Journal archives for March 2022

March 16, 2022

Smilax bona-nox vs Smilax rotundifolia

This is a quick post to remind me of how to distinguish these two Smilax species. Smilax bona-nox is an incredibly variable species and sometimes it can be mistakedn for S. rotundifolia. With Smilax rotundifolia, it's less of a case of finding characteristics to look for, but more of looking for characteristics that would rule it out.

Differentiation via thorns on leaf nodes

Smilax bona-nox will have thorns at leaf/tendril nodes (Smilax glauca will also exhibit this characteristic). Smilax rotundifolia will not. If there are thorns at the leaf nodes, then it's NOT Smilax rotundifolia.

Differentiation via leaf margins

Smilax bona-nox has prickles along the leaf margins, which I suppose is where it got its common name "Saw Greenbrier." On some specimens this can be quite obvious, while on others they exhibit no prickles at all. However, prickles on the leaf margin will rule out S. rotundifolia. It is good practice to check multiple leaves for any prickles.

Both of these have prickles on the margins, but on one it's more obvious than the other.

Smilax rotundifolia often has a "minute roughness" on the leaf margin. This is one of the best characteristics to look for... though it can be hard to see or photograph. Not every S. rotundifolia plant will exhibit this, but it is pretty consistent. Besides prickles, S. bona-nox margins will be completely smooth to the touch, and can also have a "cartilaginous edge" - a cream colored border.

Minute roughness - though this is S. tamnoides, not S. rotundifolia

Note: S. tamnoides, the bristly greenbrier, also exhibits this minute roughness, so always check to see if you can find the needle thin, black prickles so you don't mix those up too.

Differentiation via leaf petiole color

Smilax rotundifolia tends to have pinkish coloration on its petioles, while Smilax bona-nox will have green petioles. If a specimen exibits a pinkish color on the leaf petioles, that is a good reason to lean towards S. rotundifolia

Differentiation via leaf shape, texture, etc.

I do not think these characteristics are as reliable as the other ones, but will list them anyways.
Smilax bona-nox leaves can have a three-lobed appearance. This can be more or less prominent on specimens, but if the plant is distinctly three-lobed that rules out S. rotundifolia.
Smilax bona-nox will also have "tougher, leatherier leaves," while Smilax rotundifolia has a brighter shine to it. Young leaves of both species tend to look shiny though so this probably applies better with mature leaves.
Smilax bona-nox often have light splotches on its leaves. Seldom will you find this on S. rotundiflolia, if at all.

(Note: update on angular vs terete stems)

Differentiation via number of seeds in berry

Smilax bona-nox will consistently have one big seed in each berry
Smilax rotundifolia will have 2-3 seeds per berry

Example observations:
S. bona-nox
S. rotundifolia

Set of observations with disagreements between these species:,60746&order_by=votes&place_id=1&verifiable=any


Posted on March 16, 2022 01:02 AM by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 17, 2022

Mission: Everything is Anemone

Hello Round Rock naturalists! This is your first nature challenge.

As spring rolls in, flowers will start to appear... but as a citizen scientist, I won't trust that you have seen them unless you provide evidence in iNat observations ;)
Right now it's nearly the start of spring, and the anemones are in full bloom!

Right now in March they are at peak season—I'd be quite surprised if you haven't found one yet. But if there's no evidence, then there's no proof ;)
There are two levels to this challenge. One is quite easy and the other... is not.

  1. Make an observation of an anemone
    In order to make your anemone observation ID-able, get at least two features—a shot of the stem(technically it's a scape) where you can see and a shot of the basal leaves - see here for a better explanation
    When you have done this, post a comment on this post tagging me @arnanthescout saying "I found an anemone!"

  2. Jackpot: Find the rare Edward's Plateau Anemone
    Most anemones around here are the Tenpetal Anemone, A. berlandieri. However, there are a select few species that occur around here which are much harder to find... most likely the Edward's Plateau Anemone, Anemone edwardsiana

The main difference is that this anemone can have multiple flowers growing out of the same scape, coming out from the bracts.
This anemone is endemic to Texas (occurs here and nowhere else), and grows in limestone outcrops around the Edward's Plateau, west of Round Rock. If you believe you have found this species, post it as an observation, and then comment below to tell me. It's a needle in a haystack, don't expect to find it easily ;)

For more details on the 5 species of anemone here, and how to ID/take pictures of them, check out this journal post!

  • BONUS: Find a Dwarf Verbena
    Dwarf Verbena (Glandularia pumila), is similar to the more common Prairie Verbena/Dakota Mock Vervain, (Glandularia bipinnatifida). However, the leaves of Dwarf Verbena are much less dissected than that of Dakota Mock Vervain, and the flowers are in smaller clusters:

While Dwarf Verbena is much less common than Dakota Mock Vervain, it blooms earlier, peaking right around March, while Dakota Mock Vervain has yet to start blooming en masse. Miss it and you'll probably have to catch it next year!
If you think you have found this plant, post it as an observation and comment below.

You can upload to iNaturalist using any method: the mobile app, the website (using my two described methods or something else), as long as you can get it on the site.

Tips on making observations:
  • Make sure your photos are recording location and time... that metadata will come in handy
  • Cover the plant with shade (using your shadow or a hat) so that the plant doesn't look like this. All full sun or all shade are best—try to make things visible and not too "contrasted" as I call it.
  • Usually, when tapping on a phone screen, the auto-focus will put that point in focus... and also make that part medium brightness, changing up the brightness of the screen. Keep that in mind.
  • If you have trouble focusing, you can put your hand behind the part you want in focus to help the camera's auto-focus focus on your hand, and thus the plant you are taking a photo of.
  • Manually focusing the camera is life-changing. Android's default camera has an option for manual focus in its manual mode, which can be very useful. Apple's default camera does not, but there may be other camera apps that can.
  • It's usually better to have too many photos than not enough... you can delete them later.
  • If you have any problems with uploading photos/observations, contact me on Remind or message on iNat ;)

    IMPORTANT: NO STEALING OF IMAGES THAT DO NOT BELONG TO YOU! This is not only cheating, but also breaks the community's trust in you as a user and harms iNaturalist integrity as a tool for citizen science. This is no place to be idiotic... be an honorable person ;)

Posted on March 17, 2022 04:09 PM by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 27, 2022

Scutellaria drummondii vs Scutellaria wrightii

I find these two species can sometimes get confused in the Central Texas area... I myself didn't really understand these two very well, but I have a basic understanding of how they can be differentiated.

What to take photos of

To get the best evidence to ID these two, I would recommend taking a photo of:

  • a clear side/lateral shot of the flower, with corolla, calyx and stem in focus.
  • an overall shot to show the habit of the plant

Differentiation via the texture of the calyxes

S. drummondii will have long hairs, noticeable pubescence on the calyx ("spreading-pubescent or pilose" as Shiner and Mahler's Flora of North Central Texas says). S. wrightii will have short hairs; any pubescence is inconspicuous to the naked eye ("short-pubescent with inconspicuous hairs").

Left is S. wrightii; right is S. drummondii

This is my preferred method to distinguish these two species. However, if the calyxes are very out of focus it can be near impossible to tell.

Differentiation via the shape and orientation of the corolla

S. wrightii usually has a noticeable curve at the base "like a little pipe". The lower half of the corolla also remains very narrow, before it rapidly expands outwards. This also causes the corolla to be flexed upwards, so that it projects perpendicular to the calyx and almost vertical in orientation.
S. drummondii appears to lack this feature, projecting close to horizontal from the stem, and widens more gradually from the base, forming a sideways V-shape.

Differentiation via the size of the corolla relative to the leaves

This is from my own personal observations, so take this information with a grain of salt.
S. drummondii tends to have a corolla size that is not much larger than the surrounding leaves—at most I would say 1 1/2 times larger.
S. wrightii appears to have a corolla size that can often exceed the size of the leaves by a lot. This might be because the leaves at the end of the stems are younger and smaller than the base, and the large flowers tend to be clustered near the top. Or that since the corolla curves upward, it tends to extend up past a leaf node (or even two). Flowers further down the stem can be more proportional in size to the leaves. But often when looking at the plant, especially when well into bloom, the flowers really tend to dominate the scene.

Differentiation via the habit

When the plant is mature, the stems of S. wrightii are often densely clustered together, forming a tighter clump than S. drummondii does. S. wrightii is also a perennial—a woody perennial. On older plants, there will often be dead stems from previous seasons still visible. S drummondii is an annual, and, as far as I have seen, does not form woody stems.

Differentiation via surrounding soil

Alone this may not be a definitive ID feature, but it is a good clue.
S. wrightii is a inhabitant of poor, dry soils, often rocky and surrounded by bits of limestone. The soil color will usually be quite light in color. Apparently it can also be found on sandy soils as well. S. drummondii is less picky and will grow in clay and loam soils as well as sandy and limestone soils. You will probably not find S. wrightii growing on clay or loam... perhaps that's why it remains mostly limited to the Edward's Plateau... though its range does stretch upwards towards Dallas and Oklahoma.

Example observations:
S. drummondii:
S. wrightii:

Resources: - Dicots: Fabaceae to Zygophyliaceae, page 778

Also with the amount of times these can get mistaken for Texas Sage (Check out the Dave's Garden plant file!) I should add in a separate note about how to distinguish those too, but I can do that later.

Posted on March 27, 2022 04:30 AM by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 4 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment