Friday, May 3, 2013

More May Flowers...Crossvine

May is prime time for North Carolina's native wildflowers, not to mention the birds and the bees and the trees...

And since it's also time for tennis regionals and soccer tournaments and quarterly tax returns, Hoot Owl Karma has no chance of keeping pace with nature's springtime frenzy. 

So we've decided to simply catch what we can and pass it along, hoping that you'll do the same and between us perhaps we won't miss too much!

Crossvine is another of North Carolina's showy native wildflowers which peaks in early May, and as luck would have it, we crossed paths this morning as I made my daily delivery run. So...

right after supper, we dashed back over to get better acquainted before darkness set in.

The brilliant two-toned reddish-orange and gold blossoms resemble those of its summer-blooming cousin, the trumpet creeper, but the crossvine blooms earlier and seems to have a much shorter blooming window. 

From a distance, the profusion of blossoms seems to cascade down from above with no apparent attachment at all. Upon closer inspection, the buds occur in pairs or in clusters of five or six, and a paucity of leaves further enhances the illusion of the cascade.

Cultivated versions of this native woody vine are popular in piedmont gardens, but they tend to be more uniformly orange and most we've seen lack the sharp contrast between outer red and inner yellow that characterizes the wild variety.

Hummingbirds are likely the primary pollinators of crossvine, with their flower's tubular form and both male and female flower parts perfectly situated to take advantage of a foraging hummer's forehead.

The leaves have an intriguing structure, in that each "leaf" consists of a pair of leaflets and a tendril for clinging and climbing, and the fresh green leaves on this specimen are beginning to emerge with a vengeance, right behind the blossoms.

As you make your hectic way through the next few weeks, keep an eye on the trees for these bright smiling faces, and if you're lucky enough to spot a crossvine in your neighborhood, pause for a moment and get to know it; you'll be glad you did!

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