Sunlight and Shadow

Fully opened flower of the Mexican primrose-willow (Ludwigia octovalvis)

When I first encountered this sweet yellow delight in roadside ditches, I had no idea how tightly its buds close after sunset. As I watched the bud in my previous image begin to unfurl, I wondered how long it would take for the flower to fully open.

Not being on a schedule, I decided to explore the field around the plant while I waited. As it turned out, the time between my photo of the bud and this photo was forty-four minutes. Even though I missed a few minutes at the start of the process, it still took less than an hour for the flower to unfurl and greet the day.

Of some interest is the fact that none of the buds began to open until touched by sunlight. Even as this flower gleamed, buds still shaded or shadowed remained tightly closed: waiting.


Comments always are welcome.


55 thoughts on “Sunlight and Shadow

  1. Oh, I needed that bright yellow today. You’d think it would be all orange and red and gold here but it’s still very green and today very gray with ceaseless rain. I don’t mind, really — a good excuse to stay in and be cozy. But the yellow is a good burst of joy!

    1. Green and gray can be nice, and cozy is good — but we finally have cool(er) and sunny, and it does feel great. I’m glad this little one brought some cheer to you. Maybe it can help hold you until the orange, red, and gold appear!

    1. As I’ve often said, we have all the time there is. The only question that remains is, “What we shall do with it?” Spending an hour with a flower isn’t the worst thing in the world.

    1. What a great insight. But here’s a question. I’ve been looking at those petals, and it seems to me that each of the four petals also contains eight “lines” or indentations: four on each half. I’ve looked at several other good photos of the flowers, and they all have those eight indentations. I don’t think they’re nerves, as in the four-nerve daisy, but they surely do seem to fit the octo-pattern.

        1. Now that I look more closely, I do see five; on the upper petal, and the one to the right. If I’ve learned anything about these flowers, it’s that for every “rule” we come up with, there’s an exception, and for every exception, there are three more. It’s full employment for botanists and taxonomists, that’s for sure.

    1. It certainly is. And just think — some open only at night, and then close up at dawn. Some of those are pollinated by bats, like agave and the saguaro cactus. Maybe those things going bump in the night are pollinators looking for flowers!

    1. That symmetry reminds me of the cross of St. Florian — the patron saint of firefighters. I found this delightful tidbit on the Wiki page for St. Florian. In Germany,

      “The “Florian Principle” is named after a somewhat ironic prayer to Saint Florian: “O heiliger Sankt Florian, verschon’ mein Haus, zünd’ and’re an” — equivalent to “O Holy St. Florian, please spare my house, set fire to another one”. This saying is used in German much like the English “not in my back yard.”

      That’s pretty amusing. The good saint often is portrayed putting out a fire with a single pitcher of water. He’s also the patron saint of brewers, so maybe it was beer in the pitcher rather than water. In any event, there are some other interesting details about his appearance in art here.

            1. I’ve not heard about PMJ, but I read a bit about them and discovered they’d done a cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” That was enough to intrigue me, so I went looking and found it. That, together with the song you linked (wonderful clarinet!) was enough to move me to subscribe to their channel. They remind me a bit of Pink Martini.

              As for the ordinary — ordinary days, ordinary time, ordinary heroes — what would we do without them?

            2. Glad you liked PMJ. Pink Martini is a favourite of mine, too. PMJ just had a concert in Christchurch on Oct 1st ( I didn’t realise that until today!)

  2. Oh, it’s breath-taking!! Linda, thank you for being patient enough to capture this beauty! And the dew-drops on the topmost petal are an amazing addition.

    1. Aren’t those little dew-drops lovely? It was a pleasure waiting around for it to open. I talked with a woman on her way to the fish camp, found a lot of milkweed getting ready to bloom, and gave thanks about a hundred times that there weren’t any mosquitoes. Now I need to find out when it begins to close — if there’s still any around. While we don’t have your autumn color in the trees. there are changes as the season turns, and the end of many plants’ flowering is one of them. We’ll see.

  3. Perhaps a parallel between breaking bud and breaking daylight? Are they like morning glories or even hibiscus…flowers that close by nightfall

    1. Yes, I think they must be. I’m not sure when they begin to close, but if I can find some still blooming nearby, I’ll check that out. I found on the USDA site that they’re widespread throughout your state, too. In fact, they’re shown in every county below the panhandle, save Osceola and St. Lucie. Of course, it may only be that they haven’t been reported there. Since they’re quite common and present in every other county, I would suspect that.

    1. Or, “Good morning, Sunshine,” which was what my dad said to me every morning, and which nearly became the title of the post.

      Now, if the central disc would spin, and the petals flutter — you’d have a Burning Man-worthy flower. Floral animatronics: that’s what that place needs!

      1. Orvis, the man who trekked with me between 70 and 87, used to go around and sing to the women early in the morning, “Wake up, little Buttercup.” That might be appropriate as well. I’d be surprised if there hasn’t been such a flower. I’ve seen several that shoot out flames. –Curt

  4. “… none of the buds began to open until touched by sunlight.” — I can see their point. Being awakened by being “touched by sunlight” beats the heck out of being EEEEPPPed awake by a stupid alarm clock. Lovely yellow, quadrilaterally symmetrical flower, though.

    1. You’re exactly right about the difference between sun-awakenings and an alarm clock going off. Unfortunately, this is the season when I have to turn to an alarm for a while, until daylight saving time goes away. Because my work schedule depends on the sun, I tend to wake with the sun — which is fine when it’s rising at 6 a.m., or even earlier. Now? The sun’s getting up around seven, and that’s too late for me. Adjustments, adjustments.

    1. After the flood, the yellow flowers seemed to recover first, and they’re still popping out all over: sunflowers, goldenrod, yellow puffs, and of course these. They can make gray days seem better, but they’re strong enough to stand up to bright blue skies; they’re fun to see, whatever form they take.

    1. What a lovely image — and this one does seem to have its arms open, doesn’t it? Now I have another question to add to my list. I wonder if these open up so nicely on gray, rainy days? It seem logical to think they’d stay closed, but human logic and nature don’t always fit together.

  5. Interesting fact about the petals staying closed until the sun hits them. These are all the gems of nature that we miss if we are not fully observant :)

    1. And don’t we still miss so much? When I walk down a path, then turn around to retrace my steps, I’m always surprised by how much I didn’t notice on my first trip down that path. We can’t see everything at once, which is one of the best reasons to return to a favored spot again and again.

    1. How nice of them. If only they’d known, they surely would have linked to my Lagniappe as an example. On the other hand, I didn’t know they had a word of the day, and now I’m subscribed.

  6. Why don’t my ‘light and shadow’ photos turn out so well? Lovely capture. I’m not familiar with that particular primrose, but it’s beautiful. I wonder, does that flower close with the heat of the day, like so many of our natives?

    1. Didn’t this turn out nicely? I’m not sure exactly why it worked, but my hunch is that the early morning light played quite a role. Usually I’m out and about when the sun’s much higher and the contrasts are sharper: the light harsher and the shadows deeper. I’m going to try to do some experimenting and see if that might be it. Of course, every good photographer I know praises morning and evening. Now that sunrise is coming later, I’m going to try to get out more often for that early light.

      This one doesn’t close. In fact, the first time I noticed it along a highway, it was a bright, hot afternoon, and it was blooming away. I remember seeing it in full bloom this year as late as four or five o’clock, so I think it doesn’t shrink from the heat.

    1. But isn’t it nice to unfold at your own pace, no matter how many minutes it takes? That’s what the flower does, after all. Timing it was only human curiosity. No matter how much pleading or cajoling went on, that flower was going to do what it wanted to do — and so should you!

    1. It makes me happy every time I look at it. Yellow is a cheerful color anyway, and the symmetry is perfect. As for timing the unfolding? That’s the kind of clock-watching I can live with.

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