Sunday, June 03, 2007

Back to bluebells

I know we're way past bluebells in terms of seasonal progression, but I'm still looking over the many wildflower photos I took earlier this spring with the idea of finally identifying some of the unknowns.
One of the earliest that stumped me were Virginia Bluebells. I couldn't ID them from any of my wildflower guides because the buds were still tightly closed when I first found them. Despite what you all said here, I found it hard to imagine that the flowers would change form that much, but sure enough they did.
When I returned two weeks or so later, the plants looked like the bluebells that are in my field guides. So for all of my early confusion with this common wildflower, I don't think I'll ever mistake it again, now that I've had the chance to watch it as it progresses through its bloom period.
Bluebells go dormant during the heat of summer and I'm watching that happen right out in my own little woodland garden in the backyard; the plants I purchased at the beginning of May are slowly deteriorating as the days grow hot.

Anyway, I found some interesting info about bluebells that you plant geeks might also enjoy:

"Virginia bluebells have two interesting properties that contribute to their success as ephemeral wild flowers. Virginia bluebells form buds that are pink in color due to the anthocyanin (from the Greek anthos meaning flower and kyanos meaning blue) or colored cell sap that they contain. When the flower is ready for pollination, it increases its alkalinity to change the red pigmentation into blue pigmentation, a color that is much more attractive to pollinators. When the flower is pollinated and seed formation begins, it falls to the ground so that subsequent pollinators will only find those that still require their ministrations. The ubiquity of bluebells in their preferred riparian habitat... is testimony to the success of their adaptations to attract insects."

from the Hiker's Notebook which looks like a good source of info about things commonly found in the woods. If you look at my photos you can see that progression from pink to pollination-ready blue, as well as the way some of the flowers have already fallen away from the plant.


Anonymous said...

Well, that's new information to me even though Virginia Bluebells were a favorite in the Ann Arbor shade garden. I'm always interested in flowers that have color influenced by alkalinity. We used to have hydrangeas planted in two different spots in the yard and one was always pink, the other blue. And I did not give your friend permission to send in that picture of my feet. (actually, they'll be fine from here on into November- then there is not enough shea butter on the planet...)

Mary said...

Thanks for that link, Laura! I bookmarked that one. It might be helpful to me.

The Virginia Bluebells are lovely and I am impressed with how much you know and notice.

Anonymous said...

I so love Virginia Bluebells and we only have one small spot in my area where they grow! BTW: Just love your photos!

Ruth said...

Pulmonaria, or Lungwort do a similar colour change from pink to blue. I never thought of a reason for the change of colour.

Susan Gets Native said...

Blue flowers just mesmerize me...
Makes me think of an interesting question:
What is the most common flower color?

Jayne said...

Great link Laura, and pretty, pretty bluebells.

dguzman said...

Beautiful, baby, beautiful.

NatureWoman said...

Your VA bluebells are gorgeous! I love watching plants/flowers progress throughout the season firsthand, and the "geek" info was really interesting.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, Laura, and we think we know it all! The borage flower is another that changes color, but I don't know if it is for the same reason.

Q said...

Hi Laura,
I have never grown blue flowers!
This year all of a sudden after 35 years of gardening I am smitten by blue flowers. I have begun a list and am making plans for a blue garden Virginia Blue Bells just went on my list. Your photos are so great I think I must at least try these.
Thanks so much for the info.