Winter Blues ~ and a Bit of Orange

Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)  

It would seem that a flower known as the scarlet pimpernel should be red, but this pretty little introduced flower that can bloom throughout the year has an interesting secret. Sometimes, it’s blue.

The phenomenon known as color polymorphism isn’t uncommon, but it usually involves blue, purple, or red-flowered plants that become white because of their inability to produce anthocyanins: the pigments that give those flowers their rich coloring.

Both scarlet pimpernel morphs — the red/orange and the blue — contain anthocyanins, but they differ among the plants. What determines which color will appear is somewhat mysterious. There are suggestions that climate is involved, since the best predictor of flower color seems to be hours of sunshine. In England, red pimpernels predominate; in sunnier Spain, blue is more common.

The red version, of course, is indelibly linked to one of the more well-known novels in English literature, The Scarlet Pimpernel. Its hero, Sir Percy Blakeney, disguises himself as a hapless playboy, while also devoting himself to rescuing aristocrats from the French revolutionary guillotine.

Given to leaving a card with an image of the red flower at the scene of his rescues, he becomes known as the Scarlet Pimpernel. Given the pimpernel’s ability to change its own appearance, a card showing both blue and red flowers might have been equally appropriate.

 

Comments always are welcome.
Photos of both red and blue pimpernels were taken at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge on January 27.

 

 

Sparkle and Shine

 

No snowflakes drift through our skies, and we’re generally denied the sharp glitter of sunlight on ice during our winter season. Still, the delicate, snowflake-like blooms of perennial saltmarsh aster (Symphyotrichum tenuifolium) linger late into the year, decorating the edges of ponds and sloughs.

Not a choosy plant, they’ll grow wherever water collects. Here, reflections from a water-filled ditch along a Brazoria County road add elegance to a favorite winter flower.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Far From the Madding Crowd

 

What may be the most well-known phrase from Thomas Gray’s poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” certainly fits this view of a road leading through the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge.

On January 6, the madding crowd was elsewhere, leaving the birds, the alligators, and the occasional nature lover to enjoy one another’s company — and the magnificent sky show — in peace.

 

Comments always are welcome.
For more information on Thomas Gray (1716-1771), visit this Poetry Foundation page.