A Creature from Above, a White-Winged Dove

I thought I had never seen a dive because I thought all doves have white feathers. The white-winged dove, or Zenaida asiatica, is a dove that is mostly gray with the exception of its white-tipped wings. I have seen this bird multiple times at St. edward’s and had no idea that i was seeing a dove. This bird is native to the southwestern parts of the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Interestingly, with the rise of urbanization and people with backyard feeders, it has expanded the area in which the white-wing dove ventures. It has migrated as far north as Canada! Such a small, but mighty bird!


Great Noise Maker? Great-Tailed Grackle

When I first moved to Austin, I thought this bird was a crow. I later learned this is actually a great-tailed grackle or Mexican grackle. It’s official name is Quiscalus mexicanus. It is a medium-sized bird. It’s tail is just as long as its body, making it an easy bird to spot. The great-tailed grackle is called “cuervo” in different regions of Mexico because its glossy black feathers. Every morning when I wake up and when I get coffee at Jo’s Coffee Shop on St. Edward’s campus, I hear this bird. It is loud and shrill. This bird is noisy because it is a highly social bird. This bird certainly has my attention with how much noise it makes.


Blackfoot Daisy Sans Foot

Daisies are my favorite flower! They are so unassuming, yet bright and welcoming. Okay, maybe a plant can’t actually be these things, but daisies make me feel this way when I am in their presence. This daisy is a Blackfoot Daisy, officially named Melampodium leucanthum. This one is young; blackfoot daisies get to be six to twelve inches tall and twice as wide. They have eight to ten white petals with a bright-yellow disk center. These particular daisies smell like honey! They live in the Southwest, mostly in plains and meadows. Can’t wait to go back to Wild Basin and watch this daisy grow!


Yaupon Holly, a Tree Holly

Ilex vomitoria, or yaupon holly, is a species of holly that is native to southeastern North America. The name “Yaupon” comes from a word in Catawban (a Native American language). The Catawban name is “yopún”, which comes from the word “yop”. The word “yop” means tree. So basically “Yaupon Holly” means “Tree Holly” which is redundant, but cool! My mom loves decorating our house with holly around Christmas time. On Christmas Eve, my dad would make chocolate cake and take a branch of holly from our tree outside and put it on the cake. Seeing this Yaupon Holly reminded me of Christmas and my dad’s cakes.


Ashe Juniper

There are a lot of evergreens near my home in Maryland, so this Juniperus ashei reminds me of home. Interestingly, it is a dioecious species, with separate male and female plants. This evergreen is native to northeastern Mexico and the south-central United States. Large numbers of these plants live in central Texas, right where we are now in Austin! It grows up to 33 ft tall, and provides year-round shade for wildlife and livestock. I found this plant at the Wild Basin Preserve, home to many animals that can take advantage of this plant for its coverage. Ashe Junipers do not need a lot of water because it is a drought plant, so it can handle the Texas heat.


Frostweed: Elsa’s Favorite Plant

Verbesina virginica L., or Frostweed, has a unique story behind its nickname. When winter weather brings ice, the stems release water that freezes into different and unique shapes. I want to come back during winter when it is cold enough for water to freeze and see these cool structures! The intricate ice designs on this plant has resulted it it being given a plethora of nicknames including: ice ribbons, ice flowers, ice fringes, ice fingers, ice filaments, ice leaves, frost flowers, frost ribbons, frost freaks, frost beards, frost castles. The cold never bothered it anyway.  


Breaking Some Skullcaps!

If I were to have a gang name, I would want to be called “SkullCap”. The name skullcap is the common name for scutellaria. This actually comes from the Latin term “scutella” which means “small dish”. Maybe not a good gang name. Another reason why Skullcap isn’t a good gang name is that these plants are flowering plants that are beautiful, vibrant purple color. Probably not so tough looking to be a purple flower called “small dish”. Nevertheless, this cool plant from the mint family was found in the Wild Basin Preserve!  


Hop Hop to a Common Hoptree

This is a baby Ptelea trifoliata, or common hoptree. I noticed this plant because its large, vibrant green leaves while walking through Wild Basin. These leaves will turn dark green in the summer, and then yellow in the fall. It will grow to be 26 ft tall and 13 feet wide. Although I did not see any on this tree, typically in April common hoptrees have small, greenish white flowers in clusters on their leaves. The nickname “common hoptree” is allegedly from when the bitter bark  was used as a substitute for hops when brewing beer. The bark has also been used for miscellaneous home remedies. This plant is both useful and cute!


Black Maidenhair Fern

Found this cute plant near a creek in Wild Basin. Adiantum capillus-veneris, or the Black Maidenhair Fern, is a native to the southern half of the United States. However, this plant is apparently so popular that is has become a common household plant in the United States! I wonder how this plant developed its nickname, Black Maidenhair Fern. It has similar nicknames such as Southern Maidenhair Fern and Venus Hair Fern. Was their a maiden that named this fern? If so, why did it name it after their hair? The world is a confusing place, but it is also a beautiful place.


Cedar Sage is All the Rage

I love the color red. As I was walking through Wild Basin, this plant first stuck out to me because of its color. Part of the reason I like the color red is because my friend who has Synesthesia (a condition where the sense of sight, hearing, and taste blend together) perceives my name and aurora in the color red. Cedar Sage, or Salvia roemeriana, is not only red, but also is a seasonal plant to the spring and summer and is scalloped!