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ORRIN MORRIS: Devil's bite endangered in the North but not the South

Morris artwork for Oct. 28

Morris artwork for Oct. 28

The first time I was aware of Halloween, the children who visited our house in Omaha, Neb., frightened me. I was so scared that Mom had to hold me. Those big kids had scary faces and were dressed like ghosts, pirates, witches, and vicious animals.

Mom told me about Halloween when she was a child and many of the bad things that happened when you had no treats for the trick-or-treat visitors. Her father, a Baptist preacher, had warned about the evils of the night before the holy festival for All Saints. The devil, according to my grandfather, would make one last attempt to inflict evil on the godly people. He forbade her to participate because of the Satanic powers present that night.

By the time Mom was a teenager, she began to question some of the common lore. Rather than being cowered by the threat of Satan's power, she took courage in James 4:7 "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Her counsel allayed my fears and by the time I was in school, I joined the troop of kids collecting treats.

Halloween had evolved into a kid's night of fun until some evil people laced the treats with caustic substances. Now safe environments have to be provided by public and private entities. Mom's counsel must be bolstered with Romans 12:21 "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."DEVIL'S BITE

Liatris scariosaWhen I was visiting Bill's large granite outcrop, I thought I saw another patch of blazing stars (featured on Dec. 12, 2009). Not so. The wildflowers were only 12 inches tall and rather than being pink, they were lavender.

Closer examination revealed the five-petal blooms had a dark center and were far less fuzzy than the blazing star. Devil's bite had only one to three stamens protruding beyond the petals (as illustrated) compared to scores of stamens on the blazing star blooms.

Some stems were lying flat but the blooms always reached upward, giving the appearance of forming on one side of the stem. However, the few upright specimens I discovered when looking elsewhere helped me correct that illusion. The blooms on the upright specimens branched from the stem and were cradled by a tight cluster of sepals (the green petal-like structures) from which the blooms arose.

Devil's bite is in the blazing star genus and blooms in the early fall. Its preferred habitat is partial shade with well-drained moist soils. It is included on the endangered lists in several New England and Middle Atlantic states. It is not threatened in the South, but is uncommon compared to the mist flower (featured on Nov. 20, 2010) and the blazing star that grace our roadsides.

May you have a safe Halloween and don't get bit by the devil's bite.

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