Native Son – October, 2007
John, Paul, George and Eryngo:
Road Trip to Tyler
Glided smoothly out of Weatherford and took the interstate east to Tyler, rolling through the Metroplex without a hitch, which always brings a smile to my face. As the miles passed, the native vegetation changed frequently; testament to the “fingers” of different soil types that occur in narrow north-south bands in North Texas, making any east-west road a nature lover’s delight.
In spite of all the other changes, the purple haze created by large swatches of eryngo remained consistent, even into the acidic soils of East Texas. It was often present alongside that other late-summer wonder, snow on the prairie, creating an amazing natural display. I could feel Ladybird smile, and I thanked her spirit for all she did to make sure Texas roadsides remain the most beautiful in the nation.
For those unfamiliar with eryngo (uh-ring’-go), it is fairly common throughout Texas, but particularly spectacular this year, due to the high rainfall, I assume. Known botanically as Eryngium leavenworthii, it was named after the U.S. botanist (and army surgeon) of that name, not the famous prison. One could assume such a thing, for eryngo is definitely a “look but don’t touch” wildflower. Growing to about three feet tall, it is a veritable fountain of prickly purple leaves, stems, bracts and flowers. Particularly striking are the numerous pineapple-shaped inflorescences, which, incidentally, make superb dried flower arrangements. (Wear gloves!) The prickles are so prevalent on this plant that The BRIT Book (Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas) repeatedly uses the term “spinescent” (“becoming spine-like; ending in a spine; having spines”) to describe it.
Former Heard Natural Science Museum Director Harold Laughlin introduced me to the plant back in 1996 and grinned slyly when I naively suggested it might be a good addition to the native plant garden. Ever the sage, he simply replied, “Some things are best left to nature.”
Indeed, Dr. Laughlin, indeed.
About the author: Steven L. Chamblee is Chief Horticulturist at Chandor Gardens in Weatherford.
Come on out and revel in the wonder that is Chandor Gardens! We’re at 711 West Lee Avenue, Weatherford, TX 76086. From the Metroplex: Take I-20 west to exit 409, turn right on Santa Fe and go 2.1 miles to Lee Avenue. Turn left, go 12 blocks, and you’re driving in the gates. Get all of the info you need at www.chandorgardens.com or give us a call at 817-613-1700.