Gaillardia, Too

Lanceleaf blanketflower (Gaillardia aestivalis)

One of our most widespread and beloved wildflowers, Gaillardia pulchella — commonly known as Indian blanket or firewheel — isn’t the only Gaillardia species abroad in the land.

During my recent visits to the Attwater Prairie, I found no firewheels, but Gaillardia aestivalis, the lanceleaf blanket flower, or prairie Gaillardia, was plentiful. Its distinct ray flowers surround a center that becomes even more striking as the plant matures, suggesting a floral version of a geodesic dome.

Seeing a lanceleaf blanket flower, it’s impossible to miss its resemblance to the rare Winkler’s blanket flower (Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri), a plant limited to the sandy soils of Tyler, Hardin, and Newton counties in the Big Thicket.

A purple version of Winkler’s blanket flower known as ‘Grape Sensation’ was developed by Dawn Stover at the Pineywoods Native Plant Center in Nacogdoches. It does resemble the color of grape soda, and has its fans, but for me these two natives far outshine the various cultivars.

A developing Winkler’s blanket flower seedhead


Comments always are welcome.

52 thoughts on “Gaillardia, Too

    1. Now, that’s interesting. It never occurred to me that there was a resemblance to the graphic representations of the virus. My dedication to a refusal to be consumed by pandemic panic seems to be working.

    1. There’s a lot that HOAs don’t like: everything from outdoor clotheslines to out-of-season Christmas decorations. I’m glad I don’t have to contend with one.

  1. You’ve come up with a great description: “a floral version of a geodesic dome.” It’s a good example of the typical fiveness in so many members of the sunflower family.

    The Latin adjective aestīvālis means ‘having to do with summer.” Fancy English has carried it over as estival, which lets us describe a summer celebration as an estival festival.

    By the way, I just found out that The Asteraceae of East Texas is now available for free online.

    1. Your clever reference to the estival festival brought to mind the ‘Festivus for the rest of us’ made famous by Seinfeld. As for the geodesic domes, they were the model for quite a few homes on the west end of Galveston Island and farther down the Bluewater Highway in the ’60s. There are only two or three left now, but they were the first ‘dome homes’ I’d seen. They did seem to stand up well to storms.

      Thanks for that link. I spent some time browsing around, and had to smile at the number of plants I recognized. It will be a good resource.

  2. I’ve never seen a pure white gaillardia before, nor have I seen one with ray flowers like that – how interesting! (The seed heads are cool too.) Would love to grow that in my garden.

    1. The white Gaillardia’s a Texas endemic, and is listed as rare. Some online sites say it’s found in only one county, but that’s not so. I’ve found it in two, and it’s native to three. It may be undiscovered elsewhere. It has been propagated, and can be found at the Native Plant Center in Nacogdoches. Lady Bird Johnson had it at her ranch, and I presume it’s also at the Wildflower Center in Austin.

      I really like the ray flowers on these. The Indian Blanket’s beautiful, but there’s just something about this one that seems especially pleasing. If you want, I can try to get you some seeds. G. aestivalis would be easy. I’d have to ask about the white one.

  3. These are gorgeous — and very aptly named, too! Part of me wants them to put out more petals, but I suppose there’s a symmetrical beauty in simplicity. Thanks for sharing them with us, Linda.

    1. If you want more petals, the answer’s easy — plant the “regular” Indian blanket: Gaillardia pulchella. It grows well in your area, and it’s got a nice, long bloom time. Once I found out that the white one existed, it took me a while to find it, but it was well worth the search.

    1. Isn’t it funny how our vision can be shaped by events and circumstances? There’s a funny article in New York Magazine from some months ago; the writer’s complaining that she’s gotten to the point where everything reminds her of ‘The Virus.’ I think we’ve all been there.That’s part of the reason flowers and fantasy storylines are so appealing; they’re a respite from ‘all that.’

    1. I’m the same, Jeanie. The colors and forms of the cultivars can be interesting and beautiful, but I prefer the natives. One of the best things about these flowers is how tough they are. I’ve found them blooming in every month of the year. Of course, this isn’t Michigan!

  4. There’s a ritzy neighborhood not too far from mine that’s named Gaillardia. I’ve always wondered how they got the name, but I’ve never seen any flowers like this near or around there. I always wondered if it was French or Latin for “overpaid”.

    1. Since I know what state you’re in, I did some poking around, and discovered that the Gaillardia is the state flower of Oklahoma. How about that?

      I also found the Gaillardia Country Club in OKC. Edward L. Gaylord, former owner of the Oklahoma Publishing Company, started the club on family land. And, the Gaylord family is descended from Gaylord de Marentonneau, a French botanist. The flower genus is named after French naturalist Antoine René Gaillard de Charentoneau.

      There’s your French connection!

      1. Wow! Somewhere buried under all the other trivia I did know that Gaillairda is the state flower but I’ve never seen it in any of the parks or nature preserves. Of course I wasn’t looking that hard or know what I was looking for. Also explain the origin of the Gaylord name. Thanks, Linda.

  5. We see firewheels around here but I’ve never seen the lanceleaf form. I really like the delicacy of the petal structure. The geodesic dome/corona virus structure is interesting. It might be a good addition to a Rorschach test.

    And I’m with you on avoiding HOAs – one of the requirements for property we purchase is “no HOA.” It limits our choices at times but we get the freedom to handle our property as we wish. I can’t imagine seeking approval for the color of my paint and the way I keep my yard.

    1. I always enjoy remembering my only Rorschach test. It was part of a pre-employment screening, and took place at a psychologist’s home on Staten Island. I don’t remember which of the cards its was — looking at them now, I think it might have been the first — but when I said I saw a butterfly that had been caught by a lawnmower, the nice psychologist gave me a bit of a look. I still got hired.

      The lanceleaf blanketflower reaches the far western edge of its range in Medina and Frio counties, and isn’t listed for Bandera. On the other hand, there are a couple of other species I’ll be showing that grow where you are, but rarely show up here. There’s a Gaillardia for everyone’s taste, it seems.

      I’m amused by HOA board members who argue passionately for wind and solar energy, and fight just as passionately to keep clotheslines out of backyards. As so often happens, the ‘rule’ is less important than the power to impose and enforce rules.

      1. It must have been a serious job if they were going to the trouble of a Rorschach in a pre-employment screening. I also suspect it was a while ago. The Rorschach isn’t as heavily used these days as in the past, or at least that’s how it was the last time I was active in the business.

        Your response would have been interesting but not worrisome by itself. You gave a popular response and then mangled it, so to speak, by running over it with a lawn mower. You probably surprised the psychologist with the change-up pitch. I suspect it would have been the first card – it looks much more shredded than the other other likely butterfly response card.

        1. It was 1972, and it was for an overseas public health position with the Lutheran Church. You’re right that it wasn’t an especially worrisome response, but it was a first sign of an imagination that’s become much freer over the years.

  6. Great shots, Linda. I like(?) the coronavirus comparison. I think.

    The white form is stunning. So these are typically fall bloomers, or have they bloomed all summer and are finishing up their show?

    1. This coming weekend is going to be glorious, so I’ll be making a day trip to east Texas, and hope to be able to get some better photos of the Winkler seed heads. A quick look at my archives showed them blooming in early June, and I’ve found the white form as late as November, so they have a five or six month bloom period, with new flowers appearing continually.

      I dont’ get to see the lanceleaf as often, so it was quite a treat to find them scattered across Attwater.

  7. I like the geodesic dome observation, Linda. I’m not familiar with the flower but our neighbor has two geodesic domes looking down on our property. A his and hers. Apparently they don’t get along all that well. –Curt

    1. Separate bedrooms are one thing, but separate geodesic domes might take it to another level. On the other hand, those domes might be the perfect solution for a couple with Garbo-like tendencies, or a need for solitude while writing, reading, or painting.

      There still are a few old geodesic homes on Galveston Island. Every now and then I see someone in the yards, wearing a psychelic tee shirt.

      1. Bucky lives on! Some of our state parks in Oregon provide geodesic domes for campers who don’t have tents or RVs.
        Hanging a special flag that Peggy made for me so I could easily let her know when I need quiet time to write is a heck of a lot easier than building a separate structure. Grin. –Curt

    1. Sometimes we do, but more often than not, the law of unintended consequences shows up and makes a mess of things. This article on the relative value of native plants vs. cultivars is especially interesting. Flowers bred to please the human eye don’t always provide what pollinators need.

  8. What lovely varieties of Gallardia. I’ve only seen the one red/yellow petalled variety here in Melbourne and I often wonder if there are any more.

    The white one (above) is more striking than the coloured ones.

    1. I think the seed head of the lanceleaf is more striking, but like you, I find the white species especially pleasing. There are even more Gaillardia species native to our state, and I was going to put all of them in one post, but decided that this pair deserved to be posted separately, since one is a natural variation of the other.

    1. Then you’ll like another Gaillardia species I’ve still to post — and the name it carries. The nice thing about Gaillardia is that they are as appealing in the last stages of life as in the first, and they’ll be blooming and seeding well into winter.

  9. Lead me to your geodesic domes anytime, Linda, especially with those stunning photographs. My mind ends up reeling with all the Latin names and definitions. I wonder how botanists manage to remember them all?

    1. Here’s a secret: most people don’t remember them all the name: at least, they don’t remember them all the time. Repetition does help. That’s one reason I try to use the scientific names even in my notes. One day I realized I could remember a flower’s scientific name, and not its common name — that made me laugh.

      Of course, scientific names do help to keep things sorted. I know of at least four flowers that people call ‘tickseed,’ and yet each of them is in a different genus. It’s like every bone of our bodies having a specific name — we’d not want the orthopedic surgeon to get mixed up.

    1. Thank you, Pete. I do like these seed heads. I’m hoping to get a better photo of the Winkler’s seed head. By nature, it’s not as striking as that of G. aestivalis, but a sharper photo would add to its interest.

  10. Incredible! As has been mentioned above, I prefer the original plants. It seems that however much nature delivers beauty to us we can’t resist tinkering with it, as though we could improve on perfection.

    1. I suppose to some extent it’s a matter of taste. Some prefer formal gardens, while others enjoy wandering in unkempt places; some delight in discovering what nature offers, while others like to create flowers with new colors and shapes. If I had space for a garden, I’d certainly fill it with native plants, but since I don’t, I do the next best thing, and wander in nature’s garden. She does tend it rather well.

    1. Indeed, they are. I have a couple other Gaillardia species I’ll be sharing; both live in Texas, but they’re somewhat different. Nature certainly knows how to spread the beauty around.

  11. Your superb photography highlights one of the “added benefits” of my hobby. Not only do I like making images of what nature has to offer, but in studying the image I am intrigued by the details. In this case, the intricate designs within a flower lead me to want to learn more about flowers.

    Ad infinitum.

    Happily, both Gaillardia species you mention are native to Florida!

    1. That’s just the way it goes. I started out photographing flowers. Then, I discovered there were insects on those flowers, and I had to learn a bit about them. Pretty soon, I was noticing the birds overhead, or wading around the flowers in the water. It wasn’t long before the word ‘naturalist’ entered my vocabulary.

      Speaking of naturalists, a while back I visited a Lindheimer exhibit in New Braunfels. It had some of his herbarium sheets and such, but one thing I found fascinating was this list of naturalists in early Texas. There were some surprises on the list: epidemiologists, for example, and geodetic surveyors.

  12. To a small extent, at least in my imagination, the spent buds of the developing Blanket Flower seed head remind me of Swamp Candles flowers. Although the seed head carries little stars and the Swamp Clandle flowers look like dancers. The Blanket Flowers are lovely.

  13. I can see that resemblance to the swamp candles. I have a photo of the Winkler’s seed head coming apart that’s really cool; it’s easier to see the individual parts that make up the whole. I’ll be posting it in the medium future. There are two other Gaillardia species that I’ll share, too. They live in the hill country, and each in its own way is quite different, although they’re recognizable as part of the genus. They certainly do dress up a garden, as well as random hillsides and prairies.

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