Before it’s gone, here’s another volunteer in the cracks of our driveway: Venus’s looking glass, Triodanis perfoliata. It’s in the bellflower family, and if it were a bell, it would tinkle rather than peal because the flowers are about the size of a fingernail (a fingernail that gardens and plays with Lego). And, it’s native.
I started noticing it the first week of May, and it’s been popping up in asphalt gaps here and there since. Michael found some in the grass at Elmington Park yesterday.
But what’s with the name? Venus needs a looking glass I’m sure, what with having to stay gorgeous as goddess of love and beauty, but she’d have to be awfully small to use any part of this flower as such.
One of my favorite wildflower sites, IllinoisWildflowers.com says: “the common name of this plant probably refers to the shiny seeds of a related European species. The seeds of Venus’ Looking Glass are too tiny to appear shiny to the unaided human eye.”
I aided my eye with a lit loupe, and still couldn’t see anything reflective.
The seeds are a smidge smaller than a period in Cambria 12pt. type. Below is a photo of four seeds next to the papery capsule that held them, with a Star Wars ruler and sesame seed for reference. A poppy seed would have been better, but I couldn’t find one in the bagel bag.
The “related European species” which gave our species its common name must be England’s Legousia hybrida, here. Maybe under magnification L hybrida seeds look like “polished bronze hand-mirrors,” but I’d love to see them in person as proof.
What did we call this plant before we knew about the European venus?
There must be a more descriptive common name for our lovely bloom.
Look at those heart-shaped leaves hugging the stem.
Bees call it food.