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Posts Tagged ‘American Fly Honeysuckle’

I had given up on finding any coltsfoot flowers (Tussilago farfara) last week and then there they were, blooming in a roadside ditch. I was thinking that I was just too early but a 70 degree day must have triggered their bloom. But not only them; many flowers appeared literally overnight.

From a distance a coltsfoot blossom might look like a dandelion but the flowers are often smaller than dandelions and they are usually flat, rather than the mounded shape of a dandelion. But the real clincher is the stem, which is scaly like that seen here. Dandelion stems are smooth.

They’re very pretty little flowers but they aren’t with us long. Depending on the weather and how hot it gets I’ve seen them disappear in two weeks. Coltsfoot is native to Europe and Asia and was brought here by early settlers. It has been used medicinally for centuries and another name for it is coughwort.

I went to the place where spring beauties grow last Saturday afternoon and though I saw a plant or two I didn’t see a single blossom. Then on Sunday, less than 24 hours later, there were 5 or 6 blossoms so it has started, and soon there will be thousands of them carpeting the forest floor. They’re such small flowers; each one is only slightly bigger than an aspirin, but there is a lot of beauty packed into a small package. For me spring isn’t really here until I hear the sad fee-bee mating call of the black capped chickadee and see these beautiful little flowers. Now I’ve seen and heard both and there’s no turning back; spring is in my bones.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) gets its common name from the way chickens peck at it. The plant is in the mint family and apparently chickens like it. The amplexicaule part of the scientific name means clasping and describes the way the hairy leaves clasp the stem. The plant is a very early bloomer and blooms throughout winter in warmer areas. Henbit is from Europe and Asia, but I can’t say that it’s invasive because I rarely see it. I’ve read that the leaves, stem, and flowers are edible and have a slightly sweet and peppery flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked.

Fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) is one of our earliest blooming shrubs and one that not many people see unless they walk in early spring. This example that I saw recently had pink tipped buds but no flowers yet. I’d guess it would be blooming today, but as always that depends on the weather. It’s unusual flowers are joined in pairs and if pollinated they become small, red orange, oval, pointed end berries that are also joined in pairs. The flowers form on branch ends of small shrubs and many songbirds love the berries, so it would be a great addition to a wildlife garden. Look for the flowers at the end of April on the shaded edges of woods.

Red maples (Acer rubrum) are still blooming heavily and their bloom is staggered over thousands of trees, so some years it seems to go on and on. This photo is of the thread like female stigmas that catch the pollen from male trees. Soon they will become seeds; millions of them.

I found a red maple with many thousands of male flowers all blooming at once and for the first time I smelled their sweet fragrance. I had to actually put my nose right into a bud cluster to make sure the fragrance was coming from them, and it was. This tree was amazing, and just look at all that pollen.

I wish everyone could see and smell a red maple in bloom. It’s something they wouldn’t soon forget.

This box elder, another member of the maple family, was just opening its buds. Box elders (Acer negundo) have beautiful lime green female flowers and I can’t wait to show them to you.

American elm trees (Ulmus americana) are also flowering, as this shot of the male flowers shows. Though both male and female flowers appear in the same cluster on elms I didn’t see any female flowers on this example, which was one of only a handful that I could reach. Female flowers are white and wispy like feathers and male flowers have 7 to 9 stamens with dark reddish anthers. Each male flower is about 1/8 of an inch across and dangles at the end of a long flower stalk (Pedicel.)

Willows (Salix) are another plant that decided to bloom overnight. Last week these buds were still gray and fuzzy and showed no color at all. Now both male and female flowers are everywhere. These are the male blossoms seen here. They’re the showiest.

The female willow blossoms were just showing color last week and here they are on the same plant already becoming seed pods. Once it starts it happens fast, so if you want to see spring in all its wondrous forms you really have to be outside each day.

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) was trying but still wasn’t looking much like cabbage to me. I hope I can find some of the fruit this year. I’ve never seen one and I’m guessing that their rarity must be due to most of the flowers not being pollinated.

I recently said that I thought an in-ground sprinkler system installed last fall at a local park must have destroyed the only striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides, var. libanotica) that I know of, but last weekend they were all up and blooming beautifully. Since blue is my favorite color I’m very happy to see them. But I don’t see many; they border on rare here and I hardly ever see them. Though catalogs will tell you that the blue stripes are found only on the inside of the blossom they actually go through each petal and show on the outside as well as the inside, as the unopened buds will show. The flowers on this spring flowering bulb are about the same size as the scilla (Scilla siberica) flowers I think most of us are familiar with. They’re beautiful little things.

These are the first Forsythia blossoms I’ve seen this spring but they certainly won’t be the last. Soon they’ll be blooming on every street in the region. Overused? Yes, but try to imagine spring without them.

The Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) are hedging their bets and waiting just a little longer before opening their small, waxy yellow flowers. I’d guess another week before we see them.

Bees have suddenly appeared and though this one wouldn’t pose for the camera I think it was a honeybee. I haven’t seen a bumblebee yet but I have seen hoverflies and many other insects.

Magnolias have also started to bloom, with only a handful of blossoms on each tree. This one had beautiful deep pink buds which opened to paler pink flowers.

The pretty white crocuses with purple on the outsides of their petals are still blooming but this will probably be the last time we’ll see them this year. Last week I saw a bed with hundreds of crocuses blossoming in it and by this week they had almost all gone by.

Daffodils of all color combinations have just started blooming.

As I said earlier I’m afraid it might be time to say goodbye to crocuses already so I’ll end this post with this little beauty. For a flower that is with us for such a short time their impact seems huge. They’re another flower that it’s hard to imagine going without in spring.

The spring came suddenly, bursting upon the world as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh and a shout and hands full of flowers. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Anemones have now joined trout lilies, spring beauties, and coltsfoot in carpeting the forest floor and they’re putting on a beautiful display this year. I’m looking at the abundance of blooms as nature balancing out what was a long cold winter.

Wood anemones (Anemone quinquefolia) seem to close whenever they feel like it but especially on cloudy days, so I was lucky to find them open. This native plant is said to be closely related to the European wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa.) Because they tremble in a breeze they have also been called windflowers. Not only do the flowers pass quickly but so do the plants. There will be no sign of them by midsummer. Though these plants are in the buttercup family and are toxic Native Americans made an anemone infused tea to relieve many different ailments, including lung congestion and eye disorders.

I thought the trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) were  a little late this year so I looked back to when I found them blooming last year. Last year they bloomed on April 23rd, so they are indeed a little late.

These blossoms hadn’t been open long and you can tell that by the yellow male stamens in the center. As the blossoms age the 6 stamens quickly turn red and then brown and start shedding pollen. Three erect female stigma will catch any pollen an insect brings by. Nectar is produced at the base of the petals and sepals (tepals) as it is in all members of the lily family, and it attracts several kinds of bees. If pollination is successful a 3 part seed capsule will appear. The seeds are dispersed by ants, which eat the rich, fatty seed coat and leave the seeds behind to grow into bulbs.

Each trout lily plant grows from a single bulb and can take from 7-10 years to produce flowers from seeds, so if you see a large colony of blooming trout lilies you know it has been there for a while. This colony has tens of thousands of plants in it and I’ve read that colonies of that size can be as much as 300 years old. The first settlers of Keene could have very well admired these same plants, just as I do today.

A reader wrote in to say that she had spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) in her lawn and they were mowed once they were done flowering. I had never seen them in a lawn until I saw these on this day. I hope whoever mows the lawn will wait for them to finish blooming. I couldn’t mow down something so beautiful.

Goldthread usually waits until other spring ephemerals have finished before its flowers appear above the evergreen leaves but the weather has a few plants confused this spring. Goldthread (Coptis groenlandicum) gets its common name from its bright yellow, thread like roots. It likes to grow in moist undisturbed soil in part shade. Native Americans used the plant to treat canker sores and told early settlers of its medicinal qualities, and this led to its being over collected into near oblivion. At one time more goldthread, then called “canker root,” was sold in Boston than any other native plant. Luckily it has made a strong comeback. I see quite a bit of it.

There’s a lot going on in a little goldthread flower. The white petal like sepals last only for a very short time before falling off. The actual petals of the flower are the tiny golden club like parts just above the white sepals. These are cup shaped and hold nectar for what must be very small insects, because the whole flower could hide behind an aspirin. My favorite parts are the yellow green, curved styles, which always remind me of tiny flamingos.

Vinca (Vinca minor) is an invasive plant from Europe, but it was brought over so long ago that many people think it’s a native. In the 1800s it was given by one neighbor to another along with lilacs and peonies and I’ve found all three still blooming beautifully around old cellar holes out in the middle of nowhere. The word vinca means “to bind” in Latin, and that’s what the plant’s wiry stems do. They grow quickly into an impenetrable wiry mat that other plants can’t grow through and I’ve seen large areas of nothing but vinca in the woods. Still, it is nowhere near as aggressive as many other invasive plants and people enjoy seeing its beautiful violet flowers in spring. Another name for it is Myrtle.

Wild ginger is a plant you have to watch closely if you want to see its flowers, because it can produce leaves and flowers in just days. In fact, everything seen in this photo appeared in 3 days from what was a mass of roots (rhizomes) under last year’s leaves.

Because they grow so close to the ground and bloom so early scientists thought that wild ginger flowers must be pollinated by flies or fungus gnats, but we now know that they self-pollinate. The flowers have no petals; they are made up of 3 triangular calyx lobes that are fused into a cup and curl backwards. Though flies do visit the flowers it is thought that they do so simply to get warm. Native Americans used wild ginger roots as a seasoning, much like we would ginger, but science has shown that the plant contains carcinogenic compounds that can cause kidney damage.

The full moon in the month of June was known to Native Americans as the strawberry moon because that was when most strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) began to ripen. The small but delicious berries were picked, dried and stored for winter use, or added to soups, pemmican and breads.  Strawberries were so plentiful that early settlers didn’t even think of cultivating them until the early 1800s. They grow thickly in my yard and my kids used to love looking for and eating the small, sweet berries.

At a glance you might mistake leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) for a blueberry but this plant will grow in standing water and blooms earlier. The plant gets its common name from its tough, leathery leaves, which are lighter and scaly on their undersides. Florists use sprays of leatherleaf leaves as filler in bouquets. The flower type must be very successful because it is used by many other plants, from blueberries to heather. Native Americans used the plant medicinally to reduce inflammation and to treat fevers, headaches and sprains.

Little Johnny jump ups (Viola tricolor) have done just that. This wild form of the modern pansy has been known and loved for a very long time. It is said to have 60 names in English and 200 more in other languages. In medieval times it was called heart’s ease and was used in love potions. Stranger names include “three faces in a hood.” Whatever it’s called I like seeing it appear at the edge of my lawn in spring. I always try to encourage it by letting it go to seed but it never seems to spread.

Like other spring ephemeral flowers bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) isn’t with us long but luckily colonies in different places bloom at different times, and in that way their bloom time can be extended. Still, with the summer heat coming on so early I’m guessing that it’s probably time to say goodbye to this little beauty for another year.

But just as it becomes time to say goodbye to one spring blossom it becomes time to say hello to another, and trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) has just come into bloom. These small but fragrant flowers were once over collected for nosegays and when I was a boy they were very hard to find, but now I know of several large colonies so they seem to be making a comeback. They are protected in some states as well, and this helps. People need to understand that the plants are closely associated with fungi in the soil and unless the fungi are present these plants will not live, so digging them up to put in gardens is a waste of time.

I didn’t notice at the time but a tiny piece of lichen had fallen on the blossom over on the left. Native Americans used trailing arbutus medicinally and it was considered so valuable it was thought to have divine origins. Its scent is certainly heavenly and my grandmother loved it very much. I spent many hours as a boy trying to find the flowers for her but back then they were almost impossible to find. Thankfully that has changed.

One of the most unusual flowers to bloom in spring, and one that few people see, is the fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis.) It’s unusual because its flowers are joined in pairs and if pollinated they become small, red orange, oval, pointed end berries that are also joined in pairs. The flowers form on branch ends of small shrubs and many songbirds love the berries, so it would be a great addition to a wildlife garden. Look for the flowers at the end of April on the shaded edges of woods.

So far all of the flowers we’ve seen are relatively small, but not purple trillium (Trillium erectum.) These flowers are often an inch and a half or more across and very visible because of their color. Trilliums are all about the number three, with three red petals and three green sepals. In fact the name trillium comes from the Latin tres, which means three. The three leaves are actually bracts which the flowers nod under for a short time before finally facing outward. Inside the flowers are six stamens and three stigmas, and if pollinated they will become a red, three chambered berry. This is one of our showiest spring wildflowers.

Imagine my surprise when, while driving down a road that I had driven thousands of times, I saw something out of the corner of my eye that I had never seen. I’ve searched for marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) for many years and have never found a single one but on this day there it was, growing in a roadside ditch. I pulled over, threw the car in reverse, and jumped out to see if I could believe my eyes. It grew in water so I couldn’t get close enough for a close up of the flowers but there is no doubt that it was a marsh marigold. How or when it got there is anyone’s guess, but they are rare here in my experience and I was very happy to finally see one. I can now cross it off my still very long list of plants I hope to see one day.

Flowers construct the most charming geometries: circles like the sun, ovals, cones, curlicues and a variety of triangular eccentricities, which when viewed with the eye of a magnifying glass seem a Lilliputian frieze of psychedelic silhouettes. ~Duane Michaels

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1. Fly Agaric

Certain mushrooms seem to appear at the same time each year, and yellow fly agarics (Amanita muscaria var, guessowii) are right on schedule. This one was about as big as my index finger, but was strong enough to push up through a mat of wet leaves.

2. Indian Pipes

I’ve never seen as many Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) as I have this year.  Not only have their numbers increased but they appeared earlier than usual. Since they don’t make their own food and live as parasites, stealing nutrients from the mycelia of certain fungi, they don’t need chlorophyll. The lack of chlorophyll leads to another common name: ghost plant.

3. Leaf Spot on Aster

If you’re a gardener a fungal disease like leaf spot is the last thing you want to see in the garden but if you can get past the feelings of disappointment and frustration and see it for what it is, it can be quite pretty. Many fungal infections of plants are caused by high humidity, poor air circulation, and / or lack of direct sunlight. Increasing air circulation and the amount of sunlight reaching the plant by cutting back surrounding growth or moving the plant will often solve the problem.

4. Starflower Fruit

I visited a web site that said the seed pod of a starflower (Trientalis borealis) was 6 to 8 millimeters in diameter, but I think they forgot a decimal point. .6 to .8 millimeters (.024-.031 in) would be more like it, and even that is stretching it. If the seed pods are that small, just think how small the seeds must be. Seeds of starflowers don’t germinate until the fall of their second year, which gives birds and insects plenty of time to move them around.

 5. Wood Frog

The dark eye mask makes this wood frog easy to identify. Wood frogs are the only frogs to live north of the Arctic Circle and they manage that by being able to freeze in winter. They produce a kind of antifreeze that prevents their cells from freezing. When it gets cold they just crawl under the leaf litter. Their heart stops beating and they stop breathing until the weather warms again in spring, when they mate and lay their eggs in vernal pools. This one was 2-3 inches long, which is big compared to a thumbnail sized spring peeper.

6. Hanging Caterpillar

This caterpillar was just hanging around one day on a silken thread so fine that I couldn’t even see it. Much to my surprise the camera couldn’t either, so it looks like he is defying gravity. I think he’s an inchworm. I wonder what they get out of doing this.

 7. Blue Black Wasp

I saw a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye and turned to find that this large, blue-black wasp (Ichneumon centrator) had landed next to me. He didn’t stay long though, and only gave me time for a couple of shots. This wasp is about 3/4 of an inch long and adult females hibernate under the loose bark of fallen trees in winter. This one pictured is an adult male. Thanks to the good folks at Bugguide.net for the help with identification.

8. Orange Mushrooms

Over the years I’ve noticed that the first mushrooms to appear are mostly white or brown, then come the red, yellow, and orange ones and after them the purples. Right now we’re in our red, yellow, orange phase. I think these might be one of the wax cap mushrooms, possibly the butter wax cap (Hygrocybe ceracea).

9. Pinwheel Mushrooms

These small pinwheel mushrooms, (Marasmius rotula) none bigger than a pea, grew on a piece of tree bark. These mushrooms are fairly easy to see after a rain but when they dry out the whitish cap shrivels down to a dot at the end of a hair-like stalk and they become almost invisible-at least to my eyes.

 10. Daddy Longlegs

I thought that this black and white spider on a hazelnut leaf had the longest legs of any spider that I’ve seen, and a tiny body that seemed out of proportion to its legs. Thanks to the folks at Buggide.net I learned that this is not a spider but a harvestman (Opiliones). The difference is that spiders have a two part body and harvestmen have a one part body. And this is indeed a daddy longlegs. What I thought were daddy longlegs all these years are actually spiders called cellar spiders (Pholcus phalangioides). Who knew?

11. False Solomon's Seal Foliage

As I’ve said before on this blog, fall starts on the forest floor and, even though none of us want to hear it, this false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) is a perfect example of how it begins.

12. Wild Sarsaparilla Fall Color 2

Other signs that fall is on the way include the turning leaves on wild sarsaparilla plants (Aralia nudicaulis). Almost as soon as its berries ripen the leaves start to change to yellow, the deep rosy brown seen here, or a mixture of both colors.

13. Fly Honeysuckle Fruit

Another sign of fall is of course, ripening berries. These are the unusual twin berries of American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis).

 14. Reindeer Lichen

With all this talk of fall you might think that this is a dusting of snow in the woods but no, it’s just a drift of reindeer lichens (Cladonia arbuscula). I’m hoping that they don’t get covered by a snow blanket for a good long time.

Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from. ~Terry Tempest Williams

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1. Dandelion

I’m not sure why but for the last couple of years I’ve had a hard time finding dandelions blooming in early spring. There was a time when they were the first flowers to bloom in my yard, but no more.  I miss their cheery blooms heralding the arrival of spring and I miss being able to easily get photos of them. A close up photo of a dandelion blossom reveals how they seem to just glow with the enjoyment of life. Of course you can also see this in person if you don’t mind people wondering why you have your nose in their lawn. This one grew right at the edge of a street and I had to kneel in it to get its photo.

2. Common Blue Violet aka Viola sororia

As if nature wanted to give a lesson in complimentary colors, as soon as dandelions appear so do the violets, and how many chubby little toddler fists have proudly held out a bouquet of both in the spring? Even though its common name is common blue violet (Viola sororia) this plant often bears a purple flower. Since I’m colorblind I see blue no matter what, so its name doesn’t confuse me.

3. Wild Strawberry

And if you have dandelions and violets in your lawn, there’s a good chance that you also have wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana). Millions of people would have so much more peace in their lives if, instead of waging war on these beautiful little plants, they simple enjoyed them. I once knew a lady who spent virtually all summer every year on her knees pulling dandelions, violets, and strawberries out of her lawn and I thought then that hers was just about the saddest life one could live. Now I wonder if it wasn’t a form of meditation for her.  I’m sure that it must have given her a sense of accomplishment.

 4. Norway Maple Flowers

Norway maples (Acer platanoides) are supposed to be a very invasive species but I know of only one in this area. It’s a very big, old tree that lives at a ball bearing plant. Its branches are too high for me to reach so each spring I pull my truck up under it and climb in the truck bed so I can reach the flowers. Then I hold a branch with one hand and my camera in the other and have a go at capturing its beauty. It’s worth the extra effort, I think.

5. Trout Lily Flower

The trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) have started opening. These are with us for just a short time so I check the spot where they grow every couple of days. There are literally tens of thousands of plants in this spot but most of them have only a single leaf and only mature plants with two leaves will bear flowers. This plant gets its common name from the way its speckled leaves resemble to body of a trout. Some blossoms have a maroon / bronze color on the outsides of the three sepals. The three petals are usually entirely yellow.

6. Trout Lily Flower

I always try to get a shot looking into a trout lily blossom so we can see how lily like they really are. Since these flowers only stand about six inches tall and nod towards the ground this is easier said than done and I usually have to try several times. They can afford to nod the way that they do because they are pollinated by ants and don’t have to show off to attract bees. Like many spring flowers they close each night and open again in the morning.

7. Spring Beauty

Luckily spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) grow alongside the trout lilies. Whoever named this little flower knew what they were talking about. I like its five stamens tipped with pink. This is another flower that closes up at night and on cloudy days, so you have to take its photo in full sun or at least very bright light. To get around that problem I often shade it with my body while I’m taking its photo, but sometimes that creates too much shade and I have to use a flash. That’s what happened here, and that’s why its petals seem so shiny in this photo.

8. Bloodroot

Just a little sunlight or even undiffused light from a flash can bleach out the delicate tracery of the veins in the petals of a bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blossom, so I wait for overcast days to take their photo. Since this is another flower that closes at night and on cloudy days it can’t be too cloudy when you go to take its photo. Everything has to come together just right to get decent photos of many of the spring ephemerals, and it can be a tricky business.

9. Bloodroot

We’ve had cool, cloudy days here for the past few days and this photo shows what I found many times when I went to visit the bloodroots. They just refuse to open when the clouds make it too dark. Someone in their blog (I don’t remember who) pointed out how bloodroot blossoms resembled tulips when they were closed and that’s something I never thought of before. I didn’t notice it when I was visiting them but the photo shows that at least two of these flowers have lost their petals already. And I’ve only seen one blossom fully opened.

 10. Vinca

As I mentioned when I was talking about the common blue violet, I’m color blind and have a very hard time telling blue from purple. For some reason though, I can always tell that a myrtle (Vinca minor) blossom is purple. It must have just enough red in it to push it over the “almost blue” line, or something. If only this were true with all flowers. I’ve brought home so many plants because they had beautiful blue flowers, only to have someone later tell me that they were purple.

11. Trailing Arbutus

Trailing arbutus plants (Epigaea repens) have borne flowers overnight, it seems. Just last week I couldn’t find any that were even budded and now here they are blooming. My grandmother always called them mayflowers and when I see them they always remind me of her. It is said that these were the first flowers that the Pilgrims saw after their first winter in Massachusetts. If that winter was anything like our last, I’d guess that they were real happy to see them.

 12. Fly Honeysuckle

The strange, joined flowers of the American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) are very hard to get a good photo of, but these at least shows their pale yellow color and the unusual way that the pairs branch off from a single stem. There are few shrubs that bloom as early as this one, which usually starts blooming during the last week of April. If pollinated its flowers become pairs of reddish orange fruit shaped much like a football, with pointed ends. Many songbirds love its fruit so this is a good shrub to plant when trying to attract them. I see it growing along the edges of woods but it can be hard to find, especially when it isn’t blooming.

13. Beech Bud Break

It isn’t a flower but in my opinion an unfolding beech leaf is one of the most beautiful things in the forest. They hang from the branches like the wings of tiny angels but appear this way for only a very short time. Tomorrow this will be just another leaf in the forest but for now it’s a miracle.

In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.  ~John Milton

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