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Requiem for a Rosepink

Monday, August 17, 2009

Perhaps my favorite wildflower of summer is the rosepink, Sabatia angularis. This generous, free-blooming pink beauty is not only beautiful, it's staggeringly fragrant, with a light muguet (honeysuckle) scent that makes me swoon. Wherever and whenever I see it, I stop the car, leap up the road bank, and bury my nose in it. I don't see it very often; in fact I only know one place around here where I can do that.

Rosepink, a member of the gentian family, grows in a little bunch, like a bouquet all ready to put in a vase. This is not a small, shrinking wildflower. This is a spectacular showgirl, runway ready, each blossom the size of a quarter. Mmmmm.


Close up, rosepink has a bewitching greenish-yellow center finely edged with red. Oh, for Smellovision.


I always look for rosepink on my birthday. And that night, I listen for the first katydids. Both were late this year, but that wasn't their fault.

This rare gentian used to grow in abundance in a meadow halfway out our county road, until a family we have since come to know bulldozed it all and plopped a modular house on the spot. They keep the featureless lawn shaved down to the roots, no shrubs; only a few petunias surrounded by mulch and a square of sweet corn off to the side. This, where butterfly weed, slender ladies' tresses orchid, and rosepink used to thrive, where I used to stop my car just to revel in it all. That meadow was one of the reasons we decided to live on this road.

Where do you even start to explain what they had; what they've done to the land, how they have replaced this rare and irreplaceable population of plants with their mundane and spiritless fescue; what a crime against nature they have committed? Well, you don't, because they wouldn't understand. No one who understands would have mown that meadow. You just remember, try to be kind, and treasure what is left elsewhere.



A question to the science Julie: if the family didn't mow would the wild rosepink and other plants that had thrived there, return?

Curses on the landscape geniuses who persuaded us Americans that we needed to have that wide expanse of green that bespeaks wealth. That is its origin. Meadows said country; lawns said gentry. And we all (or too many) want to be gentry.

I've known meadows like that. Miss them dearly.

That last photo makes me want to walk to work with camera around neck. I drive too fast to catch a good glimpse... if they live in Charlotte.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I have this wild flower and could not discover what it have made my day! We met once at a book signing...had my photo taken with Chet Baker too!


The question would be, how deeply did the bulldozer dig, and did it remove the topsoil with the seedbed that had all those wonderful things? I'd be pessimistic that anything would come back, but you never know. Trouble is, a meadow is too messy for these folks, too messy by far. I'm sure they look at our place and think we've let it go to ruin. Never mind the blazing gold and purple of goldenrod and ironweed!

Hi Wanda--I'm thinking that was at the Ned Smith Nature Center, and I remember you! I wanted to direct you to this fabulous web site. Turns out there are a lot of Sabatias, and angularis is the only one that seems to occur in Ohio. PA might have another couple of species. Check it out and see if you have angularis or some other lovely:

Good morning Julie...
Yes, it is definitely Sabatias, angularis. I first noticed it last year along the's there again and also 3 places behind the house...It is so lovely...wish it would spread all over.
Thank you for your I just have one plant left to's 5ft. tall open bush like with large heart shaped leaves, tiny yellow flowers, but very distinct seed pods that look like spikey crowns...any thoughts?

Hi Wanda,

Photograph the leaves and seedpods and send the photo, downsized for mailing, to me. You can contact me through the online comment box at

If I don't recognize it I will send it to someone who will.

Hear, hear!

I especially love your last photo on this post!

Love this post, Zick. Glad we still have a few rosepink patches nearby. We need to scour the orchard and spring trial where we originally found it.

(Wanda sent me a photo by return email!) Her plant is velvetweed, Abutilon theophrasti. It's also called butterprint, because when people made their own butter, they'd press the star-shaped seedpod into the bricks of butter to make a pretty shape. It's an exotic, native to India, but it must have been in the States for a long time to get a name like butterprint!

You threw me by describing it as a shrub, but we have an ID now.

Anytime, Wanda!

Anybody who's reading these comments, please please go to the comments section on the previous post (Pink Chicory and Musings on E-etiquette). In comment # 20, my waggish spousal unit Bill of the Birds has somehow managed to roll every urgent e-mailed request into one.

It's as if everyone who writes went to the same grammar school.

Thank you's nice to know the plant's history and to have a name!

That just breaks my heart. When I used to work at a wildflower preserve in Pennsylvania, we kept our radar up for new developments and tried to arrange for plant rescues before the bulldozers arrived. Sometimes the developers would let us, sometimes not, but every native plant we did manage to find a safe new home for was a wonderful thing.

The all caps on Mr. Thompson's comment on your last post was an especially nice touch.

Gulp! I think I'm one of the guilty ones that needs to work more on e-mail etiquette. I did write to you "out of the blue" once I discovered your blog, but after asking my question and reading your reply (being totally surprised and appreciative that you would take the time to reply to me!!!!) I assumed that any more communication was taking advantage of you and your time...But next time will be different! I will surely include a thank you--not just because you "said I should", but it really will be from the heart. Martha--from Ontario, Canada, who is learning and enjoying so much from your blog and your articles in BWD.

When I read your post, I thought were talking about a relative of a Texas Hill Country Native, Mountain Pink, Centaurium Beyrichii. I first saw it this summer, growing on a rocky slope and looking like a store full of vases of pink flowers. But when I looked up it's scientific name, it doesn't appear to be related. I've collected seeds to plant on the rocky slope of our new property this fall. It has a fuller vase of flowers but I didn't notice any scent.

Here is an article with pictures.

I love the number 2 picture its very nice..thanks for the post..

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