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

Gardens in Victoria

This is the last post about the Master Gardener demonstration garden in Victoria near the coast in southeast Texas.

Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) blazes that bright orange color that screams hot climate.  Information indicates that it can grow in zones 8 and 9.

However, I have one in a pot that must be carried into a shed for the winter.  It takes it a long time to recover each summer.  So I think zone 8 is stretching it.

But what a fabulous flower color.

Bamboo Muhly (Muhlenvergia dumosa) is an interesting shrub with loose, draping branches.  It also requires a mild winter.

Crimson Pirate Daylily is one of my favorites.  Pretty spider shape, not too tall and brilliant color.

This garden is impressive in so many ways.  First, there are hundreds of different kinds of plants.  It is well organized and neat.  These gardeners also have so much creativity.

The queen butterfly is one of our most prominent butterflies.  This clever one is made from a section of heating vent.

There are also lots of structures that draw one into the garden.  The mesh building in the far right upper corner of this picture is an enclosed butterfly walk-in area.

Many Texans consider the welfare of Monarch Butterflies to be part of their responsibility since their migration path comes straight from Mexico through Texas.  Milkweed plants are vital for their survival because it’s the only plant where they lay their eggs and the only food source for their caterpillars. Milkweed mostly grows in uncultivated land areas.  But now, many homeowners grow it in their yards.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is one food source for Swallowtail butterflies.

This looks like it could be in the Scabosia family.  But I don’t know what it is and would love to find out.

Absolutely stunning.

There is an area that has small gardens donated by individuals or with specific themes.

While in Victoria, we also visited the city’s rose garden.  The layout is wonderful with paved pathways and excellent structures.  Since I’ve seen pictures of this online with mature bushes, I’m guessing that it was wiped out by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and has recently rebuilt.

A few large bushes survived.

Also read that the city accepted rose bush donations to plant.  My only complaint about this garden is that there were no ID tags to name the roses.

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”  J.M. Barrie

Late Spring into Summer Wildflowers

The early spring wildflowers have faded and died.  Surprisingly, the next batch of wildflowers is not as bright in color as the earlier ones, like Bluebonnets.

roadsideflowers2So driving along the highway, there are muted strips of color in the bar ditches.

roadsideflowers3An up close and personal look is required to see the true beauty and colors.  The masses of Indian Blankets (Gaillardia pulchella)  are much prettier than they look from the highway.  Other names for this distinctive flower are Firewheel or Sundance.

Being hardy and drought tolerant are vital characteristics to survive here.

roadsideflowers4These pictures were taken on the highway north of Goldthwaite.

roadsideflowers5This is one of the many yellow flowers beside the roads.  It could be a Parralena or a Damianita or so on.  I can count the petals and look at the leaves but am still confused about identity.  There are a staggering number of similar looking yellow flowers in Texas wildflower books.

roadsideflowers6The same applies to clusters of little white flowers on tall stems.

roadsideflowers7So I just enjoy the beauty of them all.  It’s one big bouquet presented by nature.

roadsideflowers9

roadsideflowersa

roadsideflowersbThe weeds were too high to walk through in sandals, so I did not get a close up of the taller yellow blooms.

Update:  A friend who lives in the area thinks the yellow flowers in the back are probably Englemann Daisies.

roadsideflowerscThen, there are the numerous kinds of grasses.

roadsideflowerse

roadsideflowersfOnce again, identity eludes me.  In some ways, it looks like Queen Anne’s Lace but not in others.

roadsideflowershOne plant I can easily identify is this Antelope Horns (Asclepias asperula) in the Milkweed family.

roadsideflowersgGrowing low on the ground, Milkweed or Antelope Horn is a surprise sight walking through grasses and weeds.  Almost all species of Asclepias are considered extremely poisonous, yet they are the source of many healing herbs.  Asclepias was the Greek god of medicine and healing.

I’m sorry that this post is short on information.  Poring through several plant books, I was still unable to be sure about names for several plants.  I’m definitely not a botanist.  So, if you know the correct identification, please tell me in a comment.

To all those wonderful people who read my blog faithfully, thank you.  You encourage me to keep trying and to search to be factual.

“Marriage advice:  any argument you think you’ve won, you’ve actually lost.”  unknown