Spring’s Primary Colors

Anagallis arvensis ~ a blue form of the more commonly salmon-colored Scarlet Pimpernel

In another month or two, Indian paintbrush, Engelmann’s daisies, and bluebonnets will cover the land with their bold primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.

Just now, a combination of factors have created a landscape given to brown, light brown, sort-of-brown, and gray, but as February comes to an end, newly-emerged flowers are beginning to shine.

In areas of the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge on February 20, the blue form of the so-called Scarlet Pimpernel had begun to emerge.

Even on a somewhat gloomy day, scattered Butterweeds provided bright yellow accents in the ditches.

Butterweed ~ Packera glabella

While not a pure red, the indefatigable Indian paintbrushes were scattered throughout the refuge, completing the traditional triad of colors and suggesting that spring’s full flowering may arrive sooner than we imagine.


Comments always are welcome.

58 thoughts on “Spring’s Primary Colors

  1. Beautiful colours! and I’ve shared on twitter. I don’t know if we get the blue form of Scarlet Pimpernel here, I’ll be keeping an eye out now in case I spot one!

    1. The blue Pimpernel is a confusing plant. Some have suggested that the blue form of the orange/salmon-colored flower develops in areas that get strong sunlight, but there’s another species — Anagallis monelli — that’s a vibrant blue but native to the Mediterranean area. Both colors are shown on the iNaturalistNZ page, so your chances of finding it are good.

      I was surprised to find the taxonomists have been busy again; Lysimachia arvensis apparently is the preferred name now.

  2. The Azure Pimpernel? The Lapis Lazuli Pimpernel? Nope. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. The book is better than any of the dramatizations I’ve seen of it, although I like the Anthony Andrews one the best. I’m so ready for spring. It’s our most color-contrast-y time of year. All the colors are so fresh and new before the summer sun fades everything.

    1. You’re right that ‘Azure Pimpernel’ just doesn’t have that ring to it. You started me thinking about scarlet, and it wasn’t long before I’d gotten to The Scarlet Letter and Scarlett O’Hara, not to mention scarlet fever. It’s interesting that we have ‘red letter’ days rather than ‘scarlet letter’ days, and that the occasional love has been compared to a ‘red, red rose’ rather than to one that’s scarlet.

      Apart from emerging flowers, things are kind of flat around here. The clovers and other ground covers are starting to emerge, but a lot of the grasses are in that awkward stage between autumn rust and gold and spring green.

  3. We’ve been warming up around here too (kinda fast for my taste), but even my gardenia doesn’t have buds, only the hibiscus. Is the Scarlet Pimpernel considered a weed in Texas? It is pretty, but then again, so are the other two.

    1. I’ve seen Scarlet Pimpernel — usually the salmon colored — in lawn areas, but it seems to thrive best in poorer soils. I usually find it alongside roads or in sandier soils in the refuge. Since it’s non-native, I’m sure some consider it a weed, although I’ve read that it can make a nice ground cover. I happen to think it’s pretty, and I’d be glad to have it around. The hoverflies certainly make good use of it!

    1. As pretty as our expansive landscape plantings are now, there’s something special about finding old friends like these popping up on their own. In a relatively sere landscape, they’re certainly noticeable.

  4. I like your understated “brown, light brown, sort-of-brown, and gray.” The only Scarlet Pimpernel I knew about for most of my life was “the first novel in a series of historical fiction byBaroness Orczy, published in 1905. It was written after her stage play of the same title enjoyed a long run in London, having opened in Nottingham in 1903. The novel is set during the Reign of Terror following the start of theFrench Revolution. The title is the nom de guerre of its hero and protagonist, a chivalrous Englishman who rescues aristocrats before they are sent to the guillotine. Sir Percy Blakeney leads a double life: apparently nothing more than a wealthy fop, but in reality a formidable swordsman and a quick-thinking master of disguise and escape artist. The band of gentlemen who assist him are the only ones who know of his secret identity. He is known by his symbol, a simple flower, the scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).”

    1. Just the name of the flower has a pretty sound. I suppose its small size helped to make it a symbol: recognizable, but not obtrusive. Since it’s a European/Mediterranean native, it would have been more recognizable to readers, too. I wonder which of our native flowers could have served the same purpose. The bluets, perhaps: The Bluet’s Revenge has a bit of a ring to it.

        1. They aren’t? I know bluets can be pinkish, lavender, or white, but around here they tend to be blue, or at least a kind of lavender-tinged blue. In fact, I have a bluet post-in-waiting. Maybe our species (Houstonia pusilla) tends more toward blue. One of its common names is star violet, but the wildflower.org page says, “Though very small, star violets sometimes color a field blue.” It’s the old lavender/purple/blue conundrum.

          1. Right you are about “the old lavender/purple/blue conundrum. You know my bias toward perceiving many flowers with “blue” in their name as violet or purple, including the ones shown on the page you linked to. That aside, many of the bluets in Austin are white or pink, or else a pale violet (as I see it).

            1. The bluets around here, as well as in my yard, range through all those colors. They can be blue, most often pale but occasionally rich, and various shades from there to lavender and the occasional white.

            2. I’ve seen white ones in the past, but I think they were the result of that little genetic quirk that often turns pink or blue flowers white. They definitely weren’t a pale blue; they were stark white.

  5. Lovely colours to act as a foil to a snowy day in Ontario. We have had a couple of mild days, however, and hints of spring are starting to perk up our senses. At least that’s what we tell ourselves until the next dump of snow!

    1. It sounds as though your approaching spring resembles ours, in the sense that the weather becomes a bit erratic, moving from warmer to frigid and back in a flash. I did have a flash of white in my front yard this morning, though. A trio of White Ibis showed up to probe through the new plantings and mulch for a breakfast treat. The squirrels weren’t sure what to think — they gave the birds a wide berth.

    1. I grew up associating pastel colors with spring, and I suspect you might have as well. Pinks, lavenders, peach, lemon-chiffon yellow — those were the colors of our dresses, hats, and desserts. But these strongly colored flowers are equally appealing; the pastels will arrive soon enough.

  6. Wow! That particular shade of blue of the Scarlet Pimpernel is incredible. So deep and rich, especially against the red and yellow at the center.

    1. There may be other flowers that produce that deep, pure blue, but I can’t remember seeing a more deeply saturated blue myself. Because I’ve always thought of the color in the middle of the salmon-colored one as magenta, I transferred that name to this one, and missed seeing that the three primary colors also are contained within this single flower!

  7. So lovely to see some color. Our snow is all melted away now and we are left with a very drab, brown, black, gray landscape not to mention very overcast skies. So your post today was a welcome sight for my eyes! Thank you.

    1. It sounds as though we’re sharing some similar views just now: drab certainly is word, and our own cloudy, gloomy skies aren’t helping. There actually are plenty of flowers around, thanks to commercial landscapers, but planted pansies and snapdragons just don’t have the same effect as an actual wildflower. When does your “real spring” show up? I’m thinking it might be mid-to-late March, and we’re almost to March.

  8. Oh that blue!!! I don’t know that plant, but will see if it grows here and if it’s available. Gorgeous! My packera is all nicely thick and greened-up, ready to bloom, but so far, no bloom stalks. Soon though and I can hardly wait! I do have some spiderwort coming up, though the first ones are always low to the ground. We have another light freeze for tonight/ tomorrow morning and I’m sure hoping it’s the last. Love this post–so ready for spring!

    1. Two things might make the Pimpernel less desirable for you: it’s non-native (although naturalized around the world), and it prefers poorer soils. I do see the salmon-colored here, but it’s generally along the edges of sidewalks or in areas that are mowed within an inch of their lives. I suppose that’s because it likes plenty of sunlight.

      When I found the Packera, I thought about you. Remember a year or two ago, when I was trying to sort out all the species? At least I can recognize this one now, and P. plattensis. I’ll have to work on the others!

  9. That is a gorgeous shade of blue, Linda! Thank you for bringing me an early Spring. It’s especially welcome since we got snow showers here just this morning. Ugh!

    1. I think I might have mentioned to you that during my Iowa years, we never counted on winter leaving until after the boys’ state basketball tournament blizzard. The tournament’s set for March 7-11 this year, so keep an eye on that forecast. It won’t be long until you’ll have some color, too!

    1. They’re such pretty plants; the literary connections make them even more interesting. From what I’ve read, they prefer poor or disturbed soil to rich garden plots, so depending on conditions in your infirmacy, they may move on down the road!

    1. Whenever you decide to come, I’d be more than happy to be your personal guide for at least a bit of your time here. The nice thing about our state is that ‘wildflower season’ is quite long. Even after the bluebonnets — the stars of the show — are gone, there are plenty of delights to enjoy.

  10. I discovered a large group of this blue version at the edge of the end of my street several years ago. I had never seen it before. Now I look for it, pops up in different places. Still nothing happening here besides the anemone and a nice size group in pink, woodland violets, dandelions but the bluebonnets our front are about ready to pop. Don’t even see any sign of Indian paintbrush.

    1. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen another native flower that has this clear, pure blue. I always enjoy finding it. I gave your yard anemones a mention in my new post. When I went down to Brazoria, I was surprised to see so many anemones there were pink. I usually see the white. There might have been two dozen clumps of Indian paintbrush scattered around, but after some early sightings of Texas dandelion, they seem to have retreated for the time being. Maybe after this current cold front we’ll be done with winter and can move on.

  11. Pretty pretty! Yesterday I noticed that our phlox has started blooming & just this morning I had to brush by a forsythia blossom. The temps might still be cold, but the earth has apparently decided that it’s spring!

    1. If your forsythia is blooming, spring’s on the way for sure. During my Iowa years, pussy willow and forsythia were the first sure signs of the season, and I can remember them blooming in snow. When they decide it’s time, it’s time — and I can’t wait for the season to really ‘spring forth.’

    1. We really are lucky to have so many species, and to have so many early bloomers. I’ve seen the orange/salmon pimpernel throughout the winter, but the blue are just appearing. It seems they enjoy a bit more sun — at least, in the sense of longer days. Even though they’re so small, there’s no missing them whenever they appear!

  12. Your post is a springboard into Spring!
    Here, too, spots of color are beginning to challenge the browns. Soon, soon.

    What?!? There’s a BLUE Scarlet Pimpernel! Will wonders never cease.

    Off we go, in search of our own Primary Colors.

    1. It amuses me that none of our Scarlet Pimpernels are scarlet. From what I’ve read, there’s a native version in Europe that is scarlet, and the name got transferred to our flowers. In any event, I really like them, especially since they provide some of our earliest bright color. They’re small, but with color like this, it hardly matters.

      I suspect you’ll find some birdy color to make you happy even while waiting for the flowers!

  13. I really like the stamens and anthers of your blue scarlet pimpernel. Their hairiness reminds me of what I enjoy so much about spiderworts.
    It will likely be another two or so months til we see flowers. A few exceptions such as trailing arbutus show up early on occasion but for the most part we’re barren until late April. Keep whetting our floral appetites, please.

    1. I’m always amazed by the details in such tiny flowers. The first pimpernel was about 3/8″ across, and I’m sure the second was less than a half inch. The splash of yellow and burgundy is just wonderful. It looks like a flower that should be hand-painted on a vase, or some sort of folk art.

      1. The scale at which life exists, from huge to itsy-bitsy, is amazing. That something as small as a pimpernel, gnat, or springtail can have as complex a physical existence as humans or other large beasts is mind-boggling.

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