Monday, July 27, 2015

Blue Flowering Grass?

Common Dayflower
Sometimes Nature, herself, smacks us on the forehead with the creation of a little unsolicited garden plant combination that draws our immediate attention.  I had just that sort of mental face-slap as I strode into the veterinary college within the last hour, noticing these pretty blue flowers waving among a ornamental grass clump to the left of the entrance.  My semi-aware brain immediately snapped into frantic overdrive.  Blue flowers?  Ornamental grass?  What new cultivar was this?

A closer look revealed the beast lurking within the beauty.  The ornamental grass clump is a Panicum cultivar, probably something like 'Cheyenne Sky' or 'Shenandoah', beginning to turn red on the tips here in late July.  I grow several at home, and every Fall I enjoy the soft spikelets atop the stiffly erect blades of the grass.  Here, in front of the limestone building, this blue-green cultivar stands out in nice contrast, although it doesn't create quite as lively a scene as it does in my constantly wind-swept garden. 

An Unholy Combination
The flowers, of course, are those of the Common Dayflower, Commelina communis, a thug that I've mentioned before and wrote about in my book, but never really discussed here.  It is quite a beautiful flower, really.   The gorgeous dual sky-blue petals soar above the bright yellow staminodes, while the less conspicuous anticous fertile stamens hover over the single, smaller, obscured white petal.  Harmless in appearance, the plant is actually one of the most invasive plants I've ever known, a fearless Asian invader bent on world domination and more ruthless than any human barbarian horde.  I obtained a single clump early in my gardening career from a friend fiend who grew them beneath a shade tree.  Released into the unrelenting sunshine of my Kansas garden, I quickly found that it spread ruthlessly, impervious to glycosphate. 2,4-D, and everything else I've thrown at it.  I've tried to burn it out, starve it, and stomp it to death.  In its native environment, it grows primarily in moist soils, but here it has laughed equally at droughts, heat, drowning and frigid winter temperatures.  I haven't let a single plant flower in my garden for 15 years now, and still it persists, defying my best efforts at Dayflower genocide.  My sole hope is that somewhere, hidden in a small laboratory, a mad scientist is working on a small nuclear bomb suitable for garden-size applications. 

No matter how beautiful this combination seems, consider this a forewarning that you would have to be crazy to try it in your own garden.  Of course, I'm overlooking the fragile sanity level of most avid gardeners.  Anything to outdo the neighbors, right?  Several of you already have mentally placed this combination into your gardens, perhaps along the garden paths where it can be experienced at close quarters, perhaps just around that specimen bush, where it will surprise and delight a visitor?  Don't.  I'm telling you, just don't.  God only knows how many years, State workers and tax dollars it will take to eliminate the Common Dayflower from this one clump of ornamental grass.


  1. I pulled a lot of this plant out of a flower bed I just inherited from another monk the other day. It's everywhere here in NE Kansas. I had a similar situation when I was on my jog about Atchison the other week when I saw a blue blur from the corner of my eye and I thought "Oh, what was that pretty thing?" only to inspect closer and see this thug. What a disappointment.

    1. Yes, I always like to blame my former gardening friend, but, truthfully, it's probably just a ubiquitous weed here. I never see it on the native prairie, however, only on disturbed ground.

  2. My dayflower community started as a small plant which came along with a container of pennisetum. This community soon joined the nutsedge, johnson grass, bindweed, bermuda grass, amaranth, and perilla communities. Now is know it takes a village but these together are ridiculous. However by far, the dayflower is my nemesis in the last 3 years as it is showing up everywhere. I am an expert in herbicides and have had no luck what so ever. I'm thinking asphalt shingles. What'll you think? huh huh?


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