Sleek, Silky, and Semi-Spiky

Canna glauca buds ~ Brazoria County

Water Canna (Canna glauca), sometimes known as Louisiana Canna, is native to only a few southern states: Brazoria and Matagorda counties in Texas, several Louisiana parishes, and single counties in Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. Found primarily along the margins  of marshes, swamps, and ponds, it’s an impressive plant that can attain a height of six feet.

The genus name is rooted in the Greek word kanna, meaning reed. The specific epithet also comes from the Greek; glaukos gave rise to glauca, which refers to the grayish-blue color of the leaves. 

One of several September-blooming plants at the San Bernard Refuge ~ Brazoria County

Cannas commonly are propagated by dividing their underground rhizomes. Some gardening sites note that the rhizomes can be overwintered in the ground if the temperatures remain above 40F (or 50F, depending on the website). They’ve been described as temperamental, easily lost if not kept in perfect conditions, but these plants seem to have weathered last February’s freeze perfectly well.

The plants can be grown from seed. Once the flowers are spent, clusters of green, spiky pods that remind me of dog chew toys develop. The pods usually contain one to three large, black seeds which can be harvested after the pods become dry.

Fresh and dried Canna seed pods ~ Brazoria County

The transformation of the plant from one stage to another is remarkable and interesting to witness. In mid-September, I found buds galore still emerging; with luck, more photos of the flowers themselves will be possible before their season is ended.


Comments always are welcome.

35 thoughts on “Sleek, Silky, and Semi-Spiky

    1. I’d say “yes” to both. Prior to the freeze, I found the plant in a small decorative pond in front of the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge Information Center, and I’ve found it in wet ditches out in the county. At San Bernard, there’s a large stand alongside the auto route; it’s also in an area that’s often wet and can hold water for some time after heavy rains.

    1. That’s a nice kind of association. I’ve never been overly fond of cannas, but I like this one. It doesn’t seem quite as ‘overdone’ in bloom as some of the cultivars.

    1. Over time, I realized that flowers are only part of the story. I started out being attracted to the flowers, but then I started paying attention to buds and seed heads, and there were some real surprises — as with this canna.

  1. Very interesting specimen, Linda. Thank you for showing it to me, as we for sure don’t grow them here, and I don’t recall seeing them when I lived in Texas. You’re right: they do look like a chew toy!

    1. Do you have other cannas in your area? I’m sure you must. The garden cannas look a bit like this, but the blooms tend to be larger, and they’re usually bright yellow, orange, or red. I know that this one helped to create some of the cultivars — very interesting! Speaking of chew toys, how’s Monkey these days?

  2. Great set of photos showing the beauty of this plant. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, but good to know that it survived February’s freeze. Tough plant!

    1. The first one I saw was at a demonstration pond in Nacogdoches. It may have been grown as an annual there, of course; it’s gets pretty nippy in that area. It was October when I saw it, so it would have had plenty of time to grown and bloom if it was planted in spring.

    1. I was pleased to find that collection of undamaged buds in the first photo. Most buds and flowers had been affected by insects or weather, and weren’t nearly so ‘sleek.’ I liked the color of the buds, too. The flowers seem to darken a bit as they age, but they’re that nice almost-citron when they emerge.

    1. I played with that one quite a bit, Curt. I wanted the contrast of a dark background, but not a pure black. If you look very carefully, you.might be able to see the foliage behind the flower.

    1. Isn’t it fun to see how plants change from one stage to another? Some are sort of predictable, like roses or sunflowers but this one was surprise after surprise. I was happy to be able to make nice images of each stage.

  3. My mom planted red-flowering cannas in the back yard of their first house, but they had purple leaves and stems. The seed pods were the same, though, with spherical black seeds the size of peas. I don’t know the specific name of that variety, but in shape they were the same as these, only with the dark purple leaves and stems, and scarlet red blooms.

    1. I would have enjoyed those purple leaves. There’s quite a stand of deep red ones at a spot I pass on Galveston Island. They’re a dramatic flower, for sure. Are there some attractive gardens in your new place? or at least nice landscaping. Flowers like these certainly are nice to have around.

    1. Aren’t they wonderful? I’ve never been particularly attracted to cannas, but I loved this plant the first time I saw it in a nature center pond. When I finally found it growing wild, it was quite a thrill.

  4. Mary Beth grows Cannas in her vegetable garden but I’ve not seen seed pods until now. Probably just wasn’t paying attention before she cut them and dug the tubers for winter storage. The yellow blooms, ours are red, are lovely and look great against the dark background.

    1. Those seed pods are fascinating. I’d assumed they would be prickly, but they’re not. After they’ve dried, the covering becomes almost parchment-like, rather like the invasive balloon vine. I’ve always thought the blooms of cannas were somewhat overblown, but I suspect now that the garden varieties I’ve seen have been bred for those large flowers. I like the relative simplicity of this one.

    1. A new tidbit I’ve learned is that cannas aren’t actually lilies; their closest relatives include the gingers, bananas, and birds of paradise. I’ve always heard them called ‘canna lilies’ too; it’s a great example of a common name catching on but not being exactly right. It’s like ‘seagull.’ Even though the name’s used all the time, there isn’t a ‘seagull’ — there are only laughing gulls, herring gulls, and so on. So, I’m trying to train myself to say ‘canna’ rather than ‘canna lily.’ Whether I can do it is another question entirely!

  5. For a long time, whenever anyone mentioned “Canna Lily”, I always thought of something one would find only at a flower shop. How exciting to find them while exploring wild places!

    Superb photographs of this beauty!

    I love the name of one of our Florida natives: Bandanna-of-the-Everglades (Canna flaccida). Bright yellow and waving in the breeze welcoming us to the wetlands.

    1. Your association of cannas with florist shops reminds me of my own association of gladioli with funerals. I still can’t remember seeing one in a garden, although someone is growing them. I suppose they’re used in churches — for funerals and otherwise — because they’re so large, and suit floor vases!

      ‘Bandana-of-the-Everglades’ is a terrific name. It reminds me of another one we share: alligator flag (Thalia dealbata). Too bad we can’t persuade the gators to plant one of those flags when they’re lurking around — rather like a ‘diver down’ flag.

  6. The buds are beautifully observed. I don’t know that I’ve seen this particular form, but cannas in general seem to do very well in Mississippi, apparently with no care from humans at all.

    1. When I looked again, I found a conflict between the BONAP site — which shows this present in only one county — and the USDA site, where it doesn’t appear at all. It’s fairly widespread in Louisiana, so it may creep across the border at some point. Other cannas do well here, too; I’ll sometimes see them in wet ditches, apparently unconnected to any residence or garden.

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