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ORRIN MORRIS: Let's pray the rain returns to south Georgia

FIREWHEEL
Gaillardia pulchella

FIREWHEEL Gaillardia pulchella

This has been an unusual summer with dry spells and occasional afternoon rain. At times this summer we have gone two weeks with extremely high temperatures and no rain. My lawn and garden have suffered to the extent that the leaves on the tomato plants wither and lawn grass turns yellow. Then the local weather pattern shifted and the late afternoon showers returned, then went away.

The Psalmist led the congregation of Israel to praise God for the beauty he provided. In Psalms 65:10 we read, "You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops."

The wildflower for today is one that fares better when the soil is drier.

FIREWHEEL

Gaillardia pulchella

The firewheel plant stands about 2 feet tall. It is unusually hairy and may be an irritant to sensitive skin. Each stem bears one bloom, located at the very top. The three-toothed "petals" are actually rays since it is a member of the composite family.

The rusty red rays are variously marked with deep yellow, mostly on the toothed ends, as illustrated. The florets or disk flowers in the center have stamens and pistils the same as do daisies, sunflowers and black-eyed Susans.

The more official name for firewheel is showy gailliardia but it is also popularly known as indian blanket. This plant likes sandy soil, so to spy out this wildflower start looking on and around our granite outcroppings and the sandy hills in the northern sections of the county. Further, if by chance you are wandering the sand dunes of Georgia's coast they may be there, too.

Do not despair if you missed an April bloom, when they begin, because firewheels bloom for six months, that is until frost. The fact is, we saw some in bloom last week at a friends house.

The leaves are hairy and alternate up the stems. They are narrow and irregularly lobed (pinnately cut). The central vein of the leaf is a very light green. The plants often are found in large clusters and the large blooms overlap thus obscuring the leaves. The 2- to 3-inch blooms make an ideal cut flower with vase life of six to 10 days.

This is a native of the central U.S. and has been cultivated by florists; however it has escaped back into the wild from waste piles where dead plants were thrown.

Though we have been blessed with showers, let us be prayerful for the farmers in the Central U.S, and south Georgia who are suffering serious drought.

When I was just a child in Nebraska during the 1930s, my family endured the slow recovery from the Great Depression. However, the poor economy was exacerbated by an extended drought. Strange isn't it, sometimes certain aspects of history are repeated and repeated.

Within a few years the rains returned and blessed the crops. Let us pray that the blessing of Psalm 65:10 will soon be repeated from our neighbor's lips.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His email is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.