Other Color in Fields

Most of the wildflowers in Texas are small and not even noticeable from the road.  Walking through the fields, it takes an eagle eye to spot tiny little blossoms.

This wild aster looks like a blur of white.

Although I’m not a botanist, I think this is a Texas Aster (Symphyotrichum drummondii).  Up close, it has the yellow center and some faint pink or lavender on the petals.  They bloom September – November.

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between a wild aster and a tiny wild daisy, but I think these are Spiny Aster (Chloracantha spinosa).  It is also known as Mexican Devil-weed.  They grow in bigger masses than the Texas Asters and are therefore easier to see.

They have a more defined petal and the centers are not as feathery.  Also, they grow on taller, straighter, thicker stems.

Both the Texas Aster and the Spiny Aster grow among weeds and tall grasses in the bar ditches and other poor soils. Gayfeather (Liatris elegans), also called Blazing Star, are blooming now.  They grow on barren land in a single stalk up to 3 feet tall.  When there are several together, they make a stunning sight.

They have a long taproot, which makes it difficult to dig them up.  I’ve tried.  So gathering seeds is the best choice in order to grow them in the yard.

Another stunner in the field or along caliche roads is Poverty Willow.  It’s also know as Roosevelt Weed or New Deal Weed.  It is one of the first plants to invade abandoned fields, roadsides and disturbed habitats and is extremely drought tolerant.   The Roosevelt name comes from the belief that it was planted during the Dust Bowl to hold down soil.  But it is another one of those invasive plants that sucks the water out of the ground without providing any benefit to animals.

It looks like cotton puffs and has a silky feel.

One flower at this time of year is definitely visible as you drive the highways in central Texas.  It actually is very distracting to me.  I can’t take my eyes off them.  The Maximilian Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) are a gorgeous sight.

The flowers are smaller than the common sunflower, but grow stacked on a stem.  The flowers are 4 inches across.  Because their flowers are close together, this provides a mass of color. They grow from tubers, which reportedly were a food source for the native western Indians.  They were named for Prince Alexander Philipp Maximilian of Prussia who traveled in the 1830’s throughout the western part of the US.

Cattle eat them, so about the only place they grow are along the roadsides beyond the reach of cattle.  Deer also eat them, so I’m surprised there are any left to decorate the areas along the roadways.

Texas has lots of different kinds of wildflowers.  Some are so tiny they are barely visible, while others are massive.  Some are so invasive they threaten the existence of beneficial plants.  Others just add a spark of color in an area of dying grasses.  I appreciate the beauty in them all.

“Every great wave of popular passion that rolls up on the prairies is dashed to spray when it strikes the hard rocks of Manhattan.”  Henry Louis Mencken

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