Photo of the Week – August 10, 2018

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Except that in nature, both vary in hue.

-Chris Helzer

Pardon the terrible poetry, but even outside of horticultural varieties, the flowers of both roses and violets can be many different colors.  Less frequently, even sunflowers can display colors other than their typical yellow.  For example, there is a clone of stiff sunflowers (Helianthus pauciflorus) blooming right now over at Lincoln Creek Prairie, here in Aurora, that includes beautiful red highlights.

These stiff sunflower blossoms have a little extra accent to their typical yellow color.

The red color appears to be genetically linked because there is an entire clone (a patch of stems connected by underground stems called rhizomes) with the same feature.  It reminds me of the way upright yellow coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), another yellow flower, can often include varying amounts of red.  But that red variation is much more common in the coneflower – I almost never see it in sunflowers.  In fact, I’m wondering if the other times I’ve seen it might have been in this same clone, but years ago…

Regardless, I took a few minutes to appreciate (and document) these unique blossoms last week.  The bees feeding on them didn’t seem put off by the unusual color, which means maybe the genetic trait of that red color will be passed on and show up elsewhere.  If I think of it, I might even go harvest some of that seed myself in a month or so…  Here are a few more photos from that same flower patch.

Melissodes agilis on stiff sunflower. You can see that the reddish color is really just on the backside of the flower. The bees didn’t seem to care.
Svastra obliqua (aka, the sunflower bee).  Look at all that yellow pollen on her back leg…  (Thanks to Mike Arduser for confirming the ID of both these bee species.)
What a gorgeous flower…

7 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – August 10, 2018

  1. James C. Trager August 10, 2018 / 7:41 am

    Beautiful find, Chris.

  2. shoreacres August 10, 2018 / 8:14 am

    This is a beautiful flower, and the information’s very helpful. Not long ago, I found a patch of Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) that was the prettiest, most luscious pink imaginable. There was no question they were Gaillardia, but they were quite a sight, tucked as they were into the middle of a whole field of red and yellow flowers. Could those pink flowers have been connected in the same way as the sunflowers — through rhizomes?

    • Chris Helzer August 13, 2018 / 12:07 pm

      That’s pretty fantastic. I don’t see G. pulchella very often, but my impression is that it isn’t strongly rhizomatous, but I could be wrong about that. it could also just be that the seeds from the pink plants were spreading near the original. Regardless – sounds beautiful!

  3. anastaciast August 10, 2018 / 10:00 pm

    I wonder if these, like this one shown, Grumble when they are picking up so much pollen to take back!

  4. James McGee August 10, 2018 / 10:13 pm

    Maybe you could market it as Helzer’s Helianthus. The Husker Red Penstemon introduction did very well even receiving the perennial plant of the year in 1996. If the plant was refined by breeding and you received even thirty cents for each plant sold you would receive a very large sum of money.


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