Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Texas Wildflowers - Blue Eyed Grass

Blue Eyed Grass -- actually not a grass, but this clumping wildflower plant can be found hidden among grasses. Rising to around 12 inches high, this small (but true blue) flower can still make an impact on a landscape - filling pastures, prairies and  roadsides with a sheet of blue on a sunny day.  Found mostly in southern states of the US and most regions of Texas, this wildflower can be an ornamental addition to cultivated gardens as well. Growing from bulbs, blue eyed grass is in the iris family; reseeding each year (can also be planted from purchased seed).

The flower may be modest, but bees and butterflies are drawn to it and especially birds when flowers give way to seeds (one source includes wild turkeys and prairie chickens).

As for medicinal uses - sources says the Native Americans used the roots for various intestinal ailments (stomach aches, diarrhea, etc).  Another source stated parts were used for fevers, but also mentioned the possibility of the plant being poisonous.

To preserve  by pressing - collect the fully open flowers after the morning dew has dried and before they have closed up for the day.  They don't fully open on cloudy days.

Photographing -- since they are small and delicate, any breeze will cause movement, and growing low to the ground you'll definitely be on your knees or crouch position to capture this one.  Following are a few suggested angles/shots to get you started:
- overhead, to include the yellow inside the flower
- wider shot if shooting a large area for the effect of solid blue
-from the side for closed buds or seeds/fruit

Blue Eyed Grass in various stages - cloudy morning
I used a 105mm macro lens (Nikon), handheld (dodging playing dogs) for these images. The first image is only slightly cropped, the second image is cropped a bit more. Images resized for uploading/web, so are not full resolution.

Sources I used for this blog post include:
Common Sense Homesteader
Dave's Garden
Native Plants
Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi (my go-to book for wildflower identification)
Images are my own - copyrighted
Are you discovering the small showy flower near you?  For my backyard it is a sure sign of spring.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Texas Wildflowers - False Garlic

False Garlic

False Garlic (nothoscordum bivalve) is sprouting up everywhere in Texas right now. Growing from a bulb, and flowering in clumps, it rises above the bermuda grass found in most lawns.  Although false garlic is also known as crow poison - everyone assumes the wildflower to be poisonous. However, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower experts - there is "no creditable references ... saying that Nothoscordum bivalve (Crow poison) is poisonous."  This doesn't mean you should volunteer to test that theory -- it could be toxic or at least make you sick.  The Ozark Wildflowers website states that  "Cherokee legend tells that they would use this plant to make a poison that would kill the crows eating their corn."  However, further research using the all-knowing internet, I could not confirm the legend and one site (Native American Legends, Bird Tribes) stated that although crows could be found in many Native American beliefs, legends, etc. - they weren't included in the Cherokee mythology.  So, maybe they weren't revered as in other Native cultures - leading to the belief that they would possibly want to poison them? Don't know - good questions - and the common name had to originate from somewhere. 

False Garlic isn't listed in Delena Tull's Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest guide either - so for myself, I'm going to assume this wildflower's purpose is for our viewing pleasure, add color to the sea of grasses, photography, and wildlife (attracts bees and butterflies). If you're in to pressing flowers, its best to gather these at mid-day. 

 If anyone happens to know additional information on this wildflower - I'd love to hear about it! 

(I apologize for the text background color -- technical difficulties -- it happens.)

The Native Plant Society of Texas recommends that no flower be picked from a colony of fewer than 100 plants and as a reminder - never dig or remove a wildflower from TxDOT rights of way or private property without permission.