I spotted this beautiful flower last week while mowing a path down the power line. You have to look for it out there because, being only a foot or so in height, it appears to be peeking at you from the tall grasses. But it is actually quite common. Carolina Wild Petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis, is a southeastern U.S. native wildflower that resembles the familiar ornamental petunias, but is not related. It grows well in sun to partial shade and tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, although does best in well drained sites. I found it scattered out in the open sun under the power line and under the shade of trees along the edge.
The one inch wide flowers are lavender or blue in color and have a narrow tube connecting them to the stem. They often occur in pairs and are short-lived, blooming only a day or so each. But the plant has a long blooming period from late spring to early fall. They apparently are good nectar sources for butterflies and are reported as a host plant for the larvae of Buckeye butterflies, a common species in this area.
The seeds are produced all summer long in small capsules that dry and then explode, shooting the seeds away from the parent plant. After reading about this shy beauty, I plan to gather a few seed capsules and spread them closer to the house to see if I can get this hardy wildflower growing where I can enjoy it every day next summer.