Photo and article by Donna Iverson
The blue-purple trumpet-shaped flowers begged me to take a closer look. The plant was sitting on a table full of colorful annuals at the Zandstra Farm stand near Hudsonville.
“Wishbone Wishbone” chanted the farmer behind the counter. “Look closer at the petals and you will see a small wishbone,” he said. Focusing in, I saw an upside down miniature wishbone embedded in the center of the blossom. That’s why it’s called the Wishbone plant, the farmer said. And when the flower is pollinated, the wishbone breaks, he added.
Well, I had to check that out for myself. So home it came and given a sunny spot on my apartment deck. In less than a week, the largest flower had a broken wishbone. As I hadn’t seen any butterflies on the deck, I figured it must have been pollinated by one of the many bees that have been buzzing around of late. Does that bring the bee good luck, I wondered? Sort of like when breaking the turkey wishbone is thought to bring good luck to the person who ends up with the larger half?
The Wishbone flower’s scientific name is Torenia fournieri and it is a native to Asia and Africa. There are trailing and upright varieties with names like Catalina Gilded Grape, White Linen, Moon Purple, and Kavia Rose. An annual, it prefers morning sun and afternoon shade and does well in rock gardens, window boxes, and along garden edges. It is not invasive or toxic to animals. Hot humid weather is to its liking.
Both bees and hummingbirds will pollinate it and deer avoid it. The plant is named after a Swedish botanist, Olaf Toren, who was a chaplain in the East India Company during the 1700s.
Garden tip: All warm-season plants including tomatoes, squash, peppers and melons can be safely planted in June