Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Walk Through My South Texas Jungle

It is officially autumn in the northern hemisphere. The temperatures in south Texas can vary from the 90's to the 70's during this time and so it doesn't always feel like summer is gone, but it has. I did see one sign that autumn is at least trying to get here. I am not sure what type of plant it is. It was on the ground, but its leaves were red, so it counts. At least in my book anyways.

One Sign of Fall

It had been drought-dry all summer so there had been little plant life to photograph, plus it was in the 100's almost everyday. A walk to the car was almost unbearable so going out to take pictures didn't happen. Autumn came and so did the rains. We have wildflowers again and even more than we had in spring! I recently took a walk outside with my camera to see what I could find.

I took a picture of some tiny white flowers, but when I came inside to look through the photos, I noticed something much more interesting in the photo. It doesn't look good for the grasshopper in the bottom left corner...

poor grasshopper

As I continued my trek in our "jungle" (It needs to be mowed.) I came across another insect. It was vivid blue damselfly. It was very pretty and I don't think the picture really does it justice.

blue damselfly

I wanted to know the common names of the plants that are native to south Texas and growing around the house. So after taking the pictures I brought them inside and started researching. I found almost all of them and I think I found the right names to go with the right plants. If you see something that is not right by all means let me know. (A special thanks to Fred S. and Katie D.'s dad for help in the identification process!)


Buffalobur is EVERYWHERE on our land. It thrived in the driest hottest conditions God could give it this summer. It is mean, has thorns on just about every part of it, and they hurt!

Dirt, dirt and more dirt

This was in March and it looked this way for several months. Then the buffalobur started growing and then we actually got some rain. Here is the the same shot in October.

Yes, it may look pretty, but it is basically a huge thorn patch!

Most of those trees in the front of the house are mesquite trees. There are some others, but I haven't identified them yet. I had plans all summer to go pick mesquite beans and make some jelly out of it. I hear it taste like honey, so I was very excited to make my own. Time kept passing and I had all the intentions to go pick some, but when I finally went out in October all the beans had fallen off.

Mesquite tree no beans

So next year it is! I know that I can used the dried beans and grind them up to make flour. It is supposedly good for you. I didn't want to use the ones on the ground though, too many bugs! This is something I might try next year along with the jelly. If I do either you know there will be a blog about it!

The tree below was the one I had the most trouble identifying. I posted the picture on Facebook and two people told me the same thing so I am going with that. It is a hackberry tree. The berries are supposed to be safe for human consumption. They stay around all winter and the birds do eat them. I have not tried a berry yet and a little scared to, but I will do some more research on them and get back to you on that.

Now for the flowers:

Purple Bindweed and of course Buffalobur.

Scarlet Musk and the ever present Buffalobur.

Prairie Verbena
Prairie Verbena. Hey look no Buffalobur!

This is one of the flowers I am not sure if I have the name right. Anyone know for sure?

Now for the greatest find of the day in my opinion....

I saw this vine:

Which lead to this...

I picked up several of the melons to examine up close.

The ripe ones were about the size of a small lemon and the unripe ones looked like mini watermelons. They had a strange smell. I didn't find it unpleasant but my husband acted like it was the worse thing he had EVER smelled in his life. It had a spicy, earthy smell. I had never smelled anything quite like it.

After some research online I believe they are dudaim melons. I got conflicting information on whether they are edible or not so they are not going in my mouth!

They sure make a pretty centerpiece when cleaned up, but my husband didn't like the smell so I tossed them outside.

I love that we live on a piece of land that produces so many varied plants. It is interesting to see them all and I love to photograph them. Soon the trees will lose their leaves and it will look so barren, but it is the way God intended so can't complain. We all need periods of rest for rejuvenation. Even the plants. :)

I hope you remember to enjoy the greens, reds, yellows, and oranges of autumn!