Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pretty In Pink

About 4-5 years ago I came upon the most beautiful pink flower on the roadside near my neighborhood. I identified as Sabatia angularis, an annual native plant. Rosepink is the common name for Sabatia, and the genus is in the Gentianaceae family. There are about 18 species native to the central and eastern US. The color of the flower ranges from very pale to deep pink - I even found a white one once.

Sabatia angularis

This species is native to Georgia and about half the continental United States. It is a modest little plant and all but invisible on a green roadside – believe me I have looked for it every year since – until it bursts into bloom one day in June. It still lives on the roadside where I found it and the population size expands and contracts at the whim of the property owners and their weed sprays.

Typical roadside view
I have since collected seeds and convinced it to bloom in my own yard. The seed capsules contain many fine seeds. This year four plants came up and I was thrilled. It seems to have no trouble with fairly dry conditions and the deer generally leave it alone. Those are two very excellent traits in my yard! 

Sabatia kennedyana
My friend Sheri gave me a different species that she grew from seed. Sabatia kennedyana is not native to Georgia but pretty close (SC, NC, VA). 

This showy perennial species has been very happy at my house and bloomed prolifically this year. I have kept it in a moist spot that only gets morning sun. This plant attracts a lot of flower flies (syrphid flies) which serve as pollinators (and they do a great job).

I came upon an interesting blog entry that explained the curious behavior of the style in the center of the flower. The term associated with this behavior is “protandrous.” As the blogger explains, “It is a strategy by which a complete flower -- one having both male and female parts -- prevents or limits self-pollinization and helps ensure the exchange of genetic information with another member of the same species. Rosepink (Sabatia angularis) is an example of a protandrous flower.” He has more details and great pictures here.

Notice the difference in the styles in the center of these
flowers; on the left it is closed, on the right it is open
I hope to discover more species as I explore Georgia more. There are several species in the Coastal Plain that I would love to see.

If you have a chance to grow Sabatia, I’d encourage you to give it a try. I think you’ll agree with me that it is very pretty in pink indeed.


  1. Sabatia grows wild on my farm. Beautiful and very sweetly fragrant too!

  2. Ellen I love finding new natives and this one is a stand out that I must find both to see in the wild and plant perhaps in the native garden.

  3. Wow. This is the second writeup on S. kennedyana I've seen this summer. I was so impressed with the first writeup, I ordered one on the spot from Niche Gardens. Our S. angularis are just now post-peak here in the Georgia mountain region.