Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for August 27th, 2013

When is a petunia not a petunia?

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Ruellia nudiflora Flower 7436

When is a petunia not a petunia? When it’s a wild petunia, Ruellia nudiflora, which isn’t even in the petunia family, but rather the acanthus family. This species flourishes all through the hottest part of the year in central Texas and is common here, although today marks its first appearance in these pages. I took this photograph in Bull Creek Park on June 27, exactly two months ago, but I’m still seeing a fair number of these flowers, which generally appear individually or in loose groups. The densest cluster I saw this summer was on the west side of Mopac a bit south of RM 2222, but you won’t be surprised to hear that the mowers cut it down in its flowering prime. There’s a civics lesson for you about our tax money in action.

On a more cheerful note—etymology is always cheerful—petunia happens to be one of the few words in English that traces back to an aboriginal language family of South America, in this case Tupí-Guaraní. In contrast, the genus Ruellia was named after Jean Ruelle, a French herbalist who lived from 1474 to1537. Ruelle is the French word for ‘a small street.’ Mower is the English word for ‘as small a number of wildflowers as possible.’

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2013 at 5:50 AM

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