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ORRIN MORRIS: Buds, blooms, seed cases coexist in the prairie dock

Morris artwork for 09/09

Morris artwork for 09/09

Psalm 40:5 reads, "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with Thee; if I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count."That verse summarizes my feelings of wonder at the lessons that come from the study of wildflowers.

God has generously blessed us with an amazing variety of beauty. There is a variety of design in the blooms and the foliage. The habitats and blooming seasons are highly diverse.

The usages of petals, stems and roots range from practical things like tea, soup, condiments, cloth and fragrances to medicinal balms, poultices and herbal medicine.

Some attract butterflies, feed birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer and other creatures while other species repel unwanted vermin like fleas and aphids.

As the Psalmist said, "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done..." Such wonders truly remind us that God is love, and He loves us in many extravagant ways.PRAIRIE DOCK

Silphium terebinthinaceumThis wildflower can be seen in waste places. I was first made aware of this plant during the grading for Stonecrest Mall. I don't know if it was imported by birds or accidentally among the grass seeds used as ground cover by developers.

Prairie dock is a tall woody perennial reaching 8 feet tall. The leaves surround the base of the plant and may extend upward 18 inches but separate from the stalks that support the flowers. Small curled leaves sprout from the stalks wherever branches form, as illustrated.

The sunflower-like blooms have from five to 10 golden-yellow "petals." As a member of the composite family, the petals are actually rays and the reproductive functions occur in the florets that form the center of the bloom, as shown in the inset.

The buds are dark green, sealed tightly by the sepals. When the bloom appears the sepals spread outward like a hand to support the flower. When the bloom dies a reddish-brown seed case forms, as pictured.

Buds, blooms, and seed cases coexist from July through September.

The way the buds form remind me of the rosinweed, featured Jan. 6, 2007, that blooms in early fall. As I researched the prairie dock, the relationship was confirmed in an old gardening encyclopedia my mother gave me, published in 1942.

Another wonder I observe in the wildflower kingdom is the way God made some to bloom early and others late in the year. The blood root, featured Feb. 28, 2009, blooms in the chill of late winter while others, like the many asters, wait until the heat of summer has passed to bloom.

It is as though a time clock was installed into the seed that makes the plant wait until a preordained time to open the bud.

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. View color images of Morris' drawings at www.rockdalecitizen.com.