

yellowpoppy2Some kind of yellow poppy, I think.  Notice the common factor in all these pictures is that the flowers grow in a thin layer of rocky soil.  They also favor soil that has been disturbed, like along the edge of a road.

white2This is probably a Fleabane Daisy.

bluebonnetsFinally, the Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) are coming out in our area.  They are so distintive that there’s no problem identifying them.  They were adopted as the state flower in 1901.

Rain and warm weather will turn the whole state into a wildflower lover’s dream.  So far, we just haven’t had enough moisture for a widespread production of all the old favorites.

“My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth. I wanted future generations to be able to savor what I had all my life.”  Ladybird Johnson