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I have an update to my previous blog entry about the bluebonnet with the strange inflorescence, where it looked like the flowers were turning out to be leaves. Now it is producing actual flowers.
The plant is in a bed where I planted maroon bluebonnet seeds in the fall of 2011. This particular plant sprouted almost exactly a year ago. Perhaps I'll search for older photos of this plant.
It bloomed for the first time in the spring of 2012. It survived the summer, and now it's blooming again in December.
Bluebonnets usually sprout from seed some time in autumn and then grow throughout the winter. This gives them plenty of energy to burst into bloom in spring. After blooming, it makes seeds and dies. The plant lives less than a year, but is sometimes considered to be a biennial because it crosses the calendar year boundary.
This particular plant is unusual in that it is still flourishing in November. Maybe flourishing is not the right word. It already bloomed this spring, but instead of dying, the plant continued growing as a small plant throughout the summer. Earlier this fall, I noticed an inflorescence and wrote about it to friends and relatives. I figured I'd take pictures when the flowers were more fully formed.
Well, they never did. Instead, the plant is turning into a tall vegetative plant with no flowers. What appears at first to be flower buds is actually leaf buds.
It looks like we're in the middle of another massive American Snout migration.
The first time I paid attention to American Snouts was in the fall of 2006, when they were migrating by the millions. Oddly (to me, at least) they were all flying north. And so they are doing right now.
The fall of 2006 was the beginning of a very rainy season. In fact, I think the calendar year 2007 was the rainiest year since I've been in Austin.
American snouts are known to have massive migrations spaced years apart, but I haven't read anything about what triggers the migration. Now I'm wondering if it's timed to coincide with the onset of El Niño.
If you read this post and know of references explaining the migrations of this species, please add a comment to the blog post with your information or a link to a website.
There is more information and references at the bugguide article on the American Snout butterfly.
Here's an article with much more information.
In an earlier post, I documented erosion in Arroyo Seco and some of the plant life growing along the sides and in the creek bottom. This is an update to that post.
I'm on record as stating that newly planted trees do not need to be watered as much as most people claim. The seedlings along Arroyo Seco are a good test of my assertion. Last year, after the acorns dropped in the fall, we had sufficient rain for acorns to sprout. I took pictures of some of the seedlings and wondered how successful they'd be. Some of them met their demise because of the mowers. The mowers tend to mow from the curb up until the drop off into the creek bed. That area is also the place where the seedlings would otherwise be best off, because downward growing roots are perpendicular to the surface and grow far away from the area that dries up from evaporation. Unfortunately, they don't fare well against lawn mowers. They can survive by resprouting at their bases, and the oaks that grow around here are actually pretty good about that. I didn't spend much time looking for plants that had survived that way. At this time of year, I think they're more likely to hunker down for the year and come up again in the spring. So I'll look again in the spring and carefully examine them to distinguish whether they are 2012 plants or 2013 plants.
Most of the seedlings I saw were bur oaks, like the one, above. Some were shumard oaks, like the one, below. I didn't see any live oak seedlings, but I also didn't look very hard.
All our local oaks send a main root down deep into the soil when they sprout. Then they send a sprout up above the soil and unfurl a handful of leaves. Vertical growth is minimal for the first year. The plant concentrates on the portion below the soil. A surprising amount of girth is added to the root during the first year. This is not exactly a tuber, but it serves a similar function. The plant can tap into the moisture reserves of the thick root if it gets dry.
As I stated earlier, most of the seedlings along the top were mowed down. But there were plenty along the steep edge:
and in the creek bed:
In the middle of the creek bed is not the best place for trees to grow up. Well, good for the tree, but bad for erosion. Objects in the center of the creek will force water flow to the edges. Then you get a situation like this where a concrete channel under an intersection dumps silt in the middle of the creek causing the creek to go to either side, thus eroding the edges.
There are places where the soil has eroded from around the base of grasses, which are typically thought of as good erosion control plants.
But enough about erosion. The rest is simply a gallery of interesting plants along the arroyo.
Some sort of violet.
Commelinantia animal growing among violets and horse herb.
Other miscellaneous plants:
Neptunia pubescens var. microcarpaHuh? What's this last one? The time of day is wrong, but that is a Four O'clock plant and a ragweed plant growing together. Maybe I'll get another picture when the four o'clock flowers are open (not 4 o'clock).
Vitis vinifera, the European grape that has been cultivated for millennia, does not do to well here in Texas. Fortunately, there is a grape that does quite well here. Its origins are not entirely clear, but it appears that it was imported to the United States from Europe after an American grape was imported to Europe. I'm speaking of 'Black Spanish' or 'Lenoir' as it is also called. There is more than one kind of 'Black Spanish', unfortunately, and they are not related to each other. These days, though, anyone talking about 'Black Spanish' is likely talking about the variety that is the subject of this blog post.
I have a plant myself that has just had its second year of production. Interested in learning more about this grape, I set up a google alert to notify me of any postings indexed by google. I did this after a search revealed that I had missed out on the first 'Black Spanish' symposium. I don't know if there will be another one. But if there is, I want to find out about it.
I sent a message out to neighbors to see if anyone wanted to join me. One person volunteered, and we set out. I used the instructions on the blog entry to find the exact spot where the vineyard was located and entered the coordinates into a GPS navigation app on my iPad. Most of the apps I have for GPS navigation don't work very well for destinations in the country. They want you to enter a cty-type address. One app wouldn't work at all unless a city was entered. Entering coordinates should work perfectly. Oh, well.
We found the vineyard without any trouble, introduced ourselves to the people who were already there and took a quick look around. At left is a sampling of what the grape vines looked like before we started harvesting.
We were asked to sign in, then given breakfast, and a pair of brand new pruning shears to do the harvesting. The best way to do the harvesting is for two people to work together, one on each side of the vine. This way, if there is a cluster that is awkwardly placed for one person, the person on the opposite side can usually get it without a problem. Each person was given a couple of buckets, and we were instructed to cut off the clusters and place them into the buckets. Someone came along and replaced full buckets with empty buckets, and so we were able to harvest quite efficiently. The buckets were emptied into white plastic bins.
The white plastic bins had spaces in the bottom so that a fork lift could move them around as needed. Once a bin was filled, it was taken over to a central location, weighed, and set aside until a flatbed 18-wheeler arrived to pick them up.
In all, I think there were 25 bins, each holding 600-800 pounds of grapes, so we picked over 20,000 pounds of grapes by lunchtime. This is from about 2000 plants over 8 acres. The vineyard was started in 2006, so all the plants are relatively young.
For lunch we had barbecue, "adult beverages", and musical entertainment all under the shade of some nice live oak trees.