Welcome to the Saturday Sedum Watch — a series of postings following the growth of wild sedums at the Lost Madrone Ranch in Comfort, Texas.
The Texas Hill Country is full of splendor, and spring brings the most colorful show of the year. Warm weather and plentiful rains are kicking off an early wildflower season. Yesterday, as I left the ranch in Comfort and drove toward home in San Antonio, Indian paintbrush and Bluebonnets sprinkled the median of I-10.
With warmth, and rains, and early wildflowers, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at how quickly the sedums are growing at the ranch!
We’ve watched the Sedum, nanifolium grow from teensy ruby-red stone looking sprouts,
to rosy pink and lime green succulents.
Using a penny for perspective, let’s see the progress. Find the penny in the photo below.
Yes, the sedums are still tiny but compare their size to just one week earlier.
Last week, the height of the sedums barely surpassed the thickness of the penny.
This week, the sedums are stretching off the ground as their stems grow taller and they add layers of leaves.
The more mature sedums are looking like little trees,
forming a fairy-sized forest across the hilltop.
The sedums growing in the shallow soil closest to the rock outcroppings continue to lag in maturing.
As we saw last week, the farther from the rock, the deeper the soil, the further along in changing to a solid green color.
I love how the colors of the sedums match the colors in the budding trees. Ahhh, spring.
I describe sedums as tiny and teensy, but they are also tenacious and resilient. If you pick up a sedum it is very tender — water-filled leaves breaking off easily. However, these tiny, tender plants grow through tough little environments.
Glancing from human eye-level, it seems an easy ground to break, but studying up close, sedums thrive where I would hesitate to go.
This may look like a shallow pool of soil sitting on top of a limestone outcropping,
but up close these sedums are growing at the front door of an ant pile.
Don’t mess with Texas ants!
Where the turf thickens in the deeper soil, the sedums have to fight for their place, pushing through layers of leaf mulch and sharing the sunlight with neighboring blades of grass.
The grass at the ranch does not grow as a lawn — not flat or level or closely mowed. It shares the ground with spiky plants, years of decaying natural materials, and other grassy weeds.
Snuggling up to a prickly pear cactus is not usually a sought after location. Crouching on the ground to take these sedum pictures has left me with a few pricks through my pants over the past few weeks.
For those not experienced with prickly pear (the rugged state plant of Texas), you might think the long spines are the daggers to fear. But, the prickly pear spines are easy to manage. Yes, they stick you, but you just pull the spines out and move along.
The true weapons of a prickly pear cactus are the glochids.
See the smaller, more hair-like spines clustered in circles on the prickly pear pads? Those are the glochids — the cactus weapons to fear. If you bump into them, they easily dislodge from the plant, and you end up with multiple sticks from spears so tiny it is hard to pull them all out.
Sometimes hours or even a day or two later I will find glochids in my skin.
I love the image of these sedums, with their stubby leaves plump with water, breaking through the woody skeleton of a decayed prickly pear pad, as if they were trying to restore the water storing characteristic of the once Texas tough cactus.
In the photo below, this sedum, sharing its space with a weed, caught my eye because it has differing sizes and layers of leaves.
I stuck my camera lens through the opening in the leaves just for fun.
Sometimes the sedums find places to grow where no other plant will fit.
Look under the center point in the photograph below to find the section of limestone outcropping with a bright white spot on it.
Here is a photo of the limestone rock closer up. Find the penny on the rock to the left of the bright white spot.
Did you find the penny?
Now, look closer.
We’ve been watching the sedums growing near the house, but in the first Saturday Sedum Watch post, I shared that we would also watch the sedums near the far back corner of the property where the sedums grow wild.
I am afraid pancakes and pigs feet may steal the “spectacular” out of the sedum show in this corner of the ranch.
(Read the post on Longhorns to learn why “pancakes” refers to the longhorn’s hooves.)
This area is less of a large limestone outcropping and more a field of limestone rocks, so the soil between the limestone is deeper here than the depth of soil found at the house site.
While the deeper soil is good for growing sedums, during rainy weather it gets churned up by the 44 hooves of the eleven 1800 lb longhorns.
And the wild pigs leave footprints too.
Trampling the sedums would be enough of a challenge, but the sedums also face rooting by wild pigs. As the pigs nose around in the soil looking for something to eat, they push up the rocks and disturb the soil, leaving a bumpy swath of land.
I won’t wax on about the feral hog problem throughout Texas, but we are seeing areas of damage throughout the ranch. Pig problem evidence fills the far back corner where we are watching sedums.
The disturbed dirt is quite the test of resiliency for a tender sedum.
Despite being churned up,
or stomped on,
the sedums are fighting back — busting through the dirt after being compressed and not letting the lumpy earth hold back their spread.
Look closer at this poor little sedum trying to survive a hog stomping.
Rebounding after a hog foot cratered you deep into the soil would seem a strong enough test of resiliency.
This sedum is also fighting a spider net of beautiful blue silk, cast over its stretch back out of the earth. No doubt the sheeting is as strong and sticky as webbing designed to catch insects hurling through the air. I wonder how tough a fight it is for this sedum to escape?
look what else this sedum must battle…
What tools of tenacity and resiliency does this little sedum employ to respond to the factors in its physical environment?
Does the tougher assignment make the victory more brilliant, or is that just a people thing — that we hope to grow stronger through our trials in life?
I wish I could find this one particular sedum once the yellow bloom begins, to see if this tiny, tested sedum is just a bit brighter than the others surrounding it.
My walk to spy the sedums this week was taken on a day that was warm like spring in Texas, unlike the cold and snowy day taking place in the northeast. The only hint of white here was the overcast sky that lent a feeling of softness to the day.
I was at the ranch by myself, but the quiet and still amplified every sound from nature to notify me I was not really alone.
I listened as wild turkeys walked closer and closer, their slightly louder yelping each time I heard them giving away the direction they were heading.
The scratchy chattering of bluebirds perched on the house perimeter fence was like listening to family in the other room while I attended to my job at hand.
And from far above, I heard the sound of sandhill cranes. Their trumpeting can be heard from two miles away, so the search to find them in the sky is a rich challenge. Their voice is soft and distinct and the rhythmic cadence of their rattling is a soulful approach. After minutes listening to them overhead, they finally appeared out of nowhere.
I grabbed my camera and tried to focus as they crossed the sky.
What a present.
As spring arrives and the Texas wildflowers begin to bloom, there is no person more fitting to quote than Lady Bird Johnson.
“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves but a focusing lens on what we can become.”