Curls-n-Caterpillars

I love my curls.

Tiny blue flowers open from the curl.

I also love my caterpillars.

Blue curls, or Caterpillars,  Phacelia congesta, are charming spring garden additions here in Texas and neighbors, Oklahoma and New Mexico.   Native to this region, Blue curls are wildflowers worth having.  A low-growing, deer resistant herb, this springtime bloomer has performed as an annual in my garden.   The ‘curls’ part of the name is because as the diminutive flowers develop and open, they unfurl from a coiled position.  As well, the row of unopened buds evoke the curled position of caterpillars, thus the second of the common names.

Blue curl “caterpillars” flank the open flowers.

I prefer blue curls, but both names are descriptive; it’s an aptly named plant!

I’ve experienced problems with germination–sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t–but on the handful of occasions when the plant successfully seeds out and blossoms to blooming, Blue curls haven’t disappointed. Two years ago during the latter part of winter, I noticed a “weed” growing in a pot in the back garden.

I don’t yank until I’m sure an unknown is an unwanted, so I watched.  During the time that I watched and waited, a friend extolled the virtues of the Blue curls she grows in her garden, kindly offering to me some of her seedlings.  An enthusiastic “yes” was my answer to her offer, and what she gave me was exactly the thing that was growing in the pot.

Blue curls, all around!

I planted the two gifted curls near the bird or wind planted volunteer, and the three individual plants thrived and bloomed in spring.

Caterpillar stage.

Blooming stage!

Such darling flowers: unusual construction (“Compound Cyme” according the the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center), and truly gorgeous in color and form.

I adore blue flowers.  I can only imagine what Blue curls look like, en masse, in a Texas Hill Country field.  For several years, during April and May, I’ve enjoyed viewing a small cluster of these blue beauties growing alongside a bike path that I regularly ride.  City mowers and street construction hasn’t yet destroyed the wildflowers along that particular street.

I also like the foliage of this wildflower;  I’m a sucker for deeply lobed, bright green leaves.

Pre-blossom foliage. The leaves look like those of a tomato plant.

The leaves become a bit tatty toward the end of their days.

Post-blossom foliage.

Two years ago, I dutifully allowed the plants to seed out, then sprinkled the seeds and chaff in various parts of my garden.  The next winter and spring, no Blue Curl seedlings appeared in my garden. Drat–no gorgeous Blue curl wave.  Nada, zilch, nothin’.

I whined to my friend, who graciously supplied me with more seeds. I spread some (not all) of  the seeds out last autumn, and voila!, this spring a grand total of four plants germinated.  One disappeared–subjected, no doubt, to someone’s late night munchies; another, I stepped on and crushed–yes, sometimes I am that careless.  But two survived; I transplanted both to better spots, and they grew to blooming beauty!  Unfortunately, the peak of flowering occurred during the first half of May when I was traveling, though I did get some enjoyment from these pretties as the first dainty blues opened shortly before I left.

In my absence, the pollinators spent a few weeks sipping from Blue curl goodness.  A good pollinator plant, I’ve observed tiny native bees feeding, though the literature suggests that Blue curls attract butterflies, too.

My two Blue curl individuals are now wrapping up their life activities and I will leave them to their own seed dispersal.

I have seeds from my friend and plan to add more to the garden next autumn for spring 2019. I’d love to have a greater number of these sweet little spring wildflowers as they are care-free once germinated, (unless stepped on–ahem), and they fit in a variety of light situations, though probably not deep shade.

But the Blue curls will do whatever they choose to do–and I’ll enjoy what they’re willing to give the garden, and the gardener.

This photo is one of my blog banner photos.

17 thoughts on “Curls-n-Caterpillars

  1. When I was in school, I met a plant known as woolly blue curls that lived up on Questa Grade above town. I really liked it, but it is not so easy to grow in landscapes. It dislikes regular watering. However, in the past few years, I have seen it in nurseries. It does not look too happy in cans.. I really would like to try it though. It is nothing like yours, but has such bright blue or purple fuzzy flowers.

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  2. I love these flowers: the form, the color — everything. I’ve only seen them twice. Once was in a friend’s garden, and once was on the Willow City loop, where a total of three plants were blooming in a shady spot that otherwise was nothing but rocks, cacti, and gravel. I’m hoping to see them one more time this year, but my wildflower watching schedule got disrupted by a decision to come to KCMO to visit relatives over the long weekend. I’ll be home this week, but I suspect by the time I get to the hill country, it will be too late.

    No matter. Yesterday, I found bright, fresh spiderwort blooming, and pussy willows! It’s just as hot up here as it is in Texas, but they’re clearly still enjoying a bit of spring.

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    • These are not that well-known and they’re so lovely and unusual. Interesting that the ones you saw on the Loop were in shade–that’s good to know. The ones I’ve grown were all in part sun (fair amount of shade though) and the ones on my bike path get full sun; those are about two feet tall.

      What a nice find in MO! Have a good time.

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  3. Tina the Blue Curls are a very beautiful flower, I love it. Her way to bloom in curls with those nice tiny flowers is adorable. Your color is cute. And it’s wild. I have discovered in my garden some precious white tiny flowers that I sense are of a bulb: they are wild. Since they do not measure high or 15cm, I have surrounded them with stones so as not to step on them. I love them like their blue curls. Have a very good week. Greetings from Margarita.

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    • Thanks, Margarita. You were smart to place stones around your little white flowers. I wish I’d done something similar with the Blue curl that I stepped on. You have a good week too!

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