Sit! Stay! Bloom!

Of course the so-called Obedient Plant never will be as obedient as a dog — it’s not going to roll over or fetch — but there’s a reason for its name. Bent, twisted, or arranged around the stalk, individual flowers tend to stay put; arranged in parallel rows, the effect can be charming.

These Spring Obedient Plants (Physostegia intermedia) found near the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge will bloom until late June or July; the so-called Fall Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) appears here from August to October. While the doubled stem shown above is unusual, the curves of the developing flowers always are attractive.

The flowers open from bottom to top along the stem, and visiting bees seem to move in the same direction. Tubular, two-lipped blooms offer a handy ‘landing pad’ for the bees; entering one flower after another to gather nectar, the bees then back out, carrying pollen with them as they go.

The plants are less obedient in the garden. A member of the mint family, Physotegia spreads easily; like mint, it can fill flower beds if not contained. Still, that same tendency to naturalize allows it to provide great sweeps of color across the landscape. Whether straight and tall as the snapdragons it resembles, or delicate and curved in development, it’s a welcome sign of spring’s continued unfolding.

 

Comments always are welcome.

White Delights: Pinewoods Rose Gentian

 

While exceptions certainly exist, most flowers in the Gentian family range from light pinks to a deeper, rosier hue. The specific epithet of the Pinewoods Rose Gentian, Sabatia gentianoides, means ‘resembling a gentian,’ suggesting that range of pinkish colors.  (The genus name honors Liberato Sabbati (1714-1778), an Italian botanist and gardener.) 

When I noticed this striking white flower in a wet area of the Big Thicket’s Sundew Trail, I thought I might have found Sabatia brevifolia, a white Sabatia species found in Florida and adjacent states. Despite both plants’ preference for boggy areas or wet pine savannahs, a closer look revealed some differences: eight petals for S. gentianoides rather than S. brevifolia‘s five, and noticeably larger flowers.

Unlike Sabatia campestris, the meadow pink common in coastal and central Texas, S. gentianoides displays flowers two or more inches wide, with seven to twelve petals. When the blooms cluster together, as they often do, they can be particularly appealing.

White forms of the meadow pink aren’t particularly common, but I have encountered them. Despite an extensive online search for a white form of the pinewoods rose gentian, I’ve yet to find a photo of another. I’m glad I found this one, tucked away in its bog.

 

Comments always are welcome.

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.