by Richard Katz
Many flowers are in bud, or semi-open bud. Many others are fully open. The whole ambiance of the flowers is very vibrant, although at times partially obscured by neighboring plants.
As flowers open, the central disk florets form a flat disk and the ray florets are on a plane or slightly above, creating a slightly concave (bowl-like) shape. Concavity is also manifest in the partially open rays, which curl upward, forming a trough-like shape.
The concavity does not last long, as the ray florets flatten out, both in terms of their linear extension, and also the “through” cross-section which becomes flat, or even a bit convex.
As the flower develops, the ray florets reflex back and the central disk florets form a bulging mound, creating the striking convexity of the mature flower.
All parts of the Echinacea, with the exception of the ray florets, are characterized by toughness and rigid strength. The stem is fibrous and erect, sometimes with a small curve at the flower. It is ribbed and covered with very short hairs which give the stem a rough feeling, much like sandpaper. The leaves are also covered with these short sandpaper-like hairs.
The most remarkable structure in the Echinacea is the mound of bracts surrounding the central disk florets, emerging from a nearly globular receptacle. These bracts are stiff, but not rigid. They bend to the touch, but do not lose their shape, and quickly return to their arrangement in the two interlocking Fibonacci spirals that characterize the central florets of composite flowers.
The purple ray florets are by contrast, smooth, soft and silky to the touch, much more flexible than other parts of the plant.
Structure / venation
The ray florets are linear but ovate, with smooth edges coming to a dull point at the end. There are 8-12 parallel veins running the length of the florets, which thus resemble a monocotyledon leaf.
By contrast, the leaves have three linear veins, including one central vein and two side veins that branch out at the base of the leaf, curve out, and then rejoin the central vein at its narrow and pointed tip. However, between these veins the leaves have an intricate web-work of veins that divide the leaves into many small segments. The uppers leaves have slightly serrated edges, and this serration becomes much more pronounced in the lower leaves. The lower leaves are almost trapezoidal in shape, with a large base that gradually narrows to an end point. The upper leaves are more ovate. However in both, the widest part of the leaf is found at about one quarter of its linear dimension.
Small new leaves appear at the axils of the lower leaves. However, there are no leaves in the upper region of the stem, as it approaches the flower at its apex. Under the flower head is the involucre, the circle of bracts that forms the base of the flower head, similar to a calyx in a simple flower. There are two to three rows of these bracts (phyllaries) which hang downward from the flower head, and are pointed. They have a slightly concave cross-section (trough-like) and are sometimes recurved back at the end. At the margin between the phyllaries and the tubular florets is the circle of ray florets. However, one can see a metamorphic leap from the downward-pointing phyllaries and the upward-pointing tubular florets.
The tubular florets are green at their base and along much of their length (especially the outer/younger ones), creating a seeming transition from the phyllaries. At the tips of the tubular florets the color turns to a bright yellow-orange. This colored segment becomes more brilliant and extended as one moves to the center of the flower head. The ray florets are uniformly pink-magenta, top and bottom. The stem and underside of the leaves (particularly the lower, older ones) have reddish blotches and speckling, which anticipate a bit, the color of the ray florets. There are also dark red-magenta splotches on the initial central vein in the pedicels of the leaves.
Further observations, thoughts
The qualities of the Echinacea have been well-established. Its strength and ordered structure are an expression of its ability to maintain the integrity of the self. What I saw further was how the movement from concavity to convexity in the opening of the flower and in the transition from the involucre to the flower head, is also a movement from receptivity to self-expression and outward expansion. The penetration of color into the stem and leaves, and the strong, vibrant coloration of the flower head, show the working of the astral forces of regeneration through the strong etheric matrix. I am still considering how the gentle simplicity of the ray florets is a contrast to the rough strength of the rest of the plant.
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