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.