Carolina Wild Petunia

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday I spy a little lavender summer wildflower, Carolina Wild Petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis).

Carolina Wild Petunia is a common wildflower throughout the southeastern United States. It grows on drier, sandier uplands, usually in partial shade in forest clearings or along wood-lines. The plants reach about one-and-a-half-feet high and have oppositely arranged, simple elliptical leaves of a darkish blue-green shade. Flowers emerge from the nodes along the stem, just above the leaves. Carolina Wild Petunia flowers from early June into August. The flowers themselves are a long narrow trumpet flaring broadly into a three-quarter-inch corolla of five rounded petals. The petals have the wrinkly appearance of freshly washed, un-ironed linen and are dyed a thorough but soft shade of lavender. At the center the flower are five white anthers, providing a bit of contrast for the eye. Flowers emerge singly, or in pairs, each day. Each flower lasts about a day before withering and being replaced by a newly borne neighbor.

Carolina Wild Petunia is a great addition to any Lowcountry native plant garden that has a little bit of unpopulated shade. While not as tolerant of the blazing hot sun or as tall as its ornamental cousin, Mexican Petunia (R. simplex), it tolerates drought and poor soils just as well. It even attracts bees and medium-sized butterflies. If you’re planning a pollinator garden or just want something to bring some life to the shady side of your yard, give Carolina Wild Petunia a try!

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