Mystery Flora: First Flower

Almost March, warm winter… I suppose I should have expected a wildflower, but I didn’t. These little delights took me quite by surprise. There I was, dodging through the hail, focused on getting home before the clouds stopped spitting ice and began dumping water in earnest, eyes on the ground so I wouldn’t take a hailstone to the eyeball. And there they were, in the weedy grass: flashes of brilliant white, standing too tall to be fallen ice.

Mystery Flora I
Mystery Flora I

Though if you look close, there’s a bit o’ hail on the big leaf, there.

Now, I’m relatively sure these aren’t cultivated flowers. In fact, I believe I remember seeing mugshots of them on the big least-wanted weeds poster we had at the landscaping company I spent a summer working for. I’ve never really understood the antipathy. Granted, the grass gets edged out. But weeds round here have lovely little flowers in all sorts of colors, and their foliage stays green and hearty while the grass around it dies in the summer heat, and the leaves are much more interesting than blades of grass.

Mystery Flora II
Mystery Flora II

Also, did I mention the flowers? These were so tiny that they weren’t any more than bright white clusters until I knelt on the sidewalk to photograph them. Then they revealed a delicate folded beauty.

Mystery Flora III
Mystery Flora III

So small and yet so perfect. And they’re set in these circles of radiating leaves, which end up reminding me a bit of Mandelbrot sets. Well, to a degree.

Mystery Flora IV
Mystery Flora IV

If these showed up in my lawn, if I had a lawn, they’d be welcome to stay. In fact, my idea of the ideal lawn is a mossy mass filled with wild and wonderful weeds. I suppose I’d have to take the mower to it occasionally so as to maintain the illusion of an actual lawn, but that’s okay – these precious little things seem to survive the experience just fine. You can see the bits that have been hacked off by the blades, yet it’s flourishing.

Mystery Flora V
Mystery Flora V

Speaking of moss, you can see a bit growing right there with it.

Mystery Flora VI
Mystery Flora VI

And the fallen leaves. No one’s raked this ground in some time – it’s rather out of the way, where the most someone will give it is a lick and a promise with a mower. And that’s outstanding. It leaves a little pocket of beauty where there might have been nothing more than a boring strip of homogeneous old grass.

Mystery Flora VII
Mystery Flora VII

This was mostly a green-and-white world with a bit of purple stem thrown in, but one additional plant wished to contribute a splash of scarlet, and made the scene sublime.

Mystery Flora VIII
Mystery Flora VIII

Now, back in the day, I could’ve told you what these lovely little plants were called. But it’s been many years since the short stint with folks who called these beauties weeds and did their best to extinguish their brief lives. So I’ll have to rely upon you, my darlings. Please, please tell me this is a flourishing and defiant native, and not some interloper. We all know my unfortunate fondness for what turn out to be invasive species, however, so I’m holding my hope in check.

I’ll still love them if you tell me they’re horrid, nasty things that ruin the natives as well as immaculate lawns, though.

Mystery Flora: First Flower

16 thoughts on “Mystery Flora: First Flower

  1. rq

    Bittercress! Which was also top-listed on this lawn care site. ;)
    It’s very pretty, and yes, the Mandelbrot leaves just add to its charm.
    Weeds are so easy to grow, somebody should have a garden of weeds-only. *ahem* This has nothing to do with being a lazy weeder myself. I simply admire their hardiness and ability to thrive in difficult circumstances.

  2. 2

    As my bio AP teacher told us way back when there were only two kingdoms of life, a rose bush in the middle of a corn field is a weed. So “weed” (don’t get me started) is a purely relativistic moniker, determined by the observer’s frame of reference…or something…

  3. 3

    Looks more specifically like Hairy Bittercress, which apparently is an invasive species. I have a lovely big one of these growing in my front yard right now. (It won’t last long, because it’s right in the middle of a big patch of wild violets that I am allowing to take over my tiny yard. Nothing much stands up to those, and as soon as they finish taking over, I won’t have to mow the yard any more!)

  4. 5

    cope @ 2
    Weed is also an ecological term. Weedy species are prolific bare ground colonizers, typically with effective means of seed dispersal,not just “flowers in the wrong place.” (Although I have heard a botanist describe them that way.)

  5. 6

    If a plant can be called cute, this one definitely is. I would’ve guessed Arabidopsis, but RQ and Ubi Dubium are clearly right. (Arabidopsis, for the record, doesn’t have Mandelbrot leaves. Which I’ve decided to adopt as a technical term.)

  6. 7

    Most of the plants on that lawn care site would look much nicer than a boring old grass monoculture, IMHO. Who wouldn’t want a lawn covered in little blue speedwell flowers?

  7. 9

    Thanks for the information. I was unaware that weed had a specific ecological meaning. Embarrassingly, I have taught environmental science and never made the distinction. If I teach it again, I will be sure to make the distinction.

    Small wonder I majored in geology.

  8. 10

    That looks familiar — I’ve probably pulled hundreds of those out of my yard! I just mentally refer to them as “seed-shooters”, since that’s what they do when mature. The seeds fly with surprising force, too. I’ve taken one or two in the eye.

    The red thing also looks familiar. Not sure what it is but it looks as if it may be a skin irritant.

  9. 11

    The red one is Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) a common temperate European species, like the bittercress. It’s hairy, but I’ve never heard of it causing skin problems. The leaves are initially green, but can turn red if the plant is stressed, and it has little pink flowers.

    The one with the palmately-lobed leaves (also picture VIII) looks suspiciously like Hedgerow Cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum) another common European hedge/lawn/verge plant, which also flowers pink..

  10. 12

    We all know my unfortunate fondness for what turn out to be invasive species, however, so I’m holding my hope in check.

    There is a reason for this – many invasives were introduced because they were attractive or useful. Purple loosestrife, for example, is gorgeous en masse, but devastating to wetlands.

    I also have to keep reminding myself that the eminently useful honeybee is an alien species.

  11. 14

    Ah yes, I should have remembered that, especially since my name is Robert! AKA “Stinky Bob” according to Wikipedia. That’s appropriate, it smells really bad. I’ve pulled lots of those too. It’s a genuine noxious weed in this state apparently.

  12. 15

    My thermometer currently reads 3 degrees fahrenheit, so flowers photos are especially welcome.

    The red foliage on the left is a variety of anemone, possibly Anemone lyallii

    The lovely Lyall’s wind flower is very similar in appearance to Oregon Anemone with which it can hybridize, and both can be difficult to distinguish from the other.

    The foliage on the right is a variety of geranium. There are some that are native to Oregon, and this could be a young Geranium oregonum. but considering that it is growing in a lawn I think it is more likely to be Geranium molle.

    Its leaves are very aromatic when bruised, with a clove/camphor fragrance.

    Dovefoot Geranium

    Geranium molle – Common, all spring and summer, annual or biennial or perennial, 3-16 in. Upright to prostrate, with stem tips pointing upward. Plant covered with soft hairs. Leaves nearly round, 1-2 in., palmately divided into 5-7 evenly round-toothed lobes. Pairs of 5 petals divided into 2 lobes. Grows in open or shaded sites on disturbed soils, including lawns and gardens, at low elevations. European native

  13. rq

    That sounds rather wonderful, actually. The only weed I’m not particularly partial to is the dandelion, but in the right location and at the right time, a field of dandelions is a beautiful sight.

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