Wildflowers and Memories

My last post showed gorgeous Texas wildflowers in a cemetery.  As Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

Past the thick patch of Indian Paintbrushes and some scattered White Prickly Poppies is the entrance into the Sutherland Springs cemetery.  That name may not conjure up any memories for you, but it is a sharp reminder of a tragedy that shattered this small community.

A lone gunman filled with hate and revenge stepped into this small church and took the lives of 26 innocent people.

Rather then walk into another church service in this building, the members turned it into a memorial for family and friends.  Instead, they rented a temporary building for services.  At the present time, a new stone building is nearing completion where they won’t be reminded of that day as they gather for worship.

Markers and mementos to honor the dead are placed all around the classic white chapel building with its idyllic steeple.  Some families were almost decimated that day.

This town is close to San Antonio, where the whole surrounding area has groves of these Huisache trees (Vachellia farnesiana).  They are considered nuisance trees by some people, like Mesquites in the upper Central Texas and, especially, West Texas.

Huisache is often one of the first trees to invade abandoned fields.  The most noticeable characteristics are their fragrant yellow puff blooms and their fern-like foliage.  They have white thorns, which are more noticeable on a young tree.  Huisaches require full sun and little water after they are established.Being in lower Central Texas, the area has mild winters with rare freezes, which is ideal for many wildflowers and some tropical plants.  It’s one of the more garden spots in the state.

As we focus on the natural beauty, we know that God is in control of the earth and the healing of this community.

“But I trust in your unfailing love;”  Psalm 13:5

No matter what the circumstances, we can trust the heart of God.

Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets

The wildflowers have arrived and are spectacular this year.  Decorating the highways, they add a sense of wonder to driving.

But one of the best places to enjoy wildflowers is a rural cemetery.  You don’t have to worry about getting run down when you step out of the car.  It’s also so peaceful and quiet.

Indian Paintbrushes (Castilleja) bloom a little earlier than Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) but they remain side by side for many days.  There are actually several different varieties of both Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets.

Wildflowers are not known for their scent, but a wonderful aroma surrounded us when we stepped out of the vehicle.  Wasn’t able to determine which ones provided the smell.

The older headstones were fascinating.

Think these are Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa).  Little clusters were scattered here and there.

The scenery around the cemetery was serene.

Pink was the dominant color here.

White Prickly Poppies form large colonies that are visible from a distance.

The wind was so strong, their delicate petals were brown in one direction.

In front of this handmade headstone is a weed I couldn’t identify.  All the weeds were lovely in this setting because none were prickly and seemed at home.

Dotted Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchiurn pruinosuem) makes me wonder how it got that common name.  The eye is yellow, so it’s doesn’t seem logical.

Found some headstones with my maiden name.  Have no idea if they were related to me.

Notice the fake flowers beside the marker.  That’s very common in Texas because most of the year, there are no native flowers or even foliage in the long hot summers.

I was curious what this growth on the stone is.  Some kind of fungus but this was the only stone I saw it on.

There are a number of low growing native white daisies or asters.  Don’t know which one this is.

A thick carpet is formed by this unknown native.  It’s definitely not a plant for your yard unless you intentionally want a covering of this instead of grass.  It spreads by runners and seems prolific.

 “Do you love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Benjamin Franklin

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.

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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.

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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

Flowers, Weeds and Rocks

Out in the fields, among the caliche and rocks, small beauties await.  It takes a careful eye and patience to find them.

field5And their neighbors might not be that interesting or unusual.  The White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora subsp. texana) lives among cactus as well as other drought loving plants.

field7The tall pokey stems discourage handling.

field2 Honeybees and other insects love the flower for their pollen.  But there is very little nectar.

field8Their thin petals are blown back and forth by the wind.

flowersfield2In the spring the ground near the barn was covered with two different kinds of flowers.  The above is one of them.

After searching through my 3 books for Texas wildflower identification, I still don’t know the name of the above plant.  I could not find a small white flower with four petals.

Anyone know?

flowersfield3This appears to be the same flower but with a pinkish tinge.

flowersfield5It’s easy to walk pass White Milkwort (Polygala alba) without noticing it.  However, in mass, they’re lovely.

flowersfield4I’ve wondered about putting some in a bouquet of flowers.  I haven’t tried it and don’t know how long they would last.

yardsummerstart9The Texas Thistle (Cirsium texanum) is a nice bright color.  I enjoy them when they are few in number.  But when they  take over a field, it is difficult to eradicate them.

yardsummerstartaThese were the subject of another search.  I thought they were a type of Bindweed, but they don’t fit the descriptions of that climbing vine.

yardsummerstartgThe small, open bush in front of the cedar is a Catclaw Acadia (Acacia greggii Gray).  They range from 3 to 10 feet tall, although all the ones around here are at the lower end of that.  They bloom from April to October.

yardsummerstarthThe thorns are shaped like the claws on a cat.  Small animals and birds nest under them for protection.

With the emphasis on xeriscape landscaping now, they are planted in some yards.

I’m hoping that it doesn’t take a lifetime to learn about all the native wildflowers because I started too late.

“What comes out of your mouth is determined by what goes into your mind.”  Zig Ziglar

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

White Petals

One of the trends in gardening now is “white gardens”.  All the shrubs in one area are green.  The only flowers in that area are white.  The gardens tend to have geometric shapes and be rather formal.  That’s just not my taste.

daisyBut I do like a cluster of white flowers in a flowerbed.  These were labeled Shasta Daisies when I bought them, but they look like some Ox Eye Daisies that a friend gave me a couple of years ago.  So I don’t know for sure what kind of daisy these are.

daisy2What a bright and happy flower.  Their blooms last for days.  Why are  daisies and roses considered old fashioned?  Sure, our grandmothers liked them, but so do I.

rainlilliesRecent rains brought out the Rain Lilies (Cooperia pedunculata).  Their tiny heads pop up on a  5 to 9″ stem above the grass.   Here briefly, then gone.

whitepopAnd out in the field there are White Prickly Poppies (Argemone albiflora subsp. texana) scattered here and there.  The large 4″ flowers blooms appear daily over a long blooming time, from March to October.

whitepoppyTheir rice paper thin petals fold up in the evening.  The flower itself is about 4″ across.  By nighttime, there’s not a trace of a flower on the stems.

whitepoppAn assortment of insects enjoy the pollen as the wind ruffles the flower petals.What a contrast between the light airy petals and the harsh, sharp greyish greenery.  The stems and leaves are so prickly that even cattle won’t eat them.

When writing this, it surprised me to realize that I don’t have many white flowers in my yard.

“We suffer most when the White House busts with ideas.”  Henry Louis Mecken