“Azuredly,” spring has arrived.

We can be certain by the appearance of two petite predictors, both named azures. The spring azure is a little Lepidoptera, that small pale blue butterfly that has been delicately flitting about. The other is a sessile standout, a small flower called an azure bluet that is now blooming.

Descriptions of the azure flower have me instantly enamored, “dainty, delicate, and wonderful,” start the accolades. And one enthusiast goes even further, calling the bluet a “tiny plant with an outsized personality.” The best account might be: “To say that they are absolutely darling does not do them full justice. They are simply the picture of happiness!” How can one not be smitten by these adorable accounts?

The reality is even more endearing. Consider the tiny terrestrial bloom, just one centimeter across, in subtle and soothing shades of blue, white or purple with a bright yellow center and you, too, will be infatuated. 

Bluets, also called Quaker ladies, innocence, and little bluets, have staked their small claim in fields, woodlands, roadsides, and trails Island-wide.  They are often found in groups, blanketing areas and creating mini carpets of color. The name Quaker ladies is reputed to have originated from Native Americans who “would track where the Quakers travelled by seeing where the flowers grew (as the seeds dropped from their shoes).”

The bluet’s four-petalled flower emerges from a single stem and its yellow center is irresistible to pollinators, attracting carpenter bees, green metallic bees, and many other buzzing brethren. Bluets are a favorite of the bee fly, or humblefly, which resemble a plain, stripe-less bumblebee, and which hovers like a hummingbird above the flower. And it also attracts small butterflies, so it wouldn’t be unusual to see an azure on an azure.

While pollinators appreciate the gifts provided by bluets, their uses by humans are more limited. Apart from their beauty, only one practical use was found for this plant, though it is a useful one. Cherokees made an infusion from it as a cure for bedwetting.

Even with that limited utility, bluets have their own particular strengths. First and foremost, they are able to avoid self-pollination due to their dimorphous, or two-form, structure. Each single plant with its single flower has a peculiarity that assures cross-pollination. The flower has either a short stamen (male parts) and a tall pistil (female parts) or a tall stamen and a short pistil, so it cannot pollinate itself. Pollen from short stamens can only fertilize short pistils and vice versa. In botanical terms, this two-type system is also called distylous.

Whether you prefer your azures in the sky or on the ground, their appearance provides reasons not to be blue. No less an authority than Henry David Thoreau questioned whether “we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure.” 

And that is, perhaps the best way to describe their allure.

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature.