Drops of Fire Flag


Thalia geniculata aka bent alligator-flag, arrow root or my favourite name for it, fire-flag is quite common in the wetlands of South Florida. I suppose it is a good early warning plant and perhaps why it is called alligator flag as its broad leaves and flowers on delicate stalks will wave around when an alligator is moving through them. If you are a birder there is no better spot to find Purple Gallinules than among the lance shaped leaves and waving purple bow ties. Gallinules just love them!! The lush environment they provide is nothing short of a tropial eden visually.

I have found over time trying to capture nice sharp images of these flowers to be challenging as they do move quite easily and in an irregular pattern at the slightest hint of a breeze. Still days are a rarity and even more so at the particular times when I happen to have the opportunity to be taking pictures of them.  If the lighting is just right and the flowers a bit backlit, from a distance the drops of lavendar dripping from the tops of those tender stalks look like little purple lights blinking over the wetland as they move.

I cannot now show you the long view I have yet to capture the way I want, but the day I took these pictures was remarkably still for periods and you can see how pretty and unusal the little blossoms are and how they might catch the light and glow with their pale color against the deep greens. The last image was from a long time ago but shows the leaves and flowers complete with a hungry Gallinule for context.


Purple Gallinule balances on leaves and stems of fireflag seeking its delicate purple blossoms



~ by Judy on November 1, 2019.

12 Responses to “Drops of Fire Flag”

  1. Gorgeous shots, Judy!

  2. What beautiful shots, and against the odds with their lightness making them restless. And the purple Gallinule, a bird that always fascinates me for its colours

  3. The zig-zag nature of the stems is really unusual. It’s interesting how different the flowers are from our species, too. Ours is Thalia dealbata, or powdery alligator flag. Its flowers cluster, emerging out of a bud that resembles the bird of paradise plant.

    I still haven’t seen a Gallinule, despite person after person saying they’re in the places I frequent. I suspect that I’ve been close, but confused them with the coots, since everyone seems to stay in the reed beds, except when the coots come out to feed and chase one another. Maybe this will be the year I finally find one.

    • When I saw that the species is sometimes called Bent Alligator Flag, that made me wonder if it referred the the zig zag nature of the stems. I can see in ours that the buds kind of look like bird of paradise shapes but they don’t line up the same way. The things that separate species, eh?

      I can remember looking for the Purple Gallinules for a long time before seeing any. But once I did see them, I found that they’d show in in the same area sometimes too far away but sometimes close enough for a nice picture. They do like areas with pickerel weed and fire flag plants. Can’t say I’ve ever seen one except around those aquatic plants. You won’t mistake one for the Moorhen as their iridescence is stunning.

      • Ah, ha! I know just where to find them, then.I tend not to go east, to the Anahuac refuge, because you have to get there via Galveston, a ferry ride, and so on. It’s not the hour’s drive that puts me off — it’s sitting in the ferry line. But that refuge has lotus, pickerel weed, and such. It may be that’s where people are seeing them.

      • I guess I have learned as well, you must go to them as they know what they like and stay there!! I look forward to hearing about that trip when you do it. Ferry rides are kind of cool. I suspect photo objects around the ferry to distract you…just don’t miss the boat!! 🙂

      • It’s part of the Texas highway system, actually, and the boats run constantly. The problem with them is that the hordes of tourists and such in good weather can really streeeetch out that wait in line!

      • You must bring a companion in addition to the camera for that day for waiting conversation!!

      • Well, come on! We could have a great time!

      • Tempting!! 🙂

  4. What a perfect description of Alligator Flag – drops of fire! As you pointed out, THE place to find a Purple Gallinule. I’m always amazed at how they cling to a stem and grab seeds even as that stem travels downward under their weight.

    Wonderful photographs!

    • Well those long yellow toes do seem very well adapted to the purpose. But, it is a bit of a tight rope walk as the gallinules reach for the lavender blossoms. That is what the flowers do look like to me..drops of lavendar…..and when the sun hits them late day so the close to ground area is darkish and the blossom drops are lit, it really does look so pretty. Frustrating plants though as those slender stalks won’t sit still very readily!!

      Gallinules like Pickerel Weed too but often the two aquatic species occur near each other. A bountiful feast.

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