A Great Start to Spring

Win one for the environment. Last night (technically 2am this morning), Austin City Council voted unanimously to ban single-use shopping bags at grocery stores. Bring your reusable bags when you come visit our fantastic city! The ban officially takes effect in March 2013. Austin is currently the largest city in Texas to ban single-use bags — way to go, Austin!

robins03-02-12.jpgEven though it’s not technically spring yet, it has felt like it almost all winter. These warmer temperatures have been rather confusing to wildlife, plants, and gardeners. But spring is definitely arriving now. This past week, a flock of some 50 American Robins landed all across our property. They were too spread out to get a big group picture, but I did manage to catch a trio in the front.

eworm03-02-12.jpgPerhaps they were early birds looking for worms — it was in fact an early morning when we saw them, and we do in fact have a lot of earthworms. Who knows?

mtnlaurela03-02-12.jpgBut perhaps the most noticeable spring sign in Austin is the mass blooming of our native Texas Mountain Laurels (Sophora secundiflora) all across the city. I’ve never seen so many blooming at once. They line and adorn highways, city properties, neighborhood entrances, gardens, parks, parking lots — they are simply everywhere.

mtnlaurelc03-02-12.jpgTexas Mountain Laurels are one of our early bloomers, and as such pollinators adore them. They are incredibly fragrant. A brief whiff of a single bloom can smell like Grape Koolaid to some, but in mass they are almost sickeningly sweet, like grape-flavored medicine. This is why you’ll find two opposing reactions by people — some people love the scent, while others are actually nauseated by it. Most fascinating! I personally like it, but I tend to be that way about any unique characteristic of a plant. Remember, I like thorns, too (but of course, the Mountain Laurel doesn’t have any — instead, it sports poisonous seeds and nauseatingly sweet fragrance — awesome!).

mtnlaureld03-02-12.jpg
The Mountain Laurel above was still freshly wet from a recent rain when I snapped the shot at Austin Nature & Science Center.

mtnlaurele03-02-12.jpgEven my little 3-foot tall Mountain Laurel joined in the purple celebration — it has 3 blooms!

mtnlaurelf03-02-12.jpg

mtnlaurelb03-02-12.jpgWhile I was out there admiring our happy little bloomer, I noticed this black-and-white Lepidopteran. I didn’t have time to ID it, however, but I’m hoping to have a chance, you know, some day. It’s a Mournful Thyris, Pseudothyris sepulchralis. I am in great debt to Alan of It’s Not Work, It’s Gardening! for IDing this little moth for me! FYI, caterpillar host plants for the Mournful Thyris include Clematis and grapes. Apparently good resting spots for the adult moth include Texas Mountain Laurel.

Gosh, spring is a busy time of year. Have a happy purple day!

13 thoughts on “A Great Start to Spring

  1. Yea, Austin! The City of Brownsville adopted a retail-plastic-bag ban over a year ago, and it seems to be working well. The Corpus Christi city council discussed a ban on plastic bags a little more than a week ago, but according to news articles it did not look like a majority of council members were in favor of a ban. McAllen is considering a ban, too, but I don’t recall hearing that the city commission voted on it yet. The Mountain Laurels look fantastic, and I’m sure the fragrance is heavenly.

  2. Wow, your photos are lovely. I didn’t know that Texas had its own Mountain Laurel. (Grape Kool-Aid, huh? Crazy.)
    I lived in Dallas for nine months, and just loved the beautiful wildflowers.

  3. I’m sooo jealous! The Mountain Laurels are gorgeous! March started here with a snowstorm, so any plants making progress in the garden were blanketed with 5 inches of snow. Sounds like this would be a good time of year to leave Wisconsin and head down to Texas. If I wasn’t heading to New Orleans later this month, I’d be real tempted to visit Austin. Enjoy the blooms!

  4. They banned paper, too, which has some people unhappy. I think it was good to ban all single-use, though, else paper just become the substitute and no one learn the value of and reasoning for reusable bags.

  5. Thanks, Lisa and Robb. In a good year, it’s true that the Texas wildflowers are spectacular. The drought has taken its toll, that’s for sure.

  6. beautiful photos as usual! We don’t have a ban (which would really make a change!), but we’ve started a bag tax in our county. 5 cents. Wow. Not enough to make a great impact in this county, which is one of the weathiest counties in the US, but people do psychologically not want to “pay” for the bag, so I guess it’s a start.

  7. As you said, Wendy, it’s a start! I’m looking forward to experiencing the “life-style change” the bag ban is going to create for many people.

  8. I agree — the purple color is breathtaking! Sorry for the delay in replying, Donna — I was on a vacation with the kids!

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