ORRIN MORRIS: Love-in-a-mist displays buds, blooms, seed cases at the same time

LOVE-IN-A-MIST Nigella damascena

LOVE-IN-A-MIST Nigella damascena

This Sunday is Easter. Most of us have heard the details of the events from the Last Supper on Thursday, the arrest, the trials, the crucifixion, and the burial on Friday and the resurrection on Sunday. We focus on Jesus’ suffering and ignore the “suffering” of the followers.

The general expectation of the followers was that the Messiah would re-establish the nation by overthrowing the Romans. Even the disciples were occupied by who would sit on His right hand and who would sit on His left.

They seemed to ignore his forecast regarding his death and resurrection. When He was arrested, they fled and hid. True, Peter went to the trial but he denied knowing Him.

Jesus had repeatedly attempted to prepare His followers but they seemed to be living in a fog. If I had been there, I would probably have been no different. Some things are so unusual that they are hard to comprehend.

Even in 2014 the grand scope of the Easter message is difficult to fully grasp. However, while we live in a mist, God patiently coaches us to grow in our spiritual journey. Thus, today’s wildflower is so very appropriate.


Nigella damascena

Just as with God’s redemptive love, the wildflower we feature here is one of the most complex in the wildflower kingdom. Not only is there complexity in the plant itself, but also in its blooms which change color as they mature and age.

Love-in-a-mist is an upright branching plant ranging from 18 to 36 inches tall. The flowers occur at the tips of the branches.

The mature flower is blue with four or five layers of lance-shaped petals. Each layer contains from six to eight overlapping petals. Each blossom has 40 to 50 stamens and the pistilate structure includes a protruding five to eight-part ovule with the same number of stigmas at the end of spreading styles as illustrated.

The petals of the newly opened blossoms are white at the center and light blue at the edges. The buds are blue and as they unfold, the bottom layer of petals are deep blue or purple compared to the very top layer, which is white to light blue. The stamens are arranged around the ovule as pictured.

Once all the petals of the flower change to the deep blue, the stamens unfold and the five-part styles spread out.

Once pollination is completed, the green ovule enlarges to about 1 inch in diameter by 2 inches tall and the styles thicken and protrude upward, like horns. Even though the seed pod looks thick, it is actually a paper-thin sack.

In each of the segments about 20 seeds mature. Buds, newly opened blooms, mature blooms and seed cases are all present at the same time on the plant.

The leaves are unique, too. First, they would be categorized as twice-compound leaves. That means that the leaf has many branches and each branch has many parts.

Normally such a leaf would have flat oval or lance-shaped parts. The love-in-a-mist does not have normal leaves; they appear like needles or thorns, but they are soft and pliable. The lowest leaves are the largest, measuring 7 to 8 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide.

As the leaves alternate up the stem, branches emerge from the axils. Further branching occurs but not with the regularity as along the stem. Around the buds and under the blooms five to eight sepals form with the same needle-like appearance as is true of the leaves. As the blossoms age, the sepals enlarge and stiffen.

When a large cluster of love-in-a-mist stands apart from leafy wildflowers, they attain the misty appearance associated with their name.

This wildflower is amazing. All these transformations as it matures is certainly mystifying. But, so is our spiritual journey when we allow God’s love to be incorporated into our daily life. I suppose the “mist” will vanish when we are called home to dwell with Him.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.