A Blanket of Love

Blanket of Love
5/5/2007, near FM-2618, Mason County

"Mother, is grandfather ill?"
"Yes, little one, he is very ill"
"If he is so ill, why is he weaving a blanket?"
"It is his burial blanket which he will give to the Great Spirit as a gift."

When the grandfather died, the Great Spirit was so pleased with the blanket that each spring the Great Spirit out of love spreads a blanket of flowers in the colors of the grandfather's blanket as a gift to the grandfather's people.

A similar theme runs through many of the legends and lore about the Firewheel, aka the Indian Blanket. Truly a native wildflower of the Americas, the Firewheel spreads it blanket of red and yellow from Mexico to Nebraska and from California to the Carolinas (http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=gapu)

Aztec legend

"Firewheel has a rich history in Native American lore. In the book “Legends and Lore of Texas Wildflowers” by Elizabeth Silverthorne, an old Mexican legend tells how the firewheel got its unique color. According to the story, firewheel was once an all yellow wildflower in the days of the Aztecs. Women would adorn themselves with the bright yellow flowers, and children would play among them in the meadows. Then Cortez came, spreading death and destruction throughout the land. The bright yellow flower felt pity for the deaths of the inhabitants and caught their blood as it fell. To this day the firewheel remains red with the blood of the Aztecs. " https://www.naturesseed.com/blog/fire...gend-lore 

Wife of the chief

"Firewheel is also known as Indian blanket flower, a name that comes from another legend. In the same book, the story goes that braves from a certain tribe went to war, leaving behind their wives and children. Soon after, the wife of the chief began weaving a blanket for her husband. In the blanket she wove threads of red and orange, each pattern a symbol of her prayer to the Great Spirit to keep her husband safe. One day the daughter of the chief was out playing in the woods and got lost. Night soon fell, and the little girl prayed to the Great Spirit to send the blanket to keep her warm during the night. She fell asleep. The next morning, she found herself covered in flowers of the same red and orange colors as the blanket. Her father, returning from war, found his daughter covered in the beautiful flowers. From that time on, the flowers were called Indian blanket flower." - https://www.naturesseed.com/blog/fire...gend-lore 

The Great Weaver

"A wonderful Indian legend tells the story of a great weaver in a tribe of Plains Comanche. This man was a wonderful weaver and made beautiful robes, mats, and blankets. Everyone in the tribe had something that the weaver had made, and it was among their most prized possessions.
One day the weaver realized that his time on earth was drawing to an end. So, he set out to make one last weaving. It would be his death blanket. The weaver worked for many weeks, gathering the plants to create his dyes, preparing the wool, setting up his loom, and, finally, weaving the blanket. Several months later, the blanket was complete. That night, the weaver died in his sleep.

Out of their great respect and love for the weaver, the tribe wrapped him in the blanket and placed him on the burial platform. When the Great Spirit came to take the weaver to heaven, he was awed by the beautiful blanket. He was also amazed at the love and respect the tribe held for the weaver. So, as a gift to the people of the tribe, the Great Spirit sends the colors of the of the weaver’s last creation to earth every spring in the flowers of the Indian blanket." - Legends and Lore, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (http://txmn.org/elcamino/files/2010/0...-_-Folklore.pdf)

The Firewheel, Indian Blanket

(Gaillardia pulchella, http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=GAPU) is the Official state wildflower of Oklahoma (Oklahoma Statutes, Title 25, Section 25-92) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Oklahoma_state_symbols.

It is truly a world traveler and can be found naturalized or as cultivar in parts of Europe, Africa, South and Central America. It was introduced in Penghu Island, Taiwan and is now it’s county flower.

http://www.seedsource.com/catalog/detail.asp?product_id=1005. The Gaillardia pulchella is an easy wildflower to get started in your wildflower meadow.  Seeds can be purchased from Native American Seed - https://www.wildflower.org/feature/?id=152. American Indians used the roots of the plant for a variety of medicinal purposes. It is also one of the top weapons to help stop the spread of the invasive bastard cabbage -

The Gaillardia pulchella can put on some dramatic shows and actually covering the ground at time like a blanket. It usually brings on its major show in late April through early May. There is also an all red variety that will begin to bloom earlier in mid-April. Some of these have already been putting on a show along Texas 29 east of Llano. The bloom line for the Gaillardia pulchella will follow warming temperatures north. Some of the best displays I have seen have been in Mason, San Saba and Llano Counties. The photo above was taken in Mason County near FM-2618 in 2007.  This photo was taken last Thursday (4/14/2015) in Llano County.

4/14/2016, near CR-308, Llano County

This one taken 4/29/2012 along CR-407 west of Texas 16 in Llano County
4/29/2012, CR-407 west of Texas 16 in Llano County

Other routes that could produce good shows include:

Texas 16 from Fredericksburg to Cherokee (current reports)

Texas 71 especially west of Llano (past reports)

Park RD 4 especially west of US 281 (past reports)

Go, see and safely enjoy the blanket of fiery love laid down by the American Indian Blanket!

References not cited above: