Sunday, May 25, 2008

New to Me This Year: Carolina Anemone

It's amazing how many new wildflowers I'm finding around the yard this year. I don't know if the conditions were somehow "just right" for them to appear this year but not last year, or if they were able to store enough energy last year to really emerge and bloom in full force this year, or if I was just much less observant last year. Whatever the explanation, I'm enjoying the increased diversity.

The first exciting new wildflower that I noticed this year was the Carolina anemone (Anemone caroliniana). I first noticed a blue one, looking very much like a large single aster bloom on a really short stem, some time in late March or early April. Soon I noticed a second blue one nearby, then one or two others which were white and formed another small clump elsewhere in the yard. By the time they were done blooming in late April, I'd found about five small populations and one large population scattered throughout the front areas of our property.

This pretty little flower comes in two color forms: bright purplish blue and white. The photo at the right shows, obviously, the white form, with a tube of lip gloss for scale. Both color forms of Carolina anemone have a clear yellow center. There doesn't appear (at least in my yard) to be any intergrading between the two colors - each "clump" contained either blue or white flowers. The only population to contain both colors was the large group, and it really appeared to be several smaller populations in close proximity.

I don't feel too bad about missing this flower last year, as it is almost impossible to notice the leaves if the plant isn't blooming. It is also one of those plants where the flower opens in response to sunlight, so that in the early morning, late evening, and on cloudy days, the flower remains shut fairly tightly, looking like an unopened bud. (The photo below shows my largest population of Carolina anemones, both blue and white. The purple flower seen tinting the mix is that old Kansas springtime favorite, henbit.)

Since they were so inconspicuous unless they were blooming, I marked the areas where the Carolina anemones were with orange flags, so that I could follow what happened after they bloomed and so that Prairiewolf wouldn't mow them down prematurely. First they dropped their petals, leaving a small central structure that looked rather like a thimble (the righthand structure in the photo to the left)...and presumably giving rise to another common name for them, thimble flower. Later the "thimble" seemed to get fuzzy, as the seeds matured, seen in the lefthand structure in the photo to the left. After some of the seed had dropped naturally, I collected the rest and scattered it in the back prairie.

In summary, I can't really explain why I've been so attracted to this little flower. Perhaps it's because I'd never even heard of it before seeing it early this spring in our own prairie. I'd always thought that anemones were delicate flowers totally incapable of surviving in Kansas! Whatever the reason, my feelings are best captured by a sentence in Janet Bare's book, Wildflowers and Weeds of Kansas (p. 115), "No description or photograph can recapture the enchantment of these flowers for those who experienced it in pioneer days when in early April in delicate tints it overspread the prairies around homes and schoolhouses and away toward the horizon." I'd love to increase its numbers enough that I could see that sight here on our own little bit of prairie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the photos. As always. :-)