Bog Buttons along the Sundew Trail ~ Big Thicket
Like the Baby’s Breath used by florists as a filler for cut-flower arrangements, Ten-Angled Pipewort (Eriocaulon decangulare) fills a multitude of spaces in east Texas bogs, wet prairies, and wet pine flatwoods. In the United States, the species generally is found in southeastern states and along the Atlantic coastal plain, while Seven-Angled Pipewort is found in the northeastern states and Canada.
The genus name, Eriocaulon, is rooted in the Greek words for ‘woolly’ (erion) and ‘stem’ or ‘stalk’ (kaulós). The species epithet decangulare (and the common name ‘ten-angle’) refers to the number of ribs generally found on the plant’s long scapes.
Other common names, such as ‘hat pin’ and ‘bog button,’ reflect the flower’s appearance; a small, firm cluster of densely packed white flowers sitting atop a stalk that averages two to three feet in height. While individual flowerheads are solitary, a plant may produce a dozen or more blooms simultaneously. Wind pollinated, the plant reproduces from seed.
This developing bud was only a quarter-inch in diameter.
Mature flowers range from one-half to three-quarters of an inch across; their miniscule white to grayish-white flowers develop into the form of a compact ball.
In time, the balls elongate a bit. As they do, black nectar glands become visible, and the button-like appearance lessens somewhat.
Some sources suggest a relatively short bloom time for the plant, but I’ve seen it flowering in the Big Thicket from March until November. Like so many flowers, it’s attractive in all its stages; the fluffiness that appears near its end — causing it to look more like a pompom than a button — is especially appealing.
59 thoughts on “All Buttoned Up in the Bog”
Cute as a button little flowers. In a way as seen in the first image, they remind me of White Baneberry aka Doll’s Eyes a native, although the structure of the plant is much different and the fluffiness is at the start rather the end. However, the button itself is similar to Common Tansy which is not native. All are fine captures of the flower in its several stages.
I grew up hearing the phrase ‘cute as a button,’ and still hear it from time to time. I’d never stopped to think about its origin. I couldn’t find much, but I thought this was interesting: “It is not the button on a shirt that is meant here, but a flower bud as seen in the popular name of small flowers, such as bachelor’s button.” So, ‘cute as a button’ is a perfect description for this other flower.
I’ve learned to recognize both the baneberry and tansy from your posts and others; all of these small flowers share that remarkable cuteness.
I really enjoy your flower posts, Linda, and this is no exception. Another beauty, unsual and interesting.
I’m so glad that a combination of this plant’s long growing season and relative geographic nearness gave me the chance to see all stages of its flowering. As they say about trash and treasure, one person’s weed is another’s botanical rarity!
I couldn’t agree with you more.
What an interesting flower, that “hatpin” nickname is good, I can remember that.
You just sent me down a most interesting side road: the history of the hatpin. Setting aside the fact of their value as a weapon of defense before pepper spray came along, I found some fascinating details in this article. Most pins for working class women had a black or white bead on the end, making this flower’s nickname even more appropriate.
And there’s this: “During World War I, around 1914 when Europe became embroiled in war, resources became very critical and metals were cut back for use in jewelry. The hats got smaller, hemlines came up, hatpins became smaller and military buttons became popular. So, you’d have the buttons of your sweetheart made into hatpins.”
It seems there’s always a historical connection!
Yes! I can remember my mum wearing hats with hatpins!
What fun! I’ve been trying to remember… I think my Easter hats never required a hatpin. I do remember a couple of them, and the little veils that were part of them. Of course we wore white gloves, too. How times have changed.
Excellent series of photographs! I enjoyed seeing how the development of the flowers progressed and the detail is fascinating too.
These are lovely when numbers of them have scattered through the landscape, but the details I found thanks to my macro lens fascinated me. I’m increasingly fascinated by differences among species, too. This one has ten ribs along its stalk, while the species in the northeast has only seven. There has to be a reason for that different in form — but what it is, I certainly don’t know. I just admire them.
Intriguing that they have different numbers of ribs – there must be a reason! It’s great to see what wildflowers grow around the world. :)
We so often look past the small flowers, yet they do such a great job of accenting the larger ones.
They certainly do provide a nice accent — but would you have imagined there was a military link here, as well? Look what I found in an article detailing the history of hatpins:
“During World War I, around 1914 when Europe became embroiled in war, resources became very critical and metals were cut back for use in jewelry. The hats got smaller, hemlines came up, hatpins became smaller and military buttons became popular. So, you’d have the buttons of your sweetheart made into hatpins.”
I wonder if any botanist ever did have a bog button hatpin?
haha, it might be interesting to look into that!!
From the arrangement in the little flower ball in the third picture I might have assumed I was seeing something in the sunflower family. Here’s what I learned from Wikipedia: “The Eriocaulaceae are a family of monocotyledonous flowering plants in the order Poales, commonly known as the pipewort family. The family is large, with about 1207 known species described in seven genera. They are widely distributed, with the centers of diversity for the group occurring in tropical regions, particularly the Americas. Very few species extend to temperate regions, with only 16 species in the United States…”
I can see that sunflower resemblance that caught your eye. It was the last photo that suggested the Asteraceae to me; I thought of the seed heads of Gaillardia. I was surprised to find that some of the species in the U.S. grow in water up to three feet in depth; these apparently prefer wet, but not submerged, soils. Wherever I found them, sphagnum moss and pitcher plants never were far away.
another one new to me. so interesting. so small. so tall.
I’ve found several tall plants with very small flowers in the piney woods. I suspect they’ve evolved to seek the sunlight in a shadier environment, but people smarter than me probably have the answer to that. What I know for a certainty is that they’re appealing; there’s something about small things that people generally seem to like — I’m thinking now of dollhouses and such.
Such delightful wee buttons! Is it all right to imagine them adorning the coats of fairies and other tiny beings?
Of course it is! Fairies would be overwhelmed by roses or gladiolus!
They sure would!
I love the names “hatpin” and “bog button.” Very fitting. I love your series of photos showing how they evolve. What a lovely observation.
I learned in the last twenty-four hours that some people collect hatpins, and that, in fact, most of the hatpins manufactured during their heyday are now in collections; it’s hard to find an original from the early 1900s. I wonder if any of those collectors know there are bogs filled with ‘hatpins’ that have escaped their clutches?
Thanks for introducing me to this one, Linda — I’d never heard of it! Such cute little flowers, too. And I like how every stage has its own beauty.
Don’t feel bad about not hearing of this one, Debbie. I hadn’t either, until it was right in front of me. It doesn’t grow in your state, and it’s limited in range here, too. I will say this — it was easy to identify. It would be hard to confuse it with anything else!
Thanks, Pit. This was one in a growing list of occasions when I’ve congratulated myself on being smart enough to purchase that lens.
An interesting, and easily overlooked, plant. I recall seeing something like it back when I wandered the low, wet parts of the woods around Houston and near Lake Houston when I was a teenager. It’s nice to know what I was looking at way back when.
Despite its small size, I’m not sure I’d call it easy to overlook — at least, in the Big Thicket. Given its height and its tendency to form large colonies, it’s an eye-catcher. It’s interesting that you found it in this area in your youth. It’s not shown here now; even iNaturalist doesn’t show any sightings. It may well be that development and changes in the environment have affected its range, as they have for so many plants.
Sad to say, a more parsimonious explanation may be that I was simply wrong about what I was seeing way back when. It wouldn’t be the first time.
I’d not be so sure of that. If I’ve learned anything about plants, it’s that there’s no predicting when or where they’re going to show up. I’ve found a few species that have roamed far, far from the homes that the botanists have prescribed for them — not to mention the so-called spring or summer flowers I’ve found blooming in January. The prize for those has to go to the asters I found blooming after three days of below freezing temperatures.
A true bog, i.e. an oligotrophic peat bog is a fascinating place to visit, with many unique plants and other organisms specifically adapted to such conditions. I spent a happy (and productive) day a few years ago at the Orono Bog in Maine, the finest example of this kind of ecosystem that I have experienced. And I visited a peat bog in Scotland which abounded in Bog Cotton; quite wonderful really.
I don’t know much about bogs, but I’m learning. I was surprised to learn that there are some peat bogs in Texas away from the Big Thicket area, which I wouldn’t have suspected. I’ve noticed some of those other plants that, as you say, are specifically adapted to conditions in a bog: sphagnum moss being one of the most prominent. I enjoyed looking at photos from the Orono Bog; it’s a shame that it’s closed now.
That top picture looks like a shot of a pincushion full of white-headed dress pins with the pincushion out of frame. I can see why they call them “hatpins.” They are a very “no frills” plant. Since they are wind-pollinated, I guess they don’t need petals to attract insects and give them a place to rest. Nothing but a honking (2-3 feet!) long stem to get them up into the wind. Nature being an elegant minimalist.
I’ve seen a couple of tiny hoverflies on the flowers, but never a butterfly or bee. The only photo I have of an insect on one of the flowers is this one. I’m fairly certain it’s a thrip.
There’s one area where these were blooming around some wonderful mallows. I didn’t get any photos of the combo, but there’s always next spring.
What a delightful discovery a group of these would be. I have seen them occasionally in boggy areas of woodland. Beautiful shots of their different stages as well. I’ve recently turned on blocking tracking me across websites, which means I can’t like some blogs (your included) for some reason, but I can still come and comment!
Now I’m intrigued. I wonder if other people who’ve complained about not being able to ‘like’ posts have tracking blockers turned on. The next time I come across the complaint, I’ll know to suggest that as a possibility. Now I’m wondering if people turning on blockers could be the reason I’m occcasionally unable to ‘like’ posts myself. Mysteries, mysteries…
These plants are beautiful as a group. I’ve found large numbers of them difficult to photograph, usually because of a cluttered background, or even the messy appearance of the plants themselves. They’re often mixed with other species — apparently they enjoy hanging out in crowds!
They’re certainly a delight. I haven’t seen any for a while because I haven’t been in the wetlands this summer.
The inability to like comes on the .com sites as they are actually their own, rather than wordpress. It only affects me–but recently I decided to bar cross-site tracking. I used to turn it on again when I was reading blogs, because the whole idea is to keep people from bombarding you with ads they think you’ll like or profiling you for that and that isn’t a problem on the blogs. I could also just use Duckduckgo instead of Safari and it would just stop tracking. There are conveniences (for instance I have to sign in again to comment) to not having it turned on, but I am thinking the inconveniences may outweigh that. It’s possible that if folks didn’t have trouble before, they’ve done an upgrade and the safety is turned on automatically. But it’s in settings and security on a Mac–and probably settings/preferences on a PC.
I’ve tried Duckduckgo, but it tends to have so many fewer returns for many of my searches, that I often revert to the Behemoth. On the other hand, I use Firefox as my browser, and they’ve done a good job of providing internal anti-tracking tools.
Yes, I’ve got Firefox and should probably use it for more things.
I am totally enchanted with the photos of all the various white blooming natives. I has no idea there were such a variety to be found. The first pic looks just like buttons sitting atop a rod. Unique indeed and what a find. Love these pics.
There are far more white flowers than I’d realized. A nice visual representation of that fact is Eason’s book, Wildflowers of Texas. The pages are color-coded, and when you hold up the closed book, each section is visible. The ‘white section’ is the largest — larger even than the yellow. This flower certainly proves that even the smallest bit of white can be interesting and attractive.
Another new one to me – so aptly named
I wondered if any of the species could be found in your area, and the answer is a “Yes, but…” It seems that only one species (Eriocaulon aquaticum) occurs in Europe, where it is confined to the Atlantic Ocean coasts of Scotland and Ireland.
Out West, we have ranger’s buttons, Linda. Different flower but a similar concept. Another name for the flower, which I actually prefer, is woolyhead parsnip. My favorite look for the bog buttons is the pom-pom look. –Curt
That parsnip’s a mean one. I saw that its effects are caused partly or in whole by glycosides; that rang a bell, and I finally remembered it’s oleander that contains the same toxin. Of course, Galveston has an annual oleander festival, and the city is planted with the things. I don’t remember reading about any poisonings, though — except for a couple of tales in detective fiction.
Your rangers’ buttons remind me even more of button bush. And then there’s some woman named Barbara who had some floral buttons named after her. As soon as I figure that one out (or give up), I’ll post that one, too.
And then there is the giant cow parsnip that grows up to six feet tall and is best to be avoided since its sap can cause blisters!
Ranger’s buttons are common in the Sierras. I often run into them when backpacking.
Don’t know much about Barbara’s taste in flowers but I do seem to remember that Lady Bird was quite passionate about flowers. I found an interesting history of “White House Flowers” at https://www.americanmeadows.com/history-of-white-house-flowers
There’s a reason the wildflower center in Austin’s named for Lady Bird. ‘Passionate’ doesn’t quite capture the level of her commitment. I enjoyed the article you linked to. It’s amazing what having a budget and a staff can lead to — but those flowers can be grown in even the most modest of gardens.
So true about anybody being able to grow flowers inexpensively, Linda. A little love and a little water and Voila! And if that’s too much, enjoy the wildflowers…
More… Glad you enjoyed the article. And it’s good to have a passion!
Now isn’t that simply charming.xxx
The ‘hatpin’ name is so apt. Each plant has several leafless stems, so they really can look like a collection of hatpins in a holder. Some of these names stick long after their source has disappeared, or become old-fashioned.
What a wonderful series of images showing the various stages of this unique plant! I love the last one as it shows “flowers within the flower”.
I’m thinking florists got the idea of using “Baby’s Breath” type fillers from Nature – an otherwise empty bog filled with hatpins.
I’d not be surprised if the florists were so inspired. Combine the pleasant combination of little flowers with big, blowsy flowers, add in the necessary business calculations (roses expensive, baby’s breath cheap) and there’s your winner!
Excellent closeups, I love the patterns and the changes of form.
I’m always intrigued by the way even the smallest flower can present so many views. It helps that some (like this one) have a long enough bloom period that the different stages sometimes can be captured in one day. In this case, I had the luxury of seeing them many times, but I still was surprised by how attractive that last stage was.
Besides the fine images, your post helped me identify a flower I saw on the Cape growing at the side of an inland pond. It’s a tiny pipewort species, either E. parkeri or E. aquaticum. It was very tiny, the buttons were a few mm across, stems an inch or two.
I read about E. aquaticum while I was learning about this one. I found this amazing detail: “Northern Pipewort is an emergent aquatic plant. It grows two to eight inches tall on land, but may reach a height of several feet when submersed. The height of the plant depends on the depth of the water it is growing in. The flowering stem is a single, upright stalk. The flowering stem is a hollow and seven-sided, with prominent ridges.”
That business about height being determined by water depth is so interesting. Here’s the article I found.