Fiery Flower

Fiery Flower

Indian Blanket a natural warm-weather wonder


Indian Blanket flowers radiate waves of scarlet across Jekyll Island starting in late spring, and are fully aflame by mid-summer.Reminiscent of Native American blanket patterns, the wildflower is a talisman in native folklore. A chief’s wife, as the legend goes, wove a red and orange blanket as a prayer for the warrior’s safety in battle. When their daughter later was lost in the woods, she woke up covered in red and orange flowers, where the returning chief found her.

Also known as firewheel, the flower’s gold-tipped petals at one time cloaked Jekyll Island’s dunes. Deer, rabbits, and butterflies feast on the flower (Gaillardia pulchella), which actually helps the flowers flourish. Some butterflies use it as a host plant to lay eggs. Bees use firewheel to make amber-hued honey with a buttery taste. The root can be ground into a digestive-soothing tea or emollient cream.

Sandy dry soil in hot, sunny climates is the best environment for home gardeners who want to grow the mostly carefree flower. It’s also commonly planted along roadsides and meadows, and on Jekyll’s causeway. “It does require frequent deadheading to promote further blooming,” says Cliff Gawron, the Jekyll Island Authority’s director of landscaping and planning. “It’s a very reliable, tough-as-nails plant that readily reseeds itself year after year once
it’s been established.”

This article first appeared in Volume 6 Number 1 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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