The continuing discoveries of a 21st century artist and naturalist …
My last post, Seeing Red, started us on our focus of wildflowers of a particular color. Today the flowers I’m sharing are in varying shades my favorite color – blue. Blue is not very common in nature….even the blue of a lake is likely the reflection of blue sky above it. When it comes to flowers it is estimated, based on information from former biology professor David Lee, less than 10 percent of the 280,000 species of flowering plants produce blue flowers. Below are some of ‘rare’ blue flowers I’ve encountered.
This wildflower’s delicate, pale blue bell-shaped blossoms curl up on the edges and are only a half-inch in size with multiple blossoms on the 18″ plant.
Family: Campanulaceae; Genus: Campanula; Species: divaricata
Related to the Southern Harebell is the Tall Bellflower.
This lovely flower is apparently quite sociable since I have yet to see it without being in the company of other flowers – as you’ll see in the photographs below.
Family: Campanulaceae; Genus: Campanula; Species: americana
This lovely flower was given its species name because early medical writers thought its root was used by American Indians primarily as a treatment for syphilis. It was used for that purpose but the root tea was also used for colds, fevers; leaf tea was gargled for coughs; poultice made from the leaves was used for headaches and sores that weren’t healing. However, as is pointed out, in “Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs” it is now considered potentially poisonous.
As you’ll see, it is also related to the previous blue flowers above.
Family: Campanulaceae; Genus: Lobelia; Species: siphilitica
This flower shares the same family and genus as the Great Lobelia. It is often so pale blue as to appear white. The common name comes from the American Indian smoking the leaves to treat asthma, bronchitis, and sore throats. It contains a chemical, Lobeline, which is a ‘cousin’ to nicotine. This alkaloid is one of 14 in the plant and was once used in the United States in ‘quit smoking’ lozenges, patches, and gums. One reason it might have been ‘successful’ in treating bronchitis and asthma is that the Lobeline dilates bronchioles and increases respiration. However, it has been implicated in deaths when used as a home remedy and is considered toxic.
Family: Campanulaceae; Genus: Lobelia; Species: inflata
Lobelia Inflata – Indian Tobacco Bloom
Not all blue flowers are related to each other as the last two specimens show.
Extracts of the root and leaves – leaf extracts are weaker than root extracts – have been shown to be diuretic, cardiotonic and to lower blood sugar. Experiments with root extracts show some antibacterial effectiveness and animals given it have a slower, weaker pulse. However, care should be exercised in attempting to use it homeopathically as it can cause allergic reactions.
Family: Compositae; Genus: Cichorium; Species: intybus
Our last blue flower, in this piece at least, is a dainty member of the Spiderwort family.
Family: Commelinaceae; Genus: Commelina; Species: communis
It is sometimes considered a weed because it is not native to North America. The common name comes from the plant being of Asian origination and because the flower blooms for only one day.
You can find additional examples of blue flowers in a previous post here – Minute Miracles. The next posts will include yellow, orange, purple and white flowers – not necessarily in that order. I hope you’ll return to see more examples of the colorful palette of wildflowers.