The wildflowers at and around Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge have been spectacular this past week. There is a whole field of one sure sign of summer, Gaillardias, growing along Refuge Road between Highway 289 and the Refuge.
Other names for this species of Gaillardia are Indian Blanket and Firewheel. The species is Gaillardia pulchella Foug., in the Aster family. According to the Native Plant Information Network on the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center website, this Gaillardia is an annual that grows 1 – 2 feet tall; it is perennial in warm coastal areas. It blooms May through August and the native range is widespread. This plant does best in poor soils and will not bloom well in rich garden soil. Native Americans found various medicinal uses for the plant.
The Gaillardia was approved as the state wildflower of Oklahoma in 1986. There are several legends about “Indian Blanket”; here is one from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
LEGEND OF THE INDIAN BLANKET MAKER
The legend tells of an old Indian blanket maker whose talent for weaving produced such beautiful blankets that other Indians would travel many miles to trade for one. The old blanket maker had never taken an apprentice and when he realized that he had only a short time left, he began weaving his own burial blanket. It blended his favorite browns, reds and yellows into the beautiful patterns for which he was so famous.
In time, the old man died and his family dutifully wrapped him in this blanket, which was to be his gift to the Great Spirit when they met. The Great Spirit was very pleased because of the beauty of the gift, but also saddened, because He realized that only those in the Happy Hunting Ground would be able to appreciate the old blanket maker’s beautiful creation. So, He decided that He would give this gift back to those that the old Indian had left behind.
The spring following the old man’s death, wildflowers of the colors and design of the old Indian’s blanket appeared in profusion upon his grave ... to bloom and spread forever.
~Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center