Wildflower interlude

First it starts with chickweed in the lawn. Chickweed amuses me - The flowers are little purple bunny faces and the buds are these tiny purple velvet dots not much larger than the tip of a crayon. Everyone wants to get rid of chickweed, but I love to see it as a reminder of my childhood, and one of the first harbingers of Texas spring.

Then come some wildflowers whose names I don’t know. By the side of the road comes a flower so tiny and so low it looks like a purple wash of color on the weeds. Another plants sends out clouds of lemon yellow blooms floating over the grass.

There is one plant that I am curious about. The flowers are deep cinnamon (I call it cinnabar) in color - darker than the grass. I wonder how the bugs can see such a dark color - does it have UV pigments that glow?

When spring is truly here, the gems of Texas wildflowers arrive: bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and evening primrose.

I have a deep emotional tie to the primroses. My great-grandmother called them buttercups, even though they are pink. I can remember as a child waiting for a bus with her - she picked a buttercup from the median and showed me the dab of yellow at the bottom of the cup. This was the butter that gave the buttercup it’s name. I call it primrose now, to distinguish from an all yellow buttercup. I just saw a yellow as butter buttercup the other day! The first one I’ve seen around here.

The primroses first form fat pink polka-dots on the side of the roads. Later they will put out so many blooms that they will form a grand carpet of different shades of pink in area closer to acres than inches.

Bluebonnets are almost trite in Texas. At first they hide - they are almost the same brightness as the grass, just blue rather than green. But once they get going they form patches of medium blue that is electric in intensity. In some areas of Texas and some weeks of the year, all you can see are bluebonnets to the horizon.

Indian paintbrush in my area is sadly disappointing. In east Texas, the color is an intense reddish-orange that goes amazingly well with the vibrant blue of the bluebonnets. Here the color is dusty, like the roadside dust has coated the flowers, and they come in dribs and drabs, instead of sheets.

This is where my area is at now - small patches of bluebonnets, primrose polka-dotting the grass, and the occasional paintbrush, with the early flowers fading away, and a few winecups and dandelions for variety. Later, as the tide of bluebonnets and primrose recede, we will have desert poppy and other late season wildflowers dot the verge. They too will disappear, as the heat and sun of Texas summer turns the grass to brown, and the natives to air conditioners.

Morning glories. They have just started to appear here on the roadsides. I saw some driving back from getting food. I was very excited. I love them. They’re actually my favorite flower. The ones I always see are about a size smaller than a demitasse teacup, and are faint lavender in color.

Also on the roadsides: Queen’s Anne’s Lace. My grandmother somehow used to “harvest” these flowers and transfer them to her garden, where she planted them in between other flowers. It’s gorgeous–my aunt carried some in her wedding. Delicate. White. Like little doilies. Lacy.

Cala lilies

Cala lilies

There are few wildflowers to be seen here on campus, since it is a campus; everything is manicured and carefully trimmed and outfitted with some sort of deep purple cone-shaped cluster flower, and dime-a-dozen pansies, and overblown white tulips. The only non-planned flowers I have seen are so small you overlook them - tiny white and purple and yellow star-shaped flowers growing in tiny patches among the clover.

At home in New York, the daffodils are always first. You know it’s spring when the daffodils bloom. After them come the daisies and their bright golden cousins, the black-eyed susans; the buttercups (always tiny and yellow; I’ve never heard primroses called by that name); the pale blue bachelor’s buttons on their sharp stalks on the edges of the cornfield. And my favorite wildflower, the lilies of the valley, with their delicate scent that’s just barely detectable when you’re standing up. You catch a hint of the aroma on the wind, and look down, and kneel to breathe it in deeper. It’s like fairies’ perfume. And the voilets that so often grow around the lilies, offsetting the little white bells with a deep purple velvet background.

Late spring is when the lilacs blossom. A wedding in May or June should have lilacs, fresh-picked from a wild tree. They fill the air with their beautiful scent and fill your eyes with their clusters of white, purple and plum-colored blossoms.

Dandelions. I don’t care if they are a “weed”; I don’t care how many peole hate them. Dandelions are simple and innocent, and they are f—ing beautiful.

Zyada, I agree completely. Right now, the slopes next to the highways are positively festooned with wildflowers, and they are ineffably beautiful. When I move, I want to find out if I can get some of these flowers to grow in PA. They’re just too beautiful not to miss.


For Zyada, and others who appreciate wildflowers; and life.

From: “Gulf Coast Highway”, written and sung by Nanci Griffith:

Highway 90
The jobs are gone
We tend our garden
We sit in the sun
This is the only place on earth
blue bonnets grow
Once a year they come and go
At this old house here by the road
And when we die we say, we’ll
catch some blackbirds wing
Then we will fly away to Heaven come
some sweet blue bonnet spring

went camping and did a wildflower walk in the sierra foothills, near placerville. saw over 30 different kinds, douglas lupine, miniature lupine, baby blue eyes, blue dicks, vetch, shooting stars, woodland stars, kelloggs monkey flower, boyzinia, popcorn flower, miners lettuce (white and pink), larkspur, mules ears, wild violets, and lots lots more i cant remember. yay!

So few wildflowers here. Perhaps, after heavy rains, maybe the desert will bloom with tiny flowers long dormant in seeds under the sand.

Otherwise it is grown/artificially introduced flowers only. But some start to sprawl in a wild way, like flame-pink bougainvillea, its green leaves becoming fuschia at the end of its tentacles, and when it flowers there is a tiny white flower inside the pink leaves (=false flowers).

And the tiny white flower has ten petals, you could remove half of them such that it would either be a pointy star, or a rounder flower with heart-shaped petals, so do the petals alternate.

yarrow- attracts ladybugs
will survive heat or cold

We don’t have yarrow growing wild but my mom grows it in the herb garden at home. She cuts it, dries it and hangs it in the kitchen - says it keeps the flies away or something. She also grows lavendar, which doesn’t keep flies away but sure does smell nice when she dries it and brings it inside. And thyme, which makes your every footfall fragrant when you crush the little blossoms while you walk.