Wildflowers with Wow

Wildflowers appeared later than usual this year.  But they must have loved the extra cold winter because they are plentiful and stunningly beautiful.

In a field close to the house, Indian Blankets (Gaillardia pulchella) have exploded.  A native of the U.S., it’s a signature wildflower in much of Texas.

With their unique petal color and shape, they’re easy to recognize.

Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) is another prominent wildflower in fields and roadsides in the spring.

This is scattered in one section of the field, but I can’t identify it.

The white flowers up by the barn have never been this wide spread before.  The cold and the rain has made everything come to life.

White Milkwort (Polygala alba) is the plant in the previous picture.  They’re rather small and not too impressive until you focus on them.  I guess that’s true of many things in life.

I think this is Navajo Tea (Thelesperma simplicifolium).  On tall, slim stems, they sway back and forth.  No foliage can be seen.  Some places they grow right out of caliche.

The strong colors of Prairie Coneflower or Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) make it a beauty.

This is probably Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) which is a low growing daisy that loves heat, high alkaline soil, and rocky areas.  This daisy doesn’t do well in most landscapes because they get overwatered.

Hidden down low on the grown are tiny little flowers that I can’t find in any of my wildflower books.

Another tiny one with flowers about one half an inch across.

The petals of Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron modestus) look like fringe.

The ubiquitous Prickly Pear Cactus is a bane to farmers and ranchers.  It’s exists in nature only in the western hemisphere.

Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Verbena bipinnatifida) is a lovely low growing plant.  In drier years, it’s just about the only wildflower that hasn’t been seeded that grows on our land.

Out on the county road, a bouquet of flowers grow on the roadsides.

 

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) looks like Queen Anne’s Lace but when touched, it leaves a sticky substance on your hand.  If it gets into the garden, it becomes very invasive.

Here, it’s growing among the leaves of a young Redbud tree.

This briar sometimes grows up into oak trees.  The tiny spikes tear up your hands.  Sometimes it causes a rash.

The yellow flowers could be Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa).  The black caterpillar has been everywhere this year.  I don’t know what it is, but many people have suffered a severe sting with pain lasting a week.

Prickly Pear can spread into huge clumps and are difficult to eradicate.  Nature provides the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I love wildflowers.  Their abundance this year has turned the countryside into scenic paintings.

If you can identify any of the flowers that I can’t, please tell me in a comment or correct any that I have mislabeled.

“Love is like wildflowers…it’s often found in the most unlikely places.”  unknown

Irises, Mostly

Irises starting to bloom is spring welcoming us to her beauty.  On recent cloudy days, blustering spring winds bite and made us doubt that spring has arrived.  But there probably won’t be any more true cold weather coming.

iris6Many years ago in a field next to the yard around the house I planted old fashioned, pass along iris bulbs from different friends and family members.

iris2During the first few years, I was diligent about fertilizing them on or near Valentine’s Day and Halloween, which are the recommended times.  Now they’re lucky to be fertilized anytime.

iris4Over the years, the neglect has taken a toll on them.  They need to be divided.  So far, I haven’t taken care of that.  The weeds and cactus have been pulled or hoed at different times, but that is a daunting, never ending chore.

iris7They keep plugging along, but each year the stems are a little less tall and the flowers a little smaller.  Poor dears.

irisdIn that same field there are many tiny flowers that carpet the area.

irisbPretty sure these yellow flowers are Texas Groundsel (Senecio ampullaceus).

iris9I haven’t had much success trying to research the many yellow wildflowers of Texas, as well as the many small flowers.  As I thumb through the wildflower pictures, the similarities are too close for definitive identification.

iris8Patches of Sweet William or Prairie Verbena are starting to dot the landscape.

iris3These are the first flowers to appear in the field where we prepared the soil and planted wildflower seeds.  We scattered several packages of mixed seeds as well as specific ones, so I don’t know what these red flowers are.

irisIn the yard, these re-blooming Irises were planted about seven years ago.  I have divided them and planted some in different beds around the yard.  While the native irises don’t need much water, these do well in the yard because they do need regular watering.

iris1First color to bloom.

springyard9Behind the irises is a Crape Myrtle and a Bridal Spirea.  Coming up in the bed are Coneflowers and other perennials.  Although I have weeded the area, there are probably more weeds showing their persistent little heads.

“Never put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.”  Unknown

Willow City Loop

These pictures show the Willow City Loop drive from our trip above and below Llano.  I am repeating a link to wildflowers drives for those who might not have seen it.

WillowloopA small two lane road forms a loop beginning and ending on Hwy. 16.  It doesn’t have the large sections of Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes scattered along the main highway but provides a leisurely scenic drive.

Willowloop5The road crosses private property with pastures on both sides.  Some of the ranches are not fenced and have cattle guards across the road.  A cow trail parallels this section of the road.

Willowloop1Even though traffic was heavy on a Saturday, there were ample places to pull over and enjoy the flowers up close.

Willowloop2These look like native Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa).

Willowloop4Just to prove this area is open to roving cattle, note the dried cow patty.

Willowloop6Nice views as the road winds from the valley up to the hills.

Willowloop8Bluebonnets in natural setting.

Willowloop9It’s common to find them among Prickly Pear Cactus.

WillowloopbWee little flowers form a nice ground cover.

WillowloopeOne ranch got everyone’s attention starting with these gimme caps.

Willowloopf

WillowloopdThen for half of a mile every fence post was topped with a boot.  Parked cars in the distance indicate a prime photo spot.

Wonder where all the boots came from.

WillowloopgNice property with no underbrush and mowed fields.  Lots of work to keep it looking like that.

WillowloopiBluebonnet patch just across the fence.  Another electrified fence at the other edge keeps cows from trampling the flowers.

The loop drive took us about an hour with several stops for pictures.  Very pleasant way to spend the day.

“We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.” Jean-Claude Juncker

 

Where Are the Wildflowers?

Texans are proud of their annual wildflowers blooming in all their splendor along the highways.  Many people, including Lady Bird Johnson, and some government programs in the past have made this possible.

Usually by the middle of March, the Hill Country has burst out in color.  The Bluebonnets are one of the first to appear.  But a week ago, we took a day drive through some of the upper Hill Country.  Only a  handful of tiny Bluebonnets were hugging the pavement right along the highway.  These were between Llano and Burnet.

It might be a tad early for wildflowers, but I suggest the drought is the real reason not much is blooming.  I don’t know the formula required, but it has to do with a certain amount of rainfall at the correct times of the year.

metalcactusSo we were left with the metal representation of flowers.  In Marble Falls the old downtown area, a few blocks off the main highway through town, has been renovated.  There are gift shops and other small businesses.

metalcactus2You remember the old saying, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.”  So here we have Prickly Pear Cactus featured.

bloomcactusAh.  The ubiquitous cactus.  Even they aren’t in bloom yet this year, but it is too early for them.  Eradication of Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia phaeacantha) is impossible.

Interesting side note from Texas Wildflowers by Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller:

“The prickly pear was introduced in Eritrea, in northern Ethiopia, to help stop erosion on the mountainsides, and prospered so well on the barren slopes that one could not shoot a rifle at the mountainside without hitting a prickly pear.”

We were there during the harvest when the girls, boys, men, and women bring the fruits into Asmara on camels, burros, bicycles, in boxes on their heads, and every imaginable way.  They were sold for making jelly, which was very good.”

girlfrogThis bronze statue on the medium of Main Street in Marble Falls caught my eye.

girldfrogRecalls fond memories of a carefree childhood.

On Tuesday night of this week some parts of the Hill Country received some rain, so there might be more wildflowers along the roads and in the fields now.

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”  Benjamin Franklin

Winter Fields

Recently we took a walk just looking at the property to see what was going on.

cedarsOne scene we will always find is cedars or Blue Junipers.  They range in size from those just coming up to tall mature ones that are about 12′ tall.  As soon as they are cut down or pushed over, roots and all, others will spring up.

The only good thing about them is that they are green.  Also, the birds like the berries.  See previous post about junipers.

http://weedinwaterinwatchin.com/?cat=132

cactusAnother constant is the Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia phaeacantha).  They sometimes are massive.  This one just reminds me of a rabbit.

creekOur trek takes us across a bare creek bed.  In the distance you can see a small muddy pool of water.

creekrocksThis picture should have been shown on Valentine’s Day.  Wonder how long it took for these rocks to get this smooth.  The water has not  been high enough or strong enough to accomplish that since we’ve had the property.

treesOn the other side of this creek bed is an area of cedars and Spanish Oaks.

deerblindAt the edge of a field backed up to Live Oaks is a hunter’s blind.  This is Texas, after all.

tankThis is the largest pond or tank we have.  The water is the lowest we’ve seen it in 12 years since we bought the place.

deerlick2In an earlier post, http://weedinwaterinwatchin.com/?cat=135, I showed pictures of old rusty salt licks that were used years ago.  This is an updated model made of polyurethane.

deerlickThe principal is the same.  Salty brine is poured into the large basin.  Then the cows lick this rotating wheel that picks up the salty mixture as it spins.

ladybugFocusing on the ground shows a surprising variation of plants and insects.

sweetwilliamEven in rocky caliche, sturdy Sweet William or Prairie Verbena (Verbena bipinnatifida) pops up before spring. See Prairie Verbena post. http://weedinwaterinwatchin.com/?cat=111

These pictures give a glimpse of the plain and the pretty.

“Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.”  Melba Colgrove

Last Hurrah of Autumn

This week our temperatures have been in the low 20’s and the highs in the 40’s.  So winter is officially here.  Of course, there is no guarantee that it won’t warm up again.  Still no moisture.

This picture was taken from a ridge on our property on one of the last warm days so far this month.  To the right of the road is a caliche pit.  The county crew dug it because we allowed them to use this caliche for county roads.

viewfromridge Most of the green in the dry fields is cacti, cedars, or Live Oaks.

treecactiPrickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia phaeacantha) can grow into large colonies that are 15 to 20 feet in diameter and several feet tall.  They are a nuisance but difficult to eradicate.  I have to admit that their flowers in the spring are a gorgeous sight.
cedarberThe Ashe Junipers are full of berries in late fall.  They are another problem because they suck so much water from the ground.  Many folks spend much time and effort pushing them up with a bulldozer – roots and all.

These berries account for the proliferation of these cedars, as they are known locally.  Birds love the berries and deposit their seeds over a large area.  So even though many are dug up, more new seedlings replace them.

Allergies to the pollen causes many people grief.

burrI’m really not sure what this prickly plant is.  It’s common for plants in arid climates to have this type of burr for survival.  They catch on animals’ fur and are carried to another spot to generate a new plant.

Update – a reader suggested it is a buffalo bur.

dry tankAt the end of a hot summer, a dry tank is a common sight.  This could be called a water hole.  But when they are dug by bulldozers, everyone in Texas refers to them as tanks.

Our drought has hit 65 days in a row with no rain.  I’m hoping we don’t hit a new high.

drywillowHere’s a native willow in a dry creek.

nestBird’s nest easily seen in a leafless tree.

oaktreeLive Oak and some cedars up close.

poisonoakPoison oak vine growing up a tree trunk is mixed in with other dead vines.

topilloIn the spring purple and white flowers with prominent yellow stamens will replace these yellow pods on the Trompillo (Solanum elaeagnifolium).  This is also known as Horse Nettle or Silverleaf Nightshade.  The pods last for months.

As a child, my sister and I gathered these and mixed them with other weeds to make what we called “chow-chow”.  I don’t even know if we had ever eaten that relish or not.  I think we just liked the name.  Do kids today do that kind of make-believe playing?  Does that question make me sound like an old fogey?  That’s just rhetorical.

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.”  Dr. Seuss