THE PRETTY SUNFLOWER
A plant looking more familiar than the above to
eyes most accustomed to the eastern North American landscape also is flowering now along
roads and in fields. The plant looks a good bit like the North's multi-flowered sunflower
species, such as the Jerusalem Artichoke, except it has larger flowers. It's the Acahual,
TITHONIA TUBAEFORMIS. You can see one at the Reserve's entrance below.
Beyond the fact that the plant is so big and colorful -- on overcast days the
three-inch-wide (7.5 cm), yellow- orange flowers just explode with cheerful brightness --
one reason the species is interesting is because usually weeds are alien invasives, but
Acahual is native to here, northeastern Mexico. In fact, the species has begun showing up
as a weed in other tropical countries, such as northwestern Argentina. One reason for
Acahual's success is that it produces prodigious numbers of little black seeds -- to the
delight of seed-eating birds.
The name Acahual is from the Náhuatl language and I'm told by Native American employees
at the Reserve that the name is applied to several very different weedy plants that appear
when the ground is disturbed.