From the mountains, to the prairies…
While Austin has no oceans white with foam, it does have two closely related plants that turn white with bracts beginning in August. One of the plants flourishes in the “mountains” (we now call them hills) on our west side, so people grew accustomed to speaking of snow-on-the-mountain. That species, Euphorbia marginata, has made an appearance several times in this column: expectantly on August 1, disconsolately on August 27, wistfully for the two days after that, and with renewed hope on September 4 (and I hope you’ll forgive me for attributing emotions to the plant as it made its appearances here.)
In contrast to the land to our west, the east side of Austin is generally flat, and that’s where the other species, Euphorbia bicolor, mostly grows—and mostly in other years. Although 2011 has somehow managed to produce a good crop of snow-on-the-mountain, snow-on-the-praire has had a harder time in the drought. I’ve come across less of it this year than usual, primarily in the form of small and scattered plants. But on September 7 in the nature preserve adjacent to Travis County’s Southeast Metropolitan Park I was pleased to find the fairly large snow-on-the-prairie that you see flowering away here, and that seemed particularly vibrant when illuminated by the light of the morning sun in front of me.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman