In Memory of Sam Jolly

Sam Jolly – 1969-2022

Our chapter was sad to learn that one of our long-time friends and member of our most recent 2020 graduating class, Sam Jolly, passed away on April 13.

Sam attended our meetings for many years before joining a class. He was always there to help his friends and neighbors with lifting objects, driving at night, or getting up and down the stairs when we met at the old church basement.

While he had many challenges from brain tumors that affected his memory for the past few years, he was always cheerful about them and didn’t let them stop him from learning, participating in activities, and helping out in any way he could.

As recently as last year, he built bee houses for our chapter that we gave away last year at an event we held at the Wildscape. He was always busy creating, teaching others, or photographing the world around him. You can see some of his photos on iNaturalist, and it’s worth taking a look. Some are just amazing.

Long-time friend Cindy Travis said:

Pipevine swallowtail near the end of its life, but still beautiful. Photo by Sam Jolly.

He had a good heart and we feel blessed to have had him close to us and our friends for most of his last years.

Cindy Travis, friend and former landlord

After moving from Milam County to be near his family for his last few months, Sam passed away. He has left his body to science. He was always generous that way.

Learn more about Sam and his life and family in his obituary. Please share your own thoughts, photos, and memories of Sam with Sue Ann at ecrmnsecretaryATgmail (figure it out) or in the comments, and she will add them to this post.

Here are some great pictures of Sam, most of which were sent to us by his son (as was the photo at top). We are grateful for more memories of our friend to enjoy.

A Long Overdue Chapter Event

by Sue Ann Kendall

Our Texas Master Naturalist chapter is finally getting back into the swing of things since the pandemic has given our county a bit of a break. We have held a class with in-person meetings and have enjoyed hybrid Chapter Meetings all this year as well.

One thing we’ve really missed for the past few years is celebrating our milestones. At our Chapter Meeting on April 14, however, we remedied that, and it sure felt good. Those of us who persevered for the past year got a second pin like we got last year for sticking with our volunteer duties and getting things done, in spite of COVID. Those in attendance all got to stand near each other and pose. It was good.

Chapter members grateful to be together and to have contributed our time and effort in service to the nature of Milam County.

We also celebrated milestones in our work. Eric Neubauer reached 500 volunteer hours (that’s a lot of spider observations!) and our current President, Carolyn Henderson, reached 250 hours. In addition, a number of us have re-certified as Texas Master Naturalists for the year 2022 by completing ten hours of advanced training and 40 hours of volunteer time. All we applauded and lauded, as well they should have been.

It’s been nice hearing speakers like Dr. Frank Summers speak to us in person, but it’s also great that those of us unable to attend for whatever reason can attend via Zoom as well. What great things technology has brought us!

We’ve also been able to have visitors again and getting to meet new people has been a highlight for this year, too. At our meeting we got to visit with Patricia Coombs, sister to one of our meeting hosts, Catherine Johnson. We also got to hang around with a fellow Master Naturalist, Mary Ann Melton, of the Goodwater Chapter in Williamson County. Many of us have seen or spoken with her before at conferences. Ah, conferences. Master Naturalists around the state and country are hoping to be able to attend our annual meetings this year.

Greetings to all of you out there enjoying your own volunteering, meeting, Zooming, and interacting with each other. It’s wonderful how nature and our love of learning brings us all together.

Spotting a Kinglet

by Pamela Neeley

I spotted a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet in the window feeder this morning around 10:00 am.  With the metal screen in the window, I can get within two feet of birds if I am extremely quiet.

A photo of a website image of the crown

This is the second time I have identified this bird. The first time he was flashing his psychedelic ruby crown, a few years ago. 

Female, photo of a web page

Today, this male was enjoying the sunflower seeds. They winter in Texas but do not nest here.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo. Here are a couple from the web.

More about the Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Sporty Sports and Dandy Lions

by Sue Ann Kendall

Here are two sets of thoughts in one post.

Sporty Sports

As I continue to monitor the new flowers that are blooming in northern Milam County, I’ve found a few interesting ones. You probably know that occasionally a plant will produce a flower that’s different from its usual form or color. These sports are how new cultivars can come about, especially if humans show up and start breeding them intentionally. Out here, though, they just show up and we enjoy them.

This is a Texas paintbrush Castilleja indivisa found on County Road 140 near Walker’s Creek.

Here’s my mandatory Wikipedia quote about sports in botany, in which I left the links in case you want to learn more:

In botany, a sport or bud sport, traditionally called lusus, is a part of a plant that shows morphological differences from the rest of the plant. Sports may differ by foliage shape or color, flowers, fruit, or branch structure. The cause is generally thought to be a chance genetic mutation.


The beautiful flower you see above was a pleasant surprise on my morning walk down the road in front of our property, where I was looking for new things and admiring the bluebonnets. What the heck is that yellow plant, I wondered? It looks like popcorn. When I got close, I was taken aback by how beautiful this sport of the normally orange-red flower was. I guess if I was a nursery owner, I’d have collected some seeds in a few weeks. Instead, I looked up more information and found that pale orange and yellow variations do occasionally occur.

Here’s now 99% of the native annual Texas paintbrushes, which are a parasitic plant, by the way, look where I live:

That looks more familiar!

The more I have been looking closely at my roadside wildflower friends, the more variations I’ve seen. Have you seen any of these? I know that the pink ladies/evening primroses Oenothera speciosa vary widely in their pinkness. We always have a patch of the whiter ones here. I’ve also run across a light purple bluebonnet Lupinus texensis that I found quite charming (more so than the burgundy ones), as well as a white Texas vervain Verbena halei, which I had never seen before.

You might call me paranoid, but I wonder if the reason there are so many variations in the colors of the flowers on that stretch of road is because of the chemicals sprayed every year on the field across the road (which is the only field in miles in any direction that’s managed using fertilizers and herbicides sprayed by an inaccurate plane). I’ll never know, but I have my suspicions, especially since tomatoes and peppers always die after the spraying. I’m pleased that this year they have winter rye or some silage thing that they don’t spray.

This is the field to which I refer. Apparently the chemicals do not bother the verbena.

Speaking of herbicides that I don’t use…

Dandy Lions

Someone on Facebook recently was complaining about how chemical companies always use the common dandelion as their generic image of an ugly weed that must be eradicated. We all know that you can eat the young leaves, make wine from the flowers, and dye using the roots, of course. They have many health benefits, from what I read. They are friendly lions!

They are also vitally important to our pollinators in the early spring. Last month, they were among the few blooming plants out there for the bees, tiny wasps, and butterflies to feed on. Until the rest of the flowers showed up, later than usual, they kept the beneficial insect population going. I was very glad to see so many healthy common dandelions out in my pastures.

This gal was also happy to see a dandelion.

But, have you noticed how many members of the dandelion family are actually out there in our fields, pastures, and yards? I have been greatly enjoying some of them, including the tiny weedy dwarf dandelion Krigia cespitosa, the shy smooth cat’s ear Hypochaeris glabra that spends most of its time tightly closed up, and the extra prickly one, prickly sowthistle Sonchus asper.

One more interesting thing about dandelions. I just discovered today, when I was researching which flowers I’ve been seeing were in the dandelion family, that what I called dandelions my whole life, and the only ones I saw as a child, were in fact false dandelions Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus, which is a member of the aster family. Now I know.

They are beautiful, anyway.


And while I’m here, I may as well share what else is popping up around here. I saw my first winecup and fleabane this week, and my first Englemann daisy, sikly evolvulus, and tie vines today (forgot to take a picture of the latter). My heart leapt for joy when I discovered I DO still have baby blue eyes on my property (someone “cleared brush”). For added pleasure to those with allergies, the black willows are blooming, too.

All I can say is keep looking down. You’ll see plenty to keep you entertained for hours. We live in a beautiful place, and have so much we can learn if we are observant!

There’s always something to see on a Texas country road in spring.

First Monarch Caterpillar

by Donna Lewis

The first tiny monarch caterpillar in my garden for this year! It is a first instar and very little. Of course, the only milkweed I have right now is pretty tiny also.

The photo is not the best, because the wind was really blowing the camera around.

Still, it’s pretty exciting to see the little thing that will grow up to be a magnificent monarch butterfly.

Reach for the stars, little one.