Know Your Natives – Rose Pink

Rose pink (Sabatia angularis) of the Gentian (Gentianaceae) Family, also known as common rose pink* and rose gentian, is an herbaceous annual or biennial.  It occurs naturally throughout much of the eastern US from eastern Texas and southeastern Kansas to Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, and thence south and east to the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts.  In Arkansas, the species occurs throughout much of the state except for portions of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.  The plant grows in full to partial sun in moist to dry glades and prairies and margins of woods and thickets.  The genus name is based on the 18th century Italian botanist Liberato Sabbati.  The specific epithet refers to the plant’s four-sided stems.

Rose pink produces a basal rosette of leaves from which one or several stems grow up to 3 feet tall.  The entire plant is the same spring-green color, glabrous and shiny.  Stems are square in cross-section with flexible narrow wings at corners.  Branches, occurring along upper portion of main stem, are also squared and winged, as too are smaller sub-branches.

Rose Pink - Sabatia angularisPhoto 1:  Basal rosette of leaves of rose pink in mid-March appears somewhat ruffled.

Branches grow from axils of upper stem leaves, typically from both leaves at a leaf node (thus primarily opposite branching).  Branches, which have their own opposite leaves, produce a few to about eight paired pedicels that bear flowers.  Branch divisions, up to the pedicels, are subtended by paired, elongate to linear leaves or bracts.  Spacing of leaf pairs (and related branching) remains fairly constant along the main stem.

Leaves of rose pink are ovate to ovate-lanceolate, with lower leaves being larger and more rounded.  Leaves are clasping (in the case of lower larger leaves) to sessile (in the case of upper smaller leaves).  Bases of larger leaves are heart-shaped with leaf bases overlapping around the stem.  Leaves are entire (margins not toothed).  Larger stem leaves are about 1½ inches long and 1 inch wide.

Rose Pink - Sabatia angularisPhoto 2:  In early June, stems of rose pink may be two feet tall.  Stems, branches and pedicels are winged along their four angled corners.

Rose Pink - Sabatia angularisPhoto 3:  In late June, the showy flowers make rose pink stand out among other plants.

Flowering occurs in early summer.  The overall shape of the inflorescence is pyramidal and loosely open due to upright growth pattern of branches and pedicels and due to lower branches being longer.  Flowers, up to 1 inch across, have five oblong to obovate pink corolla lobes joined at their bases to form a short tube.  Each flower has five stamens with yellow anthers, a superior ovary with a divided stigma, and a green calyx.  The calyx has five linear-lanceolate lobes about half the length of the corolla lobes.

The corolla lobes are primarily pink, but have a greenish yellow, triangular segment at their bases with a reddish outline on two sides.  That greenish yellow marking of the corolla lobes and of the ovary, along with the reddish outline, produces a prominent star design.  Flowers of rose pink may occasionally be white and may also occasionally lack a prominent red border around the central “star.”

Rose Pink - Sabatia angularisPhoto 4:  The divided stigmas of rose pink can be seen in several flowers.  The calyx lobes are positioned away from flower bud before corolla unfurls.

After flowering, the pedicels (flower stalks) may become brown while seed capsules remain green.  The elongated cylindrical seed capsules, about 1/3 inch long and lacking internal partitions, contain many tiny seeds that can be wind dispersed or carried by flowing water.

Rose Pink - Sabatia angularisPhoto 5:  In mid-August, rose pink plants wither, but seed capsules continue to mature.

In a garden, rose pink would not be especially noticeable until flowers appear, but then would be an eye-catcher.  Plants seem to be content in various soil moisture levels in fairly sunny to full sun sites.  Plants are short-lived but can seed around (note, though, that offspring may come up in different areas of the garden than where the parents were growing if allowed to self-seed).  Rose pink does not seem to be favored by deer.

* Five other species of Sabatia occur in Arkansas, all with pink flowers, and have some common names that are similar to those noted herein for Sabatia angularis.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Neat Plant Alert – Heart-leaf skullcap

One of Arkansas’ rare plants in the Mint (Lamiaceae) family, heart-leaf skullcap (Scutellaria cardiophylla), is blooming right now at Lake Catherine State Park in the Ouachitas of central Arkansas.

Heart-leaf skullcap - Scutellaria cardiophylla
It is found in just 5 counties in Arkansas and is considered rare throughout its range of east Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas and western Louisiana. The Lake Catherine population is at the northeastern edge of the species’ range.

Heart-leaf skullcap - Scutellaria cardiophylla
The plants can grow to approximately 18 inches in height with freely branching stems. It blooms in late spring and early summer. These photographs were taken the second weekend of June, 2015.

Heart-leaf skullcap - Scutellaria cardiophyllaArticle and photographs by ANPS member Eric Hunt

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Know Your Natives – Yellow Crownbeard

Yellow crownbeard (Verbesina helianthoides) of the Aster (Asteraceae) family is found in the US from Iowa and Kansas east to Ohio, and southward to Texas and Georgia.  It is found pretty much throughout Arkansas except for some counties in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain.  This species is also known as yellow wingstem or gravel weed.  The generic name Verbesina perhaps alludes to a Verbena-like appearance, although the exact etymology is unknown, while the specific epithet, helianthoides, relates to its yellow composite flowers which resemble sunflowers of the genus Helianthus.

Yellow crownbeard is found in moist soils of prairies, savannas, glades, forests, and roadsides in full sun to light shade.  This colonial, herbaceous perennial has multiple stout hairy stems generally 2-3 feet tall.  Stems are not branched except at the top in the inflorescence.  Ovate-lanceolate, mostly alternate leaves with widely spaced small teeth, are up to 6 inches long and 2½ inches wide.  The leaves have dense, short, white hairs, and feel soft to the touch.  Leaf tips taper gradually to long slender points (attenuate), while the leaf blade tapers more abruptly at the base.

Yellow crownbeard - Verbesina helianthoidesPhoto 1:  Yellow crownbeard in mid-April showing new growth directly from roots.

Yellow crownbeard - Verbesina helianthoidesPhoto 2:  Yellow crownbeard in mid-May with budded flower heads set on top of unbranched stems.

Leaves are sessile, and leaf blade tissue extends onto and down the stem as narrow “wings.”  One of the two wings connected to each leaf extends straight down-stem to the next leaf where it ends immediately above that leaf.  The second wing extends straight down-stem to the third leaf directly below.  With this pattern, five wings radiate from the stem at any given point.

Yellow crownbeard - Verbesina helianthoidesPhoto 3:  Leaf tissue that extends down-stem stops abruptly before reaching a lower leaf.

The inflorescences, occurring in late spring at the tips of stems, consist of two to five yellow composite flower heads on short, hairy peduncles arranged in corymb (flat-topped) fashion.  Each composite head, 2 to 2½ inches in diameter, has up to about twelve yellow pistillate ray flowers surrounding 40 to 80 yellow tubular disk flowers each with five lobes.  Involucres (the calyx-like structures at the base of the flower heads) are composed of 16 to 21 phyllaries (sepal-like bracts) in two to three layers.  Phyllaries are narrow and fused at their bases while their bluntly triangular upper portions extend outward, loosely cupping the head.  Dark brown, 0.2-inch, flattened achenes are oval-lanceolate in shape, with keels on their edges and two short awns at recessed ends.

Yellow crownbeard - Verbesina helianthoidesPhoto 4:  Flower heads grow in corymb fashion at the tips of stems.  Upper portion of phyllaries cup head.

Yellow crownbeard - Verbesina helianthoidesPhoto 5:  Flower heads in the inflorescence range from those in bud to those fading.

Two other Verbesina species with unbranched stems may often occur throughout Arkansas in the same or adjoining habitats as yellow crownbeard; namely, frostweed or white crownbeard (Verbesina virginica) and yellow-ironweed or wingstem* (Verbesina alternifolia). Frostweed is a significantly larger plant with wider leaves and white flower heads.  Yellow-ironweed, with coarser leaves, which are sometimes opposite on the lower stems, and with or without wings on the stems, generally has purple coloration on stems and yellow flower heads bearing scattered, drooping yellow ligules (ray flowers) and a single row of reflexed phyllaries.  Frostweed and yellow-ironweed bloom much later in the year than yellow crownbeard.  Of the three species, only frostweed reliably produces frost flowers, although yellow-ironweed is also reported to produce them occasionally.

For gardens or naturalized settings, yellow crownbeard should be welcomed.  It is a hardy, attractive perennial of modest height with upright stature and nice character.  The yellow composite flowers of yellow crownbeard bloom earlier than those of sunflower species.  Yellow crownbeard may form colonies, but it has not been noted to be weedy.

*With Verbesina helianthoides and Verbesina alternifolia both having yellow flower heads and winged stems, the common name “yellow wingstem” has been used for both species.  Photos and plant descriptions found on the internet are sometimes not correctly aligned.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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