Wild Irises of Texas

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Monday, April, 14 2014 02:23:03 am   , 320 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 36380 views

To me some of the most spectacular wildflowers are irises, which are now blooming throughout this coastal area of Texas along the banks of rivers, streams, and lakes, especially small shallow bodies of water commonly called flag ponds.

According to the website The Biota of North America Program, Texas has five native species of wild iris (often called "flags") growing wild in many parts of the state. The native North American species growing wild in Texas are the following:

  • Iris brevicaulis (also known as the Zigzag Iris)
  • Iris fulva (commonly called the Copper Iris or Red Flag)
  • Iris giganticaerulea (known as the Giant Blue Iris or Giant Blue Flag)
  • Iris virginica (also called the Great Blue Flag or Southern Blue Flag)
  • Iris x flexicaulis (sometimes called Iris hexagona var. flexicaulis or Iris flexicaulis, an apparently naturally-occurring cross of brevicaulis and giganticaerulea)

Barbara Medford, writing for the website of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center lists only four Texas natives: "Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris), Iris fulva (copper iris), Iris hexagona (Dixie iris), and Iris virginica (Virginia iris)."  Problematic for me is that the bonap site page on irises shows the Dixie iris as native to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.  Medford does not list the Giant Blue Iris as a Texas native. Also, if Iris x flexicaulis is not related to the Dixie Iris, should they both be called Iris hexagona?  (Confusing! And why I am showing pictures here of the irises that have been growing on the slough I live on, with no attempt made to identify them by scientific or even common names.)

Texas also has an Old World species, Iris pseudacorus (referred to as the yellow flag, yellow iris, or water flag), growing wild, as do many other states. These exotics are growing also on the slough. They were brought here from a neighboring slough where they were growing wild.









Trick or Treat!

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Wednesday, October, 23 2013 11:30:48 pm   , 323 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 11628 views



Why didn't the skeleton go to the party?
He didn't have any BODY to go with!

Who won the skeleton beauty contest?
No body!

Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?
He didn't have the guts.

What do you call a skeleton who won't work?
Lazy bones!

Why did they have to put a fence around the graveyard?
Everyone was just dying to get in.

What do you call a fat Jack-O-Lantern?
A plumpkin!

How do you repair a cracked pumpkin?
With a pumpkin patch!

Little Monster: Ooh, I hate my teacher's guts!
Momma Monster: Well, then, darlin', just eat around them!

Little Monster: Should I eat my fries with my fingers?
Momma Monster: No, dear, you should eat them separately!  

Who is usually the best dancer at a Halloween party?
The Boogie Man!

What is Dracula's favorite fruit?

What is the tallest building in Transylvania?
The Vampire State Building!

How do you unlock a haunted house?
With a skeleton key!

What did the first casket say to the second casket?
Is that you coffin?

How do you make a skeleton laugh?
You tickle its funny bone!

What does a skeleton say before eating?
Bone appetit!

What do you call a friendly and handsome monster?
A total failure!

Where can you find a one-handed monster?
In a second hand store!

What is a monster's favorite song?
"Ghouls just want to have fun"!

What do witches put on their hair?
Scare spray!

What's the problem with twin witches?
You can never tell which witch is which!

Why do witches fly on brooms?
Vacuum cleaner cords aren't long enough!

What was the witch's favorite subject in school?

How does a ghost eat a hot dog?
By goblin' it!

What do ghosts serve for dessert?

What did one cool ghost say to the other?
"Get a life, dude!"

Where do baby ghosts go while their parents are at work?
Day scare!

What streets do ghosts most like to live on?
Dead ends!

What kind of mistakes do spooks make?
Boo boos.

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

That Haunting Style

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Thursday, September, 19 2013 05:04:00 pm   , 448 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 43609 views


I LOVE ghost stories! I can't really pin point why I find them so fascinating.  I'm sure it must be the folklore aspect, how people morph stories with each telling, each rendition reflecting the interests, values, and tastes of each storyteller.

Likewise, I love history (especially genealogy) and art. Thus architecture for me is a perfect integration of these sundry concerns.  Have you ever wondered why we react in certain ways to certain types of art and architecture?  Why is it that we have a preconceived notion or pattern of a haunted house for example?  Why have once grand edifices built originally for the well-to-do become symbolic in their abandoned and dilapidated state of the gloomy and the foreboding, the haunts of "lost souls"?

Bill Still briefly addressed the basis of this symbolism in his documentary The Secret of Oz (2009), an examination of economic symbolism in L. Frank Baum's children's story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, explaining that the economic downturns such as the Panic of 1893 left many businessmen, especially rural and small town capitalists, broke. Many of the beautiful homes constructed during the height of the nation's Gilded Age for many such entrepreneurs became a burden, and many were thus abandoned.

Coinciding with the beginnings of the Gilded Age was the birth of the architectural style known as the Second Empire (though today often popularly referred to as early Victorian), in reference to the French Empire during the years of the rule of Louis Napoleon.  Developed primarily as an ornate style for the urban structures of Paris, the style caught on and spread throughout Europe in a short time and thence to the Americas.  Second Empire style became very popular for imposing governmental structures.  Despite the effects of the panics of 1873 and 1893 upon the economy of the United States, many impressive Second Empire style homes have been preserved or restored.

Designed initially for elaborate groupings of structures along bustling city streets, Second Empire structures alone in rural locales seem somehow oddly out-of-place. Especially so were the imposing homes of successful farmers, built during opulence and then suddenly abandoned as a result of economic decline.

Here are a couple online articles that examine the history of Second Empire design and delve into the rationale for our continued impressions of haunted house imagery:

Horror Style: Why Second Empire Scares You by Samuel Scheib and Original Psycho House --- Found by Joel Gunz, both of which contain interesting commentary on Edward Hopper's 1925 painting House by the Railroad, shown here (above).



Illustrations: (Above) American artist Edward Hopper's 1925 painting House by the Railroad.  (Below) The Heck-Andrews House, built in 1870 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is representative of the Second Empire style (photo from Wikipedia).


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