Field of Science

When is a flower not a flower?

Some flowers are quite strange, and some are not at all what they seem. So let's begin at the beginning. It seemed like a good idea when a shallow cement basin was discovered during an archeological dig in our garden to preserve the structure and convert it into a boggy habitat. This didn't go particularly well initially, but presently the current residents (marsh marigold, cardinal lobelia, bishop's weed) are doing fairly well if squirrels would leave things be. The toughest of these is the bishop's weed (Houttuynia cordata) which wouldn't be all that attractive if it were not for cultivars with varigated leaves. This is easy to grow in wettish areas making quite a nice ground cover, and in fact having it confined in concrete isn't such a bad idea. At any rate, while not it's most spectacular feature, it flowers here in early summer. Now actually what you are looking at are very very small flowers on a spike, a columnar inflorescence, subtended by four white bracts that have the appearance of a perianth making the whole thing look like a flower. Actually only the flowers on the lower third are open. Aggregations of tiny flowers into spikes is typical of the lizard tail family.


Eric said...

For my money, any plant supplier that sells Houttuynia without stern instructions to confine it without fail should be strung up in the town square. I bought a variegated one 25 years ago and thought it was cute--for one year. At that time, no one--NO ONE--warned of its rapacious ways. It isn't even in a particularly favorable spot, soil- or moisture- wise. One of the most pestiferous things I ever put in the garden, and it's a struggle to keep it more or less in one area where I can almost tolerate it. Not only that, the plant stinks, figuratively and literally. This year, despite my aversion to strong herbicides, I've started fighting it with 2,4-D (since glyphosphate only tempered it a bit) and just today noticed I'm having some success. What was it we were saying about weeds yesterday?

The Phytophactor said...

Eric - don't ever plant a plume poppy! The single biggest most aggressively invasive plant we ever deliberately planted! But no question about it, keep Houttuynia under check from the get go! So you're right, my warning wasn't stern enough!!! Mrs. Phactor adds, "Watch out for gooseneck loosestrife too!" She's been waging war on this for years.