Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kiss Me Quick

Rain had just started to fall as we were about to leave the beach this morning. I was taken in by the drops making circles in the canal, so I stood on the deck and watched for a minute.

Sometimes I'll see a fish jump or a bird grab an insect, or an anole turning green in a parasol tree. Being surrounded by nature is the best part of being there, and there's a good view of lots of it from the deck.

Fish did jump, mourning doves cooed and the bluebird family across the canal flew in and out of their box.

And then, I did something else I always do—scan the sandy lot next to our cottage for wildflowers one more time before getting in the car. The plants seem to change nearly daily.

The coastal Carolina landscape is a subtle palette of brown, gray and tan most of the time.  In the summer, green freshens it all up a bit, but intense shades are a rarity.

Fuchsia, for example, really pops in those surroundings.


Kiss Me Quick (Portulaca pilosa) flowers are less than half an inch across, but so vivid that I had no trouble seeing them from the second story deck.

The plants in my photos are in an area that is regularly mowed, so they might be more prostrate than they would otherwise be, but Kiss Me Quick (also known as Chisme and Pigweed) rarely reaches more than six inches tall anyway.

Kiss Me Quick is related to the moss roses (Portulaca grandiflora) that you have probably bought some time or other at your garden center. They are very similar plants; both have succulent leaves and stems with hairs in the leaf axils, and seed capsules that open with a tiny "lid."

But as is typical with wildflowers, Kiss Me Quick has much smaller flowers than the garden center plants.  Still, it is just as attractive, if not more so, to native bees and butterflies.

Kiss Me Quick varies a little from place to place—in an arid environment, the leaves and stems will be nearly silver with hairiness, but with more humidity there is less hair and the plant looks greener. Either way, it's hard to miss the amazing-colored blooms.

Kiss Me Quick is an aggressive plant in its native range and not always welcome. It is invasive in Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.

I didn't actually kiss it, but I did rush down from the deck and take its picture for you before I hopped in the car to ride home.

If you go to the coast this summer, or anywhere else in the southern US where there is sandy soil, keep your eye out for the tiny but pretty blooms of these nervy native plants.