May 22 2011
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.