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Lacy Phacelia

Phacelia tanacetifolia

  • Name also: Fiddleneck, Lacy Scorpion-weed, Purple Tansy
  • Family: Borage Family – Boraginaceae
    (formerly Waterleaf Family – Hydrophyllaceae)
  • Growing form: Annual herb.
  • Height: 20–60 cm (8–25 in.). Stem sparsely branched, upper part hairy.
  • Flower: Corolla wheel-shaped, blue, 6–9 mm (0.25–0.35 in.) wide, fused, 5-lobed. Calyx deeply 5-lobed, same length as corolla. Stamens 5, longer than corolla. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Inflorescence a dense, one-sided, 2-branched cyme or whorl.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalked. Blade elliptic, pinnately lobed, lobes with toothed margins–shallowly lobed.
  • Fruit: 2-parted capsule.
  • Habitat: Honey plant and ornamental, left over from old gardens and an established alien in vegetable gardens, field-sides, roadsides, wasteland.
  • Flowering time: July–September.

In order for a flowering plant to propagate itself it must get its pollen onto the stigma of a plant from the same species. Many plants enlist the help of animals, especially insects, who are still the primary pollinators. Plants are able to send out their pollen quickly and precisely from one flower to another, and the pollen couriers are rewarded with nutrition for their troubles. Beetles were the first pollinators. They pollinate what would have become the seeds by eating the floral leaves and pollen, but at the same time they almost destroy the plant. Nowadays most flowers produce nectar or pollen to feed insects, and on the other hand many insects have specialized in using flowers as a source of nutrition.

Nectar plants can have a large input with regards to increasing and preserving the diversity of urban nature. There is a lot of talk these days about increasing diversity with green spaces, but often the environment that is constructed by humans is built in such a way that nature is not so high on the list of priorities. Concrete, asphalt and manicured lawns take the lion’s share of the ground, and in relation to the vast spectrum of nature, they are basically dead. Many friends of the environment also appreciate the diversity of nature in their own back yards. Back yards, from wild meadows to cultivated gardens, can be real oases of diversity. The plants also attract small animals and insects from the surrounding area. Many beautiful and useful creatures can be helped by paying special attention to their needs: small winged visitors can be attracted by choosing plants that they favour for nutrition. Lacy phacelia produces nectar throughout the summer and brings butterflies and bees to the garden, and like many other nectar plants it is beautiful itself and flowers for a long time. Lacy phacelia also attracts flower flies, beetles, ants, aphids and spiders. Many people nowadays might take a step back from small creepy crawlies, but they all have their place in nature. The species is native to the south-western USA and northern Mexico.

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