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Purple Phacelia

April 8, 2016  |  Permalink

Take a walk at Edgar Evins State Park, South Cumberland State Park, or Rock Island State Park this week and you may notice a beautiful purple flower blooming in clusters on the slopes and on rocks. This is the Purple Phacelia or Scorpionweed. Both names refer to the coiled inflorescence at the end of the flower stems. The plants grow in clusters and can grow from a thin layer of leaf litter even on the top of boulders.

I recall when I was a young Ranger at South Cumberland State Park and first encountered these flowers. I was walking the Collins Gulf Trail at Savage Gulf Natural Area and was thrilled to see the mountainside decorated with the purple clusters. I thought it was so beautiful that I wanted to share it with park visitors. I pledged to schedule a walk to see them the following year. The next year came and I led the group into the gulf but found very few flowers of the Phacelia. If I had just read the description in the field guide a little closer I would have seen the word ‘biennial’, which means it blooms every other year. I was disappointed by this but there were many other wildflowers there and the trip was still a success. Now every 2 years I look forward to seeing this beautiful flower, and this is the year.

There are many great flowers out right now. Take a walk in a park or natural area and enjoy them.

Photos by Randy Hedgepath, State Naturalist.

About the author

Tennessee State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath is a native of west Tennessee, where his family’s farm was just 15 miles from the Tennessee River. After graduating from UT Martin and working seasonally for several years for the National Park Service and Tennessee State Parks, he has spent the last 33 years with state parks. Randy worked as a ranger/naturalist at South Cumberland State Park on the Cumberland Plateau and at Radnor Lake Natural Area in Nashville until 2007 when he was given the opportunity to be the statewide naturalist for the state park system.