A Delight of Basket-flowers

American basket-flower ~ Plectocephalus americanus (formerly Centaurea americana)

As spring transitioned into summer, I began to fear I had missed seeing my beloved basket-flowers this year. Finally, around mid-June, they began to appear: along abandoned rail tracks and in ditches; tucked into unmowed corners of vacant lots; lurking at the edge of a shipyard. By July, seeds I’d given to friends began to produce as well, and their reports of successful germination pleased me immensely.

Generally speaking, basket-flowers bloom a soft, lovely pink, or various shades of lavender. As they age, the intricately woven ‘basket’ containing the slender disk flowers turns golden, becoming the center of attraction as the seeds form.

Occasionally, as with this flower from a colony in Kemah, Texas, the fading bloom darkens, taking on shades of bronzed purple and red.

Sometimes, white basket-flowers appear. Near Tres Palacios Bay on Texas’s mid-coast, this lovely example stirred in the wind: a reminder of the surprising variety nature offers to even the most casual observer.

 

Comments always are welcome.

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.