While hunkered down under a piece of farm equipment I was supposed to repair, the rancher that owned it was bent over, looking into the grass. I thought he had lost something for a moment but he looked up and had a little smile on his face. He looked over at me and casually said that the wildlife would get through this winter OK. I asked him how he knew and he pointed down to the ground and said "Filleree, it's every where this year and doing right well".
Filleree, as the old rancher pointed out, is probably one of the most important plants in the hill country where wild life is concerned. I'm sure he also knew that his cattle as well as the neighbors Barbado sheep would make good use of it as well. The native plants in the hill country of Texas are notorious for having very low protein values with very few even over 10%, and that is when they are at their prime. In the winter time they are closer to zero. Filleree has a protein content of over 17%, even in the winter, as that is when it is young and growing. That protein will be utilized by deer, turkeys, rabbits and other wildlife to keep them healthy through the rigors of the winter when many other food sources for these animals are lacking or gone altogether.
Such an important plant and you would have to look closely to even see it, growing flat to the ground. It's really easy to see though, if you know what to look for. During the winter many of it's tiny leaves are crimson red instead of green, and show up easily.
While the old rancher knew and appreciated the filleree for it's benefit to the animals, he could have cared less about the show of violet blooms that all native plant people would recognize as Stork's Bill. It's not one of the big show natives, with the blooms only hanging around for less than a month, but while it's here, it's here with a bang.
All those blooms will make the very thing that Stork's Bill is named for, the seed pods. They look just like a stork's head and bill.
So, whether you call them Filleree or Stork's Bill, it's a very important plant to have. And just how many plants can be this important and be this beautiful as well?