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Master Naturalists: Learning more about our lizards, hummers, plants

By By Paul and Mary Meredith
May 17, 2012 at 12:17 a.m.

Butterfly orchid tree, Bauhinia divaricate, is a small (less than 4-foot-tall) tree or bush that produces 30-40 clusters of one and a half inch  blooms at a time.  They open as white flowers that fade to pink as they age.  It blooms continuously from spring to fall, with each bloom spike containing more than 15 buds.  A fresh spike is seen in the foreground.  Its blooms will start to open as the last blooms on the spike above it fade and wither.

Spring 2012 has certainly been unusual. Several things have been different from the last two springs in Victoria. Let's discuss lizards, hummingbirds, plants and, later, birds and butterflies.

Of course, our weather hasn't helped establish this season's "normalcy" (or whatever you call it). Some 2012 variations seemed to come from increased rainfall after several months with so little. Maybe we can at least learn from those differences.



Lizards

Lizards surprised us several times this spring. Paul has seen several nesting females, each so immersed in her egg-laying that she didn't react when he approached. One did run away when he inadvertently neared her nest, but she returned to lay her eggs after he moved away.



Hummingbirds

We spotted only a few hummingbirds, and then only one at a time - no multiples. But the sugar water we keep in the feeders disappears with regularity.



Hummers' other food

We regularly spot hummers feeding on the Bauhinia (orchid trees) in our "dry bed" along our driveway. There are bluebonnets, grasses and some other native plants, plus several small trees. One is Bauhinia divaricata (often called a "butterfly orchid tree").

Our tree has clusters of white and pink blooms with long stamens. We've spotted several hummers drinking nectar from its blooms.

We've also spotted several feeding from our coral bean's individual red blooms. The coral beans are conveniently near the feeders.



Some 'blooming' plants did OK

The dry bed also contains several bluebonnets labeled simply "red bluebonnets," acquired recently at a state meeting. With fairly regular watering, they did about as well as the more-established Texas bluebonnets.



Some plants not OK

Naturally, other plants didn't fare well with the dryness. Some died, but we've surely not lost as many as we did last year. A plant's location seemed to have a larger affect than what type it was.

Our supplemental watering didn't help some plants. We sometimes had to add water to our water-gathering system to water what little we have on our deck. Our condensate-gathering system couldn't gather as much water this year from our air conditioner's evaporator coil in the attic with the humidity so low, but still collected more water than our rainwater-harvesting system that gathers water from part of our roof.

Plant-wise, we learned more about our plants' reactions to really dry weather. That can, of course, improve our choice of plants. Revising and upgrading helps to decrease our effort and resources to create the yard we want, including the water requirements. Quite a change from Cajun country.



Sources

We're sharing information this week that we've learned from many naturalists, biologists, horticulturalists and nurserymen from all over the Americas, and over our years around plants and animals. We do keep our eyes open for new/additional information from the Internet. However, we don't believe everything we read.

Paul and Mary Meredith are master naturalists. Contact them at paulmary0211@sbcglobal.net.

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