Sabatia grandiflora, about as pretty as they come

20 Jun


Sabatia grandiflora


Yesterday Billy, John and George visited the Haney Creek Trail near Stuart.  The site is a scrub-lover’s (and dog-walker’s) delight enhanced aquatically with borrow pits, ponds, marshes, creeks, and mystery regions to reconnoiter.

We squished through a flowery marsh which reinforced an old perception.   Now please understand that this perception is a figment of my imagination.  Sometimes wildflowers seem to cluster by color.  A person could make up a reason:  maybe if certain pollinators in a habitat naturally prefer or become “trained” to the color of the predominant flower, other flower species horn in on the action by mimicry.  As a comparable retail scenario,  everybody knows what a Coca Cola can looks like.  Some coke knock-offs use a similar color scheme and fancy-curvy script.  (It would take a little contortion to “floral color mimicry” in terms of evolutionary adaptation but it could be done in a more rigorous blog.)

Floral color mimics (photo borrowed from the Internet)


Possibly different species with similar rose-colored petals add up to a big collective pinkish attraction for pollinators who prefer that color, just as several shoe stores in a mall collectively draw those shoppers seeking footwear.   Who knows?  This is my daydream so I can imagine whatever I dang well please.  Yesterday the wet center of the marsh was all yellow:  Elliott’s Xyris, Yellow Polygalas, St. Johnsworts.  (Okay, the Carolina Redroot flowers don’t quite qualify as yellow but it has a lot of yellow in it.)

Sabatia grandiflora. The bright yellow pollen-bearing anthers are in the flower center. The two green stigmas are twisted together temporarily sidelined on the right. The flower will need that yellow eye to still imply “yellow pollen” when the yellow anthers fall away as the flower shifts to its female phase. (Photo by JB)


By contrast, the marsh fringe was predominantly pinkish-rosyish:  Meadowbeauties,  Rosy Camphorweed,  Rosegentians (also called Marsh-Pinks).   The last-mentioned were the stars of the show.  These shocking  pinkies (Sabatia grandiflora) were so abundant and crowded they looked like a flower garden, but better, being wild, natural, un-tended, and un-intended.  The petals are power-pink with a jagged yellow central eye rimmed with red.  To linger annoyingly on my daydream of  “floral color mimicry,”  similar starry yellow eyes peep from unrelated flowers.  For instance,  enjoy John’s photo of Sisyrinchium xerophyllum.

Sisyrhinchium xerophyllum (by JB)


Floral beauty runs in the Gentian Family,  with several species of Sabatia and other Gentians in Florida.  Our Sabatia is so purty can you cultivate it in the garden?   Not so readily.  This is a wetland annual.

Another question, how do you pronounce the name?  Some pronounce it as “seh-BAISH-ah.”   Let me suggest, contrarily, saw-BAT-ee-ah, given that the namesake is Italian botanist Libertus Sabbati, not a dermatological cyst.

That today’s species is an annual fits its shallow water lifestyle.  It scatters tiny seeds (with pitted surfaces, as in many wetland species), setting the stage for seedling opportunism where the moisture level and other critical factors may be hospitable at the moment.  A perennial lifestyle would less nimble keeping up with rising and falling waters.   If there was nothing else to do, I’d map the position of the Sabatia patches (and associated pinkish flowers) around a marsh relative to water levels one year and then repeat that comparatively  in following years.   But then again, the boss wouldn’t regard Sabatia mapping as a priority.  (Meetings are such a fruitful use of time.)

Sabatia changes sex dramatically.  The flowers are male first.  Look at John’s beautiful picture of the male phase with the stamens all yellow and assertive;  the stigmas bend off to the side twisted together demurely out of action.   Soon, however, the anthers fall way and the stigmas separate, rise, and take charge.


Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Rose-Gentian


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4 responses to “Sabatia grandiflora, about as pretty as they come

  1. Mary Hart

    June 21, 2012 at 3:29 am

    What delightful photos – wild flowers can be so beautiful. In UK it is great to see the action being taken on many fronts to restore old style meadows to encourage bees and other pollinators – farmers are asked to leave patches of land to provide food for birds and so on, and the scheme is beginning to show promising results.

  2. George Rogers

    June 21, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Hello Mary, Oh wouldn’t it be fun to come see! Want to swap places this summer?

  3. Steve

    June 23, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    I always would cringe when someone pronounced the name “Sah-bay-sha”, I also came to the whole concept of Sebaceous cyst, totally inappropriate for such a lovely flower. I think it is a “yankee” way to say the name.

  4. George Rogers

    June 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    The pronunciaiton “question” that sends me into an altered state is “Chamaedorea.” But then agian, I am humbled by the way I mangle student names.


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