Along the Roadsides

Thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, Texas roadsides are filled with wildflowers in the spring.  She was the catalyst for changes to the highway department treatment of the land along highways.

First, the strips of land along the pavement were seeded with wildflowers in the autumn.  Then, mowing was delayed in the spring until after the wildflowers went to seed.

Now we Texans are known for our love of Bluebonnets, which bloom in early spring.  But I think the wildflowers that follow in later spring are just as spectacular.

The flowers that are seeded along the highway spread into the fields.

Love the fields of yellow.

There are lots of different yellow flowers that are seen in the fields.  But these are Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria).

This year a nice surprise was seeded.  Massive drifts of Basket Flower (Centaurea americana) were lovely.  This is the first time that I can remember that this wildflower has been used by the highway maintenance department in our area.

I suspect that the reason they haven’t been seeded before is because some people might mistake them for thistles, which are very invasive and are not desirable.

In fact, several different thistles thrive in our climate. Now sure if this one is Mexican Thistle, New Mexican Thistle or Texas Thistle.

Although it is quite pretty, beware, the foliage is prickly.  Tiny needles will cut into bare skin.  The smooth foliage of a Basket Flower is one way to distinguish it from a thistle.

Where one thistle grows this year, hundreds will grow next year.

Here, Basket Flowers are mixed in with thistle.

Another wildflower that has been more prevalent in our area this year is Horsemint (Monarda citriodora).  It’s one of my favorites.

Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) usually has a brown splotch on the top of each petal.  These solid yellow petals are unusual.

And the central disc with the seeds is especially long.

Some of the more aggressive wildflowers are not seeded, such as these Beggar’s Lice (Torilis arvensis)  on our county road.  They look pretty from the car, but they are a menace in the yard.  They are also called hedge parsley or wild carrot.

As the flowers dry up, their seeds stick to anything like lice, so they can repopulate the world.  This year, we tried to pull them early, so that seeds wouldn’t fall to the ground.

The thing is, they first look like Queen Anne’s Lace, so it’s tempting not to get rid of them.  But I learned my lesson a few years ago.

Antelope Horns Milkweed (Asclepias asperula) is another native that spreads easily.  When the brown seed pods open up, hundreds of tiny puffs will float, like dandelions tufts, to germinate in other spots.

Since milkweed is the only plant where Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs, it is essential for their survival.  When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars then consume the leaves of the milkweed.  Even though it isn’t the prettiest wild flower around, it vital to not destroy them.

Now that the highway mowers have been busy cutting everything down, it’s the end of spring wildflowers and the beginning of the long hot summer.

“Wildflowers are the stuff of my heart.”  Lady Bird Johnson

On the Wild Side

Out in the fields, it looks like color bombs have exploded scattering bright hues everywhere.

This field is between our house and barn.  Notice up front are three areas that have been mowed around.  Behind them is another perpendicular spot with red dots.

The three plots up front were planted with old fashioned irises about 12 years ago.  The first few years, I toiled to keep them weed free.  I even hired a guy to help me one year.  I noticed that he only pulled the top of the weeds off and did not get the roots.  So, eventually, I resorted to mowing around the rows.  When the irises are in bloom, they stick up above the weeds.

Here is a close up view of one clump of iris leaf blades. along with Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctorial) and wild native grasses.

Plains Coreopsis tends to grow in isolated small clumps, but can probably spread if the conditions are right.

The long plot behind the iris beds was seeded with native wildflowers three years ago.  The first year it produced most of the different seeds in the packets.  The next year, there were almost no wildflowers.

Because of the dry, hot summer last year and the wet fall and spring, this year there are masses of the hardy wildflowers.  Those are the ideal conditions for Texas wildflowers.

The Indian Blankets (Galillardia pulchella) are iconic all over Texas.

Their strong color really draws the eye.  Here, the one on the right has lost its petals and has dropped some of its seeds.

The white balls of Basket Flowers (Centaurea americana) have opened into beautiful white centers and lacy purple edges.

The first time I saw Basket Flowers was four years ago.  I fell in love with them immediately.  They are not common in many parts of Texas.

There are two main companies that sell Texas wildflower seeds – Wildflower Farm Seeds in Fredericksburg and Native American Seeds in Junction.  Both have online order services.

One of the flowers that I had hoped would reseed was Horsemint (Monarda citriodora), also call Purple Lemon Mint.  This year, I’ve enjoyed those stalked, ruffled layers of different shades of purple.

Every year we have these gorgeous flowers scattered across the field.  I haven’t be able to identify them.  They grow on a single stem all alone.  Anyone know what they are?

A reader has just identified this flower.  It’s Texas Skeleton Plant (lygodesmia texana).

Another wildflower favorite is Mexican Hat or Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera).  Small groups of them rise above the grass level.

The tall top part of their “hat” is covered with brown seeds.  When the seeds drop, they’re left with a white top hat.

Growing low to the ground is this cluster of tiny white flowers with a pink tint.  Wish I knew their name.

Another mystery plant are these tiny stalks.  It looks like they had purple flowers.

In the yard, patches of Texas Frog Fruit (Lippia nodiflora) pop up most years.  It’s a creeping perennial that many consider a nuisance.  I’m sort of neutral about them.

This is a great time to get out and enjoy whatever flowers nature provides for you.

“Wildflowers – I envy them.  They’re brave.  Seeds cast by the wind to land where they may, they stay and hold against most hot, most cold.  They persevere, roots shallow, yet fierce and free.  They epitomize to me all that I sometimes yearn to be.”               Julie Andrews

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.

fieldofwildflowersc

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

G.W. Bush Library

First, before I discuss our visit to the George W. Bush Presidential Library, let me give thanks for recent rains.  Over the past two weeks, we have been blessed with six and a third inches.  Other people in the area received much more.  But we all have had showers of blessings including all of central Texas and even the Panhandle.  Desperately needed moisture has brought a sigh of relief because some cities were 90 days away from no water.

gwbush4Now to the museum on the SMU campus in Dallas.  The outside is simple in design, but note what looks like a small square building with windows and columns on top of the roof.

gwbushjThis cupola or whatever this is called is an interesting feature to the structure.  The Davis Mountains scene on all four walls is part of a changing scene screen.

gwbushmIt doesn’t look like a screen, and I know nothing about the technology.  The pictures slowly and constantly move around to the right on all four sides.

gwbushnThen the scene changes again.

gwbushlStepping outside from the above main foyer, there is a patio area in the center of the building.  This Desert Willow tree (Chilopsis linearis) provides nice color.

gwbushkAlso, in this patio were the statutes of both Bush presidents.

gwbush5Of course, one whole section was dedicated to 9/11 with sirens wailing, pictures and information.   This twisted metal from the towers served as a reminder of another “day that will live in infamy.”

Another section, where pictures were not allowed, was a gallery of paintings done by President Bush.  Those depicted were all world leaders during his presidency.  Beside each painting was information about where and when they met.  In a short video, he said that he was well aware that the signature on each was worth more than the painting.

gwbushhA few hands on exhibits were enjoyed by children and adults, like this one featuring their dog, Spot.

gwbushfOutside the Oval Office replica was the garden, which was similar to the famous White House Rose Garden, except this one was planted with Texas native plants.

gwbushgAnother view looking from just outside the Oval Office.

gwbusheThe Indian Blankets (Gaillardia pulchella) always wash out in midday photographs.

gwbushdWater Irises grew in a small pond area.

gwbusha

gwbushbThe plant database on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center lists all Foxgloves in Texas as False Foxgloves.  In our area, those are only white or pale ivory.

gwbushcI would love to find some of the pink or yellow ones.

gwbush9Nice combination of Agaves and small flowers in all the beds.

gwbushThe presidential library is on a corner.  This is the side street with a more formal planting of trees and grass.  To the left of this area, the ground slopes up beside the building and the front entrance is on the next level.

gwbush2I was impressed with these shutters that were permanent, attractive, and a  clever way to deal with the hot, direct sunlight.

gwbush3The architect included other smart shading techniques.

gwbushsAlong the side of the building, this was the only section that was planted in rows.

gwbush8All other plantings looked like a wildflower prairie.

gwbush7A few smaller areas of grass gave the whole area an ordered, rather then messy feeling.

gwbushtScattered among the native grasses were all sorts of wildflowers, like this Horse Mint (Monarda punctata).

gwbushuCould not get close enough to examine the red flowers, but maybe they are Penstemon.

gwbushrA few Mexican Hats (Ratibida columnaris), Thistles, and lots of different kinds of yellow flowers.

gwbushqThis might be American basket-flower (Centaurea americana).

gwbushpI was taken with them.

gwbushoThis Butterfly Weed’s (Asclepias tuberosa) bright orange screams for attention.

Worth a visit even though I didn’t feel as connected to the man as I did at his father’s library.  Maybe it was just me.  Another day might have brought a different reaction.

“Temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.”  Washington Irving

Eyes to the Ground

It’s easy to miss some interesting stuff if you don’t look down occasionally, especially on a walk out in the pastures.

pinks2Mountain Pink (Centaurium beyrichii) hug the ground and bloom in the summer.  The mound looks like a perfect bouquet.

pinks3Every year they pop up in this same rocky road through the pastures.

pinksThey need little soil and no water except for an occasional rain.  The recent heavy rains actually killed them off.  These pictures were made before then.

It’s extremely difficult and a lot of trouble to start this plant.  The seeds are microscopic.  “There is a story about Lady Bird Johnson’s planting the seed of Centaurium texense, Lady Bird’s centaury, in 1966.  She had been told it couldn’t be done, but as she collected the seed, she observed that the plants were most often growing on rocky disturbed roadsides where they receive the runoff from the road.  So she planted her seed around her ranch’s airplane runway, with gratifying results.” Native Texas Plants by Sally Wasowski and Andy Wasowski.

anttubes2Whoa, what is this?  After the rains these termite tubes appeared.  They cover a large area.

anttubes3Although most look flat along the ground, the tube shape is seen in this picture.  They are created by Subterranean Termites or just plain Termites.

anttubesIt’s never good to have termites near your house.   These are not.  One good thing about fire ants is that they eat these termites.  But the fire ants that are a problem are around the house.  Okay, that doesn’t help.

horsemintPlains Horsemint or Lemon Beebalm (Monarda citriodora) normally have a deeper purple color than this one.  The layers may have different shades from pink to purple on one plant.

Horsemint appears in spring and lasts through the first part of summer. I wish there were more on our property because large groupings of them are very attractive.

spittleAlthough this may look like a cotton ball or marshmallow, it is a foamy Spittle Bug protective covering.  The soapy glob can be pulled off to reveal a half inch Meadow Spittle Bug or Frog Hopper.  But be careful because they do jump out.

This foamy ball is formed when they suck plant juices and excrete this foamy blob.  More than you wanted to know?

100_0389Let’s end this walk with a common sight on the ground on our ranch.  That would be Low Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa).  Definitely be aware of these and not stumble into one.  Those sharp barbs hurt like crazy.  The fine hairy parts around the spikes and on the fruit are especially difficult to pull out.

Thanks for taking this stroll with me.

“I have the body of a god.  Unfortunately that god is Buddha.”          Tee shirt message