No Brook, but a Brookweed

The distribution of this tiny flower  — Limewater Brookweed, known scientifically as Samolus ebracteatus — is interesting. It can be found in every Texas coastal county save one, but after skipping a good bit of territory, it also appears in central Texas and the hill country before making its way west into a bit of New Mexico, where it’s sometimes known as Mojave Water Pimpernel.

The plant’s willingness to grow near springs and intermittent rivers in desert areas, as well as in the wetlands and salt marshes of coastal Texas, makes clear that Brookweed doesn’t require a brook in order to thrive.

Its flowers, measuring no more than a quarter-inch to a half-inch wide, appear on short stalks arrayed along a long wand. They mature from the base upward; as the season progresses, the plant continues to produce new blooms while fruits mature from the older flowers and release seeds.

The flowers of this in the Primulaceae (the Primrose family) attract the Southern Carpenter Bee, hoverflies, and butterflies. When I found this example at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail in Brazoria County, other Brookweeds were being visited by an assortment of Sulphurs.


Comments always are welcome.

49 thoughts on “No Brook, but a Brookweed

  1. That’s a good closeup. I know from experience how hard the small flowers of this species are to photograph. “Mojave water pimpernel” is a grandiose name for such a diminutive plant.

    1. I should add that of the dozens of local native species I’ve catalogued over the years with “weed” in at least one of their common names, brookweed is a recent addition; I learned about it just last year.

      1. This is one of the least ‘weedy’ of plants bearing the name ‘weed’ that I’ve seen. I remember you posting this flower; as I recall, you showed its interesting profile. I have a couple of images of the buds that I’ll post next.

      2. And as for the first half of ‘brookweed,’ it was only about ten minutes ago that I recalled phrases like “She brooked no disagreement.” I went looking, and found this quite interesting article.

    2. When I saw the ‘pimpernel’ name, it brought to mind the scarlet pimpernel immediately: so similar in size and shape, if not in color. Of course, every time I see an orange or blue ‘scarlet’ pimpernel, I smile.

      1. For me, scarlet pimpernel always conjures up the 1905 novel of that name by Baroness Orczy, and particularly the 1934 movie version with Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, and Raymond Massey.

    1. There’s ‘just something’ about these small flowers. It’s fascinating to see all their parts in miniature — and I do love a white flower! Thanks for the kind words; I’m glad you enjoyed the photo. Next up? The tiny buds.

    1. They certainly can be adaptable. I suspect the name ‘limewater brookweed’ points to this one’s presence in the hill country, or at least in a place where the streams are bedded in limestone. Of course, down were we’re not sitting on limestone, but the flower seems happy enough anyway.

    1. What’s most amazing to me is that even bigger butterflies — certainly the size of Monarchs, or even Swallowtails — will sip nectar from these. Apparently the flower’s stronger than I realized, or butterflies are even lighter!

      1. Swallowtails around here, from what I observe, rarely seem to ‘land’ on a flower, no matter how large the bloom. Their wings keep fluttering at who knows what speed (do you??) as they dip on to feed. Annoying to photograph but a joy to watch!

        1. I’ve seen that fluttering approach, but I looked through my photos and found several where they were firmly planted: like this one on sweet pepperbush. I’m sure someone has studied their preferences, but swallowtails will perch on Indian paintbrush, various milkweeds, and the occasional liatris. On the other hand, I once spent a full half-hour trying to photograph one nectaring on swamp azalea, and came away with nothing but blurs!

    1. It grows in Mexico, fringes Florida, and shows up in parts of the Caribbean, too — including the Bahamas. It’s like our rain lilies; if the conditions are right, the general climate or general conditions don’t seem to matter. It is pretty, and it certainly is little!

    1. Perhaps, but that might make confusion with our scarlet pimpernel more likely. Of course, the scarlet pimpernel comes in both orange and blue, so things already are a bit mixed up, but so it goes in the world of common names. I like limewater brookweed; it brings to mind hill country rocks and rivers.

    1. It is a beauty. In my next post, I’ll add images of a bud, and a side view of the flower. Both also are interesting — and equally pretty (at least to my eye).

  2. Well, now you have me off on yet another hunt!

    It’s listed as native in mostly coastal areas of Florida plus the entire Everglades, so I should have no problem locating it!

    Fabulous photograph of such a small bloom.

    1. I saw that it’s common in your coastal areas. As a matter of fact, one of the Florida photos I came across showed a White Peacock butterfly nectaring on the plant, so there’s another clue that might help you find it. Seen in profile, it’s quite distinctive; I’ll show that and a bud closeup next.

    1. It reminds me of other small flowers — both real and artificial — that were used for decoration on everything from pottery to hats to doll clothing in the 1950s: strawflowers, forget-me-nots, and such. There even were tiny candy flowers that were used to decorate cakes. Of course, there still are, as I learned when I did a search for ‘candy flowers cake decoration.’ Between Etsy and Ebay, you can find tiny sugar flowers galore — although none as lovely as these.

  3. Tiny and humble yet beautiful. Small flowers can pose a challenge but you were up to it with this nice composition. I’ve some very small ones in the yard that I’ll be working on soon. You’ve set a nice bar with this one.

    1. Big, flashy flowers have their appeal, but the tiny ones always have appealed to me. In childhood, it was the lily of the valley and violets that I searched out; this has much the same appeal to me. I certainly was pleased to end up with this photo; the combination of the open flower and the collection of buds is nice.

  4. I love the composition of your photograph – great for such a tiny flower. It’s a beauty and clearly a very valuable plant for butterflies.

      1. The bluets are very pretty – their being ephemeral must make them seem even more so. It would be fun to grow tiny flowers for butterflies, just to see their balancing act.

    1. It’s such a small thing, but it is lovely. I’m not certain I would have spotted it had I not ‘gone to ground’ to photograph a different small flower. It certainly was a fun discovery.

    1. One thing that surpised me about this one is that its bloom time is as extensive as our scarlet pimpernel. They appear in very early spring, but keep right on blooming well into the fall. As I recall, they’ll keep going until frost; I know I’ve seen them in December. It will be fun to see if I can find these so deep in the year, too.

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