Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spring Flowers: Bluets or Quaker Ladies

Houstonia caerulea (Bluets or Quaker Ladies) have small (~3/8 inch) 4-petaled blue and white flowers that grow in clumps in the spring and early summer.  They can often be found small mounds (around 6 inches tall) lining both sides of a trail, or interspersed with grasses.  They tend to like areas where there are breaks in the forest canopy, but not full sun.  H. caerulea grows throughout eastern North America except in Florida.

The interesting thing about H. caerulea is that it is distylous , meaning that it has two flower forms (heterostyly refers to plants with multiple flower forms.  A flower that has three forms would be tristylous). H. caerulea has flowers with short stamens and a tall pistil and flowers with longer stamens and a short pistil (a good diagram of flower parts is located here). To produce fertile seeds, the pollen from tall stamens has to pollinate flowers with a tall pistil and vice versa.  This prevents self-pollination. 

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 H. caerulea on the Saddle Trail on Old Rag in 2010.
 H. caerulea on the Weakley Hollow Fire Road in March 2012.
Clusters of H. caerulea around Pedicularis canadensis (Wood Betony) and Amiantium muscitoxicum (Fly Poison) on the Appalachian Trail between Little Stony Man and Stony Man in May 2011.

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