Friday, October 18, 2013

Plant spotlight: Blue Mistflower

By Erika Zambello

I was back on the trails with Beth Hall, Paul J. Kramer plant collections manager, when we spotted a patch of bright color amidst the brown and green background of the forest floor in the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. The flowers were purple, I decided. No, blue. Shifting to a different angle, I shook my head. Definitely purple.

Hall moved aside some leaves to reveal the informational sign:  blue mistflower. Drat, so close. Either way, the flowers shone as patches of sunlight hit their petals from above.

"Conoclinium coelestinum, blue mistflower, is a beautiful native plant found blooming in the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants from late summer through fall," Hall explained later in an email. "The button-like fluffy blue flowers attract butterflies and bees, and they're worth seeing in person since the depth of color is difficult to capture with a camera."

I have a special affinity for flowers that attract bees. The insect activity infuses the whole scene with motion and a sense of dynamism, and though I couldn't quite capture the brilliant color of the blue mistflower, at least I could show the insect-flower interaction. 

The blue mistflower is one species I would absolutely choose to plant in a woodland garden. "The herbaceous perennial grows in moist soils and naturalizes easily, and it is great for drifts of long-lasting fall color," Hall writes. Their color particularly stands out against the bright leaves that have begun to fall, creating a beautiful fall woodland palette.

Blogger Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment

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