Wild Poinsettia (Euphorbia cyathophora), Atascosa County, Texas
Strangely, this beautiful plant is considered an undesirable and invasive pest in some portions of its large range in the SE and central US. Here in central Texas, however, I have only occasionally seen it growing wild and never in large masses. Unlike its more colorful relative, the Mexican or Christmas Poinsettia (E. pulcherrima), this species generally blooms during the warmer months. Although it is occasionally used as an ornamental locally, it is difficult to find in nurseries. This particular plant is the only one of its type I have ever seen appear on our property; perhaps it grew from a seed deposited in the droppings of a bird.
In the Texas Hill Country there is a shrubby tree known locally (and incorrectly) as the "Texas Mountain Laurel." While the taxonomy of this small tree is not the topic of this post, suffice it to say that it is not a member of the Laurel family nor is it restricted to mountainous areas. It does favor predominantly calcareous soils, which the Hill Country, with its thick strata of limestone bedrock, provides in abundance.
For most of the year Sopophora texana is an attractive but otherwise unremarkable element of the native flora, its shiny, dark evergreen leaves being its most compelling feature. In late winter or early spring, however, it is one of the earliest-blooming native trees, a true harbinger of pleasant times. Its clusters of purple blossoms resemble those of the introduced Wisterias but are much darker.