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.)
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.)
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.
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.