A Walk in Fern Bluff Park
November 3, 2001

by Jerry Cates

Page 1- Purple Gerardia, of the Figwort Family

 Archives of previous walks in the park: 12 May 2007 05 May 2007; 28 April 2007, 21 April 2007, 14 April 2007,  1 April 2007 Easter Egg Hunt; 24 March 2007,  17 March 2007; Nov. 03, 2001; April 04, 2001; March 25, 15, 10-11, 04, 2001; February 2418, 10, 2001

Bugsinthenews

Gerardia is a fine-stemmed, woody, sprawling plant. It can grow as much as 4 ft. high, but the plants seen today in Fern Bluff Park were 12-18 inches tall. Its roots are semiparasitic on the roots of grasses and other plants, allowing it to steal nourishment from its neighbors while supplementing that with photosynthesis in its small leaves and in the tissues of its stems. That helps explain how it can survive with so little foliage above-ground.

The flowers are pink, funnel-shaped, 1 1/4 inches long and 1 inch across. They open into 5 broad, flat, petal-like lobes. The lobes are generally pink, while the throat of the flower is pink above and spotted below. Yellow lines radiate from the ovary toward the lobes, and can be seen in the photo directly above this narrative. Dense, wooly hairs are usually notable in the throat of the flower, but are not visible in these photos. The long, curved, pinkish corolla tube shown in the center of the throat looks much like that found in the Moth Penstemon.

In the Northeast sector of the improved portion of the park, the soil is shallow, mostly clay, and overlays a limestone bedrock that drains poorly. Within this sector, plants adapted to marshy areas are common. One of these is the Purple Gerardia (Agalinis purpurea, pronounced "Ag-ah-lye'-nis puhr-puh-ree'-ah") of the Snapdragon, Foxglove, or Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae). 

The leaves of this plant are narrow and linear. The fruit is a globelike capsule (below) that measures up to 1/4 inch across and contains numerous seeds.

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Archives of previous walks in the park: 12 May 2007 05 May 2007; 28 April 2007, 21 April 2007, 14 April 2007,  1 April 2007 Easter Egg Hunt; 24 March 2007,  17 March 2007; Nov. 03, 2001; April 04, 2001; March 25, 15, 10-11, 04, 2001; February 2418, 10, 2001