Wild Beauty For a Lifetime

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While walking in the woods the other day my attention was captured by a flash of purple. Closer investigation revealed a small, irregularly shaped flower with heart-shaped leaves growing from its base. Delicate black stripes drew my gaze to its centre. This early blue violet was heralding the arrival of spring.

Flowers tell the story of attraction, in not so subtle ways. Each blossom calls out to pollinators that easily read the clues of ‘look at me’, ‘come visit’ and ‘enjoy a sweet, tasty treat’. Colors as broad a spectrum as a rainbow demand our attention. Each unique flower shape is a clue to its particular function. Dangling delicate birch catkins will be pollinated by the wind. Tube trumpets attract hummingbirds while broad dandelion landing pads better suit bees and butterflies.

Flower power forces us to stop, look and investigate. This connection usually leads to a desire to name and understand the plant further. Every budding botanist needs the help of a reliable resource to guide us through the myriad of possibilities. My bible for wild plants is Parish/Coupe/Lloyd Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia available from Polar Peek Books and Treasures on 2nd Ave. Faded with rat-torn edges, this old friend is my constant summer companion. Accurate photos, plants descriptions, and detailed line drawings, are enhanced with interesting tidbits on human uses of these plants.

Remember though it is not nearly as important to name a wildflower as it is to admire and wonder. On a warm summer day go for a wildflower wander. Your curiosity will be rewarded with the help of a magnifying glass. Take the time to look carefully at each and every flower you encounter.

Start at the base of the flower. Sepals cover the bud and fold back when the flower opens. Are they green or colored? Most obvious are the petals that are not only pretty; they help keep parts of the flower safe. Violets turn toward the ground at night to prevent dilution of nectar. Now take a moment to see all the parts of the flower.

Flowers are more than just another pretty face. The purpose is to produce offspring for future generations in the form of seeds. Plant sex and baby making happens here. Look at the center of the flower. You may have to gently pull back the petals. Notice the stamens, or the male part. Each stamen is made up of a fine filament topped by an oval anther, which holds pollen, tiny pieces of yellow powder.

In the center is the pistil, the female part of the flower. It looks like a small stem that is sticky on top. Pollen catches here and enters the narrow tube traveling down to fertilize the tiny eggs inside. If fertilized the eggs swell into seeds. Ants harvest the ripe violet seeds that contain attractive oils and sugars. In some areas where native ant territory is invaded the result can be violets decline in numbers.

All flowers including violets inspire my sentiment and love of the Earth. Each spark many stories told throughout the summer of nature’s wild beauty. This summer go wild over flowers. Admire them in place and remember that if you pick a flower it is yours for a day; leave it and it’s yours for a lifetime.