Throughout the spring and summer, meadows and ditches alike are alive with blossoms. Big, showy flowers like daisies and black-eyed Susans are common, but the smaller flowers often go unnoticed. There are several wild plants with orange flowers measuring less than 1/2 inch including bristly mallow, scarlet pimpernel and hoary puccoon. Butterfly weed also sports tiny flowers held on large, joined clusters called umbels.
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Bristly mallow (Modiola caroliniana) is a common lawn weed throughout the Southern United States. They are creeping perennials that flower from February to June. Its ½-nch wide, orange flower is vaguely cup-shaped with five petals. A mature plant reaches 20 inches in height and has a bristly stem.
The scarlet pimpernel (Abagakkus arvebsus) is a member of the primrose family. Its ¼-inch, star-shaped, orange flower is fringed and has five petals. The flowers arise on square stalks from July through August. It ranges throughout the United States and is toxic to both humans and livestock. Scarlet pimpernel is often confused with common chickweed, but the square stems and orange flowers are hallmarks of the pimpernel.
Hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens) was a favourite among Native American tribes. The name puccoon was given by them for the plant's ability to yield coloured dye. The ½-inch wide, five-petaled flowers arise from hoary puccoon in March through June. The plant grows throughout the Southeast and Central United States. It is a member of the Forget-Me-Not family.
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is unusual among orange-flowered wildflowers in that its small flowers arise in groups upon umbrella-shaped bracts called umbels. Butterfly weed flowers throughout the summer and grows throughout the United States, where it reaches heights of 1 to 3 feet. Despite being a member of the milkweed family, butterfly weed does not produce milky secretions or sap. This common flower garden plant is available for sale in many garden centres and through catalogues.
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