Pink joins purple
When I went to the prairie in northeast Austin four days ago to photograph sunflowers, I found a dense group of bluebells some distance behind the sunflowers. Because I’ve seen bluebells growing in that part of town in other years, I was pleased but not surprised, except perhaps for how well the flowers were doing in the continuing drought. But surprise there was, and it came as I wandered away from the main colony of bluebells to look at some smaller groups of them; for then I came across another species that found sustenance on the floor of the sump: mountain pinks! In the photograph above, all the flowers and buds belong to a single mountain pink plant. The purple in the upper left of the picture is from the nearby cluster of bluebells in the background.
As the name mountain pink suggests, this plant is common in the Texas Hill Country that begins on the west side of Austin, where it can seem to grow right out of the limestone cliffs. Only once before had I found this species, Centaurium beyrichii, on the prairie side of town. That was in 2006, on US Highway 290, where a pioneering colony had sprung up. I photographed it several times then and I went back each year in May and June to observe and photograph yet again, until finally last year the site was destroyed during the construction that’s turning the highway into a toll road. A sad and familiar story: one more natural place gone. So let the newfound little group be this summer’s consolation.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman
(Look here for more information about Centaurium beyrichii, including a clickable map that shows where the species grows.)