Tom's Blog

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gaillardia: Where did this flower come from?

While digging Queen Anne's lace in Toby's Prairie, we discovered a "new species". The yellow flowers are black-eyed Susans, but the handsome orange flowers are almost certainly Gaillardia aristata, a garden cultivar that somehow found its way into our prairie.

According to the U.W. Herbarium, Gaillardia aristata is an introduced escaped species. The word "escaped" means that the species has in some unknown fashion become transported from flower gardens to the wild, where it is maintaining itself.

Gaillardia aristata is a highly variable plant that is widely grown in flower gardens. (Check Google images: not all examples have the orange ray flowers of the specimen in this photo.)

We certainly did not plant it, and so far we have found only this one plant cluster. Since our black-eyed Susan seeds were collected elsewhere at Pleasant Valley Conservancy, it is hard to imagine that it came from us. Of course, once a plant has set seed, you know longer have the flower color as a guide.

It is possible that the Gaillardia came from the flower garden that was at one time present around the old farm house. This house has been gone since 1967, but there are still some remnants of an old flower bed. Day lilies, for instance, are present despite our determined efforts to eradicate them by spot spraying with herbicide. There is also a lilac bush and some cultivated iris plants nearby.

Should we leave this colorful plant, or dig it up? We have another week or so to decide. After that it will probably no longer be visible.


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