Shortly before Carl Linneaus proposed a system of naming and classifying plants in the mid-1700s he proposed a system of classifying flowers based upon the pattern they displayed for opening and closing their flowers. He noted three general patterns of flower opening/closing. One group of flowers open and close their flowers dependent upon the weather. A second group open and close their flowers depending upon the day length. And a third group of flowers, which he called “Aequinoctales,” open and close their flowers at fixed times of day. For example, catmint opens its flowers between 6 and 7 AM while marigolds wake up around 9am. Convolulus is a late starter opening at noon.
Linneaus proposed that a planting of Aequinoctales flowers that open at different times could be used to tell time by observing which type of flowers were open. He called his concept a “horologium florae” or “flower clock.” It isn’t clear whether Linneaus actually planted a ‘flower clock’ garden but he did lay out a chart which continues to be used 300 years later for such projects.
One Aequinoctales flower that appears in Linneaus’ list is chicory (Cichorium intubis). Its beautiful distinctive blue flowers open between 5 and 6 AM no matter the weather or day length. One might argue that there are other clues outside that its only 5AM but who can quibble with Linneaus? Chicory closes around 4PM in Sweden but stays up later here in California. There much more to do here.
Pictured is the flower of Puntarelle, an Italian chicory I’ve grown in my garden. The greens are a bit past season but the flowers are stunning. Chicory flowers figure in a number of herbal remedies of no particular value but one old French recipe has my interest: candied chicory flowers. That could be worth getting up early.
Vegetables of Interest, 2008