Queen of the blue mistflowers

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Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog, and so now we can compute just how long “a while” is.

Of course, this picture was taken several months earlier when I was fooling around with a different camera and lens, and trying to transfer learning between one of two systems (in alphabetical order: Canon and Nikon) without recourse to written instruction. This picture appeared on at least one Native Plant Society of Texas blog, and reappears in these pages because it is quicker and easier than processing some other photo.

Sad to say, the result shown here was probably more a matter of luck than transfer of skill. But it is skill in choosing native plants appropriate to the region that results in the Queen (Danaus gilippus) and Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies that have been seen recently. I did manage to get a shot of the Monarch, but haven’t gone after the Queens yet – it has been windy, and they rarely stay still for long. Why a Monarch is in my neck of the woods in mid-July seems to be one of those outliers to the norm mysteries for which the answer may never be known for sure.

And so it goes – Asclepias tuberosa and friends

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Asclepias tuberosaThis is the native milkweed that the Monarch butterflies use as a food source in both the larval and adult stages, though in the larval stage it consumes the leaves, and in the adult phase it consumes only the nectar, but may leave behind little eggs that hatch into caterpillars.

The nursery trade typically only has Asclepias curassavica, commonly known as Tropical milkweed, which can be distinguished from tuberosa by the colors of its flowers, which include both red and orange.Monarch butterfly

I was at a local demonstration garden near where I live, and observed a large number of plants that were definitely yellow, along with a few that were the red and orange  A. curassavica species. They even had a few Monarchs visiting, although the southbound butterflies have been few and far between so far this season.

Larva - Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

Larva – Danaus plexippus (Monarch)

This past Friday, October 3, 2014, I found four Monarch larvae on the milkweeds in my front yard. In the cool of Saturday morning, I located one still on the milkweeds and one on a nearby rock, slowly moving towards some groundcover under the oak tree. Later that afternoon, someone came by who has been actively nurturing the caterpillars, and we found just one, on a milkweed, that was transplanted to their yard a few miles north.

And so it goes. Imagine how many more Monarchs would be around if large chemical companies had to include some sort of environmental impact statement in their marketing, such as :

For a Few Dollars More – improves crop yield by selectively killing native plants that are essential to the survival of certain insect species, including the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

Extinction Is Forever – The life of an insect may span less than a year, but the extinction of a species may echo through the years. Who knows what pests you may unleash by using a pesticide to upset the natural balance of your local ecosystems? Who cares as long as we get a positive growth in this year’s balance on the bottom line? Let the next generation of scientists and economists figure out the true costs of our actions today.

“And so it goes.”  (I think Kurt Vonnegutt said that fisrt.)


The force that through the green fuse drives the flower . . .

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Lygodesmia texana - Texas skeleton-plant

Lygodesmia texana – Texas skeleton-plant

Just as the name of this blog might remind you of Thomas Hardy’s novel The Return of the Native, perhaps the title to this post will remind you of the poem by Dylan. Dylan Thomas, of course. Or the photo might remind you of the title of the poem. One could also think of an oak tree as a slow explosion, with its mushroom cap shaped crown. But enough said. Click on the photo for a larger picture and meditate on the photo and the title together.

Seasonal post-bloom fine-feathered achenes

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Old man's beard (Clematis drummondii)

Old man’s beard (Clematis drummondii)

It’s getting on past halfway through summer and the Clematis drummondii are starting to show off their old man’s beards – which is interesting, since this plant has both male and female plants – the stamens are sterile on the female plants, and the stigma on the male plants are probably sterile too, I would guess – haven’t seen it documented anywhere yet.

Another common name for these flowers is Virgin’s Bower, or Texas Virgin’s Bower. Go figure.

Malvaviscus arboreus var drummondii – Turkscap

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Malvaviscus arboreus var drummondii - Turkscap

Malvaviscus arboreus var drummondii – Turkscap

Usually one sees this in “full” bloom, although the hibiscus-like flowers never do open up completely. However, the blooms are only just now beginning to show up, and you might miss this bud – if so, this bud’s for you.




Capsicum annuum – Chile Pequin

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 Capsicum annuum - Chile Pequin

Capsicum annuum – Chile Pequin

Hadn’t really looked at the tiny flowers of the Chile Pequin before, but here they are, with a slight touch of purple in them.

Off to the right is the fruit, which turns a bright shiny red when it has fully ripened. Easy to grow, withstands drought, edible, attracts nectar feeders when in bloom and birds after bloom has turned to fruit. Reseeds itself if allowed to.


Ratibida columnifera- Mexican Hat

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Ratibida columnifera- Mexican Hat

Ratibida columnifera- Mexican Hat

Also known as Prairie Coneflower,  this perennial also comes with yellow petals instead of the orange, brown, and yellow petals shown here.  In their native environment, they can form large colonies, sometimes interspersed with similarly colored Gaillardia pulchella Firewheel. Whether seen singly or en masse, it is singularly and strikingly sttractive. It is drought tolerant and can grow in a wide variety of soil types.

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