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.

Ants Butcher Caterpillar 028 (2)

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.

Ants Butcher Caterpillar 056 (3)

Ants Butcher Caterpillar 056 (2)

8 thoughts on “Cochise County: Asiatic (or Common) Dayflower, Commelina Communis

  1. Those are some really pretty flowers. I have not seen any of them here unfortunately. Wish I had several dozen of them. I would give them a nice place to live.

  2. They are pretty. We don’t have dozens of them, though, just a handful of plants. I suppose if they’re truly “invasive” they might increase their numbers over time, but it’s taken them several years to get even slightly established here. It’s possible they’re acclimated to wetter climates and expand their territory far more slowly in the desert.

  3. Those flowers are beautiful. They look very similar to something I have in one of my gardens called Spiderwart. I found them growing wild in the easements behind my house (where they’re now building), snatched a couple up and planted them in a garden outside my front door. The plants are tall and spindly with little clusters of buds on them. They open one at a time and only last a day. However, the flowers are purple as opposed to your beautiful blue.

    Very pretty, Ghost!

  4. Interesting, Sha. There are apparently blue varieties of Spiderwort, one of which–I just Googled the plant–is a no B.S. radiation detector. Several websites put it this way:

    “Of particular interest are the numerous, fuzzy, blue hairs on the stamens. These mutate at a cellular level and turn pink when exposed to low levels of nuclear radiation, and with amazing accuracy.

    Anything above normal ambient levels will cause this mutation.”

    Never underestimate the power of Mother Nature, eh?

  5. LOL! Sha, they don’t CAUSE radiation, they just DETECT it. So no, there’s no need to remove them from your garden, no need to be afraid. At most, you should feel PROTECTED–although from what I read, it’s not every variety of Spiderwort that has that radiation detection capability, and you probably don’t have that type anyway.

    So basically, just be happy yours have never turned pink!

  6. Thanks for the correction, Erica. Now that you’ve given me the right name ID, I can see (by comparing Google Images) that it is indeed a Commelina erecta. Unfortunately, I never found erecta when I was searching online in 2014.

    Rather than go through the entire article to get it squared away, though, I’m going to leave it “as is” but bring your correction to the attention of any future readers who might comment on this post, for two reasons:

    1. Fixing the article would require a fairly major commitment, for which I simply don’t have the time to spare at the moment.

    2. Experience tells me that adjusting the title is likely to cause the post to drop out of sight in Google results. It’s a case of, “If it works, don’t fix it.”

    Since there aren’t that many comments on this page, any serious reader is likely to peruse the comments anyway. 😀

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