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Time again for Texas mountain laurel, and hardly the normal time for something else

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By February 18th I was already finding flowers on the Texas mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora) in Austin. These two views are from the Southwest Greenway at the Mueller development in east-central Austin.

If it was time for Texas mountain laurel, mid-February was months before the normal time
for the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), one of which I also found flowering there.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

UPDATE: I see the scientific name for Texas mountain laurel has been changed to Dermatophyllum secundiflorum.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 24, 2019 at 4:48 AM

Texas mountain laurel

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The Texas mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora) have been fragrantly—and some would say flagrantly—flowering all around Austin.

I took pictures of this Texas mountain laurel on March 13th along Shoal Creek Blvd. in north-central Austin. One of the tree’s branches rose well above the others:

The next day I visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where I got close and photographed a Texas mountain laurel flower opening:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2018 at 4:55 AM

Diabrotica but not diabolical

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Cucumber Beetle on Texas Mountain Laurel Flowers 5540

When I got close to some Texas mountain laurel flowers, Sophora secundiflora, at the Mueller prairie restoration on February 17th I spotted this spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata. Undecim is the Latin word for ‘one [plus] ten,’ which is to say ‘eleven,’ and that’s the number of spots (puncta) on this beetle (what would be the two center spots in the upper row merge). While we’re dealing with numbers, let me add that a cucumber beetle is about the same size as a lady beetle. In the realm of solid geometry, notice how the shape of the beetle mimics the convexity of the petals it’s on.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 1, 2016 at 4:54 AM

On schedule

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Texas Mountain Laurel Flowers 5497

It’s not unusual in Austin to see Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, flowering in February. Take as proof the one I stopped to photograph in the prairie restoration at Austin’s former Mueller Airport on February 17th. The patches of light in this image keep making me think of a stained glass window.

Texas mountain laurel is always a harbinger of spring, but if these flowers make you leap for joy a little more than usual, it may be because 2016 is a leap year and February 29th its leap day*. By the way, it’s an unwarranted leap of faith to believe that every fourth year is a leap year. That’s mostly true, but century years whose first part isn’t exactly divisible by 4 are not leap years: 1900 wasn’t a leap year and 2100 won’t be either, because 19 and 21 aren’t exactly divisible by 4. In contrast, 2000 was a leap year because 20 is divisible by 4. The next century leap year will be 2400, but somehow I don’t think any of us will be here to leap up and welcome it in.

Oh well, we can still welcome Wordsworth’s little poem:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

————-

* And notice how I leaped** over the second occurrence of is in “2016 is a leap year and February 29th is its leap day.” Is is understood to repeat in the shortened version, and it doesn’t even depend on what the meaning of is is.

** American English generally leaps over the form leapt and lands on leaped.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 29, 2016 at 5:03 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Texas mountain laurel with dense flowers

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Texas Mountain Laurel Flowering 9616

On February 25th, 2013, I photographed a Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, that was blossoming its head off. This is the bush whose flowers some people say smell like grape Kool-Aid.

——–

I’m still away from home. I welcome your comments, but please understand if I’m slow in responding from the other side of the world.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2015 at 6:00 AM

Another fasciated species

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Fasciated Texas Mountain Laurel Raceme Remains 4274A

Nan Hampton knows my fascination with fasciation, so when we both attended the August 13th meeting of a music group she told me about a fasciated Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, that she’d seen in her neighborhood. The next morning I went to the location she’d indicated and photographed what you see here. The upper parts of these structures are normal, but the parts farther down that flatten and flare out are fasciated.

If fasciation is new to you or you’d like a refresher, you can find a discussion of the phenomenon in a post about a fasciated Liatris I ran across a couple of years ago. Other posts since then have shown a fasciated firewheel, poverty weed, prairie verbena, and old plainsman.

If you’re not familiar with Texas mountain laurel you can check out past posts about this fragrantly flowerful little tree.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2013 at 6:10 AM

Like a wall of Texas mountain laurel

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Texas Mountain Laurel Flowering Densely 9571

Click for greater clarity.

While the picture of Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, that you saw last month was a decidedly vertical one, here’s a view showing the horizontal top of one of these densely flowering trees that made me feel I was looking at a wall. I found this floral “mural” of Texas mountain laurel at the edge of a shopping center parking lot on Great Hills Trail just east of US 183 on February 25. Now here we are in mid-March and I’m still seeing plenty of these blossoms around town; the cool spring we’ve been having may have helped them last so long.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 11, 2013 at 6:23 AM

Texas mountain laurel blossoms return

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Texas Mountain Laurel Flowering 8309

On February 17th we wandered over to the prairie restoration at Austin’s former Mueller Airport and found that the Texas mountain laurels, Sophora secundiflora, had begun not a second flowering but their first one of the spring. Note the prominent pods left over from last year.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 23, 2013 at 6:20 AM

And another sort of visitor

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Click for greater clarity.

When I photographed some of the Texas mountain laurels, Sophora secundiflora, at the Mueller Greenway on February 19, I noticed that the most common insects visiting the flowers were honeybees. We’re used to thinking of them as major pollinators, which they are, but they—along with most of our commercial crops—were brought over to the Americas by Spanish, French, British, and other European settlers in colonial times. In contrast, the butterfly that’s prominent in this photograph is a native, Vanessa cardui, known as the painted lady. I assume the upside down position made it easier for this butterfly to get its tongue into the flower it was on.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Texas mountain laurel detail

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Click for greater clarity.

And here’s a closer look at Texas mountain laurel, Sophora secundiflora, as some of its dense clusters of buds were beginning to open on February 19 at the Mueller Greenway in east-central Austin. Notice that the open flowers have a shape that characterizes so many in the pea family.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 24, 2012 at 12:40 PM

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