Rayless Among the Rocks

After my recent posting of Gaillardia aestivalis and the white variety known as Winkler’s Gaillardia (G. aestivalis var. Winkleri), several readers commented on the pleasing structure of the ball-like seed heads.

Another Gaillardia species, G. suavis, is ball-like from the beginning. Known for its sweet scent and generally missing the ray flowers that mark other members of the Asteraceae, the variously-named fragrant Gaillardia, pincushion daisy, or perfume balls, is common along roadsides in the Texas hill country.

The disk florets that form the pretty round flower tend toward a reddish brown, interspersed with numerous stiff bristles. All of these were found on open, dry hillsides in Medina and Kerr counties, thriving in the gravelly soils.

This especially vibrant example reminds me of the fruit of the buttonbush, another ball-shaped bloom.

I’ve yet to find any fully-developed, fluffy seedheads of these flowers, but perhaps this will be the year.

Comments always are welcome.

A Gaggle of Gaillardia

Gaillardia pulchella, coming and going

At the end of the road, past the observation platform, around the steel gate meant to discourage cars and up again on the berm, lies an isolated hiking path at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. On the east side of the berm, a ditch deep enough to provide protection from the wind allows plants to bask in low winter sunlight; it’s one of the first places I look for early-blooming flowers: coastal germander, verbena, scarlet pimpernel.

Sometimes, there are surprises. On January 27, I found the ditch filled with short and somewhat scraggly Gaillardia pulchella, commonly known as firewheel or Indian blanket. The genus name honors M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, a French magistrate and patron of botany, while the specific epithet means ‘pretty.’  Twelve species of native blanketflower inhabit the United States; at least one species can be found in every state, with Gaillardia pulchella the most widespread.

Known for their months-long bloom, these tough, cold-hardy Gaillardia clearly weren’t faded holdovers from the fall. In their snug little corner of the world, spring has arrived.

A slightly damaged but still enthusiastic bud
A significantly darker bud, perhaps showing evidence of a recent cold snap
A seedhead, beginning to prepare for the next generation

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

 

Just As Pretty In Pink

 

The flower commonly known to Texans as Indian blanket or firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) generally blooms in combinations of red, yellow, and orange. A close relative, the maroon blanket flower, or maroon firewheel (Gaillardia amblyodon), can cover a hillside with — what else? — lovely sweeps of purplish-red flowers. In some parts of Texas, there are yellow gaillardia, and a little beauty called sweet gaillardia, or perfume balls, often arrives with only tiny ray flowers, or none at all.

When I stopped for a better look at a patch of unfamiliar pink among the traditionally yellow and red gaillardia lining the roadside near the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, there was no denying it; nature had provided yet one more in an apparently inexhaustible supply of surprises. The little pink patch was gaillardia.

While seeds for a pinkish gaillardia cultivar now can be obtained through catalogs, none seems as attractive as these unusual flowers, provided by nature herself. Their clear, pure pink was delightful, and if I’m lucky, they’ll reappear next year. I have the spot marked.

 

Comments always are welcome.