Here are just a few of the flowers that I’ve seen recently.
The spiky basal leaf rosettes of bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) form the first year and the plant sends a flower stalk up the second year, so when you see its flower you are looking at two years of work. This means it is a biennial, rather than an annual or perennial. The introduced, invasive plant can spread only by seed and does not reproduce vegetatively.
The swollen, air filled, modified leaf stems of the native little floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiata) radiate out from a point on the stem like the spokes of a wheel. These modified leaf stems do more than keep the plant afloat-each has small hairs on its end that trigger a trap door when touched by an insect. Once the insect has been sucked inside, the trapdoor closes and it is digested.
The flowers of bladderworts are one of the hardest to photograph of any that I know of.
Our native swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate) is such a beautiful color that I find myself just staring at it when I see it. I can’t think of another flower that can quite match the beautiful, deep pink color. My color finding software sees rose pink, orchid, plum, and hot pink. I find this plant growing near ponds but it is rare in this area. I know of only two small colonies.
Purple loosestrife is a beautiful bot terribly invasive plant that can be found near just about any pond, lake, stream or river. According to the USDA, it grows in all but 7 states and seems bent on national domination. As is often the case, the plant was brought over from Europe. In New Hampshire it is illegal to produce, sell, or import it. Two species of beetle have been introduced to try and control the plant but what usually happens in such cases is, once the introduced plant has been brought under control by the introduced insect, the introduced insect becomes the problem that then needs controlling.
No matter how invasive it may be I still have to say that when I see purple loosestrife blooming with yellow goldenrod, white boneset, and pink Joe Pye weed, I feel like I’m walking into a Monet painting. There are few scenes more beautiful than a meadow full of wildflowers, in my opinion.
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium,) as one story goes, was named after a Native American herbalist named Joe Pye. Another version says that Joe was a doctor. Whatever the story of how the name came to be, Joe Pye Weed is known to have been used medicinally by Native Americans for centuries. There are several species of this plant including hollow Joe-Pye-weed (E. fistulosum) which has a purplish stem that is hollow. Sweet Joe-Pye-weed (E. purpureum) smells like vanilla. Three-nerved Joe-Pye-weed (E. dubium) has a purple-speckled stalk and smaller, deep purple flowers. Spotted Joe-Pye-weed (E. maculatum) has a flower cluster that is flatter than the others.
Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens) is also called false violet because of its leaves, and I think that might be part of why I’ve missed it until recently. Its small white flowers dot the forest floor like so many other small white flowers, and that also makes it easy to pass by with just a glance. A closer look reveals something different though-this plant produces other flowers that don’t open but still produce seeds. They are called cleistogamous flowers and are hidden beneath the leaves. The showy flowers like the one in the photo are mostly sterile.
Though I found a large colony, dewdrop is endangered or threatened in many states.
I found this downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens) about 6 weeks ago, but I wasn’t sure if it would blossom until, two weeks later, it started to send up a single flower stalk. Four weeks after that it finally bloomed. I like the evergreen, silvery leaves on this plant even more than the flowers because they’re so unusual. This is supposed to be the most common orchid in New England, but I’ve only seen it once in my life.
After waiting so long for them to appear I have to say that the tiny white flowers were kind of anti-climactic but still beautiful, as most orchids are. They are also very hard to photograph in the dim conditions they like to grow in. The pubescens part of the scientific name means downy or hairy, and the photo clearly shows how the plant got that name. The plantain part of the common name comes from the way the leaves resemble those of plantains, and the rattlesnake part of the name comes from the color and pattern of the leaves. Native Americans used this plant to treat snakebite.
With its flower stalk present downy rattlesnake plantain might stand 6-8 inches tall. Note the blue bead lily and bunchberry plants that grow alongside it. If you compare the size of its leaves to those of a well-known plant like bunchberry, (just above the orchid) you can get an idea of how small it really is. This helps explain how I walked by without seeing it so many times last year-a single oak leaf could cover the entire plant.
The second orchid I found wasn’t a surprise because I saw it here last year. This one is called broad leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) and it is an introduced species that originally hails from Europe. According to the USDA it was first found in North America near Syracuse, New York, in 1878 and has now spread to 31 states. The plants that I found stand about knee high, but they can get taller with more light. Its leaves, though smaller, closely resemble those found on false hellebore and the name helleborine in Latin means “like hellebore.” What I find odd is that neither false hellebore leaves nor the leaves of this orchid look at all like hellebore leaves to me.
These flowers, about as big as a pencil eraser, seemed huge after trying to photograph the tiny downy rattlesnake plantain flowers. Last year the flowers on these plants had much more purple in them, but color change among flowers is common on this plant. In fact, two plants growing side by side can have completely different colored flowers. Personally, I like the purple version more than the one pictured here.
Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful. ~Jim Carrey
Thanks for stopping in.