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  • Archive for the ‘Wildflowers’ Category

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    Spiranthes odorata

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    Castilleja purpurea, purple paintbrush

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    Wild onion flowers

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    New trail

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    Where the old trail was…

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    On Good Friday we drove up to Ft. Worth for the Easter weekend. We got up early and made good time, stopping just twice to change and feed Forest. Always in a Tex-Mex mood when I hit the DFW area (because, seriously, Houston doesn’t compare to Tex-Mex in DFW) we went to Mexican Inn on East Lancaster in Ft. Worth, my parent’s old stomping grounds growing up. It was only a hop and skip across the road to Tandy Hills and I wanted to scope out the wildflowers. Unfortunately we were a few weeks early for a peak wildflower bloom there, but we did see a few purple paintbrushes and other small wildflowers on the prairie there. Our hike was short lived as Zoe opted for returning to the car not long after we arrived. It was a nice breath of fresh air, though, and a stretch of our legs as we had spent so much time in the car that morning.

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    Here in Texas most of the major wildflowers that are seen earlier in the spring, bluebonnnets and paintbrushes, have faded for the most part. In their place a plethora of other wildflower have taken over, such as these prickly poppies. Their white tops dot the landscape of many fields around the area and the flower is quickly becoming one of my favorite wildflowers. Over the weekend Chris and I went to Lake Somerville State Park in the Nails Creek Unit for a camping trip. You may remember that we went hiking on the Somerville Trailway there last November with our AT friend Red Hat.

    Chris and I didn’t hike 9 miles this weekend, probably about 7 miles total the entire weekend. I wasn’t sure how well I’d hold up doing some miles on the trail with a nearly six month pregnant belly, but it wasn’t too bad. Aside from stopping to pee behind a bush more often, I felt great! We kept our hiking to mornings or evenings, though, avoiding the afternoons where the temperatures are starting to get into the low 90s these days. We’re quickly hurtling towards summer…and frankly, I’m worried about a repeat of the 2011 drought. Though, technically most of Texas has been in an extended drought for a decade with some years, and areas, worse than others.

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    The carolina larkspur, Delphenium carolinianum, were gorgeous, though they weren’t in the quantity that other wildflowers were in.

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    One of the more interesting finds was what seemed to be a locally distinct population of Gaillardia that were strictly red. Initially we thought they were restricted to the main area of the campgrounds but we saw them spread out along the trailway for several miles. I don’t think they are a …. err, oh, hey, looks like they are Gaillardia amblyodon.

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    It was really cool to see this different species of a genus that I really love.

    In all, it was a great weekend of camping, particularly at a state park with a lot of hiking accessibility.

    Clematis crispa

    clematis pod

    It wasn’t until we moved to Texas that I discovered the awesomeness of native clematis species. We encountered this species while working Big Thicket National Preserve two years ago and since then we’ve become enamoured with the plant, looking for them in nurseries we visit. Ours is growing well on a trellis in our garden having put on blooms multiple times this summer. The bottom photo is from a seed pod we found in the Big Thicket. In Texas the species is located in moist areas in the southeastern section of the state, while the similar appearing Clematis pitcherii is found in the central and western portion of the state in mostly upland areas. That should help with identification problems if out in wild habitat.

    Another interesting clematis in the state is Clematis texensis occurring in the Texas Hill Country. It can be easily found in Lost Maples State Park if you are looking in the right place and the Natives of Texas nursery has plants for sale, at least when we visited back in the spring, over in Kerrville.

    Most people who grow clematis tend to grow the more showy non-native and hybrid varieties, but there’s something to be said for the species that are native to the United States.

    Do you grow any clematis species?

    Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri

    Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri

    Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri

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    I have to admit, I’m a huge fan of Gaillardia. Commonly it is known as Indian blanket or fire wheel however, I like to refer to it by its genus. This genus is relatively hands off in regards to fussiness; plant it and it thrives. You may see the more commong Gaillardia pulchella or aristata and even aestivalis, but other varieties such as this one are more rare. This particular species is endemic to southeast Texas—only. Here are a couple of interesting links in regards to its history.

    In our garden we, like always, had to fend off the deer and hope for the best. When the plants were finally established well they really took off, overtaking some of the adjacent vegetation. Blooms kept coming all summer long and it was a pollinator festival out there on the bloom—bees were all over it, especially mason bees!

    Calyptocarpus vialis

    Calyptocarpus vialis

    Calyptocarpus vialis

    Calyptocarpus vialis

    Calyptocarpus vialis

    Horseherb, aka: straggler daisy, is an interesting kinda-sorta native plant. You see, we have some *in* our flower garden from a pot that we bought, and where we bought it from called it native. It wasn’t long after we bought it that I actually paid attention to the grass around my yard and noticed that the same plant grew throughout the yard, intermingled with the grass and other weeds. It had been on my mind for awhile to check the plant out online and follow-up with digging more information on it, and finally a few weeks ago I actually looked it up. I had a suspicion that perhaps it wasn’t native afterall, especially since it was hanging out in the lawn.

    And like I said, it’s a kinda-sorta native plant. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center calls it a native as does the Native Plant Society of Texas, however the USDA considers it introduced. What a conundrum!

    A quick Google search yielded this this interesting paper discussing a bit more in depth the native status of the plant. My county isn’t listed as containing the plant though it is most definitely here. Likely if it is in my yard it is in other people’s yards, and who knows about natural areas.

    As for other people and their congeneality towards it, there’s a love/hate vibe that runs through gardeners. Some folks love it because it creates nearly evergreen mats that are shade tolerant. To be honest, I do like the look that is presented of it taking over a section of a yard; low growing, green—no need to mow. Now, the opposite of these folks are the haters, who think it’s an evil foe. And I see their point too—the pot I planted in my garden readily spreads and I have to trim it back frequently to keep it in the spot I want it in. In all honesty, I think it needs to move somewhere else where it can spread a little more and keep me from trimming it once a month.

    So, horseherb…a weed to some, and others an interesting native plant.

    What do you think? Do you grow horseherb?

    Echinacea purpurea

    Echinacea purpurea

    Echinacea purpurea

    Echinacea purpurea

    Echinacea purpurea

    Echinacea purpurea

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    Echinacea purpurea

    Echinacea purpurea

    The purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, has been a tricky plant to grow in my garden. The deer love it! I don’t know how many times it has been chowed down on by those feisty rascals, but it took all summer and just in the past few weeks have the bloom stalks survived being eaten long enough to actually produce a bloom. We started these plants from seeds that I received from my mom. Pass along seeds and plants are the best as they always have some sort of story or memory attached to them. It probably would have helped if we hadn’t planted the flowers front and center along the pathway, as if to entice the deer outright and instead had put them further back into one of the flower beds. Oh well!

    In Texas the plant is only native to extreme northeast Texas, and is more common in the eastern portion of the United States. There are other echinacea species I’d like to try to grow eventually, but I have a feeling they would be tasty to deer, too. If I can get this patch growing well, I’d like to add another patch or two in other locations in the garden as I think they would be prolific bloomers through the growing season.

    Do you grow any echinacea species in your garden?

    Bidens laevis

    Bidens laevis

    Bidens laevis

    Bidens laevis

    Bidens laevis

    Bidens laevis

    Bidens laevis

    Bidens laevis

    A couple of weeks ago I was on the Native Plant Society of Texas webpage and somehow came across Texas Native Plant Week. The Texas legislature signed the week into law in 2009 and this week for praising Texas native plants has been going on now for several years. I’m sure there are events associated with this week, however I thought it would be fun to cover native plants in my yard and garden currently growing over the next seven days. I’ve got a great list of them and this week we’re going to start with Bidens laevis.

    Last year was our first autumn in this house and that’s of course when I realized we had them growing down by our pond. An obligate wetland plant, a pond edge or wetland is where you will likely find this plant growing. Ours are growing amongst the non-native elephant ears, Colocasia esculenta, which line the pond where we live. The leaves of B. laevis, commonly known as smooth beggartick, have tricked me while weeding, seeming to resemble another wetland plant we have down there—that the name has escaped from me—but I had to be careful a few weekends ago when I was trying to clear out some of the vegetation along the pond in order not to remove the beautiful, sunny smooth beggartick.

    Having this plant around the edge of the pond is certainly something to look forward to each autumn, almost as exciting as waiting for the goldenrod to bloom. Yes, I am a plant nerd—excited about the seasonal blooms around the area! Autumn is almost as prolific at flower production as spring, the last bit of nectar for the pollinators before winter as well as to assist the migratory species on their way south.

    Another similar species in this niche is the swamp sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius.

    Do you garden with natives?

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    We were driving down a two lane, very rural road in central Arkansas having just left Petit Jean State Park and Chris was intent on finding either Lilium superbum/Turks cap lily or Lilium mixhauxii/Carolina lily. I had a vague idea of what they looked like, lily-like you know, but having not recently seen a photo I had no idea for sure.

    So, here we are driving along and looking at farm after farm with very tiny towns interspersed in between looking in roadside ditches as we got 60mph down the road. We slowed a couple of times for trumpet creeper and orange daylilies to get a better look only to find out they were trumpet creeper and orange daylilies. Then I spotted this patch of lilies which made us turn around, park the truck on an abandoned driveway entrance and walk over in the knee high and very itchy grass in the right-of-way and start taking photos.

    I think maybe five cars passed by us while we were taking photos and Chris grabbed what we thought at the time was potentially the purple seed pods but now I know they are bulbils. Since neither of us had any kind of field guide with us we had to wait until we got to our hotel room that evening to look it up on the internet.

    Chris dug in and start looking around feeling confident about the plants still being the Carolina lily or the Turks cap lily but he said he thought the seed pods didn’t match. That gave me an idea that perhaps they were Asian tiger lilies instead, the more common cultivated garden plant. I then got online and dug around and looked at the leaf structure of both the Carolina and Turks cap and they did not match our plants. Flowers were similar, yes, but leaves, no. Next I went for seed pods and up came a photo of exactly the plant we saw and it turned out to be….the Asian tiger lily, Lilium lancifolium. Darn!

    Oh well, at least we took photos and had a little adventure! Now that I know kind of what the other two look like I will definitely know the difference next time. And it was a beautiful plot of plants!

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