Tag Archives: identifying wildflowers

Interesting Little Flowers

I first found these interesting little flowers years ago in a wetland area. The plant likes moist soil.

The interesting little flowers next appeared along the road at a cold water spring. And this year they are in a runoff ditch down the road.

Interesting little flowers
The stamens and pistil are inside the tube. Only the petals stick up outside the tube. The two top larger ones remind me of ears on a deer so I label the photographs ‘Ears’ when I place them in the unknown folder. I would like to move them out of this folder and give these interesting little flowers their real name.

Each year I put these interesting little flowers in the Unknown folder with the name Ears. Each year I search for an identification and fail to find one.

The plant is about a foot tall with multiple stems and branches. The stems are thin so the slightest breeze shivers through the plant. They are covered with short hairs.

flower tube of interesting little flowers
The petals stick up out of a tube covered with sticky hairs.

The leaves are opposite. The petioles are about a third the length of the leaf. The petioles are hairy. The leaves have no hairs.

Flowers are on stalks from the leaf nodes toward the ends of the stems. Looking head on two larger petals stick up (my ears) and two smaller ones hang down. Each is separate from the others. The flower is maybe half an inch long.

unknown plant leaves
This little plant has opposite leaves. Interestingly, the hairs covering the stems, the capsules below the flowers and the leaf petioles don’t occur on the leaf blades leaving them smooth and thin.

The flower extends from inside a cylinder covered with sticky hairs. This led me to think, since Royal Catchfly, Fire Pink and Wild Pink flowers are similar, perhaps this flower was in Caryophylaceae. I looked up pictures of all members of this group found in Missouri and came away disappointed.

The seed capsule forms inside this sticky cylinder. When the seeds are ripe, the cylinder splits to release them.

fruit of interesting little flowers
The flower stuck out of the top of this capsule. The seed pod is nestled inside the capsule and has just started to split open to release the seeds. All of those little hairs have a sticky glob of glue on them.

Finding these interesting little flowers is always a treat. They are much too pretty to be stuck with the name ears.

I am again trying to find these flowers on the internet. I am still having no luck.

Perhaps someone recognizes these interesting little flowers and can let me know what their name is. I would like to solve this long standing mystery.

Identifying Missouri milkweeds is easy with “Missouri Milkweeds, Milkvines and Pipevines“.

Plant Common Names

People name things. Scientists devise a single name for each animal and plant. Plant common names aren’t that way.

A scientific name can describe some trait of a plant. More commonly they are from a person’s name or the place the plant was found.

There are mistakes. Our common milkweed has the name syriaca and is not found in Syria. The origin of this mistake goes back a few hundred years and is traced in “The Syrian Milkweed”.

Plant common names tend to describe some aspect of a plant. There is the purple milkweed called that because of its purple flowers. The swamp milkweed grows in swampy areas. Butterfly Weed is a milkweed that attracts butterflies.

A good plant to never taste is poison hemlock. Other plants to avoid are poison oak, ivy and sumac. However aromatic sumac is well worth a moment to take a whiff.

plant common names include bloodroot
Bloodroot is a poppy and a spring ephemeral wildflower. As soon as the weather warms, the plant sends up its single flower stalk. The flowers last for one day. A single leaf is wrapped around the flower stalk and unfurls. Once the seeds are made, the plant vanishes until the next spring.

In my garden chickweed tries to take the place over every spring. Chickens love it.

Back in the ravines the bloodroot is an early spring wildflower. Its root is blood red.

Another spring wildflower is dead nettle. The leaves are similar to those of stinging nettle, but without the sting.

plant common names include dead nettles
A member of the mint family, dead nettle seeds sprout in the fall, but grow fast and bloom in the spring. It is one of the earliest wildflowers to bloom and are favorites of bumblebees. The plant is an annual and produces lots of seeds.

Presently one of the cranebills is blooming along the road and in the lawn. This common name is from the seed pod with its round top and long ‘bill’ hanging down resembling the head and bill of a crane.

Some plant common names are confusing as more than one refers to the same plant. The calloway pear can be called the Bradford pear and a couple of other names. The Rose of Sharon is also the Althea bush.

Just as there are books giving the meanings and origins of people’s names, there are books about the origins and meaning of common plant names. I have one called “Who Named the Daisy? Who Named the Rose?” by Mary Durant on my shelf. It is interesting to browse through a few names now and then.

Knowing a name for a plant does make the plant more interesting.