Onion Creek – Take Me To The River

The recent Blanco River flooding has been in the news. Our little part of the Hill Country will be dealing with the Blanco Flood and its aftermath for a long time. While we’re still grappling with the tragic loss of life and the devastation to property, I’d like to share that the heavy rains did some good too.

Onion Creek has been very low until recently. Some section were dry. No more though. Now every part that I’m able to see as I drive around the area has plenty of water in it.

Halloween of 2013 was a different story though. Then it was Onion Creek’s turn to flood and cause much devastation. Now is a much happier time for the creek.

These two photos were take from the same bridge in Buda. The first view is roughly to the south and the second is on the other side, to the north. The creek has plent of water in it and I’m sure the wildlife appreciates it.

Onion Creek

Onion Creek

In this view, the water is a bit deeper and flowing well.

Onion Creek

Onion Creek

The creek is fed by a combination of rainfall and springs. That’s why it will be dry in sections and then a little downstream it will have water again. In addition, some of the creek water goes into the limestone formation called karst, directly into the Edwards Aquifer. When the flow is low, that can cause the creek to run dry for a distance.

The health of Onion Creek has a direct and very visible impact on our local ecosystem. I’m glad it’s doing well.

Wildflowers: Susans And Blankets

Black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are one of my favorite wildflowers and they’re blooming right now.

These are in large patches in my front yard. I mowed yesterday, but left them standing. I also mowed around some antelope horn so the yard looks kind of funny, but presentable. Having a funny-looking yard is the price you pay for being a master naturalist.

Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans

Black-eye susans are biennuals which means they take two years to complete the flowering cycle. Beside being pretty, they’re very beneficial. The bees and butterflies like their nectar and birds like their seeds. They are also medicinal although you probably won’t ever need that.

Like most wildflowers, they are not picky about the amount of light they get. The one we have are in full sun most of the day, but they will also grow in shaded areas. You can see them all around our road sides right now.

They grow quite tall, over a foot. I lay on the ground to get a view you don’t normally see. They look like giants.

Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans

Indian blankets (Gaillardia pulchella) are another wildflower in bloom right now. They are also known as firewheels which is a great name. They are one of the major prairie wildflowers and are annuals.

These are also in my front yard. You can see a small butterfly, I think it’s a skipper, sitting on one. The petals come in groups of three and are red at the base, becoming yellow at the end. Sometimes the petals are solid red or yellow, but I’ve never seen that. I’m always on the lookout for unusual variations.

Indian Blankets

Indian Blankets

Like all our native wildflowers, the black-eye susans and indian blankets are well-adapted and require no care. Even though these are in our front yard, we do nothing to care for them, except for not mowing them down. That’s easy to not do!

Yuccas

We have several yuccas in our yard and they are blooming right now.

Here are three in our side yard which are blooming at the same time. You can see an old stalk from last year’s flowering.

Yucca Stalks and Blooms

Yucca Stalks and Blooms

I’m not sure exactly what yucca they are. Yuccas are members of the agave family and there are many genera and species.

The plants are normally the short round mass of leaves you can see at the base. When they are preparing to bloom, they grow a tall central spike which will have many flowers.

I usually see the young stalks chewed down by deer and we have many deer in our area, but they didn’t get to these stalks. I think it’s because they have plenty of other food available to them, given all the rains we’ve had.

Here’s a closeup of the main plant, which I thought would look nice in black and white. The strong geometric lines formed by the thin leaves are nice. The main plant is also covered by fine hair-like fibers which come off the leaves. You can make ropes from the fibers.

Yucca Plant

Yucca Plant

Here’s a close up of the flowers. Most are not open yet and some are partially open. The big one is completely opened though.

Yucca Flowers

Yucca Flowers

Here’s a tiny yellow mushroom I noticed growing in one of our flower pots. It looks kind of lonely, but if you look closely, you can see others in the picture. The mushroom is about 1/2 inch tall.

Tiny Mushroom

Tiny Mushroom

Backyard Delights

My backyard this year has been an unending source of delight.

I’m not an avid gardener, far from it, so everything in my backyard has to do well by itself. I think of it as a form of tough love. What this translates into is many natives, a few that we’ve planted and many that find their way in.

We do have a few landscape plantings and a particularly beautiful specimen of Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) just outside our bedroom window. The plant is about 6 feet tall and about 4 feet in diameter. It’s got a great round form. Right now it’s covered in green foliage but earlier this year, before it leafed out, it was covered in many pink flowers. The flowers have four petals but they’re not evenly distributed. The long filaments seem to arc toward the ground before turning back up, topped by a shiny little red or black knob. I think they look amazing.

Mexican Buckeye Flowers

Mexican Buckeye Flowers

Here’s an example of a native plant that just moved in to the backyard, or perhaps it’s always been there. It’s a Wild Garlic (Allium canadense), or that’s my best guess. The plants grow in fairly thick bunches and have tiny pink or white flowers. These are covered in tiny raindrops.

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

Finally, here’s a photo of something. I have no idea what it is. It’s a low-growing ground cover and by anyone’s definition, it’s just a weed, but I think it looked beautiful in the rain and that it would look very nice in black and white. What do you think?

Just Weeds

Just Weeds

Beauty Ephemeral

Flowers present an ephemeral beauty which I find fascinating on both fronts. First, why do humans find them beautiful? Second, their quick passing, sometimes lasting only a few hours, is beautiful in itself.

The flower’s beauty is almost a complete side-effect of their biological purpose. I can see why the pollinators would be attracted to them since they’re part of the plants reproductive system. This is the old story about the birds and the bees. Why do we find beauty in them though? Flowers evolved long before humans were on the scene. I also doubt that the birds and bees see them in exactly the same way we do. Maybe the best answer is that we too are part of nature and not everything has to have a clear cut explanation. Even if their beauty to humans is an accident, that’s good! What a happy accident.

I took this photo with my phone camera. I don’t know what the plant is, so any identification help is greatly appreciated. They almost look like prickly poppies, but I’m familiar with the ones in central Texas. These were shot southeast of San Antonio, so maybe they’re a different kind of prickly poppy. The flowers were quite large, about 4 inches in diameter.

Please leave a comment if you know what it is!

Unknown White Flowers

Unknown White Flowers

This is an iris in our backyard landscape, taken almost from directly above the flower. I love the trilateral symmetry, the color combination of white, maroon and gold, and the patterns.

These only lasted a few days. That brings in the ephemeral nature. I like how it is a basic part of photography. Any photograph captures a single moment, never to be exactly repeated. It reminds us to appreciate every moment. Ephemeral indeed.

Backyard Iris

Backyard Iris