A single, brilliantly pink flower blooms atop a long slim stem. Each little petal is the color and shape of a valentines-day heart, with a second heart traced upon it in a line of dark fuschisa. Even more unusual, each flower looks like it’s emerging from a bulbous cocoon of papery bracts beneath.
This is wild carnation (Petrorhagia dubia), also known as windmill pink. Just like storebought carnations, this flower is in the Caryophyllaceae–or carnation–family. A good trick to tell that you’re looking at a species in this family is that the stem swells noticeably at the node where it joins the paired, linear leaves. Knowing the key diagnostic features of families, like this, is a good trick to have up your sleeve when you’re trying to key out a new plant! Some, like this one, are much easier than others.
Sadly, this striking plant isn’t native–you’ll see it growing in fields, roadsides and other disturbed habitats.