Tag Archive | North American wildflowers

Swamp Candles


An oddly romantic name for a wildflower, Swamp Candles are also called Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia terrestris,) and they are native to North America.  I had never seen this flower until I found it while mowing with the tractor.  A wet area near our orchard was covered with the Candles in full bloom. Before mowing them all, I did a bit of research.

Yellow Loosestrife, from the Primrose family, is actually endangered in Kentucky and Tennessee.  The plant grows in moist spots such as the edges of ponds and streams, or in marshes.  a2It is a perennial reaching about 24″-32″ height.  The flowers are striking, growing on a tall raceme.  The five yellow petals have red dots at the base with each flower forming a star.

I was able to preserve a good-sized area of the Candles.  Since they have not bloomed here before, I’m not certain where they came from or if they will appear again next year.  The place where they grow changes it’s flora over the years.  Sometimes it will be all fern, other years, blue flag iris pops up, or swamp grasses.  In very dry years, field grass predominates.  This year was wet, perhaps giving the loosestrife seeds the upper hand.

a4Several flower stalks were pushed down by the tractor, and I salvaged them to make a bouquet. The blooms lasted four or five days. They would be excellent fillers or good for adding height in a large arrangement.


Blue-eyed Grass


Summer has finally arrived for me when I spot the first tiny blooms of the Blue-eyed Grass sprinkled among the taller grasses of the hayfield.  Diminutive members of the iris family, Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium) flowers at the same time as its garden relative.  This species is widespread across North America, with several subspecies or varieties occurring, each in a different region.  Most have blue or purple flowers, though some are white and in California there is a Golden-Eyed Grass with sunny yellow petals.


Blue-eyed grass bloom being visited by a miniature bee

The plant grows from a rhizome.  It spreads with the copious seeds produced, a favorite food of birds who distribute the seeds far and wide.  Blue-eyed grass forms clumps, like garden iris, and is usually a hardy perennial.c  The seeds or rhizomes can be planted in a rock garden or used as a low border.

The sepals are wider than the petals, creating a distinctive wide-narrow pattern to the bloom.  Blue-eyed Grass creates a lovely color show this time of year that can last a month or more.  There is a variety named Lucerne, discovered in Switzerland, that has a deep purple flower and is sold commercially.

Blue-eyed grass is named for the long, grass-like leaves.  Yet, if you imagine this plant as large as a garden iris, you can tell the leaves are from the same family.  The flowers close at night and open with the sun.  Sometimes I like to pull a few flower shafts, sliding the full length of the stalk out of the stem base, and bring the blooms in the house.  They last several days in a vase set in a sunny window.

Tiny wild bees favor the flowers.  You have to look very closely to see these insects at work.