Spigelia Times Two

 

During my explorations of the area surrounding the San Bernard Oak, the most intriguing discovery involved this tiny flower. I’d never seen anything like it and, as it turned out, there’s a very good reason.

Spigelia texana, or Texas pinkroot, is one of our state’s endemics. Unlike other members of the genus found in the state, it’s considered rare, and occurs in only a few counties.  A member of the family Loganiaceae, the genus contains around sixty species; Spigelia honors Adriaan van den Spiegel (1578-1625), professor of anatomy at Padua. Most plants in the genus are known as pinkroots.

Spigelia texana can be found in bottomland hardwood forests along the east Texas coastal plain, in soil containing sand or clay. Only a few inches tall, its funnel-shaped flowers are about a half-inch long, and marked inside with the greenish lines that help to identify it. Another species found in the state, the prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea), is similar in appearance, but contains lavender lines inside the flower.

A third species known as Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), is far more common, reaching from Florida across the Gulf coast states to far eastern Texas. Its bright red and yellow flowers are favored by gardeners because of its color, it’s tendency to clump, and its attractiveness to hummingbirds.

Jason, of Garden in the City, was kind enough to share photos of his Indian pinks. Once I’d identified Texas pinkroot, its similarity in shape to Indian pinks became obvious.

As its name suggests, the prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea), is found farther inland. This photo by Bob Harms shows the clear resemblance to the Texas pinkroot; since prairie pinkroot grows in areas I also visit, I may recognize it if I come across it there.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Hand of a Hidden Gardener

Narcissus, backed by bluebonnets and coreopsis – Rockport City Cemetery

Wildflowers are the primary spring attraction at the Rockport City Cemetery, but there can be surprises.

Any non-wild flowers there usually are non-living as well: made of plastic or silk. This year, a few non-native but entirely alive flowers suggested the work of a human hand. They added a different kind of beauty to the scene, and may have been planted in memory of a family member or friend who was especially fond of them.

Bud of Leucojum aestivum, or summer snowflake

I was delighted to find examples of Leucojum aestivum, the so-called summer snowflake. I’ve often seen photos of the flower from England or our northeastern states, but until this trip, I’d seen only one actual flower: an apparent escapee from a garden at a nearby historic plantation.

The small, graceful flowers are delightful. I was especially taken with the shape of the stamens, which looked to me like bits of tubular pasta. The flowers are pollinated by bees, and a closer look at the pollen scattered about on the inside of this flower suggests that it’s been visited by at least one very busy bee.

A little online exploration revealed that these plants will naturalize very well in parts of our state. If we can’t have snow, at least we can have snowflakes.

 

Comments always are welcome..
Click any image for greater size and more detail.
For a great look at snowdrops, see this post from Pete Hillman.

A Wetland Treasure

Louisiana canna (Canna glauca) ~ Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Nacogdoches

With its feet firmly planted in the water, its long, slender leaves arrayed around a sturdy stalk, and its gently curving petals, the plant’s appearance first suggested an iris: a beautiful if somewhat puzzling version of the irises native to Texas.

In fact, I’d come across Canna glauca, a member of the Canna family native to Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina in the United States. The plant favors a wet environment, and  often goes by the names water canna, or Louisiana canna. The specific epithet glauca refers to its blue-green leaves.

I’ve never been a fan of so-called canna lilies, which aren’t lilies at all, but members of a genus which originated in tropical areas of the Americas before being introduced into other parts of the world. But C. glauca, less frowsy than many canna cultivars, caught my eye with its color and simpler form.

Its seed pods are as interesting as the flower is beautiful, and reminiscent of some exotic Asian fruit. Although cannas are easily propagated by dividing their underground rhizomes, they can be started from seed.

Each pod contains one to three fairly large black seeds which require scarification, soaking, and consistent warmth for germination to occur. It seems to be quite a process, but the reward is obvious: another native canna to enjoy.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Who’s Got the Button(bush)?

Buttonbush flowers and developing seed head

 

The children’s game called “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?” isn’t complicated. One child, carrying a hidden button, appears to transfer it into the waiting hands of every other child standing or sitting in a circle. Then, everyone tries to guess who actually received the button.

The flowers of buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis ) wouldn’t do so well for the game; they’re both too large and too delicate. Still, they’re as attractive as the plant is useful. Commonly found in wet open areas, low woods, thickets, swamps, river bottoms and stream or pond edges, buttonbush can live in up to 2 feet of water. This combination of blooming flowers and developing seed head was perched at the edge of a small lake near the Watson Rare Plant Preserve in east Texas; one of my own feet was planted in the water as I took the photo.

Though tolerant of shade, buttonbush blooms most profusely in full sun. The pincushion-like flowers — actually one-inch round ball-like clusters of white blooms — provide nectar for a variety of bees, butterflies, wasps, moths, and beetles, and an assortment of birds are known to visit. Its seeds are favored by waterfowl, and some mammals feed on its twigs.

Widely distributed across the eastern half of the United States, this easy-to-grow native makes a fine addition to gardens and landscapes where moist to wet conditions prevail, although some have found it capable of adapting to drier areas. Its fruits, deep red and sometimes glossy, will last throughout the fall.

Pond Creek Wildlife Management Area ~ Northwest Arkansas

 

Comments always are welcome.

Eat Your Veggies, but Admire Them, Too

Summer squash blossom (Cucurbita spp.)

Our native wildflowers are beautiful, but there’s no need for the flowers of our squash, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to feel inferior to the Coreopsis and Gaillardia.

During a peach-picking trip to a local farm, I took time to walk the rows of ripening produce and found myself especially charmed by the squash blossoms. They resemble slices of cut cantaloupe: another member of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family, that will be appearing in farmers’ markets soon, and the flowers themselves are edible.

 

Comments always are welcome.