Monday, July 31, 2017

Thimbleweed and its Neighbors

"Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them."
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

"The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely."
-Louisa May Alcott

It isn't rare for me to encounter an unfamiliar wildflower.   But after a decade of native plant study, it is a pleasant surprise when I find a showy specimen that is new to me.

Such has been the case this summer with the Thimbleweed or Tall anemone (Anemone virginiana).  I found some just outside my back door and all over this mountain. How I might have missed it in the past is beyond me (assuming it has grown here in prior years), since the plant is a couple of feet tall.

When I began searching for specimens to photograph, a tiny grasshopper obliged.

Anemone virginiana is a distinctive mid-to-late summer flower with a  whitish-green bloom (what appear to be petals are actually sepals) and an oblong spiny fruit that remains after the petal-like sepals drop.

As with other members of the buttercup family, it produces the allelopathic substance, protoanemonin.  I've seen this described as a mild toxin that can cause skin or gastrointestinal irritation, and also as something that inhibits seed germination and seedling growth in many species of plants that might compete with it.  In any event, the plant's chemical defense mechanisms don't seem to discourage an occasional grasshopper.

A world of great beauty is so close at hand but so easily overlooked.

Just a few feet away from the Tall anemone, I've had a stand of Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) that never fails to amaze.

As Georgia O'Keefe said:

"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.  Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower.  I want them to see it whether they want to or not."

On the other hand, Ms. O'Keefe is also reported to have said:

"I hate flowers - I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move!"


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