Monday, March 16, 2015


Erythronium hendersonii
The color purple, or magenta, lavender, mauve (or whatever) is fairly common at this time of year. It stands out against the backdrop of new green leaves, old fallen leaves, low light levels, and accompanying grey skies. This may be why these plants are so successful, they are highly visible to potential pollinators. They also bloom in masses, and are highly visible to me! Of course I need to photograph them. Here ya go...

Erodium cicutarium
The garden weed has great beauty in close examination. The small ephemeral flowers bloom in masses facing towards the sun. On warm days, honeybees visit them as well as a variety of flies and tiny solitary bees. I imagine the primary attractant is nectar, because there is only a scant amount of pollen available. However, honeybees collect a lot of pollen at the start of the year as they are increasing egg production, and bee larvae eat pollen. Pollen is rich in protein, and very important for young bodies.

Erodium cicutarium blooming in waves
The small storks bills (less than a half inch wide) carpet the ground where the taller weeds and grasses don't have a strong hold. The flowers last one or two days, but new ones open almost daily. As they grow taller, the distinctive seed pods will develop and start the process anew. I like these.

Dodecatheon hendersonii
Henderson's stars are coming into full bloom. The variable plants can bloom on scapes up to 18" tall, but I've seen shorter plants blooming only a few inches off the ground. Comparing the petals of the picture above and below, you can see there is also a lot of variability in the shape and curve of the petals. Some are pale pink while others can be a neon magenta. Dodecatheon are pollinated by large solitary bees or bumblebees, who must vibrate their flight muscles to dislodge the pollen.

Dodecatheon hendersonii
Some taxonomists wish to merge Dodecatheon into Primula (the primroses) based on evolutionary family ties, regardless of morphological differences. The flowers are too different, and it will not be accepted in the long run, in my opinion. See a paper on the revision of Dodecatheon here.

Erythronium hendersonii
This is one of my favorite wildflowers. The delicate looking flowers have much subtle, and not so subtle beauty. They are bumblebee pollinated, moths, butterflies and flies seemingly unwilling to hang upside down on pendant flowers. The flowers have three short and three long anthers, the former shedding pollen before the latter, extending the time pollen is shed and increasing the chances of outcrossing (cross pollination).

Erythronium hendersonii
The pendant flowers, delicate they seem, are tough and able to withstand harsh weather conditions like rain and hail. The nectar and pollen are protected by being located under the flower, similarly to Dodecatheon in function I believe. There is also a bit of variability within this population, some having thin tepals like this one while others have wider tepals like the last photo.

Erythronium hendersonii
Leaf mottling is also variable. Most Western North American Erythronium's have mostly symmetrical mottling going with the veins of the leaves. Eastern North American, European, and Asian species have mottling that looks something like drops of paint. The mottling in many species can vary from heavy and dark, like this one, to barely visible or even without mottling at all (a few species have no mottling whatsoever). I wonder if it is an adaptation to help camouflage the leaves from herbivores?

Erythronium hendersonii and my daughter, Zia
My two favorite flowers, my daughter (turning two in June!) and a very pretty fawn lily. The purple markings in the center are nectar guides, the nectar being produced near where the anthers connect to the ovary. As the flowers age, the petals curve up more until they are touching. I hope to show my daughter how rich one's life can be when we pay attention to the life around us. Purple is my daughters favorite color, by the way...

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