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

November 26th, 2009
Commelinantia anomala

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.