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…