Every year for most of the past decade, I find a wildflower in my garden that I didn’t plant. Each year it’s a different wildflower and typically not repeated by either seed or root during the next growing cycle. The wildflowers have all been Texas natives, usually spring or spring/summer bloomers. Each plant has appeared in a different spot: some in the back garden, some in the front; a few popped up in containers where other things were housed, and several have grown along the southern side of my house, where there isn’t much of a garden, only a utilitarian pathway.
Where do these garden gifts come from? Maybe birds have dropped seed by way of their excrement, maybe seeds wafted into my garden space from the wind. Perhaps, wildflower nymphs, being such quirky critters, choose to leave me something new and unique to my garden– just because they can.
This year, Texas Thistle, Cirsium texanum, was the wildflower nymphs’ gift of choice.
This pretty-in-pink flower bloomed in June and July, having arrived as an attractive, though prickly, evergreen rosette. Trust me when I say that those prickles HURT! Actually, the wildflower nymphs left the rosette last year, but no flowers appeared, as Texas Thistle is a biennial, blooming in its second year. I was aware of the rosette last year, but left it alone and unidentified.
While I never observed any eggs or larvae on this foliage, the Texas Thistle is a host plant for the Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui. Indeed, I enjoyed the presence of several flitting Painted Ladies earlier this summer. Thanks , Texas Thistle, I’m glad someone likes that foliage!
Bright blooms develop atop stems with few leaves, about 18 inches from the base of the plant. Once open, they resemble deep pink Koosh balls.
Insects, especially native bees, are big fans of this plant. Here, a Leaf-footed bug, Leptoglossus, and its nymph (immature form of the bug), rest on a bud. They were probably doing some bug-like slurping, but I didn’t see any damage to the bud or plant.
In the information about Texas Thistle from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, the bumble bee is specifically mentioned as a frequent pollinator of thistles’ disk blooms. Lots of bumbles have graced my garden this year, though I observed none of them on the thistle flowers. However, other native bees relished the nectar offered and picked up pollen as they worked the blooms. I’m not sure what species of native bee this little one is, but its pollen pantaloons are packed with rich pollen, gifts from the flower.
Most years, the wildflower nymphs have gifted one individual plant of one species. This year, there were two thistles that magically bloomed: the one of this post, growing in full sun along the side of my house, and a second, in a pot of variegated American Agave, in part shade, in my back garden. That one didn’t produce as many flowers as this one, but both completed their life cycles; I hope that the seeds will assure some thistles in my garden in future seasons. Also, the other nymph wildflower gifts have been annuals, but as mentioned, Texas Thistle is a biennial, 2022 its year to flower. Those wildflower nymphs, they like to mix-it-up and keep me guessing.
So, wildflower nymphs–what will it be for 2023? I await your gift(s)!