After a very dry winter, my part of Texas has been under a fire watch for months. Our volunteer fire departments have been called out to fight numerous prairie fires because it has been so dry. We have had some rain during March and April but it has been non-uniform in distribution and well below what the area needs. Despite all the dryness, the wildflowers are beginning to appear.
In the image below, a Pearl Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos in the Nymphalidae family) is feeding on the nectar produced by the Yellow Spiny Daisy (Machaeranthera pinnatifida, family: Asteraceae). The Yellow Spiny Daisy is one of the first wildflowers I see in the spring and it helps feed the butterflies and bees that appear as the cold of winter recedes.
In the next image, another Pearl Crescent is busily harvesting nectar from an example of White Prairie Aster (Symphyotrichum falcatum, family: Asteraceae). This prolific little wild flower is found in dry, calcareous soils in large colonies during the west Texas spring. They feed numerous kinds of insects and butterflies.
In this image, you can see a yellowish butterfly feeding on a yellow spiny daisy. This butterfly may be an Orange Sulfur (Colias eurytheme, family: Pieridae) but I can’t say for sure because I never saw more than what you see here. This is one of the difficulties of using only pictures to identify species with complex physical characters, the chances for misidentification are large.
Below is a picture of a new species to me. Sandbells, as you might expect, like sandy soils. The place where I found this specimen had a rich mixture of sand and limestone. Nama hispidum, in the family Hydrophyllaceae, is a low lying plant with hairy leaves and five lobed tubular flowers. They make me think of Dakota Mock Vervain but their unlobed leaves and the painted centers of their larger bell-shaped flowers make them easily distinguished.
In this image, you can see Dakota Mock Vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida, family Verbenaceae). Notice how it is a more upright plant and its leaves are deeply lobed. Also its flowers are uniform in color at the center. These wildflower can be seen from February through December. They are a valuable nectar source for many insects and butterflies.
Scarlet Globemallow or Caliche Globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea, family: Malvaceae) is a springtime burst of orange colored blossoms. These dry tolerant flowers add a burst of color to an otherwise brown and drab grassland as the countryside wakes from its winter sleep. They are one of the species that I saw for the first time a couple of years ago and I enjoy them when they return each spring.
The prickly poppies are up in large numbers this year. This image is of a Bluestem Pricklypoppy (Argemone polyanthemos, family: Papaveraceae). This species produces tall plants with lots of prickly leaves and 4-5 inch diameter alabaster white flowers with a huge, central cluster of yellow anthers surrounding dark ended pistils. These are remarkable flowers when fresh, but thrips and other suctorial insects soon mar their flower petals with feeding spots.
All of these images were taken on the same photo-safari and are a subset of the 15 species I photographed that day. I love to see how life pursues its ends despite the dry conditions. It makes me wonder what this country looked like in the days before the plow. I am thankful that we have a variety of beautiful wild flowers still extant in this part of the world.