Spigelia Times Two


During my explorations of the area surrounding the San Bernard Oak, the most intriguing discovery involved this tiny flower. I’d never seen anything like it and, as it turned out, there’s a very good reason.

Spigelia texana, or Texas pinkroot, is one of our state’s endemics. Unlike other members of the genus found in the state, it’s considered rare, and occurs in only a few counties.  A member of the family Loganiaceae, the genus contains around sixty species; Spigelia honors Adriaan van den Spiegel (1578-1625), professor of anatomy at Padua. Most plants in the genus are known as pinkroots.

Spigelia texana can be found in bottomland hardwood forests along the east Texas coastal plain, in soil containing sand or clay. Only a few inches tall, its funnel-shaped flowers are about a half-inch long, and marked inside with the greenish lines that help to identify it. Another species found in the state, the prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea), is similar in appearance, but contains lavender lines inside the flower.

A third species known as Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), is far more common, reaching from Florida across the Gulf coast states to far eastern Texas. Its bright red and yellow flowers are favored by gardeners because of its color, it’s tendency to clump, and its attractiveness to hummingbirds.

Jason, of Garden in the City, was kind enough to share photos of his Indian pinks. Once I’d identified Texas pinkroot, its similarity in shape to Indian pinks became obvious.

As its name suggests, the prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea), is found farther inland. This photo by Bob Harms shows the clear resemblance to the Texas pinkroot; since prairie pinkroot grows in areas I also visit, I may recognize it if I come across it there.


Comments always are welcome.

38 thoughts on “Spigelia Times Two

    1. It took me a while to remember which gardener I follow was growing the Indian pinks. At first I thought of you and Tina, but that wasn’t it. Finally I did a search on Jason’s blog and found them. I’ve wondered whether I could get them to grow in pots on my patio, since I’m limited to shade plants, and they’re said to do well in shade.

  1. I am sure you were delighted to discover this plant, Linda. Nothing quite rivals the thrill that this brings. And what gorgeous flowers they are – which surely must be the oxymoron of all time. They are all gorgeous of course! We live in totally different regions of the continent and the flora and fauna reflects this, so it is always a pleasure to see what you have in your world.

    1. First comes the perplexity: then, the thrill. I’m still new enough to this that I’m never certain whether I’ve found something unusual, or just more evidence of my inexperience. With this one, when I got home, looked through all of my books, and didn’t find a single mention, I got interested. Eventually, another blogger from the land of Indian pinks got me on the right path. When I posted a photo on iNaturalist, it got picked up and tagged as a Texas endemic, and the ID was confirmed. It’s such fun, and coincidentally helped me figure out a bit more about iNaturalist.

  2. Happy new. There’s a different times-two newness for me: the genus and even the botanical family. Spiegel means ‘mirror’ in Dutch and German. Bill Carr includes Spigelia hedyotidea for Travis County but characterizes its presence here as rare, like your Spigelia texana.

    1. From what I’ve read, S. hedyotidea appears to be another Texas endemic.. Shinners & Mahler’s mentions its presence in limestone outcrops and gravelly soils in a few counties, and the Edwards Plateau. That’s your territory; it would be fun for you to find it one day.

  3. I’m familiar with Indian pink and would love to have some in my garden, but the S texana was unknown to me. What a lovely little thing! Thanks for this introduction.

    1. If it hadn’t been for this plant, I wouldn’t have realized that Indian pink is native here, too. Granted, we’re on the far western edge of its native territory, but it certainly could thrive here.

      I never would have found the Texas pink had it not been at the margins of the woods, mixed in with the Turk’s cap. When I found a TP&W listing of the flora in the region, it mentioned both plants. I didn’t realize that TP&W maintained such lists, but they’re really helpful, since they list the scientific and common names together. What I found wasn’t it tabular form, which makes reading it a little tough, but it’s quite useful.

    1. It is — both pretty, and little. I’d never seen anything like the flower, but the buds looked familiar. I still haven’t figured out what those remind me of!

  4. Linda, this goes to prove that things don’t have to be big and showy to be considered pretty! We don’t have pinkroot here (obviously), but I’m delighted to make its acquaintance through you.

    1. In fact, the red and yellow Indian pink is native in the southern part of your state, and Jason’s garden is in Evanston — so if you have a shady spot to fill, that plant might do nicely. The Texas pinkroot, of course, doesn’t cross state lines in any direction. It’s just one of our special ones, and I can’t believe I found it.

  5. another one I don’t know but then It doesn’t grow around here. btw, the green antelope horn doesn’t seem to be setting seed so if you find some when you are out, I would be grateful for some seed.

    1. You’d have a better chance of seeing the prairie pinkroot, although I gather that one’s just as uncommon. I am going to make a run out to the prairies this afternoon after I go to the farmers’ market, just for a quick look. It’s too hot to do much, but I will check out the milkweed again.

    1. They’re not at all splashy, but the details are delightful. I especially like the way the yellow buds transform into that creamy, almost-ivory-colored flower with green stripes.

  6. I’m not surprised that if this was to be found, you would be the one to find it. It is a lovely bloom, perhaps all the more so because of its rarity. And your photo shows it off to the very best!

    1. The photo’s not as sharp as I’d like, but there was such a tangle of brush around it I couldn’t get quite the angle I wanted — one that included both the bud and flower. No matter. It’s good enough for sharing, and remembering. I hope I find it again next year.

    1. And just think how many kinds of sunflowers there are, or hibiscus, or daisies. Sometimes the differences are so small and technical I can’t figure out what I’m actually looking at, but if I can get the genus, that’s good — and if I’m lucky enough to get the species, I’m happy as the proverbial clam.

    1. I found your photos of the Indian pink from a few years ago while looking for information on the genus — beautiful! If I hadn’t used Jason’s and had known about yours, I would have asked to use them. It is a gorgeous plant — and hummingbirds love it!

    1. It’s almost time to put the feeders out again for those hummers; I know some people here have them hung already. Do they come through your area? I know where they show up along the coast, but I’m not sure of how they get here.

    1. The Indian pinks seem to be a common garden plant in some areas, especially around Florida and North and South Carolina. A magazine called Garden and Gun recently featured them, and recommended them as a worthy addition to gardens in places like Atlanta and Charleston. I’d be happy just to see one in the wild.

    1. Big, splashy, and abundant is great, but tiny, hidden, and subtle have their place. I was thrilled to find this tiny uncommon flower — it is an especially pretty one.

  7. That’s a delightful find both for its beauty and rareness. Lucky you. Also delightful is belonging to the botany community where so many are willing to share their knowledge and images with others.

    1. In a way, that’s the primary link between boating and botany in my world. Trading tips and ‘secrets’ is gain for everyone; others’ experiences can reduce the number of failures, that’s for sure. I’m really eager to start getting out and about again. After days spent working in the heat and humidity, playing in the heat and humidity’s not so appealing. But, Laura’s gone her way, and my computer’s functional again, so the anxiety level’s down and it may even be that it stays below a hundred today — I see roaming in my future!

      1. Here’s hoping you did get to roam and successfully as well. You are much more social than I so for me the distancing was more or less status quo. The majority of MA residents are abiding by the mask rule and although we did have a spike recently, for the most part things are a little better than many other places.

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