Blue-eyed Mary – Flowers

(Collinsia versa)

Figwort family

Flowers—On slender, weak stalks; whorled in axils of upper leaves. Blue on lower lip of corolla, its middle lobe folded lengthwise to enclose 4 adhering stamens and 1 pistil ; upper lip white, with scalloped margins; corolla from 1/2 to 3/4 in. long, its throat about equalling the deeply 5-cleft calyx. Stem: Hoary, slender, simple or branched, from 6 in. to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Thin, opposite; upper and more acute ones clasping the stem; lower, ovate ones on short petioles. Fruit: A round capsule to which the enlarged calyx adheres.

Preferred Habitat—Moist meadows, woods, and thickets. .Flowering Season—April—June.

Distribution—Western New York and Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Indian Territory.

Next of kin to the great Paulonia tree, whose deliciously sweet, vanilla-scented, trumpet-shaped violet flowers are happily fast becoming as common here as in their native Japan, what has this fragile, odorless blossom of the meadows in common with it ? Apparently nothing ; but superficial appearances count for little or nothing among scientists, to whom the structure of floral organs is of prime importance ; and analysis instantly shows the close relationship between these dissimilar-looking cousins. Even with-out analysis one can readily see that the monkey flower is not far removed.

Because few writers have arisen as yet in the newly settled regions of the middle West and Southwest, where blue-eyed Mary dyes acres of meadow land with her heavenly color, her praises are little sung in the books, but are loudly buzzed by myriads of bees that are her most devoted lovers. ” I regard the flower as especially adapted to the early flying bees with abdominal collecting brushes for pollen—i.e., species of Osmia—and these bees,” says Professor Robertson of Illinois, “although not the exclusive visitors, are far more abundant and important than all the other visitors together.” For them are the brownish marks on the palate provided as pathfinders. At the pressure of their strong heads the palate yields to give them entrance, and at their removal it springs back to protect the pollen against the inroads of flies, mining bees, and beetles. As the longer stamens shed their pollen before the shorter ones mature theirs, bees must visit the flower several times to collect it all.