Thursday, September 20, 2012

Centaurea, saponaria, and beauty underfoot

Here where I'm staying at a bayside cottage in Eastham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, it's a short sandy walk, under pitch pines and oaks, past bearberry, bayberry, and blueberry, to the water.

And on the way there, so much life, blooming by the sandy path.

Centaurea maculosa, or spotted knapweed, is one of my favorites, for the delicacy of both its form and its color.

Bouncing Bet, or saponaria officinalis, is exuberantly all over the place.  My Reader's Digest Guide to North American Wildlife tells me that it has the name saponaria because "when mixed with water, the bruised leaves of these European weeds produce a soapy lather that has been used since ancient times for laundry and bathing....[i]ts cleansing action makes it a useful home remedy for poison ivy."  Saponaria.  The Latin word for soap is saponem, so I suppose that's where the name came from.  I'm not tempted to use it for soap, though.

Rosa rugosa is all over the place, too.  I admire this plant for its ability to thrive in sand, send up rosy fragrance that mixes with the smell of the sea, and produce rose hips so round and orange they look like cherry tomatoes. 

Aster is my birth flower, and in September, they're abundant.  I'm not sure which aster this one is, but I'm going to guess it's New England Aster, Aster Novae-Angliae. 

Beach pea (lathyrus japonicus) sprawls all over the dunes from June through September.  Its two-tone flowers never fail to stop me in my tracks.  The leaves remind me of those of its close relative, baptisia, which I grow in my home garden in West Hartford, CT. They're all members of the pea family, right?  Can one of you master gardeners out there help me out?

This last one isn't flowering now, but I love the deep evergreen color of its fleshy leaves, which are striped with white.  This is spotted wintergreen, chimaphila maculata.  Can you see why I think it's so lovely?  Wikipedia tells me it's endangered in Canada, Illinois, Maine and New York. 

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