Houstonia caerulea - Bluet

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Houstonia caerulea, bluet, is a native herbaceous perennial plant that grows in clusters about 4" tall. It spreads vegetatively by rhizomes (underground modified stems that grow near the soil surface) as well as by seeds. The plant blooms in spring: April-May.

Flowers

The small flowers are about a half inch or less across but sometimes they grow in profusion. The flowers have four petals that are white or bluish white with distinctive yellow centers.

<i>Houstonia caerulea</i> ( Bluet ) - The small flowers are a half inch or less

The bluet flower exhibits dimorphism, meaning, that there are two types / forms of flowers. In one type, the anthers rises to the top of the corolla tube and are visible while the stigma is below. In the left photo below, the 4 anthers can just be seen at the center of the flower. Each anther has two sections. The next photo shows the side view and bulge in the corolla tube just beneath the petals where the anthers are. This area is yellow and the narrower part of the tube below is green. The next photo is a diagram of the flower showing where the anthers are and the stigma which is further down. There are 4 petals and 4 anthers but only 2 of each are shown in the diagram for simplicity.

<i>Houstonia caerulea</i> ( Bluet ) flower type with long stamen and short style

In the second flower type the stigma extends past the top of the corolla tube and the anthers are below. The left photo below shows the stigma protruding out from the center of the flower. The next photo shows the side view and the corolla tube is all yellow the width remains about the same.The diagram next shows the stigma rising above the petals and the anthers hidden down in the corolla tube. Again, there are 4 petals and 4 anthers but only 2 of each are shown in the diagram for simplicity.

<i>Houstonia caerulea</i> ( Bluet ) flower type with long style and short stamen

All the flowers are the same kind for a single plant. A single plant can have many flowers since the plant sends out rhizomes. Pollination can occur only between flowers of the other type. Having these two different types of flowers assures cross pollination.

 

Plant & Leaves

The left photo below shows the rosette of basal leaves. The next photo shows the plant with the slender flower stalks rising out of the basal leaves. The plant is about 4" tall.

<i>Houstonia caerulea</i> ( Bluet ) lower leaves <i>Houstonia caerulea</i> ( Bluet ) plant

 

5 Petal Flower

Most bluets have 4 petals but this one has 5. It most likely has 5 stamens which can't be seen from this photo.  This is a rare occurrence.

<i>Houstonia caerulea</i> ( Bluet ) 5 petal flower

All photos are by H & M Ling.

 

Additional information

Links:
http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/quaker_ladies.htm
http://www.mtcubacenter.org/plant-finder/details/houstonia-caerulea/
https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/houstonia/caerulea/

 

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