Tag Archives: Ozark wildflowers

Choosing Wildflower Colors

Some wildflowers are definitely one color or another like Wherry’s Pink. Then there are those that leave me choosing wildflower colors.

Take Spring Beauty. From a distance the flower often looks pink. Up close the flower is white with pink stripes. It is usually classified as white. So I didn’t add it to my group of pink wildflowers.

choosing wildflower colors for common mallow
Common mallow, Malva neglecta, is pink and white. So is it more pink or more white? I decided to go with pink and put it in the Dent County Pinks book.

Common mallow or cheeses has the same white with pink stripes pattern. This one I did put in with my group of pink wildflowers.

Luckily thin leaf betony was easier. It was mostly pink so it is in my group of pink wildflowers.

However, there is the problem of goat’s rue. It is a big slipper shaped flower in two colors: cream and pink. The upright petals are cream and the slipper is pink.

choosing wildflower colors for goat's rue
I suppose goat’s rue,Tephrosia virginiana, could be classified as white because of the cream colored upper petals. I went with the pink slipper as that is more standard in color from one flower to the next. Yes, there is a beetle, a weevil, drinking nectar.

Most guides classify it as white. Choosing wildflower colors I preferred placing this one in my group of pink wildflowers.

Then there are the wildflowers that fade during the day. Rue Anemone is one of these. The buds show deep pink. The flowers open pink. By noon the petals are white.

When I go walking through the woods in spring, rue anemone is one of the early bloomers. The color I see is the pink scattered in patches on the forest floor. So I placed this wildflower under pink.

Soapwort flowers
Are soapwort, Saponaria officinalis, flowers pink or white? They tend to be pale pink early in the morning and fade to white during the day. I classified them as pink.

Soapwort is another choice. The flowers often appear to be white. Yet they are faintly pink and usually classified as pink. I followed convention.

Other flowers like Violet Bush Clover are named a color. When I see this wildflower, it looks pink. It is a violet tinged pink, but it looks pink to me. I deferred to the name and placed it in the blue and violet group of wildflowers.

choosing wildflower colors for violet bush clover
To me the flowers of the violet bush clover, Lespedeza violacea, look pink no matter when I find this plant in bloom. Someone thought it looked purple and named it purple. So I’m adding it to the Dent County Blues, Violets and Browns book.

Choosing wildflower colors is highly subjective. There are so many of them that are these blended colors. This is why, seeking a wildflower in a guide, it is a wise practice to look through more than one section before deciding the flower was not included in that particular list.

Lots of wildflower photographs are in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.

Flower Color Variation

Open any wildflower guidebook and the color of the flowers is the most important aspect noted. Open a nursery catalog and flower color variation is rampant.

Garden flowers are bred from wildflowers or are the wildflowers themselves. It isn’t hard to assume some of that flower color variation will show up in nature.

white rose gentian flowers
Rose Gentian flowers are bright pink with a small lime green center. The foot or so tall plants are covered with flowers. Tucked in among the pink flowers can be a plant with bright white flowers. The green center is still there.

Color is the main thing I look for as I go walking seeking wildflowers to photograph. It’s easier to spot that splash of color than the shape of a new plant. It makes me stop and focus on the flower.

incomplete flower color variation
Perennial pea flowers are a vivid deep pink impossible to miss. Here and there a plant has what appears to be white flowers. The pink isn’t quite gone.

Perennial peas are a vivid pink. It’s hard to miss a slope covered with these big pink splashes. The occasional white ones stand out.

Rose Gentian is another bright pink flower with a greenish yellow center. The white variety still has the center color.

White seems to be the main flower color variation. I’ve seen it in blue phlox and great blue lobelia among others.

white is a common flower color variation
Normally the flower of the great blue lobelia is blue, a deep almost purplish blue. That makes a plant with white flowers even more obvious.

Butterfly Weed, the bright orange milkweed, has the greatest range of flower color variation I’ve seen in the wild. The nursery catalog people need to do a little walking along my Ozark roads.

This is one of the wild plants found in nursery catalogs. These versions are usually a yellow to yellowish orange found more commonly west of the Ozarks according to Dr. Rintz who found this color in Kansas.

Along my road I rarely see the yellowish color. Instead I find deep red to fiery orange. Occasionally I come across a plant with two tone flowers, orange back swept sepals and deep red corona.

Flower color variation can mean a new species. One of my new plant finds this year is pale jewelweed with its pale yellow flowers. I found one of these plants growing next to a spotted orange jewelweed. They are definitely different plants.

Pale Jewelweed Flower
On first glance the pale jewelweed flower could be a color variation of the orange spotted jewelweed. But comparing the two, it definitely isn’t. The pale jewelweed plant is bigger. The flower is bigger and the center tube is larger compared to the flower length.

The brush cutter is busy elsewhere this year. That leaves me plenty of plants along the roads to look over for those splashes of color.

Flower color variation is another factor to consider when writing a wildflower guide.

White Yucca Towers

In late evening as the pastures dim and darken, white yucca towers seem to glow against the dark. Perhaps from a distance they can make a person think of ghosts.

Yuccas look more like desert plants than Ozark natives, which they are. Their long leaves stick straight up for a foot or more from a basal rosette.

white yucca towers above the leaves
Yucca leaves are twelve to eighteen inches long growing in a rosette. The flower stalk shoots up from the center of the rosette reaching for to five feet tall lined with little flower branches. The flowers seem to glow in the late evening.

Each leaf is thick with a center vein making them into a long fold. During winter cold the edges curl around until the leaves form a tube.

Leaf edges have strings curling off. These strings are tough and remind me of sewing thread.

In late spring older yuccas put up a single thick stalk. Its tip moves to point it in the direction of the sun all day.

Side branches push out from the main stalk once it reaches three feet. It can keep growing to five feet putting out more and more of these flower stalks.

white yucca flower
During the day yucca flowers are bell shaped and hang down. In the evening the flowers flare open for the night. The next day they will have a yellow tinge, be bell shaped and hanging down again.

Then the white yucca towers begin to open.

Each bell shaped flower appears to be waxed. They are slick and reflect light. The bells begin to open late in the afternoon and open fully about dark.

Inside each flower is a single fat pistil with six curved stamens around it. All are white.

Night flowers are often pollinated not by bees that sleep at night, but by moths. Yuccas have a special moth, their only pollinator. A Missouri entomologist gained fame for finding it as mentioned in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.

white yucca moth
Hiding up in some of the yucca flowers are the moths, usually one to a flower. These moths can be hard to spot as their wings are the same vivid white of the flower. With the wings folded over the back, the moths resemble the anthers they are clinging to. These moths are only pollinator for yuccas.

Like the yucca flowers, a yucca moth is white. It sits inside a flower up against the stamens looking like an extra one.

After pollinating a flower, the female moths lay eggs against the pistil. The larvae burrow in and use the seeds for food.

We had no yuccas when we moved to the Ozarks. We took a few from a neighbor’s pasture and planted them here.

white yucca towers in a field
Yuccas are spreading both by seed and by offshoots so that they put on impressive displays in several old fields. The last light of the sun has hit this group.

Yucca plants die after blooming, but put up side shoots so the original plant soon becomes a colony. The seeds start new plants nearby.

Now we have lots of white yucca towers lighting up our evenings.

Spreading Aster Bonanza

The brush cutter now devastates the roadside every early summer. This has changed the plant communities along the road. One of the beneficiaries is the spreading aster.

spreading aster plant
I find spreading asters along the road. The stalks start growing up straight, but often fall over except for the tips which point up and are lined with flowers. They seem to favor the east and south facing roadsides in drier areas.

One reason these asters defy the brush cutter is being able to regrow after being sheared off. The far showier New England asters are a much taller plant with royal purple rays, but they do not recover as well after the brush cutter goes by as they are beginning to grow.

Another advantage spreading aster has is growing in drier areas. This summer has had long hot, dry spells.

spreading aster flower
Like all members of the aster family, spreading aster flowers are really a group of flowers. The petals are ray flowers The disk is packed with tube flowers.

There are lots of asters in this part of the Ozarks, New England, woodland, silky, sky blue and spreading among them. Their blue to purple blooms appear in late summer.

Many of these asters look similar. Their flowers have similar blue rays, yellow disks and spreading growth.

Spreading aster has the blue rays, but they often have a lighter section close to the disk. The green cup below the flower has numerous bracts with dark green tips. these bracts are layered, but lie flat as though shingling the cup.

spreading aster leaf
A spreading aster leaf clasps or surrounds the stem and has no petiole or stalk. Short hairs line the edges and cover the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf.

Another feature is the leaf shape. It’s long and the same width much of its length. The stem end wraps around the stem with no petiole. Both the stem and leaves are covered with short, stiff hairs.

These asters do get about eighteen inches tall, when they grow upright. More often their stems sprawl over the ground with the tips growing upwards to hold their flowers several inches off the ground.

spreading aster side flower
The cup below the flower is where the seeds will develop. In the aster family this cup is important for identification as many flowers are similar. This one has many bracts lying smoothly on the cup.

The plants prefer sunny spots with few competitors towering over them. They bloom from mid August to frost. Their flowers are about an inch and a half across, which is smaller than many garden flowers. There are lots of flowers opening a few each day giving a continuous bloom now dressing up the roadside.

Asters are featured flowers in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Sensitive Pea Blooming

Barely six inches tall, sensitive pea plants are easy to miss. They are noticeable along the creek because of their numbers.

When I first saw these tiny plants, I kept waiting for them to get bigger and bloom. One day I stooped down to find they were blooming.

sensitive pea plant
Sensitive pea plants prefer moister areas as along the creek banks. They do not grow in the water. The leaves are easily seen and recognizable. The small flowers, in spite of being bright yellow, are hidden along the stem.

Sensitive pea flowers have the typical bean and pea shape. There is the tall petal behind, the flat petals reaching out and the two curled around in the center. These yellow flowers are barely half an inch tall.

sensitive pea flower
Small flowers are often as exquisite as larger ones and very detailed. Sensitive pea flowers are barely half an inch long yet show precise details.

Sensitive peas are small versions of the partridge peas now blooming along the highways. Partridge peas have strong stalks up to two feet tall lined with bright yellow pea flowers often with a red center. Both are legumes. Both are native wildflowers.

The leaves are a central stalk with rows of long, elliptical leaflets. The name sensitive is from these leaves. If you touch the leaflets, they fold up along the stem.

sensitive pea side flower
From the side the sensitive flower hangs from the end of a short stalk coming from a leaf axil.

A number of plants have these fold up leaves. The one commonly seen in garden catalogs is the sensitive briar with its pink pom pom flowers.

This is a small version of the mimosa tree which has fold up leaves too. It grows along the road on top of the hill where the ground is drier. Mimosa trees are not native, but have adapted to the area and grow wild now, mostly along highways.

In more tropical areas the jacaranda tree is much like the mimosa, but has long strings of blue flowers. Its leaves fold up too.

sensitive pea leaf
A sensitive pea leaf has numerous pairs of leaflets. Normally these are spread out. When touched, the leaflets slowly fold up.

Pollinated flowers become pods of seeds. Those of partridge peas are popular with larger birds like quail. The smaller seeds of sensitive pea disappear down other bird gullets.

For now the small, yellow flowers peek out from under the fans of leaves. But you have to get down to ground level to really see and admire them.

Find out more about these little plants and sensitive brier in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Daisy Fleabane Temptation

Bigger daisy type wildflowers like ox-eye daisy and black-eyed Susans are already in full bloom. Daisy fleabane begins the parade of smaller white daisy type flowers that will extend all the way into the fall asters.

This three foot tall plant is easy to spot along roads and in pastures. Its leaves line the stalks with dark green. The stalks split into small stalks branching out to open bouquets of the white or white shaded with pink flowers.

daisy fleabane plant
In my garden the daisy fleabane plants are nearly four feet tall and still growing. The leaves are big and dark green. The numerous flower buds promise a snowfall of white soon. Unfortunately the flowers are followed by even more numerous seeds.

White heath aster is a similar plant. It blooms later. And the flowers are different.

Like all the flowers in the aster family, the flowers are really a group of flowers. Some are tubular in the center of the disk. Others put out what people call petals and botanists refer to as ray flowers.

Fleabane ray flowers are numerous and thin. It gives a fringe like look to the flower group. Aster flowers have fewer and thicker rays.

daisy fleabane flowers
The central disk of a daisy fleabane is a mass of tube flowers that open from the outside edges toward the center. The ray flowers are numerous and thin.

Both daisy fleabane and white heath aster have yellow centers. Another member of the family blooms at the edges of the woods. Drummond’s aster is pale lavender with a lavender center.

This year a few daisy fleabane plants have come up in my garden. They are in an open area used as a path rather than for planting.

The plants look wonderful as garden soil is a big treat for them. They will be masses of white flowers. And I like daisies and asters.

daisy fleabane buds
The flower beetles move in even before the flowers are open. These beetles have the transparent wings, but only partial covering wings.

The temptation is to leave these garden visitors and enjoy the show. I don’t normally plant flowers as I never have time to take care of them.

Moth mullein, evening primrose, chicory, hispid buttercup, corn speedwell, dead nettle and chickweed already grow in my garden. The first four are primarily for enjoyment. The last are for the bees in early spring.

The problem is with the prolific seed production of these wildflowers. Daisy fleabane is a big temptation. I’m sure next year I will be pulling up dozens of plants as weeds.

Read about more Ozark plants in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Dwarf Larkspur

For over 25 years I’ve walked around on these hills and along the road. Surely I’ve found and seen all the flowers by now. Dwarf Larkspur proves me wrong this year.

dwarf larkspur plant
The dwarf larkspur plant itself is small. The flower stalks give it its height, a little over six inches.

This is a small plant with big dark blue flowers. A single plant was nestled in the grass by the nearby spring.

That dark blue is how to find this plant. It stands out from the spring greens around it. Even so I was lucky to spot it as this plant was barely over six inches tall, but the flower stalk was still getting taller.

dwarf larkspur flower
Deep blue and hairy describes the flowers of the dwarf larkspur.

The plant I found was in a low, moist, shady area near a spring. The area has lots of grasses, periwinkle, wild geranium among others. The area has been let go wild now rather than mowed for picnicking.

dwarf larkspur side flower
It’s easy to see the spur or up swept tube looking at the dwarf larkspur flower from the side.

The leaves are on long petioles and have numerous lobes sticking out from a central area above the petiole. The tops are light green and the underside even paler. The petioles come from the base of the plant.

dwarf larkspur leaf
Called palmate, the dwarf larkspur leaf is the type where all the lobes radiate out from the top of the petiole.

The dwarf larkspur flowers begin blooming from the bottom buds on the flowering stalk and move upwards. It’s easy to see where the name came from as the flower is horn shaped with the back swept up into a blunt point.

The open end of the flower is split into six petal tabs surrounding a white ring. Inside are short hairs, stamens and pistil. The blue outside has a covering of short fuzz.

None of the seeds were ripe. However I peered into the throat of the old flowers now green husks. At the base were four seeds still green and growing.

I had planned on going to other places this year, but am staying close to home to avoid other people as much as possible. Having found a new plant, dwarf larkspur, around my home area I’m planning to do more exploring. There may be other new plants out there waiting to be found.

Find out about some of the plants and other things in the Ozark hills in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Multiflora Roses Everywhere

I remember the ads years ago advertising living fences. Multiflora roses were touted as ecologically good and planted all over.

Now everyone wants rid of their multiflora roses. They spread quickly reaching up into trees and covering pastures. Every branch touching the ground puts down roots.

Trying to walk through a patch of these thorny bushes shows why people thought they would make good fences. Clothes, hair, skin get caught in the thorns. Branches wrap around legs and attach to backs.

multiflora roses have white flowers
Rosaceae, the rose family, has a basic flower pattern like that of the multiflora roses. There are five or a multiple of five petals around a central cone surrounded by numerous stamens. This same pattern is seen in common and rough cinquefoil, wild plums, apples, hawthorns, pears and native roses among others.

In areas where multiflora roses are common it’s a good idea to stick some hand pruners in the back pocket. These are the easiest way to extricate yourself from the embrace of these determined plants.

To give the plants their due, they do cover themselves with masses of white flowers in the spring. The flowers are small, single roses with little scent and become small, red rose hips that persist through the winter unless eaten. Native roses are pink with a strong, sweet scent and larger hips.

Goats and probably deer like the leaves. Their dexterous lips reach in between the thorns and yank the compound leaves off.

Like all successful invasive alien plants multiflora roses leaf out early. The bare stems already have swollen buds and some have opened into leaves. These will be welcome food during this lean food month for wildlife.

multiflora roses leaf out early
It’s February with snow threatening the Ozarks. The multiflora rose cane buds are swollen, some already opening up their leaves. Native plants are still dormant. If the rose leaves aren’t killed by frost, the plants will be growing vigorously before the native plants are leafed out.

Eradicating multiflora roses is next to impossible. They have deep perennial roots. Even if all of the canes are chopped off, new ones grow up from the roots.

Some herbicides will turn the bushes brown. Some of these roots will grow out again.

Intensive grazing by goats will kill the plants out as the new buds are eaten as soon as they open out into leaves. This works best if the old canes are cut down first so the goats can eat the tender new canes and leaves. They will take the tips of old canes, but not the main woody part.

These plants are a nuisance, but multiflora roses are here to stay.