May 22 2011

Now Blooming: Miami Mist

Published by at 7:37 am under Plants


Miami Mist is blooming now in western Pennsylvania… but good luck finding it.

It’s so unusual in western Pennsylvania that botany buffs make special trips to see it.  The only place I’ve seen it is at Enlow Fork.  On Friday, Dianne Machesney found it for the first time at Raccoon Creek State Park where she took this picture.

Miami Mist (Phacelia purshii) is a strangely named flower.  The word “mist” probably comes from its fringed leaves but the ”Miami” part is a mystery.

The plant ranges from Ontario to Georgia but does not grow in Florida.   My best guess at “Miami” is that it was named in Ohio or Indiana where the word “Miami” occurs frequently.  There are three rivers (the Great Miami, the Little Miami and the Maumee), many towns and townships, a county and a university all named for the Miami tribe of Native Americans.

This hunch is bolstered by the flower’s scientific species name.  Purshii refers to “Frederická Traugott Pursh, a Saxon explorer, collector, horticulturist and author who received plant collections from the Lewis and Clark expedition”(*) and was first to publish on them.

Meriweather Lewis began his expedition in Pittsburgh and rafted down the Ohio River to William Clark’s home at the Falls of the Ohio in Indiana.  There they joined forces and solidified plans for the expedition they officially launched near St. Louis.  I wonder if Lewis collected Miami Mist during that first leg of his journey…   Of course, this is just speculation on my part.

Miami Mist is common in Kentucky and Tennessee but it’s rare here.  If you find it this year, it may not be in the same place next year because it’s an annual plant.

Miami Mist keeps us guessing.

(photo by Dianne Machesney)

p.s. On the abundant side of the scale, I’ve been seeing a lot of Mayapple “umbrellas.”

p.p.s.  The Fringetree is now blooming in Schenley Park.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Now Blooming: Miami Mist”

  1. Franon 22 May 2011 at 8:45 am

    I have also seen Miami Mist along Peter’s Lake, a hidden gem in Peter’s Township. I haven’t been there lately but have seen it many times in years past. It is a lovely flower.

  2. Markon 22 May 2011 at 9:15 am

    I think I heard the same story about the source of the common name “Miami mist”. I think Esther Allen was the person who told us the story. It is a beautiful flower and does look like a low mist where it grows profusely. It often occurs in the same habitat as Blue-eyed Mary, also an annual wildflower here in SW PA. It seems almost weedy sometimes, but only grows in limy areas.

    A related species, Phacelia dubia grows in the shale barrens of Bedford and Fulton Counties.

  3. Carol Smithon 22 May 2011 at 9:27 am

    Miami mist also grows near Ralph Bell’s house. We see it there on his annual birding outing. He lives near Jefferson.

  4. Nellie Curranon 22 May 2011 at 9:52 am

    I just watched the” kids” at the Gulf Tower and I am wondering when they will be banded as they are stretching their wings and flapping a lot and they are getting more colour.

  5. Doug Baumanon 22 May 2011 at 12:14 pm

    The Mayapple plants have some sort of brown discolorations on the this year in Harrison Hills Park, Allegheny Co.

  6. Kate St. Johnon 22 May 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Interesting that Esther said the same thing about the origin of the name. I didn’t hear it from her… just thought of it on my own.

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