Look who’s popping up along trails on the top of the plateau – Quaker Ladies, Blue-eyed Babies, Bright Eyes, Nuns, Quaker Bonnets, Star Violets, or – most commonly – Bluets! What a fresh look these flowers have. This species, photographed at Foster Falls, is Houstonia caerulea. The genus is named for Scottish physician Dr. William Houston. And “caerulea” means “sky blue,” a moniker probably meant to distinguish this species from other Bluet species.
Bluets are members of the Coffee family, along with Partridgeberry, Bedstraw, Buttonweed, and Buttonbush, to name a few. Each species of Bluets comes in two versions: one with short stamens and long pistil and the other with the reverse arrangement. There’s a good discussion of this, along with this diagram, in the Guide to Enjoying Wildflowers by Donald and Lillian Stokes. Nature precludes flowers of one type from pollinating others of the same type, thus obliging all flowers to cross-pollinate. Bluets can also reproduce vegetatively, sometimes resulting in large colonies drifting across a field.
Springtime is when we really notice bluets, but unlike other flowers that are blooming now, bluets will continue to flower on into summer. They will also grow new underground rhizomes, which will produce new rosettes (clusters of ground-hugging leaves) in fall or spring.