Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring in the Texas Hill Country

Having been born and reared in Houston where it is green year around, it took a while for me to truly appreciate the Texas Hill Country. Spring is the most beautiful time here because as summer progresses the landscape slowly turns brown since rain days are weeks and weeks apart. And, the white caliche reflecs the sun back up on you. Texas Hill Country is not a desert, but it is an acquired appreciation if you come from an area that has a lot of rain and stays green even in winter. :D

I decided, though, to capture this loveliest time in the Hill Country when I got sidetracked by Luc wanting me to throw his ball.

Luc's ball bounced into this patch of horehound. Horehound patches are very dense so I walked over to help him find it when I heard the bees. And much to my surprise, I realized horehound has the teeniest blossoms. I'd never noticed because usually I run over it with the riding mower. Ok, I'm kind of heartless at times.

Horehound is an herb and was used in the past in a syrup for chest colds and coughs, asthma, indigestion, and applied externally on minor abrasions and skin rashes.

I think the above is a nightshade, notice the five yellow stamens. It is also known as belladonna. The foliage and berries are very toxic. It has a long history of usage in cosmetics, medicine, poison and was used as a surgery anesthetic before the Middle Ages. I cannot help but wonder how many people made it through the surgery knowing what we know now. I read where several wives of Roman and assorted emperors were acquainted with this plant. :D However, see the agarita next to it? Those leaves are dagger points.

Agarita, though, has the sweetest smelling, yellow flowers in February and early March. By late April, red berries are on the bushes. Early Texans placed an umbrella or sheet under the agarita bush and shook the bush to gather the berries for jelly. Some people still make agarita berry jelly. I'm not one of them; but if I ever have an opportunity to try it, I would.

The above is called antelope horn milkweed which is a food for the monarch butterfly caterpillar. Bees seem to really like it, too, because there were usually two or three on each flower. I could only capture a photo with one bee; they would fly away before my ever-slow Coolpix would snap.

I think milkweed blooms are interestingly beautiful but can be poisonous to cattle and humans.

I do not know the name of the two wild flowers above but both brighten the landscape.

Here is mullein which has been a valued medicinal herb since antiquity. The leaves were used to treat wounds, sprains, were smoked to relive coughs and to treat lung diseases. The dried flower stalks were used as tapers to start a fire.

The above is wild lantana, but the foliage is poisonous to animals -- news to me -- which means I need to remove it from the house side of the yard fence. I can't have either of my two dogs munching on the leaves. I do get a cheery lift when I see the flowers.

Some people call the above johnny jump-ups and others call it a day lily. I like johnny jump-ups; it kind of makes my heart sing when I hear or say the name. Just a few drops of rain brings these babies into bloom. Even though we have had over 10 inches of rain this year, we still have not recovered from the dreadful drought last year. You can tell by the cracks in the ground that we still need rain. I bought some grass seed today to see if we can improve on our lawn which died last year because we only had about 11 1/2 inches of rain for the entire year!

This is a flower on a catalpa tree. Fishermen love this tree because it attracts the catalpa worm, a favorite food with fish. :D

Last, but not least, is the prickly pear cactus blooms. Aren't they magnificent? It has been a food staple in Mexico for centuries and is gaining popularity here as an exotic food. Hmmmm, maybe I should become a prickly pear cactus farmer! We have no shortage of prickly pear around here. After the bloom, a pear like fruit appears -- covered with thinner-than-hair spines, I might add. Jellies are made from the fruit. Again, one of those things I haven't tried, but if I ran across a jar, I'd probably buy it. :D

Where are the bluebonnets, you ask? I've only seen a few along side the road; I think last year's drought may have had some effect on them for this year. However, I have a few pictures taken in 2006. Unfortunately, the photos do not do justice to the magnificence in looking over a field of bluebonnets. The beauty takes your breath away, but give your imagination some freedom when looking at these pics. (Sorry if I mislead you because the prickly pear cactus was not last as stated.)

Until next time, God bless.


Donna said...

Lordy! How Pretty!!! Just noticed your use of essential oil, Oregano! I'll Try that!! I love trick tips like that!
And the house up on the hill in your last photo...looks like a house I see when we go to visit friends in Lake of highway 281...Beautiful!
Happy Saturday sweetie!!hughugs

Lynn said...

It looks like a castle, doesn't it?
I was on my way to see a friend; it was off Hwy 281, but it may have been on a county road going to Long Horn Caverns.

I love to use essential oils. When we got tile floors, I was told to not use anything but water. Well, that kind of went against my grain, so I decided to put oregano in the water to disinfect.

A happy Saturday to you too!

Crafty Sue said...

I am fascinated by your lovely post about these wild herbs and flowers.
I remember my grandma used herbs for medication but that was a very long time ago.
Happy Sunday to you!

Lynn said...

Thanks, Sue. Like you, I am facinated with wild herbs. I may try to concoct a mixture of horehound syrup, dry and crush the mullein leaves for a tea, and possibly make an arrangement out of the mullien stalks.

I have stacks and stacks of herbal remedies reference material tucked away in a closet. :D

SquirrelQueen said...

So beautiful, many flowers that I have not seen since I left the South. I did alot with herbs when I lived there but got out of practice. Do post more.

Lynn said...

Queen, I'm not too sure where you are but are these flowers bringing up wonderful memories of our warm weather? lol I must admit that if I were "in charge," I'd close Texas down the entire month of August. It is a little too hot.

I've exhausted my around-here wild herb knowledge for the time being, but I'll keep my eyes open in case I run across more. I've planted quite a few herbs in the Backyard Garden, a couple of blog entries down the list. I plan to pick up some horseradish roots soon and will plant garlic in the fall, both of which are very good for health maintenance.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. :D

Mary-Austin said...

Love the pictures of all the pretty Texas flowers! I love this time of year as well in Texas. Before it gets way too hot!

Lynn said...

Mary-Austin, I agree that spring is the very best time in Texas. But, I also like late fall and winter. Let's face it, our summers leave something else to be desired, like summers in the mountains. lol

astrogalaxy said...

This is a great post and I love your pictures. I don't know much about flowers and everytime I plant them, they die. So I gave up a couple of years ago. But I enjoy photographing them very much.

Lynn said...

Astro, I've not had much success with flowers or plants but am hoping that this year is different. lol Hope springs eternal, doesn't it.

Butterfly Gardener said...

I love all of your flower pictures. I've never got to visit the Hill Country, (We live in East Texas). I wanted to come and see the bluebonnets this year, but wasn't able to do so. Maybe next year...