Dirt on Gardening

Native flowers are known for their resilience despite weather conditions. However, sometimes the “best” weather conditions create the perfect conditions for wild flowers. Regular moisture will create a peak performance opportunity for some wild flowers. Missouri roadsides are some of the best places to view sun-loving native flowers. In August and September, the dominant roadside flowers are yellow and blue – sunflowers, asters and chicory, to name a few. In a year like this one with plentiful moisture, it’s worth taking a closer look at the smaller, less noticeable wild flowers that are also blooming prolifically along the roadsides.

One of these flowers is Gaura longiflora. This flower is commonly known as butterfly flower; the flowers emulate a tiny white butterfly. The flowers are small, but the plant is quite large.

Gaura is Greek for “stately,” and longiflora is Latin for “long flower.” This plant can reach up to five feet in height. The stem is straight with branches beginning about halfway up the plant. The flowers at the top of the plant are numerous.

As a member of the evening primrose family, butterfly flowers are very fragile, lasting only about one day. The four petals on the flowers are white at first and turn pink as they fade. The petals are only about a half-inch in length, and the stamens are a similar length, pointing forward and curving down.

The leaves of butterfly flower are simple, widely spaced, and larger at the bottom of the plant than on the branches. As the plant ages, the leaves begin to turn red, too.

Butterfly flowers bloom from June to October, and are especially noticeable with slender branches with tiny flowers rising above the many other blossoms along roadsides and fields.

A less obvious and equally delicate native flower is Chamaecrista fasticula, commonly known as partridge pea. A member of the bean family, this native flower turns into a small bean pod that quail and other birds like to eat in the fall.

Partridge pea is only about two feet in height. Most noticeable on the straight stem of this plant are the compound, pinnate leaves. Bright green, narrow, short and lined up in close-knit rows, the leaves will fold up when gently stroked.

The flowers of partridge pea resemble the common sweet pea, about an inch across.

The flowers are always dark yellow with a deep red throat.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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