Saturday, June 13, 2009

Standing Cypress (Ipomopsis rubra)

Three years ago, when we bought the house we live in now, the 'yard' looked like a wreckage area. On the plus side, it contained some typical Texas hill-country trees. But every square foot not occupied by tree trunk was covered in weeds, rubble and juniper shards. All embedded in sun-baked clay. Oh, and there were rocks. LOTS of rocks.

That fall I wrecked my hands breaking up clay with a pickax so that I could plant thousands of seeds, a riotous assortment of wildflowers and grasses. Amazingly, most of it came up.

If you asked me which was my favorite, I'd waffle, depending on the season and what butterflies I'd seen on the flowers. But there is no contest as to the hummingbirds' favorite, it's Standing Cypress.

The seed will come up in a wide range of habitat--sun, dappled shade, rocky fields, sandy soil. Modestly drought-tolerant, somewhat deer resistant (almost nothing is deer-proof, particularly in time of drought).

It first appears as a stem of soft ferny green, which slowly grows into a low mounding basal-rosette. It will winter, spring, summer, fall and winter again in this form and then, suddenly, shoot a single tall slender stem skyward, from which open a succession of vibrant red trumpets.

Hummingbirds do aerial combat over standing cypress.

At the end, it seeds and dies. And the cycle starts again.

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