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Pale Meadowbeauty
pale meadow beauty
Pale meadowbeauty, photographed at Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart, Martin County, in April 2015.
pale meadow beauty

Pale meadownbeauty, Rhexia mariana, isn't necessarily pale. It can be, but it also can be rose red. Or purple. Or white. Or pink. OK, the latter two qualify as pale.

It's from a tropical family but its native range extends as far north as Michigan, New York and Massachusetts. This little flower, actually not so little, is full of contradictions.

Pale meandowbeauty is a Florida native that grows throughout most of the Peninsula and all of the Panhandle. Its range covers most of the United States east of the Mississippi and fairly far north as noted above. Most of its population is concentrated along the Atlantic Coast, however.

Pale meadowbeauty is globally secure but can be locally rare. Massachusetts, where it's found only in a few places on Cape Cod, lists it as endangered. There are only two known populations in Michigan, one of which hasn't been surveyed since 1995. The Institute for Regional Conservation in Delray Beach considers pale meadowbeauty rare in South Florida, but the state has not listed it as threatened or endangered.

It is a perennial, flowering spring to fall, going dormant in winter. The flower has four petals and bright orange-yellow stamen that contrast with the color of the petals. The blooms are large, about an inch across; once fertilized, they produce a seed pod with a narrow neck and pot belly.

The plant grows between a foot to two-and-a-half feet tall (some references have it taller). The leaves are lance-shaped and hairy and align opposite each other along the stem. The stem is hairy as well.

pale meadow beauty

According to the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, there are a dozen or so species of meadowbeauties native to Florida. Pale meadowbeauty's hairy stems and urn-like seed pods help set it apart from its cousins.

It's a moisture lover, growing in sandhills, flatwoods, wet meadows, bogs and marshes. It grows in full sun or partial shade. Pale meadowbeauty can spread and form dense colonies by sending out underground stems called rhizomes from which new shoots grow. The plant also reproduces by seed and cuttings. Seeds for the pale meadowbeauty are commercially available through at least one vendor in West Virginia but meadowbeauties generally aren't on the market. The plant is used in wet gardens.

Pale meadowbeauty is a member of Melastomaceae, the meadowbeauty family. Other common names include Maryland meadowbeauty. Spelling variations include meadow beauty and meadow-beauty.

Photographs by David Sedore
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Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.