Wildflower so correct,
You move us to reflect:
Whose heart and senses
Were you meant to please,
Whose brain to tease?
The bee who gives thee life,
Or we, who’d pluck it away?
What would Darwin say?

Ron Cohen © 2011

This delicate wildflower recently appeared in our garden. The close-up photo belies its small size. The open blossom was only 1¼ inches across by ¾ inches high. The low evening sun, hovering above the rise of land to our west, backlit these diaphanous blooms, setting them softly aglow.

You’ll notice that the pollen is fully dispersed from the open blossom. You can get an idea of the original payload by looking closely at the newer, partly opened bloom behind it, with its pollen cluster still intact. The photo was taken on July 4, 2013 at 6:18 pm. Click the image to see it in exquisite detail, and the back arrow to return. Cursor over for its description.

I thought I knew the name of this flower, but like so many other things, I’ve forgotten. Does anyone know? It grows on a three foot stalk.

Update, July 13, 2013: A reader emailed me to say she has the same flower growing in her garden. She identified it as Sidalcea malviflora, with the common names of “dwarf checkerbloom,” “dwarf checkermallow,” “prairie mallow,” or “false mallow.” According to Wikipedia, it is native to the west coast of the United States, and “is somewhat variable in appearance and there are many subspecies.” I have since learned there are also many cultivars*.
Related: Small Wildflower II*.

*Question: What is the difference between subspecies and cultivars? Here’s my answer, distilled from my reading:

“Subspecies” are naturally occurring, geographically distinct populations, with observable differences, but capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.

“Cultivars” are botanical varieties that originate under cultivation, or occasionally by natural variation among plants growing in the wild. Some cultivars are infertile and must be propagated by subdivision, grafting, or other forms of human intervention; others will reproduce by seed and retain their distinguishing characteristics. Wikipedia offers this definition:

A cultivar is an assemblage of plants that (a) has been selected for a particular character or combination of characters, (b) is distinct, uniform and stable in those characters, and (c) when propagated by appropriate means, retains those characters.

By international agreement, the cultivar name follows the italicized, Latin botanical name, and is enclosed in single quotation marks — for example, Sidalcea malviflora ‘Elsie Heugh.’

This is is a complex subject; for more detailed information, see the Wikipedia pages for Subspecies and Cultivar.


3 Responses to Small Wildflower*

  1. Laura Pausch says:

    Ron first I would like to say thanks for introducing yourself to me. You have an awesome blog and please keep me posted…

  2. Robin Mirollo says:

    Ron, I like to think we humans are bystanders to the waltz between the flower and the bee. I’m always rewarded for stopping by your blog and taking time to pause and reflect. You are a true naturalist. Thanks for being you.

  3. Dick Quinn says:

    Ron, you are a consummate artist — a master in the prose and poetry that you craft and in the way that you photograph forms and light. Your “Wildflower” photo captured the wonderful delicacy of the flowers and backlight.

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