Monday, December 6, 2010


Above:  Flame-leaf sumac
Below:  Yaupon holly

Yes, we do have fall in Texas! You might have to look closely to find it, but it is definitely there.

A few weeks ago I decided to capture some photos of fall-tinted vegetation - only nature would not cooperate. Multiple times I looked out the window and saw the sun shining brightly, grabbed the camera and hustled out to a vantage point I had in mind, only to have clouds obscure the light I was seeking. After about the eighth time, I felt like one of Pavlov’s dogs, so I quit.

However, I shall not let a small detail like THE SUN deter me. Fall has progressed since then; red oak has moved to the fore color-wise as flame-leaf sumacs have dropped many of their colorful leaves. Cedar elms’ small yellow leaves brighten the understory down the street. We have a few yaupons (Ilex vomitoria) with bright red berries, and the Ashe juniper trees are sporting blue berries now. The copper canyon daisy continues to bloom, although the lantanas have succumbed to a light freeze. (Is black considered a fall color? Hmm.)

Little bluestem and Ashe juniper
along the road in my neighborhood.
Little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) provides the most visible fall color in my neck of the woods. In the fall it shoots up many rust-hued seed stalks. With backlight, fuzzy white seeds glow up and down the stalk. This grass is beautiful over winter, when covered with a layer of frost. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, the stem bases have a bluish color in the spring, hence the name.

I have some guilty fall pleasures, too. Pyracantha, invasive here, is striking along the roadsides at this time of year. And then there is King Ranch bluestem – beautiful as it ripples in a breeze in a field or roadside, but very bad stuff as it crowds out native species. (My father-in-law may disown me for that last sentence.)

Favorite spot in the garden today:

My favorite today is another grass – Lindheimer’s muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri). I planted clumps on either side of my front doorstep. One has not thrived, but the other (on the less hospitable side) has, and has multiplied. The clumps have 5-foot golden seed stalks, which sway gracefully in the wind. Lady Bird's site says this plant is native only to the Edwards Plateau of central Texas. Hey, that's me!

This area is looking rather messy, but I’m enjoying this grass and it seems happy, so I think I will leave the volunteers and clean out something else, instead.


  1. Dear Cynthia, Grasses are wonderful additions to the garden as they create such movement and do, as you say, turn beautifully in colour in autumn.

  2. I like grasses. A lot.

    Lucy Corrander

  3. @Edith & Lucy: Grasses are fabulous, and tough, which suits my gardening style!