A new plant has popped up along the edge of the resaca where the water had receded during the summer. I was rather excited because we’ve not had this particular species on our property.
During the first months of Texas Master Naturalist training – a mere 10 years ago – my weeding buddy and I first noticed these roadside bushes with big lavender flowers as we travelled along the road that leads to Sabal Palm Sanctuary, beyond Brownsville, where we first began volunteering in native garden maintenance.
It took a few years to figure out what the shrubs were. By this time, we were volunteering closer to home and still providing trail and native garden maintenance. We were working along the lower trail adjacent to the banks of the Arroyo Colorado in Harlingen’s Hugh Ramsey Nature Park. I was carrying an armful of branches toward a brush pile at a downed tree when I rounded a cropping of climbing milkweed – and there in front of me was the bush we never identified. It was full of big pinkish-lavender flowers as big as a trumpet’s bell.
I added my load to the brush pile, took a photo of the blooming bush and climbed back up the bank, eager to show my photo and get an identification. “Bush Morning Glory,” Christina Mild told me – as simple as that and there was my answer.
I’ve seen the plant often, at a distance, while driving, even in town, along resacas and bridge culverts and never took the time to stop, take photos and write about the plant, so imagine the thrill of having a shrub close at hand and being able to watch its progress everyday – only, iNaturalist.org wasn’t cooperating. It kept coming up with some sort of Indian Mallow. Well, I knew that wasn’t right, so I was stuck, waiting for it to bloom so I could show iNaturalist the plant’s true colors.
And then, one morning I took along my reading glasses out to the edge of my photo dock. Still no blooms on the plant. I took fresh photos of a group of leaves, a single leaf in my hand for size perspective and an overall of the shrub. I uploaded the three views to iNaturalist.org.
This time, I could really see the whole identification it offered, without squinting – including the botanical name – and I was aghast! Trisulcatum! What? No! How could I have been SO wrong?!
Anglestem Indian Mallow, Abuliton trisulcatum. Abuliton is indeed a mallow; but certainly not one I want to bloom and go to seed on our property! Locally it is called three furrowed Indian Mallow.
I’ll share my flashback: It was this time of year, August, in 2017 and a time of drought. Hundreds and hundreds of trisulcatum plants overtook a Texas Master Naturalist specialty garden in Ramsey Park. Our team of volunteers spent several weeks, for two years, trying to eradicate a huge savannah of native but aggressive Abuliton trisulcatum. I recorded the drama in an earlier blog that you can read while I decide how to deal with the plant that wasn’t at all what I was expecting to write about – the tale is lengthy but populated with plenty of photos – enjoy: https://rgvctmn.org/blog/anitas-blog-misunderstood-mallows/
With the summer's drought, wind, heat and disappearing resaca water, the changes those conditions bring are interesting yet sad with the increase of new flora yet the absence of water fauna. In June, I wrote about invasive castor bean plants, the first of the new-to-the-property plants to show up. Two others, recently discovered, are briefly described below.
Camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris has taken advantage of the void. An Asteraceae family plant, it is multi-branching and gangly looking. It can be mistaken for other species until the leaves are crushed and you get a waft of that distinctively camphor-like aroma. Campho-Phenique was a popular itch relief for mosquito bites in the 1950s. The bite still itched, but the oil smelled good.
Wild cowpea, Vigna luteola, is new, too. It’s a spindly vine with leaves and flowers at long intervals along the vine. The vine can grow to six feet or more and seems to need the sun, climbing over other vegetation as it travels. It is a legume and will be producing numerous large black seeds that ground-feeding birds eat, I’ve read. On its behalf, it’s a larval host for Cassius blue, grey hairstreak, long-tailed skipper and Dorante skipper butterflies.