Summer Singing the Blues

Cardinal Flower's Blue Cousin: Great Lobelia

The blue of Great Lobelia, and especially coming late in summer as it does, puts me to mind of another early-autumn favorite from another place we called home: the gentians of the high mountain passes near Sylva, NC. There is a certain melancholy in both–the blues, you might say–in their lovely way of saying goodbye to yet another summer.

And for both, no camera–film or digital–quite does them justice. The color is such that, late in the afternoon, it emits a radiance that is more than mere color, and this is only apparent when viewed directly, without a middle-man photographer to show it to you. You have to BE there.

So if you live in the southern Appalachians, go out today, this afternoon, along the moist edges of a field or woods, and chances are, you’ll see the true blue of summer, past.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’ve never seen this flower and because it is closely related to Cardinal Flower (my personal wild flower favorite) its on my list. Nice to know when it erupts and where. Thanks.

  2. The spring peepers began singing here yesterday. Haven’t heard them since last May! I think they are singing for rain, we are in quite a dry spell.