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Blue-eyed Mary, Dog. See a Pattern?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

 Blue-eyed Mary, Collinsia verna, is a member of the Scrophularidaceae, or Figwort family, which includes many nice plants like turtlehead and obedient plant and that pretty yellow and orange plant called butter and eggs. Collinsia is a "winter annual." That means its seeds drop in summer, germinate in fall and live over the winter, blooming the next spring.

It's not common, and there's only one place we know of to see it, and that's Newell's Run, not very far as the pileated woodpecker flies from our place. It needs very rich, loamy slopes and dappled sun.

I find its "true blue" lower petals absolutely disarming. The individual flowers are very small, but taken all together, they form drifts of misty blue which seem to flow down the steep hillsides where it grows best.

You begin to see the effect of a lot of Mary growing together.

Step back, and see a whole woodland full of it, and you have to rub your I really seeing that blue in the understory? Well, that really intense blue is a tarp there in front of the huntin' dog house. But the rest is hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of tiny blue and white flowers.

with a little dark blue phlox thrown in. Mary is BLUE. Phlox is more lavender.

It's such a short time that blue-eyed Mary's blooming--you have to get out in the third week of April or you might miss it altogether. 

Oh look. Chet in the trillium.

 And Chet Baker in the golden ragwort (Senecio obovata)

And Chet along the phloxy bank

and listening for squirtles and chiptymunks on a sheer cliff

and listening to me when I tell him not to even think about going down there.

A red-bellied woodpecker quirrks out his love song in the dappled spring woods

and redbud throws a haze of rose pink in the understory

and Shila and Diane and I are in hog heaven on this perfect spring day
in this perfect spring woodland

with a trifecta of Trillium grandiflorum, Collinsia verna and Phlox divaricata.

I like telling people that wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is ant-pollinated and its seeds are ant-dispersed. Why else would its little red flowers be held just at ground level, with handy ant ramps? Ant ramps. I'm getting a vision of ants cooking ramps in an underground kitchen. Vented, I hope.

More wildflowers and dog anon.


Hope Chet gets paid suitably for these post performances and cameos!
"Chet in the Trillium" sounded so Hollywood-ish, it reminded me immediately of "Splendor In the Grass" -- ah yes, Chet as a young Warren Beatty.... or, not!

Loving the wildflower and dog posts! I've never found Blue-eyed Mary in the wild, but it was one of my mother's favorite flowers at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve where she volunteered, nearby our farm where I grew up in SE Pennsylvania. They had a shady, damp hillside covered with it back then. I haven't seen it in years... thanks for the memory!

Thanks for taking us along on your walks. How neat is it that ant pollinate wild ginger, all the puzzle pieces just clicked into place!

Posted by Janet P. June 4, 2013 at 4:24 AM

I too have never seen blue-eyed Mary and really appreciate seeing it through your eyes. And I too thank you for takingus along on your walks.

Posted by June 4, 2013 at 5:58 AM

Tramp, tramp, tramp
Up the ant ramps
The ants tramp
To champ the seeds
The ants tramp.

Wild Ginger is usually pollinated by beetles and flies - especially beetles and flies that like carrion. The flowers have a disagreeable odor and are colored like flesh. Other plants that use the same pollinators (and are colored the same) include Pawpaw and Eastern Skunk Cabbage. It's amazing to me how such different plants have developed the same strategy to attract pollinators.

Ants do however carry off and bury the seeds from the Wild Ginger, just like violets, trillium, etc. So they do help spread the species.

Raven Run is a county park in Lexington, KY, where you simply drown in the beauty of blue-eyed Mary and so many other spring bloomers. I always wonder - is this how it looked for Daniel Boone?

Kathy Dennis

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