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ORRIN MORRIS: Fire pink, or catchfly, saves its nectar for bees, hummingbirds

Fire pink, or catchfly, saves nectar for bees, birds

The Creator has filled the earth with many wondrous flowers to remind us of His love for all mankind. Their beauty is spread about for all to see. The colors, shapes and habitats seem endless.

Some wildflowers are extravagantly abundant, while others, like the wildflower featured here, are confined to secluded habitats.FIRE PINK

Silene virginicaThe fire pink is a bright red five-petal flower, about 1 inches in diameter. The petals are narrow and cleft, as pictured. Sometimes the clefts are deep. There are as many as 10 stamens with yellow pollen that extend beyond the petals. There are five sepals that form a bladder-like tube from which the bloom emerges.

The fire pink prefers open woods and thickets, especially on rocky or sandy slopes. It is most likely found in the late spring and throughout summer. The blooms sit atop 12- to 18-inch stems. The stems are thin, so sometimes they are bent by passing wildlife. There are very few leaves on the stalk. The base leaves are long, reaching up to 4 inches, but are only 1 inch wide.

Fire pink has another name, catchfly. This is derived from the sticky hairs on the stem and on the bladder-shaped structure from which the bloom emerges. It is believed that the sticky substance catches insects that attempt to steal the nectar from bees and hummingbirds.

Note the tube or bladder-shaped structure (calyx) at the base of the bloom. This is a characteristic of the pink family which covers more than 2,000 species worldwide. In the U.S., our most familiar examples are carnations, sweet Williams, four-o'clocks, campions, chickweeds, soapworts (bouncing bet) and pinks.

The only medicinal use of fire pink seems to have been for de-worming.

Truly, the person who keeps on learning throughout life recognizes that "the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher.