Mystery Flora: Tiny Treasures


On my long ramble along North Creek a few months ago, I noticed a sort of purple aspect to some of the plants alongside the trail. I bent down for a closer look. These were among the tiniest flowers I’ve ever seen.

Mystery Flowers I

My camera sometimes has trouble with pale purple things, and when they’re this tiny, the chances of getting it to focus are slim. We discussed the matter. We tried a few different angles. It still didn’t understand quite what I was getting at. Finally, desperate, I grabbed a few and used my hand to block out some of the background greenery. At last, my camera sort of got it.

Mystery Flowers II

Not ideal, but you can see some detail rather than just a vaguely purple blur.

The whole trailside was filled with these, happily growing with the grasses. I’d never really looked closely at them before. They’re tiny, easily overlooked, overwhelmed by larger things. But when you zoom in, they have this perfect, elegant shape.

Mystery Flowers III

The plants themselves are taller than you might expect, anywhere from midway up the shins all the way to nearly knee-high. Their shape and size makes me wonder what pollinates them.

Mystery Flowers IV

The following week, I introduced my intrepid companion to them, and got a few extra shots. Here’s a full view o’ ‘em:

Mystery Flowers V

The blooms may be minuscule, but the plants themselves are certainly vigorous. Yeesh.

And, because I couldn’t help myself, a couple of extra macros, which seem to have turned out a wee bit better than the previous:

Mystery Flowers VI

Mystery Flowers VII

That last really gives you a sense of how itty-bitty they are, doesn’t it?

I love tiny, beautiful things. They’re easy to overlook, but once they’ve caught your eye, they’re part of your landscape forever.

Comments

  1. Katkinkate says

    Looks a bit like an orchid and by the pattern of the purple stripes (like a guide to the nectar) I’d say pollinated by small insects.

  2. rq says

    A species of wild pea.
    Were the stems like little vines?
    As for pollinators, colour + shape would indicate small flies or moths (they seem to like the pale purple colours, I think they’re more visible to them in the evenings, when they come out to feed). A bit small for bees.

    • Dana Hunter says

      Buggered if I remember! I can barely remember five minutes ago right now… I do know the stems are extremely thin and flexible, but those were the outer stems – no idea what’s at the heart of the bush. And the bastard landscapers have removed the scraggly ones that were starting to grow here, so I can’t mosey out for a look.

      Possibly peas, eh?? What is it with the Pacific Northwest and extremely beautiful flowering peas?!

      • rq says

        Personally I find most peas gorgeous, and they usually smell delicious – the nice kind of ‘light’ sweet, rather than the heavy, oppressive lily kind of sweet (a room full of pea flowers is pleasant to be in, a room full of lilies – hello, headache!). On the way home today I saw a very nice pea-type flower with interesting leaves but since I (oh-so-fortunately) broke the camera last weekend (random completely unlucky (lucky?) drop that bent the ring around the lens so it can’t turn on), I couldn’t get a nice shot. :( The camera phone just didn’t cut it this time. (Although I DID get some nice shots of the unfortunate crayfish we caught while fishing. Want? :) )

  3. says

    I suspect that the grasses in your photo had smaller flowers, but let’s put that aside for now.

    At a guess, I would say an Astragalus species, probably A. miser, also known as milk vetch. They are legumes, so “pea family” is pretty close.

  4. Trebuchet says

    My first thought, like Katkinkate, was “orchid”. That was based on just the flower. But the mass of foliage in picture V certainly seems to confirm the vetch! Too bad some of our ever-present blackberries also crept in.

    Completely off-topic: In just over two weeks I’ll be hurling mini-pumpkins at the annual Snohomish Pumpkin Hurl. This is my invitation to you, Dana, to come up and say hello. I can probably even get you into the pits and let you pull the trigger! The invitation, of course, extends to your intrepid companion and any other local FTB’ers.

    http://www.festivalofpumpkins.org/the-pumpkin-hurl.asp

    • says

      Hurling pumpkins. Kind of reminds me of my college days, but in a slightly different context.

      And this event wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with your name, would it?

    • Dana Hunter says

      Oh, gawds… I might. I promised myself I’d NEVER EVER watch people chunkin punkins, but for you, I might. I shall consult the intrepid companion (and my old supervisor, who has the kind of quirky humor that might love this event) and see if they’ll join this madness.

      All of you are sworn to secrecy. This never happened.

      • Trebuchet says

        What never happened? I know nothing. My lips are sealed. And if that which shall not be named doesn’t quite come off, I’ll be at it again two weeks later, at the Burlington Pumpkin Pitch!

      • rq says

        Unfortunately, it’s on the internet. That means it DEFINITELY happened (will happen?). I’d love to see photos of this kind of event, and a blog post (if you’re up to it), and a detailed instruction on how to build one of them pumpkin-throwing-thingies. ;)

  5. wrp says

    The local* carpenter bees are probably small** enough to pollinate pea (or vetch) flowers that size, and there are plenty of them around in the late spring. There are a few short-tongued bees that are even smaller, but the bowl shape of pea flowers might be more than they can handle.

    (*) There are a lot of North Creeks, but I’m guessing this is the one near Snohomish?

    (**) I first met carpenter bees in Arizona and Southern California, and they’re huge – probably the biggest bees in North America. Carpenter bees in Washington are tiny little things. It’s hard to believe they’re related, but they are.

    • rq says

      Yes, FTB needs more botany and more insects. Thank goodness Dana has at least one of those covered. ;)

    • Dana Hunter says

      I could do botany. I have botany all over the place. We do flowers because hey, who doesn’t like flowers? But I could certainly post more botany if required! Just say the word