Monday, September 12, 2011

Winkler's Firewheel

This plant immediately caught my eye as I entered the parking lot at the JC Raulston Arboretum last week.   The flower seemed familiar but I had never seen it this color.  Could it be a Centaurea?  I later found a label -- Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkeri, commonly known as Winker's Firewheel.

Winkler is a meaningful name to me, so I was delighted to find out what it was called.  It happened to be the birthday of that special Winkler, to boot!

Bees were so enthralled with these blossoms that I almost lost the nerve to take a picture!


I've been excited about the plants insects love since I found out so many birds are insectivores.  I had thought they were mostly seed- and worm-eaters.  Any time you bring insects into your garden, you're probably going to get more birds, too, and these flowers are powerful insect magnets.

Don't you love the color?  That deep beet-red center is so pretty!  There's an interesting star pattern formed by the disk flowers of this composite after the petals drop, so it's attractive even after blooming.


Winker's Firewheel can also be found in pale pink with yellow centers.

This deep pink version is called 'Grape Sensation.'

Winkler's Firewheel, I later found out, is a federally endangered species, naturally occurring only in a small area in the sandhills of the East Texas Pineywoods.  It's a great plant to grow if you have a sunny spot for it; you'd be doing your part to keep it from extinction!  Although it's hard to find, Plant Delights Nursery has carried it, and several arboreta and research gardens (like JCRA) occasionally sell it at their plant sales.  Maybe if we ask for it at our nurseries, it will become more readily available.