Number Six is in the Mix!

Consider the color white. Technically it is a mix of all colors which is proven by the rainbow after a storm. Light from the sun strikes the innumerable raindrops of the passing shower and each color within the full white light of the sun is slowed down according to each color’s peculiarities and a visual bouquet of color is projected skyward. We call that a rainbow. White can be spectacular in its pureness and boring in its blandness. It is not a common sight in nature. Snow is the best example – it can be overwhelming in its brightness; simple in its sameness. Other then a sprinkling of wildflowers or a touch of snow one would be hardpressed to name something naturally white. White in wildflowers can be intriguing, sometimes subtle, and always beautiful.

Now consider my choice for the #6 wildflower. A Fringed White Pacelia (Phacelia fimbriata) is small – barely a half-inch across – unlike the three inch White Trillium blossom (see #9). What it lacks in stature it gains in uniqueness and sheer numbers. Can you imagine a million small fringed pure white flowers blooming at once? Two million?

A colony of whiteness! Note the few developing Mayapples in the foreground.
A closer look at Phacelia and Mayapple communities.

When you shake the hypnotic shock of the snowy millions and narrow your focus to one bloom, your amazement increases. The white bloom is fringed and each “snowflake” Phacelia has its own touch of white uniqueness. Five petals with five anthers and a touch of greeness reflecting the five bud sepals underneath make up the Phacelia. The anther tips add a peppery touch of deep purple . There are 30 fringes on each petal and I can’t help but wonder what purpose other than to dazzle me, that God had in mind when designing such a combination of complexity and color simplicity.

White can be beautiful!
Note the lavender anthers.

Pollinators are small native bees and a few butterflys whose task of pollination must seem overwhelming when a solitary insect discovers an acre of Phacelia.

When encountering the Fringed White Phacelia, other flowers will be present on the periphery in late March and early April. A close relative of her fringeness is Miami Mist. A lavender variation with slightly fewer fringes and a touch of color.

Miami Mist – a beautiful cousin.

The Rue Anemone blooms at the same time and is a larger blossom and lives in smaller communities.

So hard to pick favorites in early Spring!

The Purple Phacelia grows in mounds along roadsides in the Smokies and mixes with Wild Colmbine for a striking non-white display. It requires lower elevations and wetter microenvironments than the fringed varieties but is just as attractive.

A mix of Purple Phacelia and Wild Columbine along the Little River Road in the Smokies.

Let’s take one more look at my #6 Wildflower and speculate on what could be more breathtaking than a fimbriata (fringed).

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