While many folks speed past roadside plants, some of us like to take a look at what’s going on there. Certainly, this is a phrase my husband would rather not hear: “Oh, what was that blooming? Can we go back and see?” My friend and fellow GNPS member Marcia Winchester has a remarkable talent for vehicle botanizing; we like to joke that she can correctly identify many things at 55 mph. But some plants are best noticed during a walk, and that’s exactly how I first noticed the annual rose-pink known as Sabatia angularis.
Some people may be surprised to realize that we have beautiful native plants that are annuals. The roadsides around my neighborhood have introduced me to several besides the rose-pink: forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum) and slenderleaf false foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia) are two others that I look for in summer. All like relatively open areas that aren’t overgrown, often thriving in rocky areas with poor soil.
Rose-pink belongs to a genus of annuals, biennials, and perennials in the Gentianaceae family, most of which are referred to as rose-gentian. According to USDA records, we actually have 13 species of Sabatia in Georgia, many of which are in the Coastal Plain. This particular species, Sabatia angularis, has the widest distribution of them all, and I find that July is the time to look out for it. The soft-pink flowers can be as pale as white or as deep as rose. The flowers are usually borne at the top of the plant, creating almost a bouquet effect when several are open at once. The glossy leaves are arranged in pairs, their bases held very close to the stem. Seed capsules form when the flower is done, thanks to pollination by bees.
Last year I had a good crop of plants in my yard from seeds I’d scattered. It appears that I’ll have none this year but perhaps last year’s seeds will sprout next year. I gather my seeds with permission from friendly neighbors but you can sometimes buy them online. In the meantime, I guess I’d better put on my walking shoes and admire the roadside ones. Maybe I’ll find something else new along the way.