Cochise County: Asiatic (or Common) Dayflower, Commelina Communis

Commelina communis is not supposed to be here in Cochise County, Arizona. The common or Asiatic dayflower is considered an invasive weed present in Asia, Europe and eastern North America, not the American Southwest.

Yeah, well, tell that to the petals. A lot of our beloved vegetation is disrespected by so called authorities. We wouldn’t be without the dayflower’s two dominant blue petals, bright yellow romantic parts, and the smaller, demure white petal that stays pretty much hidden behind all those stamens and stuff. We first took note of the flower’s blooms, ignoring the rest of the plant, during the summer of 2010. At that time, it was pretty much the only plant of note on the gravel path between the Border Fort and our old camp trailer.

That was before the Monument Fire of 2011, of course, which sent high flying, superheated gas clouds high overhead, spilling gazillions of morning glory seeds across the land. Add in the awesome monsoon rains in 2013 and what do we have? Greenery everywhere, that’s what!

Desert, schmezert.

During the wet months, that is. Morning glories, bunch grass, and the like have overwhelmed the so called “invasive weed” dayflower in its original area out front.

Ah, but it found other places to take root. The photos on this page, taken a few days ago (in late August, 2014) are of several Commelina communis plants located between two steel storage sheds and/or out behind one of them. It’s always a pleasure to see the flowers. It’s also difficult to remember that they’re called dayflowers because each bloom lasts for just one day. If a given plant presents us with flowers for weeks on end–which seems to be the norm for ours–it’s because they’re blooming in sequence, one flower at a time.

Here’s what “the flower that does not exist west of the Mississippi” looks like in southern Arizona.

Asiatic dayflower with leaves that look like long green arms ready to lunge forward and grab the viewer.

Asiatic dayflower with leaves that look like long green arms ready to lunge forward and grab the viewer.

The Asiatic dayflower bloom up close.

The Asiatic dayflower bloom up close.

A couple of sources state that this plant can reach three feet in height. I’m not sure what those folks have been smoking; ours hug pretty close to the ground, seldom reaching as much as one foot above the surface of the Earth. It could be a matter of different varieties. For example, most of the photos of Commelina communis found on Google Images show maroon centers in those yellow anthers. That’s apparently the ludens variety. What our no-maroon variety may be, I’m not sure. If any of our readers happen to know, feel free to drop us a clue in the comments.

Another possible factor? Climate. After all, we are in the desert, even if Arizona isn’t exactly the Kalahari. Dayflowers growing in a less arid area such as Virginia might easily grow considerably taller than our less ambitious types.

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Ants Butcher Caterpillar 028

The written works of the “experts” on the Internet are definitely helpful when it comes to identifying previously unknown flora and fauna…but their pontifications do need to be considered with a grain–or sometimes a barrel–of salt. We keep finding species–both plant and animal–that are officially “not here”, for example. The listed height for this plant does not match our experience. And then there’s the matter of light; supposedly, the Asiatic dayflower prefers shaded areas in which to grow, but ours choose wide open sunlit areas two times out of three.

It pays, in other words, to observe for oneself.

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Ants Butcher Caterpillar 056 (2)