Hill Country in Bloom

Springtime lures us to the open road.  There are several worthwhile drives where wildflowers are plentiful.  Central Texas Driving Routes is a good site to check out.

hwy16cHighway 16 both north and south of Llano is stunning with miles and miles of Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and Indian Paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa).  The large sweeps of color takes one’s breath away.

hwy16bThe only disappointment was that there are very few places to pull over because the shoulders of the road are very narrow.

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hwy16fThe entrance to this old cemetery had a nice wide open area to park.  The name of the cemetery is a little disconcerting, but surely ‘Head’ is a family name.

hwy16gMore flowers inside the cemetery.

hwy16hPretty little flowers that I think are Vinca Majors.

hwy16iA Wine Cup (Callirhoe involucrata) flutters in the chilly wind.  These flowers close each evening and remain permanently shut after pollination. The heat of summer causes the entire plant to die back.  This hardy Texas native will return in the spring and sometimes again in the fall.  It prefers full sun in either gravelly or sandy soils.

hwy16jWhile I was taking photos of the wildflowers, my husband walked around reading headstones.

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hwy16lButtercups are in the large family of Ranunculus.  They usually bloom in April and May, but they may bloom all summer when conditions are right.

hwy16mThe light faded out the colors of the Indian Paintbrushes.

hwy16aThe drive is all about the stunning displays of wildflowers.  There are other places of interest, but we only took time for lunch and viewing the flowers.

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” Steve Jobs

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