It has been a warm rainy December. The two flowering species below provided high contrast along a road right-of-way, surrounded by browning fall relics.
This may be Oenothera simulans (Gaura angustifolia), Southern Beeblossom, a native relative of the popular garden plant, Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’ (a native of Louisiana and Texas.) North Carolina is the northern edge of Southern Beeblossom’s range, and we haven’t seen it that often around here, although apparently it is not rare. This plant is a member of the primrose family, Onagraceae.
Bitter Sneezeweed, Helenium amarum, is usually blooming around here over the summer and early fall. ‘Bitter’ refers to the taste, imparted to the milk of cows that have consumed this plant. Some sources (1, 2) note that the dried flowers and leaves of some plants in the genus Helenium were historically used as snuff, to induce sneezing and relieve cold symptoms. Don’t try this at home!