Wildflowers on the Back Roads

by Michelle Lopez

I went on a field trip to the Leach Teaching Gardens at Texas A&M and saw some burgundy bluebonnets (genetically altered). I’m not sure what to think about that, being from Austin and a UT fan…

I decided to take the back roads coming back to Cameron so I could stop along the way and take pictures of wildflowers. Several times I saw flowers, then had to find a safe place to pull over and hike back to the flowers to get pictures.

Hairyflower Spiderwort

It was worth it, I saw flowers that I’ve never seen before and huge pastures of flowers, it was so beautiful. I continue to be amazed at the beautiful things of nature that are everywhere around us.

Drummond’s Stitchwort

You really just need to take the time to stop and see the small things.

What’s Blooming (and other things) along the Highways and Byways of Milam County?

by Carolyn Henderson

Spring bloomers are out in force this week. In two quick roadside stops, I found 17 interesting bits of nature, and 14 of them were native flowers. I was headed to the ECRTMN Birds and Bees Wildscape, but got sidetracked, so I thought I would see what’s blooming instead.

Fantastic shot of this vesper sparrow!

It started near the wildscape where I photographed a Vesper Sparrow, which is more common in New Mexico and Arizona than Texas, but it’s here. And then I found a Wild Turkey running down FM 334. I got one picture of it before it jumped/flew/ran from me.

Turkey time!

Via Rockdale, I went down Spur 77 toward Cameron. There are lots of Texas Bluebonnets out and Texas Paintbrushes are starting to come up. Southern Dewberries are in profuse bloom. If there are no more freezes this spring, there should be plenty of dewberries. I also found Wood Sorrels, Sword Leaf Blue-eyed Grass, Tenpetal Anemones and Imported Red Fire Ants in very large ant hills.

Moving on to Hwy 36/190 headed east past the Y, I found Eastern Redbuds still in bloom but changing over to leaves, Texas Toadflax, Drummond’s Phlox, Slender Vetch, Narrowleaf Puccoon, Hairyfruit Chervil, Texas Prairie Parsley and Groundsels.

There is an array of colors on the highways and byways of Milam County. In another week or two I suspect wildflowers in a massive bloom (assuming no late freeze). I hope you can take a drive to enjoy it.

Posting all these on iNaturalist has given me a new quest – to figure out where they get these names! I mean “Hairyleaf Puccoon?” “Texas Toadflax?”  Almost every plant was picked up by Plants of Texas in iNat, so they are native.

Finally, love is in the air. There is a Mockingbird across the street from my office admiring and attempting to attract this other bird (him) reflected in the window. I’m amused. He’s frustrated.  


More Signs of Spring

by Carolyn Henderson

Flowers are not the only signals that spring is here. Today (March 12) a very cold front is moving in, but yesterday, Thursday, March 11, was sunny and warm, and that brought out some frolicking squirrels and some sun-bathing Red-eared Sliders. These two were observed at lunch time at Orchard Park in Cameron. There were ten or so squirrels playing chase all over the park while the turtles lifted their heads toward the sun. 

I also found an Eastern Redbud in full bloom in my neighbor’s yard. I also have Henbit Deadnettle growing in large blooming clumps in my yard, but so does everyone else, it seems. 

I hope spring is here to stay after this cold front.

Signs of Spring: Northern Milam Edition

by Sue Ann Kendall

Like many of our Chapter members, I always get excited when there are indications that maybe we’ll stop getting frozen participation, then heat, then cold, and over and over. Spring flowers give me hope. In the past couple of days, both Donna Lewis and Linda Jo Conn have shared flowers from different parts of Milam County. I’d already been thinking of writing a similar post, but they got there ahead of me. Or did they? We can all get into the search for spring!

It might be interesting to see what kinds of flowers are blooming just a bit north of where they observed (near Gause, and in Cameron). Plus, I needed to get outside for my nature fix.

I’ve always found henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule) pretty. Here it’s encouraging the other flowers, like the field madder, to get blooming.

I had intended to spend 20 minutes outside taking photos, but I ended up wandering around for an hour. It had been raining, so some of my specimens didn’t look too great. All the storksbills were bedraggled, the anemones were missing petals, and the crow poison had their blossoms firmly shut. So, a couple of these photos are actually from last week. But the plants ARE blooming now!

I’m fond of the showy blossoms that eventually show up each year, but my secret love are the little bitty flowers. Tiny bluets make me especially happy, and this is a great year for them out in my horse pasture.

Of course, everyone is out looking for their first bluebonnets, which are already up in Austin, from what I hear. In northern Milam County, they are usually a bit later than in many places, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a bumper crop of them! This year will be no exception. I found beautiful leaf clusters holding raindrops in their centers, a few buds, and one just starting to bloom. I predict some great smells in the upcoming weeks!

It’s fun to see how the cold weather affects the new leaves on some of the plants, like this prickly sowthistle. I didn’t get any photos of it, but the dewberries have bright red leaves right now, too. Everything will get back to normal soon.

There are also some dandelions and field madder hiding in here with the prickly sowthistle (Sonchus asper). Notice the water droplets. I just noticed on iNat that this plant is even found in Hawaii. Those seeds stick to stuff!

I’d have a photo of my native plum tree, but it was too muddy to get to the reclusive shrubby tree. Maybe next week, if it’s still in bloom. I love those harbingers of spring, too. Some of the other plants I found were also shared by Linda Jo, but I love them so much that I can’t resist sharing.

So, fellow El Camino Real Master Naturalist Chapter members, what’s growing in your part of Milam County? No doubt that answer will be changing every day for the next few weeks. The weather will get nice one of these days, I know. Mother Nature has her own time clock.

Looking for Signs of Spring

by Linda Jo Conn

Is it just me or is spring behaving erratically this year?  I am so ready for some consistently warm days and swaths of colorful wildflowers brightening the roadsides!  

I did find some pleasant surprises during the past week.  On Monday, I had to go to Giddings, so I drove the back roads to check if the plum trees were in bloom.  No, but instead, I was delighted to find a couple of Drummond’s Phlox (Phlox drummondii).  

Drummond’s Phlox (Phlox drummondii)

Tuesday, I observed the swelling flower buds of the volunteer Eastern Redbud trees (Cercis canadensis) near my house.  

Eastern Redbud trees (Cercis canadensis)

While leaving the herbarium at College Station on Wednesday, I finally spotted several specimens of Carolina Crane’s-Bill (Geranium carolinianum) I have been monitoring in the “lawn” area in bloom.   

Carolina Crane’s-Bill (Geranium carolinianum)

Thursday evening before the new student’s class at the Episcopal Church, I did a little “belly botany” and found a large patch of Bird’s-eye Speedwell (Veronica persica) nearby. 

Bird’s-eye Speedwell (Veronica persica)

While in Cameron on Friday helping fellow Texas Master Gardeners arrange and display the native plant offerings for the annual plant sale, I noticed non-native Redstem Stork’s-Bills (Erodium cicutarium) blooming in the cracks in the sidewalk. 

Redstem Stork’s-Bills (Erodium cicutarium)

When I arrived home from Cameron on Saturday afternoon after the plant sale, I was elated to see my first bloom of Texas Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila phacelioides) for the year. 

Texas Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila phacelioides)

Sunday afternoon, I again drove to Cameron watch my eldest grandson perform at the Milam County Community Theatre.  After the play, among other tiny blooms in the lawn, I found Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis).  

Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis)

My “Let’s Get Outside! Challenge” for last week was to enjoy the approaching spring.  Despite my misgivings, I did, and am looking forward to seeing more pops of color appearing in the countryside.