Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Is That Wildflower?

Several people have asked me lately what this particular wildflower is. For the answer, I went to my favorite resource, A Field Guide to Texas Wildflowers (UT, 1994) by Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller (with a forward by the godmother of Texas wildflower cultivation, Lady Bird Johnson). Here it is: Wild Honeysuckle (Bee Blossom). Latin name: Gaura suffulta.

I spent one spring a few years ago poring over that guide book trying to identify this flower. The book's photo only shows the blossom, not the rest of the plant, so it really took a while to make the connection. Folks have commented that they have never seen it before. It's a pretty unremarkable flower, at least compared to the showier bluebonnets, and so it is easily overlooked, except when it fills fields as it has this year. Even the wildflower experts call it "weedy." 

When I told my friend Amy (Scooter) that the flower was called wild honeysuckle, she tasted it to see if it was sweet like the  regular honeysuckle that grows on fences around Austin. Oops. It is not. Again, the Loughmillers say that the flowers are called bee blossoms because "their fragrance attracts honeybees." To the non-bee, however, they do not exude much scent. 

Erica (Joey and Cocoa) and I were delighted to see this wildflower, one we did not recognize. It's pretty, no? 

Well, I am sorry to say that it is the flower produced by the Tickclover or Beggar's Lice plant, the plant responsible for those horrible, fuzzy rice-grain-sized burrs that sticks to plants, people, and dogs alike. 

Here's what the Loughmillers say about it: "The little tickclover plant, so pretty in the spring, can become such a nuisance in the fall. The seeds are detached at the slightest touch and cling tenaciously to one's clothing by the numerous tiny, hooked hairs." Like many other things in nature (kittens, for example), cute when young, snaggy and annoying when more mature.

Enjoy. -z


  1. Oh no! Its the dreaded beggar's lice and not a lovely wild snapdragon.

    This morning I pulled up a bunch of burr plants (?), like the ones covering the park, right outside the garage. Where I brush the dogs before letting them come inside. Rrrrrrr....

  2. Thank heavens someone has the patience to look these things up in books. The gaura you can get at the nursery is lovely, but I think dog park gaura is lovely, too.


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