Hidden Mirrors

Venus’s Looking Glass ~ Triodanis perfoliata

This small member of the bellflower family probably received its common name because its seeds resemble the shiny, round seeds of a related European bellflower species. The seeds of this ‘looking glass’ are lens-shaped as well, but too small to appear reflective without magnification.

After reading that the plant flourishes best in gravelly or sandy soil, it made sense that I’d found it along the prairie trail at Brazos Bend State Park. About eight inches tall, its flowers were only a half-inch across; they appear sequentially, with only one blooming at the same time.

Its lovely purple petals are complemented by its white throat and prominent white pistil and stamens. Gazing into its center, I saw only summer loveliness: a fair reward for rising summer heat and mosquitoes.


Comments always are welcome.

55 thoughts on “Hidden Mirrors

  1. A beautiful flower. I am still not comfortable with Venus’s although I see it used more and more frequently, and even in “official” names of birds – and plants evidently. Venus’ will do nicely for me, thank you very much. And as for Ross’s Gull – bah humbug! It was Ross’ Gull for most of my life and so it shall remain!

    1. What we have here is a difference in style. The Chicago Manual of Style, used in the publishing industry, prefers the form of the possessive I’ve used in this entry, while the Associated Press Stylebook, used in the newspaper industry, recommends the form you prefer. If I were reporting on this lovely flower for the Houston Chronicle, it would be ‘Venus’ Looking Glass.’

    1. It’s easier to find this one; it doesn’t like to grow beneath other plants, and that color shines in open areas. This is only the second location where I’ve found them; the other was the Roy Larsen Sandylands Sanctuary in east Texas.

  2. If there’s no looking glass in this species, it also doesn’t take a crystal ball to foresee what you did at the end: rising summer heat and mosquitoes. I’ll add that in Austin the chiggers have been putting in an appearance for a couple of weeks already.

    1. And one other delightful insect has put in an appearance now: the lovebugs, with their habit of flying straight into wet varnish. At least they rise late and go to bed early, so on these longer days it’s possible to avoid them. Chiggers are the worst. Mosquitos may be annoying, but at least you know when they’re around, and can deal in preventive rather than curative measures.

    1. It is a beauty, and I was surprised to see it in our area. I’d seen it in east Texas, and assumed it was only over that direction. So much for assumptions.

    1. That’s a great description. It does make up for that small size with vibrant color. I enjoy purple flowers anyway, so it’s nice to have this one to add to the list.

    1. Sometimes names come from parts of the plant that aren’t as visible as the flower. As I mentioned, this one got its name from its tiny, reflective seeds — which you’d need a looking glass to examine! No matter; the shape and color are lovely, and very eye-catching.

  3. A beautiful little plant. I’m particularly struck by its sequential blooming. I suppose that enhances the plant’s long-term survival odds but it also gives us a better chance to catch it in bloom.

    1. I was trying to find other plants that flower in this way, and discovered cardinal flower and blue lobelia. They have more blooms, but the flowers also begin opening at the bottom and work their way up. What’s interesting is that cardinal flower and blue lobelia also are in the bellflower family; perhaps it’s a common family trait. You’re certainly right that with flowers this small, being able to focus on one at a time does make a photograph easier.

    1. This is one of my favorite small flowers. I’m always struck by how vividly colored the tiny ones can be; perhaps they need that color to attract attention to themselves. As for that flair for photography, I’ll confess to using two tricks; I only publish my best, and I only study the best of others. Well, and I’m willing to grovel around in the mud for extended periods until I think I’m satisfied with an image!

        1. Some of those five hundred page manuals on photography (or writing, or cooking, or gardening) sometimes embroider the most simple concepts unnecessarily.

  4. Ugh, mosquitoes and humid heat! Not something I’m very eager to experience again, Linda. Still, this is a real beauty — color, of course, as well as shape. A nice find for you and for us!

    1. Now that we’re into May, there’s no putting it off. But we’ve had rain and a cool front, and it’s going to be quite pleasant for a few days. It will be a weekend for nature preserves and flowers, that’s for sure — the beaches are going to be crowded.

  5. “I saw only summer loveliness: a fair reward for rising summer heat and mosquitoes.” A great reminder, Linda, that every season brings its own joy.

    1. Yes, even summer has its joys here on the Gulf coast — although I never have and never will consider moquitoes one of those joys. Watermelons, sweet corn, sunflowers, and beaches, sure: also, the end of alligator mating season. Grunting gators are one thing, but those T-Rex bellows send me in the other direction.

      1. Laughing, Linda. I’d vacate the premises as well at a T-Rex sized bellow. As for mosquitoes, ours aren’t bad although Peggy consider one as one too many.
        The season here that is horrible is the fifth one, that would be fire season in August and September. It can start earlier and last longer. We’ll be focusing our escapes during those months.
        BTW, Peggy is planting a bunch of sunflowers! –Curt

    1. I haven’t been down to the dunes in some time, but I’m eager to see what’s developed down there. The last time I went to the beach was after TS/hurricane Laura. There was plenty of sand, but not much color!

          1. Sometimes. I have the problem of preferring northern plants, so sometimes it’s quite difficult to get them to survive.

    1. This is only the second place I’ve seen them, and in each spot there were very few stems. I’m not sure whether they colonize, but even one plant makes me smile. There had to be hundreds of meadow pinks (Sabatia campestris) in the area, though. Those are a sign of summer, too.

  6. What an appealing shade of purple. The purple petals and the pollen on the stamens make a good color combination.

    1. The purple reminds me of some of the colors in your various shawls. Beyond the color, it’s a neat and tidy little plant; it’s Audrey Hepburn rather than Carmen Miranda.

    1. It sure is! I like the dark purple lines in the petals, and the white center. It would be fun to find some with ripened seed, just to see if they’re reflective. I imagine them like gazing balls.

    1. I saw that headline, but hadn’t read more about the story. To say it’s remarkable — not only for the number, but for the fact that all survived — would be an understatement. I hope all goes well for them.

    1. There are several genera that have had ‘bellflower’ applied to them, mostly because of shape. Our Texas ‘bluebell’ belongs to the genus Eustoma, although I must say its upward facing blooms look more like handbells. That bellwort photo you linked to is superb.

  7. Very nice. I’m very fond of bellflowers though I don’t grow any. Harebell, C. rotundifolia, is only about 6″ high and cannot be overshadowed by taller neighbors. Tall bellflower, C. americana, is an upright biennial that likes partial shade.

    1. I wondered if Harebell got its common name because the bunnies are attracted to it, but I found a quite different explanation: “Some theorize that its common name alludes to an ancient association with witches, suspected of transforming into hares.” Who knew? The harebell has the same delicacy as this one: small, but beautiful.

  8. A lovely flower – it does look rather like some of the smaller campanulas (bellflowers) that we have here in the UK.

    1. Of course it doesn’t hang down in the same manner, but it does have the same delicacy. It’s such a pretty little thing. I’m not sure how well it would colonize, though. I suppose it does to a degree, but I’ve only seen two or three in the same area.

    1. I’m coming to think of your place as Wildflower Central. Just for grins, I went back and looked at some of the places that have been especially flowerful, and Colorado and Wharton counties have more variety than I’d realized. I’m glad you’ve seen this one, and it doesn’t surprise me that you call it a ‘little sweetie.’ The name sure fits.

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