Monday, June 24, 2013

Blanketflower Bouquet

Blanketflower Gaillardia aristata (c) John Ashley
June blanketflowers in bloom at Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge
What you know as "blanketflower" is what I learned as Gaillardia. It's a hardy wildflower named in honor of the 18th-century French patron of botany, Gaillard de Marentonneau. I grew up with this flower in another foreign country, Tejas, where the local lupine is Queen Almighty. But even though bluebonnets are the national flower in those parts, the red and yellow Gaillardia were my personal favorites from childhood - in part because they always bloom on my birthday.

The blanketflower of my southern childhood, Gaillardia pulchella, is a native annual. Here in Montana, our northern blanketflower is the native perenial, Gaillardia aristata. These two cousins were crossed to produce the various cultivars that you can buy at plant nurseries.

Unless my memory is crosswise, the southern blanketflower species almost always has red and yellow petals on the outer ring of ray flowers. There is a local subspecies that's all red. On the other hand, our northern blanketflower features mostly all-yellow petals. But I also see lots of the red and yellow type in the mostly-native grassy meadows at Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge. Both color forms of Gaillardia are in bloom right now along the grassy slopes above Dahl Lake - which is a good, wild place to tromp around for inquisitive kids of all ages.

Blanketflower 'Gaillardia aristata' (c) John Ashley
Native blanketflower 'Gaillardia aristata' reflected in morning dewdrops clinging to a spider's web