Part 4 of 4 — A Texas wildflower adventure — Wildflowers — 2018-07-12 through 2018-07-15

One attraction of mine to west Texas was, of course, the stunning native orchid species that are found there. A side perk, though, was photographing the myriad other wildflower species as well as the unexpected wildlife that would insert itself, from time to time, in our presence. This is Part 4 of 4, and it includes the remainder of images that were not shown in the other 3 Parts of our Texas wildflower adventure.

I thought long and hard how to present these images and decided to just present them in some random order, because there was no good reason to group them in any other way.

So here goes…

After finishing our photography in the Davis Mountains, we headed back to Dallas, where we would catch our flight back to Greenville, SC. We had no sooner gotten on the road, when I spotted a flash of pink. Of course, I slammed on the brakes as I am wont to do in such a situation, and backed up the road until I was next to the pink flowers. Just so you know, this road is not frequently traveled, so I felt safe in doing so. I pulled off the road and gathered my camera gear. The sun was out brightly which is not the best of situations for wildflower photography, but it was what it was. Here is what I saw:

Skeleton plantSkeleton plant

This is Lygodesmia texana or Skeleton plant. I am clueless as to why it has that common name. Apparently it is common in most of Texas along the roadsides. I thought it was a very attractive wildflower.

Just down the road a bit from this wildflower, was a bright, scarlet orange group of Indian Paintbrush plants. Why I didn’t notice this one first, I don’t know – it was a very shocking color. In my attempt to identify the species, I have consulted several people “in the know” about such things, and they all were a bit unsure about its identity. What we all concluded was that it is Castilleja lindheimeri or Lindheimer’s Paintbrush. Whatever the name, it is a real beauty. BTW, Castilleja plants are parasitic. But, they are “mild” parasites and do not end up destroying their host plants. In addition, the colorful blooms that make it so remarkable are not actually the flowers. They are the leafy bracts surrounding the very inconspicuous and uninteresting greenish-white flowers at the very tip. Much like poinsettia, all the action is in the specially formed leaves. You can see this once you know what to look for, as the color shades back to green as you move down the stem. Here is that roadside specimen:

Lindheimer's Paintbrush

On another day in the Davis Mountains, Matt found another Paintbrush species which is not remarkable because of its beauty, but it’s remarkable because it barely comes into the U.S. from Mexico. It is found only in the extreme southwestern portions of Texas. It is called Castilleja mexicana or Mexican Paintbrush:

Mexican Paintbrush

Had Matt not pointed it out to me, I never would have noticed it nestled in the roadside grass.

OK, time for a rare critter. Actually, this species is endangered in Texas, and I think we were fortunate to find it. Of course, Caro was the one to spot it and its brother/sister. This is Phrynosoma hernandesi or the Greater Short-horned lizard. This bad boy (or girl) was only a few inches long, and I apologize for the lack of clarity of the image, but I was trying to capture the image as the critter scurried along a downed, Ponderosa Pine log:

Geater Short-horned lizard

Some of the scenery in the Davis Mountains is just fantastic. With the monsoon rains, comes plentiful grasses in the valleys between the mountains. Here is a shot taken from a roadside pull off near the McDonald Observatory:

Verdant grassland valley in the Davis Mountains

Speaking of the McDonald Observatory, here are two shots taken on the approach along Hwy. 118 which passes through the Davis Mountains:

western flank of the McDonald Observatory

eastern flank of the McDonald Observatory

These three observatory structures are located on high points (Mt. Locke) along Hwy. 118 at an elevation of 6,790 feet (2,070 meters).

Shortly after passing McDonald Observatory, Matt pointed out a large patch of Proboscidea louisianica subsp. fragrans or Fragrant Devil’s-claw. The flower was rather large (about 2 inches or 5 cm wide) and very colorful. The 10-inch (25-cm) wide leaves made the plant easy to spot from the road:

Fragrant Devil's-claw

Interestingly, the fruit of this plant has very long, hook-like spurs which attach to the fur of passing animals, thereby spreading its seeds far and wide.

While on the trail where we saw the stunning Hexalectris grandiflora orchids (see Part 2), we passes a number of Penstemon barbatus or Beard-lip Penstemon with their ultra-bright-red flowers:

Beard-lip Penstemon Beard-lip Penstemon

Making it up that narrow, two-track Davis Mountains trail, we were lucky that Matt had brought his truck, because our rental car was just not rugged enough for the terrain. Here is a shot that Walter took of Matt and Caro getting their gear out of Matt’s truck:

Matt and Caro retreiving their gear from their truck

At one stop along the way in the Davis Mountains, Matt hoped for us to be able to see a perennial succulent plant called Echeveria strictiflora or Desert Savior aka Tail of the Dragon. This beauty has bright red flowers on curved scapes that are up to 24 inches (60 cm) long. The succulent rosette of bluish-green leaves at the base is about 10 inches (25 cm) wide, and those leaves are fleshy to the touch. In the overcast of the thunderstorms in the area at the time we photographed the plants, the flowers seemed to glow in the dark. Here are some shots of these plants:

Desert Savior or Tail of the Dragon

Desert Savior or Tail of the Dragon

Desert Savior or Tail of the Dragon Desert Savior or Tail of the Dragon

Here is a picture that Walter took of Matt and me setting up to photograph these plants:

Jim and Matt photographing Echeveria strictiflora in the Davis Mountains

The trail we were on, led to the foot of the 5th tallest mountain in Texas, Mt. Livermore. Here is a shot of that mountain from the trail:

Mt. Livermore in the Davis Mountains

Of course, we were looking for additional wildflower photographs to add to our collection. Here is a shot that Walter took of Matt and Caro scouting other plants for us to photograph:

Matt and Caro looking for more wildflowers for us to photograph

While they were doing their search, I found a pretty little pink/purple flower growing on the trail. After much discussion, we have decided that it is Glandularia bipinnitifida var. ciliata or Prairie Verbena. I had to wait until I got home to verify the name:

Prairie Verbena

I believe I mentioned earlier that we had visited Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) National Grasslands near the town of Decatur, northeast of Ft. Worth, Texas, where we photographed a couple of Milkweed species that were new to me. Well, we also found a number of other wildflowers that were also new to me. Here are some of them:

Left: Zeltnera species, probably Zeltnera beyrichii or Mountain Pink.
Right: Vernonia baldwinii or Western Ironweed. Can you find the praying mantis?

Mountain Pink Western Ironweed

Left: Oenothera glaucifolia or False Gaura
Right: Dalea multiflora or Roundhead Prairie Clover

False Gaura Roundhead Prairie Clover

And finally, Indigofera miniata or Scarlet Pea.

Scarlet Pea

Back to the Davis Mountains for a final group of images of a stunningly red Hummingbird “magnet” called Bouvardia ternifolia or Scarlet Bouvardia aka Firecracker Bush:

Firecracker Bush

Firecracker Bush

Firecracker Bush

I will leave you with a sight that still brings a smile to my face. Our friend, Gary Freeman, happened to mention the wild burros of the Davis Mountains region and asked if we had seen them. At that time, we had not. Seems that they were brought in to breed with horses to produce mules. These mules are very sturdy and resilient and were used to help clear the land of trees and rocks for agriculture. Later, many of the burros were just let go and became feral. Those in the Davis Mountains have been fed by the locals and are almost tame. In fact, several of them came up to our vehicle, probably looking for a handout.

On our way back out of the mountains, we did see them. Here is a shot of a group of them beside the road. Since I was driving at the time, Walter took these shots:

Wild burros in the Davis Mountains, Texas

Friendly burro in the Davis Mountains, Texas

This brings to an end our Texas wildflower adventure. I have to thank Matt Buckingham and Carolina Paez for guiding us on this trip. Without their help, it would have been impossible for us to locate and photograph the wonderful array of wildflower species we saw there. In addition, they were wonderful companions. I am also grateful for my Flickr friends, Sonnia Hill and Mark Egger for their help in identifying some of the wildflower species we photographed. It goes without saying that I’m indebted to Michael Eason for his comprehensive book, Wildflowers of Texas, which we used as a guide while in the field. I highly recommend purchasing this book if you have any intention on seeing the wildflowers of Texas.

On another note, things are popping on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina as I write this. I hope to get up there very soon to record the explosion of wildflowers.

Stay tuned…

–Jim

7 comments


  • sonnia hill

    This a great group of wildflowers. The Bouvardia ternifolia is my favorite. The red color just seems to melt and glow at the same time. Your photos are so, so beautiful.
    The scenery looks like you could be in the plains of Africa.
    Bravo, Jim.

    July 20, 2018
  • Bob & Amy

    This is like “Days of Our Lives” … one can hardly wait for the next installment. Terrific as usual Jim, thanks for blogging.

    I share your fascination with milkweeds. Have you considered the unique feature that Asclepias shares with only one other plant family ?? Milkweeds and orchids are the only flowers with aggregated pollen … who knew.

    We’re soon off to SERC … we’ll miss you guys.

    Bob

    July 20, 2018
  • Greg Peters

    Jim, I am always amazed at the hard work you put into your work and the results you get. Your Texas stories were informative as well as beautiful. Thanks for brightening my day!

    July 20, 2018
  • Mary Beth Oles

    What a great adventure! I thought I was right there with you. So enjoy your blogs.
    Thank you Jim

    July 20, 2018
  • Ann McCormick

    I want to go to Texas now!

    July 20, 2018
  • It’s enormous that you are getting thoughts from this paragraph as well as
    from our argument made here.

    July 28, 2018
  • Cathy Bloome

    Fantastic photos Jim! I need to get to Texas one of these days.

    August 04, 2018

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