Venus’s Looking Glass is a smallish annual that you might find growing in dry woods and open fields during the summer months. The deep violet blue color of the flower will catch your eye, even though the plant is short (10-20 inches high) and the leaves and flowers are very small.
At first glance, this appears to be a 5-petalled flower, but it is actually a 5-lobed, “tubular corolla” that is radially symmetrical. On closer inspection, note the dark lines that draw your eye to the lighter center of the flower. This is where a tall pistil awaits a passing pollinator.
The leaves and stem of Venus’ Looking Glass are oddly colored and structured. The stem is yellowish-green and deeply grooved. Each groove is lined with tiny hairs. The leaves are the same light green color but with wavy margins and tiny hairs.
The intriguing name of Venus’s Looking Glass comes from an early, botanical description of a European relative. In that species, the seeds were said to be so shiny that they resembled tiny mirrors (or looking glasses). I’d like to see that! 🙂
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 298.