Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The I20 Amateur Count (Part IV, Wildflowers, Plains Blackfoot Daisy)

I thought I would dig a little deeper with the flowers because, of course, they are my favorite. I'd like to do a series of posts to take each one of the I20 Amateur Count flowers, learn what I can about them, and share that here. By Saturday I hope to have them all posted and then give the grand total of our living thing photo challenge.

Click to enlarge the thumbnails.

Plains Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum
Member of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)

This has always been one of my favorite wildflowers. It's common, a perennial, very tough, blooms from spring up until winter, and grows in a nice round mound looking like a ready-made bouquet. What more could I want? Well, it is native to several southwestern states, including Texas. Even better.

One of the interesting things about all flowers belonging to the sunflower family -- which comprise 20% of the wildflowers in Texas -- is what we call the "flower" is really a bunch of flowers, and typically two different kinds at that.

The outer part, the so-called petals, are each really a perfect flower, having both a stamen and a pistil as well as a petal. This kind of flower is called a ray flower and in the plains blackfoot it is white with yellow stamens and pistils. In the yellow center is another group of perfect flowers, all yellow, called disc flowers. If you enlarge the picture on the right, you'll see for yourself. In that "one flower," I counted actually 16 flowers. Isn't nature inventive?

But why is it called Blackfoot? Before this post I thought it might have to do with naming it after some tribe of Native Americans.

Not so.

It's named that after another interesting part of its structure. From the University of Texas page on Melampodium leucanthum, I am duplicating their picture that shows the "black foot." They are actually the aged stigmas and developing achene. ("Achene is the small, dry, indehiscent one-seeded fruit with a thin wall, as in sunflower seeds." Sheeze. These biologists, I tell ya, have a special name for everything.)

And not surprisingly, not only does the common name refer to this tiny structure, so does the scientific name. From Greek melas "black" and podos "foot."

Another interesting thing about the Blackfoot is, unlike other plants in the Sunflower family, their inner disc flowers are not fertile. It is only the outer ray flowers that produce seed. Something to remember when collecting your own. Thanks to the folks at Dave's garden website for that valuable tidbit.


Well, I think I found out quite a lot this go round and that was fun. Was it fun for you? Ha, I know. This may not interest every one, but this is a new passion of mine: to get serious about understanding the flowers I'm so fond of taking pictures of.


Bobbie said...

I'm so happy to see you serious about flowers :) You couldn't find a better subject plus you are sharing an interest with me. I was just thinking today as I was cleaning up after IKE, that it had been a long time since I have gone walking just to see what I could see. Must find time for this!

Irene said...

I love nature, but more in the general awe inspiring sense, less so in the little detail oriented sense of it. I have sort of an 'angst' about that, for fear that I will not understand what each part is called and what its function is and that I will get all muddled up and feel like I do when I try to do algebra. My memory is shot and I can never remember all those things and that takes the fun out of the flower for me, but I'm glad you're doing it and now we know why those things are called 'black foot'.

Bev said...

OK, these daisys are a lot bigger than the ones round here LOL

Love to see all the mini flowers in the middle of this flower, caught by your ace camera.

Interesting about the name. It does sound American Indian, but then obviously it isn't, and great picture of the little black feet.

I have secretly thought Mr Williams has a most appropriate name for a naturalist, but didn't want to appear cheeky in case he reads these comments LOL