(Ruellia ciliosa) Acanthus family
Flowers - Pale violet blue, showy, about 2 in. long, solitary or
clustered in the axils or at the end of stem. Calyx of 5
bristle-shaped hairy segments; corolla with very slender tube
expanding above in 5 nearly equal
obtuse lobes; stamens 4; pistil
with recurved style. Stem: Hairy, especially above, erect, 1 to 2
1/2 ft. high. Leaves: Opposite, oblong, narrowed at apex, entire,
covered with soft white hairs.
Preferred Habitat - Dry soil.
Flowering Season - June-September.
Distribution - New Jersey southward to the Gulf and westward to
Michigan and Nebraska.
Many charming ruellias from the tropics adorn hothouses and
window gardens in winter; but so far north as the New Jersey pine
barrens, and westward where killing frosts occur, this perennial
proves to be perfectly hardy. In addition to its showy blossoms,
which so successfully invite insects to transfer their pollen,
thereby counteracting the bad effects of close inbreeding, the
plant bears inconspicuous cleistogamous or blind ones also. These
look like arrested buds that never open; but, being fertilized
with their own pollen, ripen abundant seed nevertheless.
One frequently finds holes bitten in these flowers, as in so many
others long of tube or spur. Bumblebees, among the most
intelligent and mischievous of insects, are apt to be the chief
offenders; but wasps are guilty too, and the female carpenter
bee, which ordinarily slits holes to extract nectar, has been
detected in the act of removing circular pieces of the corolla
from this ruellia with which to plug up a thimble-shaped tube in
some decayed tree. Here she deposits an egg on top of a layer of
baby food, consisting of a paste of pollen and nectar, and seals
up the nursery with another bit of leaf or flower, repeating the
process until the long tunnel is filled with eggs and food for
larvae. Then she dies, leaving her entire race apparently
extinct, and living only in embryo for months. This is the bee
which commonly cuts her round plugs from rose leaves.
The SMOOTH RUELLIA (R. strepens), an earlier bloomer than the
preceding, and with a more southerly range, has a shorter,
thicker tube to its handsome blue flower, and lacks the hairs
which guard its relative from crawling pilferers.
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