A Literary Wildflower . . .
My desire to share an enthusiasm for Manhattan’s wildflowers hit home in a delightful way in recent weeks.
The story began, as it often does, with a walk. My wife and I were enjoying a Sunday afternoon outing. We had set out to enjoy the sunshine and unseasonably cool air after seeing a film in Battery Park City. The bonus appeared in Hudson River Park when we found a tiny creeping plant flowering in a color quite unlike the solid white, yellow, or pink I usually see in the urban field. The pointed petals of this example held a hue more like smoked salmon with a distinctly purple center.
When we got home, I began to search through resources for a positive identification. One detail I did note was that the leaves, stems, and general spreading appearance of the plant resembled Common Chickweed.
I had been at work less than five minutes when, from the other side of the room, Maryann announced: “Found it!”
Indeed she had, by using some of the same search terms and comparisons I have illustrated in past posts. My wife, I have discovered, has been an attentive reader. She has honed her own skills and has done so, at least in small part, by reading Wildflowers of the West Village.
The flower we found turned out to be one that has a broader cross-cultural appeal, having given its name to a famous piece of literature –
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Anagallis arvensis is a European immigrant closely related to Common Chickweed; a fact that further satisfied my own little ego, as I had made that connection on my own before reading an authoritative resource, in this case the comprehensive database of The Connecticut Botanical Society, which can be found by following this link:
I must admit here that I had never heretofore known Scarlet Pimpernel, the wildflower, had established itself in North America. I knew of the name, as most people do, by way of the famous novel of the French Revolution authored by Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orczi.
We were fortunate to come across this little literary flower when we did, The Scarlet Pimpernel blooms in full only on sunny days. Overcast weather and evening compels this plant’s petals to fold up. Had that been the case, we might have missed it entirely, or overlooked it as just another example of Common Chickweed.
This leads me to relate another lesson I have learned, and one I hope to share: students and lovers of nature must carpe diem when a new wildflower is found. Wild plants in urban environments are especially subject to the whims of groundskeepers, vehicles, or in this case, their own unique habits.
— rPs 08 28 2013