Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for February 4th, 2013

Lindheimer’s senna pods

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Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

In a comment a few days ago about the little leaf mysteriously stuck on the spines and glochids of a prickly pear cactus, Ken Bello suggested it was the work of extra-terrestrial aliens and he asked if I’d seen any pods in the vicinity. Actually I had, but they were from a native plant called Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, a species that until now has been alien to this blog but not to the world of nature in Austin, where I often see it. What I haven’t seen, and hope I never do, is any of the peas in these pods waiting for me to fall asleep so they could take me over, à la the 1956 movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Ferdinand Jakob Lindheimer for whom botanists have named this species of senna was a stranger in a strange land, one of many Germans who emigrated to Texas in the 1800s. In his case it was to escape retribution after his support for an insurrection in Frankfurt in 1833. The Germans who fled following the failure of that attempt for political reform came to be known collectively as Dreissiger, which we can translate loosely as ‘[18]30s guys.’ Lindheimer spent time first in Illinois and then in Vera Cruz (Mexico) before moving to Texas, where he ultimately became “the father of Texas botany because of his work as the first permanent-resident plant collector” in the state. The house where Lindheimer lived in New Braunfels still exists and is occasionally open to visitors, of whom I’ve been one.

For a change (especially if you followed the links in the text) you’ve gotten a bigger dose of history than of botany, but variety is the species of life. And I’m not bluffing when I say that, like the last few photographs, this one came from a bluff above Loop 360 near the aptly named Bluffstone Dr. in northwest Austin on January 23.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2013 at 6:18 AM

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