The Flower’s Basket

 

The American basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus) is notable not only for its fragrant and delicate blooms, shown in this previous post, but also for the complex, closely-woven bracts which give the flower its common name. 

Like sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, and asters, the basket-flower belongs to a family of composite flowers known as the Asteraceae. Most have small disc flowers in their centers (the sunflower’s ‘eye’) and ray flowers (which look like petals) around the outside.

Some Asteraceae, however, have only ray flowers (dandelions) and some have only disc flowers.  American basket-flowers happen to have only disc flowers; each of their pretty pink, white, or lavender elongated corollas is attached to a developing seed. 

Seen here, in this intermediate stage between bloom and seed, drying disc flowers wrap around their basket. In time, they’ll fall away, leaving the seed to ripen, fall, or float away, ensuring next season’s beauty.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

A Tisket, A Tasket…

…a just emerging basket

A basket-flower, that is. I watch for the emergence of Centaurea americana every year, and they never disappoint.

In ditches and along railroad tracks, the flowers come and go. Last year’s largest stand was mowed at precisely the wrong time and failed to bloom, but a newly-discovered colony already is forming seed, and will be a destination next spring.

This year I experienced their scent, honey-sweet and heavy in the early summer air, and longed to extend their season.

“You should grow some in a pot,” said a friend. But these flowers aren’t meant for patio life. They’re meant to be wild and uncontained, like their mature blooms.

For years, I failed to see the basket-flowers crowding fencelines and ditches during spring and early summer. Obviously, they were there. Only my attention was lacking.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Three Views Inside The Basket

When it comes to the basket-flower (Centaurea americana), the intricately woven basket is only the beginning. Equally appealing are the pink, purple, or white flower heads that appear to be beckoning insects and humans alike to have a closer look.

Colonies can be a blur of color, but individual flowers deserve a second glance, or to be viewed from a different angle.

Here, a basket-flower glows against a sandy county road.

This slightly unkempt specimen from a suburban ditch seems to be having a bad hair day.

Meanwhile, in the shadow of an abandoned power plant, the inherent elegance of the flower shines.

One of our most beautiful natives, basket-flowers help to make the transition into the heat of a Texas summer almost bearable.

 

 

Comments always are welcome.