November 26th, 2009
Commelinantia anomala

Commelinantia anomala
Commelinantia anomala. False dayflower. Who could resist a face like that?

If Austin has received good fall rains, then by November my yard is filled with the first grassy green leaves of false dayflowers. The color is a young, spring green so bright and cheerful that it seems at odds with the season.

False dayflower is a beautiful, but generally uncultivated, member of the Commelinaceae family which includes spiderwort, wandering Jew, and the true, perennial day flower (widow’s tears). Seeds for false dayflower arrived in my garden in a bag of leaves that I collected for mulch. I’m glad they did because their 5-inch tufts of bright green foliage which appear in late fall, brighten the winter garden.

Commelinantia anomala
The bright green leaves of false dayflower glow when they catch the sunlight.

Its habit is very similar to its relative, the spiderwort. I consider them far superior to spiderwort because they are shallow-rooted, easy to remove from any spot where they’re not wanted, and have more arresting flowers.

False dayflowers form grass-like drifts that disappear in the first heat of summer. Although they self-sow with the vigor of weeds, they are not rank. They are very shallow-rooted and easy to remove from any place that they are not wanted. They require absolutely no attention and make wonderful filler plants, especially on the edges of shady areas. The seeds sprout in moist soil covered with mulch.

Commelinantia anomala
False dayflower massed next to purple heart–another relative.

They are also quite attractive as single plants.

Commelinantia anomala

With spring rains the flower spathes shoot up a foot or more and the funny-faced flowers float like pale blue butterflies. Normally, the petals are a solid lavender blue, but occasionally a bitone flower will appear. I’ve selected the bitones seeds over the years and now about 80 per cent of the flowers in my yard are bitoned.

Commelinantia anomala
Two colors of false dayflowers growing among purple spiderwort. (Blooming more typically in March.)

I have never seen false dayflower or its seeds for sale. The Wildflower Center had plants at their Spring 2010 sale. I felt sorry for anyone who bought them because they were near the end of their lives and looked unlikely to flower and set seeds. I don’t know anyone else who grows them on purpose. They are weeds. But what wonderful weeds! They are endemic to central Texas so I can grow them without guilt.

Previously, the earliest that false dayflower had bloomed in my garden was December 7, 2001. However, this year it is already blooming. The first flower was October 28th.

Related

Wildflower Center: Native Plant Database: Tinantia anomala (The botanists are playing with names again. I say commelinantia because it took me such a long time to learn to spell it. And because it belongs to the Commelinaceae (Spiderwort) family.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Commelinantia anomala”

  1. From Joseph Tychonievich:

    In my climate (Michigan), false dayflowers don’t disappear with the first heat of summer — we don’t get much in the way of summer heat, so they become thuggish weeds! They look lovely in your garden though. Goes to show: All gardening is local!

    One gardener’s weed truly is anothers delight. I didn’t know false dayflowers grew up your way. It’s difficult to imagine them being thuggish since they are so shallow-rooted and easy to pull up, unlike the true Asiatic dayflower or spiderwort. However, once you have them they will always come back…like baby blue eyes, or cilantro, or larkspur, my other filler plants. –mss

  2. From Rachel from Austin:

    I think false dayflower is a beautiful little flower, as well. Look at that face! It’s as expressive as a pansy. As a kid, I used to admire these dewey flowers underneath the trees in early springtime, and knew them by the common name, “widow’s tears.” I don’t think I have any growing in my garden, but I wouldn’t mind having some. Maybe I can find some growing wild in my neighborhood.

    I call the Asiatic dayflower, Commelina communis, widow’s tears…and it is a weed! I’ll save some seeds for you. –mss

  3. From Diana - Austin:

    How lovely your little finds are. Those flowers are as adorable as the Cuphea faces. You never cease to amaze me with your way with wayward little things that come into your garden, and how you save seeds and move plants all around to create all your lovely vignettes.

    That’s just about the sweetest thing anyone has ever said about my “weeds.” I definitely depend on my wildlings to fill in the garden for me. Because I have so many, I don’t feel guilty about clearing some away when I have an actual garden plant that needs the space. –mss

  4. From Bob Pool:

    That first picture is wonderful. It shows the main difference is in the bloom. I have both kinds here and have whacked on them trying to get rid of them. Then one late spring I noticed a large bunch that was blooming and it was rather stunning. From then on I just let them do their thing. When they are blooming well they are rather beautiful and well worth having.

    For the people who like spiderworts, false dayflowers are a great addition. I think spiderworts are harder to manage because their roots are so tough and spidery and their stalks filled with juicy sap. — mss

  5. From Linda Lehmusvirta Austin, TX:

    Fabulous post!

  6. From Janie:

    Did you mean, with your mention of the LBJ Wildflower Center, that they do offer this plant? We have a Texas Native garden that I am always looking for plants to fill in with, and this looks like a very good candidate. I don’t remember ever seeing it grow wild here, although the spiderwort and the purple heart grow very well here.

    I enjoyed your post. These are my kinds of flowers.

    No. The link to the Wildflower Center was just to showcase their database. If you want some seeds, I’ll save you some. –mss