|knowing it’s an evening primrose is good enough (Tope Elementary students)|
But in spring – if you were to stop and look – you would find the dull green shrublands brightly decorated in white and pink. Evening primroses are in bloom! Old-timers call them gumbo lilies because they thrive in soil that turns to really sticky mud (gumbo) when it rains.
Tufted evening primrose, Oenothera caespitosa; flowers grow from tufts of basal leaves.
Soon this flower will be as pink and wilted as its comrades.
Evening primrose flowers open in the evening, and last into the next morning. They use white and pink to advertise – to recruit pollinators.
White – "Come on in, I have pollen aplenty!"
Pink – “Sorry, closed for the season.”
I smiled when I saw flower parts (and their shadows) clearly arranged in multiples of four. Deep fond memories resurfaced – of field botany class and diagnostic characteristics of plant families.
4 petals, 8 stamens, 4-lobed stigma (left center) … must be Onagraceae, the evening primrose family.
Many flowers were blooming in the high desert shrubland I visited. I “knew” most of them only to genus. (It’s interesting that “do you know this plant?” really means “do you know what we’ve named it?” ... even though "knowing" could be so much more.)
Indian paintbrush, Castilleja sp.
A desert phlox, Phlox sp.
Desert daisy, Erigeron sp.
A very elegant sego lily, Calochortus sp.
Woody aster was especially common. Its older flower heads had pink wilted rays … does the woody aster advertise with white and pink too?
Woody aster, Xylorhiza glabriuscula.
|Old woody aster heads have turned pink.|
Many other flowers were in bloom, but the wind picked up so photography came to an end.
High desert shrubland below the Book Cliffs; north of Fruita, Colorado.
The commentary at the top is from Through the eyes of children, a field guide to the Colorado Plateau by Tope Elementary School students & D Gallegos, 1998. For sale here.