Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Vernal pools at Enchanted Rock

with 43 comments

Enchanted Rock is known for its vernal pools, shallow depressions in the stone where water accumulates and fosters plant life. In past years I’ve seen water in some of the vernal pools there, but on April 12th all the ones I noticed had no water standing in them. That didn’t mean there wasn’t residual moisture that plants were still taking advantage of. In the first picture you see a closeup of a vernal pool only a few inches across filled with stonecrop plants (Sedum nuttallianum).

The middle picture shows a much larger vernal pool with plenty of lush vegetation in it. The flowers are spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) and the cacti are prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii). Below, notice how a bunch of vernal pools had obligingly lined up.

Two days ago I posed a few questions. Robert Parker proved by his answers that he’d been holding out on us and that he’s really Mr. World Geography.

Which river touches the most countries? It’s the Danube, which borders or passes through 10 countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, in that order. The river that touches the next highest number of countries is the Nile, with 9.

Which country is the least densely populated? It’s Mongolia, with not quite 2 people per square kilometer. Greenland (whose name is misleading because it’s largely covered with ice) has a significantly lower population density but it’s not an independent country (Denmark owns it).

Which country borders the greatest number of other countries? Russia and China tie at 14 apiece.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2021 at 4:41 AM

43 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. that’s amazing to me


    April 29, 2021 at 4:46 AM

    • Enchanted Rock is the best place I know for vernal pools. As central Texas has just gotten rain, perhaps the vernal pools shown here now have water in them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2021 at 6:23 AM

  2. Those pools are interesting: each with its own character and color. I was most surprised to see the spiderworts. It may be a rocky existence, but they seem to be holding on. The pools in the last photo look rather like the footprints of some unusual creature striding away.

    Yesterday I noticed a dozen prickly pear in full bloom along Highway 146 between Kemah and Seabrook. Because it’s a road construction zone there’s no access, even by foot, but it’s a reminder that their time to bloom has come. Their country cousins may have the rocks as a home, but those city cacti are doing just fine in their humanly-constructed bit of ‘rock.’


    April 29, 2021 at 6:31 AM

    • Two coincidence: we both showed spiderworts today and we both saw prickly pear flowers yesterday. I’d noticed prickly pear buds a few days earlier, so finding my first flowers of the season yesterday wasn’t unexpected, and yet there’s always that bit of surprise when the awaited thing finally happens. Did I take any pictures? Of course I did. I expect you’ll soon follow.

      Coming back to the spiderworts: they were all over the place at Enchanted Rock. An Austin photographer had been out there a few days earlier and had reported on them, which was one reason I chose to go when I did.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2021 at 6:46 AM

  3. Very special these moist pools on the rocks.


    April 29, 2021 at 8:12 AM

  4. Our vernal pools are depressions among the verdant Finger Lakes forests, temporary ponds springtimes.


    April 29, 2021 at 8:40 AM

    • I only know the term “vernal pool” from central Texas. I hadn’t heard it used in the way you describe.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2021 at 10:57 AM

      • The F.L. woods are full of ’em in places, usually with enthusiastic toad & frog choruses. My great-uncle’s place in the Poconos is pretty much surrounded by them, this time of the year, and the gravel drive back to his house looks like a causeway.

        Robert Parker

        April 29, 2021 at 11:58 AM

        • That’s two of you Finger Lakes people now. Seems like it’s quite a big thing up there. I wonder if any tourist bureaus have played it up to attract people to the region.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 29, 2021 at 1:12 PM

          • I don’t think they’ve played it up, quite a few people just think of it as “Mud Season.” The Ithaca area promotes the waterfalls, as you know, but not the boggy bits in the woods.

            Robert Parker

            April 29, 2021 at 4:45 PM

            • It might help if promoters played the feature up by switching the alliteration from boggy bits to wet wonders.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 29, 2021 at 4:55 PM

  5. Once enough plants have established themselves in the vernal pools they retain enough moisture to survive a major dry spell. I always learn something new following your blog, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    April 29, 2021 at 9:16 AM

    • I don’t know how the plants in these vernal pools fare when we have one of our occasional droughts, especially if it’s in the summer and the sun bakes the land every day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2021 at 10:59 AM

  6. I especially like the third picture. The vertical format one. Where is the highest population density in Europe?

    Michael Scandling

    April 29, 2021 at 10:36 AM

  7. These images show how good plants are at making the most of any chance to grow.

    Ann Mackay

    April 29, 2021 at 11:16 AM

    • Yes. Think of all the times we see a plant growing out of a crack or even seemingly straight out of a rock surface.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2021 at 11:20 AM

      • Years ago I found a rowan seedling growing on a birch tree – ‘rescued’ it and planted it elsewhere.

        Ann Mackay

        April 29, 2021 at 11:29 AM

        • That’s another strange one: tree upon tree. I guess the rowan couldn’t have survived for long if you hadn’t rescued it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 29, 2021 at 11:32 AM

  8. I’ve only seen sedum plants grown in pots, it’s neat to see it “in the wild” in this special setting.

    Robert Parker

    April 29, 2021 at 12:01 PM

    • You know how my knowledge has expanded from native plants in Texas to plants elsewhere. The kind of Sedum shown here is the only one I knew till gradually I became aware of garden plants in the same genus, as you just mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2021 at 1:15 PM

  9. These pools are pretty interesting… little oasis in the desert!

    Eliza Waters

    April 29, 2021 at 5:03 PM

  10. These are great captures, Steve. I like the varying colors and textures of the pools surrounded by the rock. The photos illustrate just how opportunistic plants are, given half a chance and a bit of moisture.


    April 29, 2021 at 5:04 PM

  11. These are great, like little miniature gardens in barren land. Precious.

    Ms. Liz

    April 29, 2021 at 10:30 PM

    • The lushness of the vegetation in the middle picture stands as such a contrast to the broad rock surface undulating away all around it. We’ve had some rain this week, so I wonder if any of these vernal pools really are pools again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2021 at 10:39 PM

  12. Those pools are a great feature and one worth study. Glad that you did.

    14 each including each other.

    Steve Gingold

    April 30, 2021 at 7:47 AM

    • I expect botanists have done extensive studies on vernal pools as micro environments.
      And yes, Russia and China count each other among the greatest number of neighboring countries.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2021 at 8:37 AM

  13. […] spiderworts (Tradescantia sp.) were the most prominent wildflowers. You caught a glimpse of some in the recent post about vernal pools, and now you’re getting a few closer looks. In the top photo, spiderworts towered over dried […]

  14. I have the same vernal pool experience as the other people who post from the northeast. Vernal pools here are wet spots in the woods, home to frogs, salamanders, and freshwater shrimp. In Massachusetts there are certification programs to prevent them. Yours are amazing oases in stone.


    May 1, 2021 at 9:36 AM

    • I’d had no idea the same term, vernal pool, applied to rather different phenomena depending on the region. You’ve made me wonder whether any frogs or salamanders ever make it into the vernal pools at Enchanted Rock.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 1, 2021 at 4:49 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: