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Posts Tagged ‘Balloon Flower’

In my last flower post I ended with a stand of wildflowers that I drive by each morning on my way to work. I didn’t think that photo showed all of the beauty there was to see there so I went back and took more photos. This is one of them.

And this is a wider view. How lucky I am to see this each morning. I think about how, if they stopped mowing the roadsides, they might all look like this. I don’t know why they can’t wait until the flowers are finished blooming to mow certain areas. Some states actually spend a lot of time and money trying to get their roadsides looking like what happens here naturally.

Johnny jump ups (Viola tricolor) have bloomed quietly all summer; so unobtrusive but always able to coax a smile and warm a heart. Long used medicinally in Europe, here it is a welcomed alien. It is plant that has been known for a very long time and goes by many common names. It’s said to have 60 names in English and 200 more in other languages. In medieval times it was called heartsease and was used in love potions. Viola tricolor is believed to be the original wild form of all the modern varieties of pansy. I’m lucky enough to have them popping up at the edge of my lawn. I always make sure I miss them with the lawn mower.

Finding one or two forsythia blossoms in fall isn’t that unusual but if I saw a bush full of them I’d be concerned. This shrub had exactly one over anxious blossom on it, so it should still bloom in spring like it usually does. Forsythia was first discovered by a European growing in a Japanese garden in 1784 by the Swedish botanist Carl Thunberg.

Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) is still blooming, I was happy to see. Orange is a hard color to find among wildflowers in this part of the world.  Other than orange daylilies which really aren’t wildflowers, and orange jewelweed, I can’t think of another orange wildflower.

This New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) had a lot of red in its purple and leaned toward a rose color. My color finding software sees violet, plum, and orchid.

Though it is nearing the end of September I wasn’t surprised to see silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) blossoming. Sometimes the shrub can have ripe fruit on it and still grow a flower cluster or two in a fall re-bloom. These bushes are big; many are 10 feet across. Silky dogwood is named for the soft, downy hairs that cover the branches. Native Americans used dogwood branches to make fish traps and twisted the bark into rope.

The little lobelia called Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) blooms quite late but is almost finished for this year. Its small flowers are about 1/3 of an inch long and pale lavender to almost white. I thought I’d show a blossom on a penny so you could see just how small they are. It is the only lobelia with calyxes that inflate after the flowers have fallen and to identify it I just look for the inflated seedpods. The plant gets its name from the way its inflated seed pods resemble the smoking material pouches that Native Americans carried. The inflata part of its scientific name also comes from these inflated pods. The pods form so quickly that they can usually be found on the lower part of the stem while the upper part is still flowering.

A plant I’ve never noticed before is this nightshade, which I think is black nightshade. There is an American black nightshade (Solanum americanum) but it is native only to the southwest of the country, so I’d say this example might be the European invasive black nightshade (Solanum nigrum.) Solanum nigrum has been recorded in deposits of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic eras of ancient Britain, so it has been around for a very long time. It was used medicinally as mankind grew and learned and was even mentioned by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD.

But is this plant Solanum nigrum? It doesn’t look hairy enough to me but it does have pea size green berries that I’ve read should turn black. There is another that I’ve read about called Solanum L. section Solanum which is nearly hairless but otherwise has the same features. And then there is still another plant called eastern black nightshade (Solanum ptycanthum) but there seems to be much confusion over which plant is which. Though they have been used medicinally for thousands of years Solanum berries contain powerful alkaloids. They are considered toxic and have killed children who have eaten the unripe green berries. A few people do eat the ripe black berries but I think I’ll pass.

The swept back petals and bright yellow centers remind me of another nightshade I regularly see called bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara.) Its flowers are blue and yellow rather than white and yellow but they look much the same otherwise. If this plant reminds you of a potato plant, that’s because they’re in the same family.

According to an article on National Public Radio scientists have found that once sunflowers mature they stop following the sun and face east. When young they greet the sunrise in the east and then as the day progresses they follow it to the west until it sets. During the night time they slowly turn back to the east to again to wait for the next sunrise. They do this through a process called heliotropism, which scientists say can be explained by circadian rhythms, a 24 hour internal clock that humans also have. The plant actually turns itself by having different sides of its stem elongate at different times. Growth rates on the east side of the stem are high during the day and low at night. On the west side of the stem the growth rate is high at night and low during the day, and the differing growth rates turn the plant.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) bloomed in a field that has been mowed all summer long.  This plant stood about three inches tall but it was still blooming as if it hadn’t been touched. I love its cheery, bright blue color. Our average first frost happens in mid-September, so this might be the last photo of it this year.

White rattlesnake root (Prenanthes alba,) is a plant in the aster family that blooms as late as asters do. It is said that the common name comes from the way that some Native American tribes used the plant to treat snakebite. William Byrd of Virginia wrote in 1728 that “the rattlesnake has an utter antipathy to this plant, in-so-much that if you smear your hand with the juice of it, you may handle the viper safely.” I hope nobody actually tried that. This plant is not toxic, at least not enough to kill; the Native American Choctaw tribe used the tops of it in a tea that they used to relieve pain.

This cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) grows on the banks of the Ashuelot River and I’ve never seen them anywhere else. The small oval burs aren’t quite as sticky as burdock burs but they will catch on clothing. Cocklebur leaves require long nights to trigger production of the chemicals needed to produce flowers, so they are considered “short day” plants. Their leaves are so sensitive that any light shining on them at night can keep the plant from flowering.

Cockleburs grow male flowers along its upper half, and female flowers grow in the lower half but I’m never early enough to catch them. All I ever see are the burs.

I can’t explain these white squiggly things appearing from the cocklebur fruit. The plant is here in a flower post because I thought they might be flowers but good information on this plant is very hard to find, so I’m not sure what they are. The seeds in cocklebur pods were eaten raw or cooked by Native Americans and among certain tribes in the Southwest the seeds were ground with squash and corn and applied externally to heal puncture wounds.

Balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus) get their common names from their buds, which look like small, air filled balloons. It’s an Asian native that apparently doesn’t escape gardens, at least in this area. It is also called the Chinese bellflower and is in the campanula family. I love its blue color. This one had beautiful dark blue veins.

I liked this zinnia I found in a friend’s garden recently. These flowers are usually butterfly magnets but I didn’t see any this day.

This roadside view of asters is quite different from the first two photos in this post. It’s more pastel and subdued and has a different kind of beauty than those views I started out with, but I like them all.

The first act of awe, when man was struck with the beauty or wonder of nature, was the first spiritual experience. ~Henryk Skolimowski

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1-ne-asters

As if someone flipped a switch, all of the sudden New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) are blooming everywhere. Though they’re usually a light purple color I’m seeing more of the deep purple ones that I like so much this year. Asters are very beautiful things that provide one last ecstatic pollen gathering fling for the bees.

2-bee-on-thistle

But the bees aren’t choosy and this bull thistle blossom (Cirsium vulgare) was as good as an aster, even though the asters bloomed just a few yards away.  Last year I was in a field where light and dark colored asters grew side by side and I saw bees go for the lighter colored aster blossoms nearly every time as they all but ignored the darker blossoms. I’ve wondered since if that’s why I don’t see as many of the deep purple asters.

3-johnny-jump-up

Johnny jump ups (Viola tricolor) have bloomed quietly all summer; so unobtrusive but always able to coax a smile and warm a heart. Maybe that’s why they’re also called heart’s ease. Long used medicinally in Europe, here it is a welcomed alien. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare wrote that the juice of this plant placed on the eyelids of a sleeping person would cause that person to “dote upon the next live creature that they see.” In that play it was also called “love-in-idleness.”

4-yarrow

Johnny jump ups might have some historical baggage but humans have used common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in various ways for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Chinese I Ching, which is said to pre date recorded history, and yarrow has also been found in an excavation of a Neanderthal grave site. Yarrow was known as the soldier’s woundwort and herbe militaris for centuries, and was used to stop the flow of blood. It was a valuable healing herb, one of the nine “holy herbs,” and was traded throughout the world since before recorded time, and that is believed to be the reason for the plant being found in nearly every country on earth today. Native Americans used it for everything from snake bites to deodorant.

5-yarrow

According to one source each tiny yarrow blossom is supposed to have 5 ray floret “petaloids” but I can count more than that on some of these so I checked another source, which said 3 to 8. That seems more like it. 15 to 40 off white or pale yellow disc florets fill the center.

6-beech-drops

Beech drops (Epifagus americana) grow in deep shade and can be hard to photograph. This isn’t a good shot but it does show the plant’s growth habit and lack of leaves, which is what I’d like you to see. Beech drops grow near beech trees and are a parasite that fasten onto the roots of the tree using root like structures. They take all of their nutrients from the tree so they don’t need leaves, chlorophyll or sunlight. Beech drops are annuals that die off in cold weather, but they can often be found growing in the same place each year.

7-beech-drop-roots

The root like structures on beech drops, called haustoria, can penetrate a beech root. Once inserted the plant takes nutrients from the tree.

8-beech-drop-blossom

Tiny pinkish purple flowers with a darker purplish  or reddish stripe are the only things found on a beech drop’s leafless stems. On the lower part of the stem are flowers that never have to open because they self-fertilize. They are known as cleistogamous flowers. On the upper part of the stem are tubular chasmogamous flowers, which open and are pollinated by insects and are shown in the above photo. This example had what looks like a yellow pistil poking out of it; the first time I’ve seen this. Science doesn’t know much about which insects pollinate this plant.

9-beech-drop-blossom

Beech drop blossoms are quite small and hard to get a good photo of because they grow in such deep shade. No plant can live in complete darkness though, so they usually have a sunbeam or two that finds them at some point each day. You just have to be lucky enough to find the plant and sunbeam at the same time. It’s not as hard as it sounds if you’re willing to wander a bit.

10-balloon-flower

Balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus) get their common names from their buds, which look like small, air filled balloons. It’s an Asian native that apparently doesn’t escape gardens, at least in this area. It is also called the Chinese bellflower and is in the campanula family. I love its blue color. This one had beautiful blue veins.

11-goldenrod

I thought this was hairy goldenrod (Solidago hispida) but its stems and leaves aren’t hairy. Instead the leaves have a downy coating, so I think it must be downy goldenrod (Solidago puberula.) Both plants reach about a foot and a half tall on a good day, but some books say they will reach 3 feet. The narrow, stalked flower heads (panicles) grow on plants that live at the edges of forests in dry sandy soil.

12-goldenrod

Though still small the bright yellow 1/4 inch flowers of downy goldenrod seem big when compared to other goldenrod flowers. 9-16 ray petals surround the central disc. Native Americans used goldenrod for treating colds and toothaches and it has been used for centuries in to treat kidney stones and urinary tract infections. In colonial times goldenrod growing naturally by the cottage door meant good fortune.

13-hedge-bindweed

This isn’t much of a photo of a bindweed blossom but I wanted you to see it because of the tiny black dot just to the right of center. It’s a deer tick. Adult ticks will climb onto grasses, plants, and shrubs and perch there sometimes for months waiting for an animal or human to come by. We have two kinds of common ticks in New Hampshire; deer ticks and American dog ticks. Adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed and dog ticks are about the size of a watermelon seed. Ticks carry many diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If you spend most of your waking hours outside as I do, ticks are impossible to avoid and I’ve been bitten several times. I’m very thankful that I’m still healthy.

14-pale-sunflower

Friends of mine grew sunflowers from seed and they all looked like sunflowers except this small pale one, which decided it wanted to be a dahlia.

15-red-clover

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is originally from Europe and was brought to this country by English colonials, who used it medicinally and agriculturally. It is a very beautiful thing that glows with its own inner light, and I have to stop and admire it every now and then. Had I been an early settler I surely would have had a few of its seeds in my pocket.

Silently a flower blooms,
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place,
The world of the flower, the whole of the world is blooming.
This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom:
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.
~ Zenkei Shibayama

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1. Bumblebee on Cone Flower

This bumblebee was so taken with this purple coneflower that I don’t think he even knew that I was there.

 2. Great Spangled Fritillary

If I understand what I’ve read correctly I think that this is a great spangled fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele.) It was about as big as a monarch butterfly but of course the best way to identify one is by the markings on the underside of the hind wing, which I didn’t get a photo of. In any case it was a beautiful sight perched as it was on a swamp milkweed flower head.

 3. Milkweed Aphids

I recently found this milkweed plant covered with aphids.  Not surprisingly, they are called milkweed aphids (Aphis nerii) and are tiny, bright yellow insects with black legs that pierce plant tissue and suck the juices out of plants. An aphid colony can produce large amounts of honeydew which attracts sooty mold and that is the black color. Aphids stunt plant growth and if not controlled will eventually kill the plant. These aphids are also called oleander aphids and in places like Florida can often be found on that shrub.

4. Sumac Gall

Growths like these on the undersides of staghorn sumac leaves (Rhus typhina) look like potatoes but they are red pouch galls caused by the sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois.) A female aphid lays eggs on the underside of a leaf and plant tissue swells around them to form a gall which turns red as it ages. The eggs overwinter and mature inside the hollow gall until spring, when they leave the gall and begin feeding on the plant. Scientists have paleobotanical evidence that this aphid has had a relationship with its sumac hosts for at least 48 million years.

5. Blackberry Seed Gall

Blackberry seed gall is caused by the blackberry seed gall wasp (Diastrophus cuscutaeformis.) These very small, round, hollow galls look like seeds and form in clusters around blackberry stems. Each tiny gall has a stiff, hair like spine and together they form a hairy mass like that in the photo. It feels very much like a baby bottle brush. These masses are usually described as being reddish brown in color so I’m not sure why this one was yellow green. Maybe they start out life that color and change to brown as they age.

6. Great Blue Heron

After a noticeable absence of herons and cormorants through spring and early summer I finally spotted this great blue heron far on the other side of a pond and was able to get a soft edged photo of him. He spent a lot of time preening his chest feathers so I wondered if he was drying off after a fishing session.

 7. False Solomon;s Seal Berries

The terminal blossom clusters of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) become berries that start out beige-green and slowly become speckled with reddish brown before turning completely red. This plant is also called treacle berry because the berries are supposed to taste like treacle, which we call molasses here in the U.S. Some say that they taste sweet and syrupy like maple syrup and others say that they taste terrible. If you’re thinking that you’d like to try them be certain that the plant is false Solomon’s seal. Never eat any part of a plant that you’re not sure of.

8. Blue Bead Lily Fruit

Blue isn’t a color that you see very often in nature so I’m always happy to find the deep blue fruit of the blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis.) The seeds in these berries can take two years to germinate and adult plants can take twelve years to finally show their yellow, lily like blossoms. This plant is also called “cow tongue” because of the shape of its leaves. Native Americans used the leaves medicinally.

9. Balloon Flower Stigma

I didn’t think anything could match the blue of blue bead lily fruit but then I saw this balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus.) I like the little starfish like stigma, which was very hard to get a sharp photo of for some reason.

 10. Eastern Red Spotted Newt

Eastern red spotted newt s (Notophthalmus viridescens) are cute little things about four or five inches in length. This one watched me taking photos of a slime mold for a while before running off. They spend the first part of their life as aquatic larva before crawling onto land to begin their red eft stage as a terrestrial juvenile. After two or three years on land they develop gills as adults and return to aquatic life. The bright color tells potential predators to beware of their toxicity.

11. Bracken Ferns and Deer Tongue Grass

Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) and deer tongue grass (Dichanthelium clandestinum) are taking on their fall colors. The rosy brown of bracken fern and light, yellow green of deer tongue grass are a combination that is pleasing to the eye.

12. Honysuckle Leaves

For all who think that plants don’t have their own inner light; behold these honeysuckle leaves.

13. Rhododendron Maxima Flower

A single flower of our native Rhododendron maximum looks like it has 5 petals when it’s on the plant but it is actually one, 5 lobed petal. The yellowish green spots are at the top of the blossom so this one is pictured upside down. I tried rotating the photo 180 degrees but then it looked the blossom was about to slide off the page.

 14. Calico Pennant Dragonfly

I watched the wind blow this male calico pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) back and forth like a flag as it hung onto the end of a twig, but the “pennant” part of the name didn’t click until later on when I was reading Mike Powell’s blog. A pennant was exactly what it behaved like so the name makes perfect sense. If you like dragonflies you should visit Mike’s blog. He gets far more photos of them than I do.

15. Cracked Earth

A stream had backed up into a low depression and formed a small pond. All of its silt then settled onto the forest floor in a thick layer, which then cracked as it dried. The silt deposit was thick enough so not a single twig, stone or stem came through it, and was so flat that I could have swept it. You don’t expect to find such a desert like landscape in the middle of a New Hampshire forest, so it was an amazing thing to see.

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. ~Henry Miller

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I think it is time once more for a walk through some local gardens to see what’s blooming. It is still very dry here so I’ve seen a lot of wilting, but most plants seem to be holding on. I liked the pattern on this cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum ) bud that I saw in a local park. It looked almost reptilian, I thought. Cup plants are tall native perennials that can reach 8 feet. It’s called cup plant because its leaf pairs-one on each side of the square stem-are fused together and form a cup around the stem. This cup usually has water in it. Fused leaves of the cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum. ) These leaves join around a perfectly square, hollow stem.

 Cup plant flower. This plant produces resins that smell like turpentine. It was used medicinally by Native Americans.Liatris (Liatris spicata) is a native plant that I grow in my garden. When found in the wild it is often called blazing star or marsh blazing star. In my garden it is in a spot that gets hot afternoon sun and is quite dry, so I’m not sure how well it would function in a marsh. In any case, no matter what it is called, it’s a beauty.The deep magenta color of this rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) was amazing, and seemed much darker in person than it does in this photo. This plant was recorded in English gardens in the 1500s and when the English crossed the sea, so did this flower. Other common names for this old fashioned favorite include Bloody Mary, Bloody William, Dusty Miller, and Mullein Pinks. I saw this plant growing at a local farm supply store as I was driving by. Its silvery foliage really makes it stand out from other plants.Outside of the garden Centaurea (Centaurea) is known as knapweed and is detested for its invasive habit. Inside the garden it is prized for its unusual flowers and is often called perennial bachelor’s button, cornflower or star thistle. It comes in a large variety of colors including deep blues, lemon yellows, pinks, maroons, and purples.  Some are native but most originated in Europe. This is a large family of plants that contains over 300 species. This plant gets the name Centaurea from Chiron of Greek mythology, who was a half man- half horse centaur. Chiron is credited with teaching Achilles about the healing properties of herbs.It is hard to match the blue of the Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) in the garden. Since it is in the same family as bluebells and lobelia its beautiful color shouldn’t come as any surprise. This plant gets its common name from the way the flower buds resemble a hot air balloon before they open. Nobody seems to be able to explain exactly why the plant’s buds swell like they do, but children are fascinated by the process. This plant is all about the number 5; 5 petals, 5 stamens, and 5 stigma lobes-5 of everything. Until, that is, plant breeders got ahold of it and created a double flower, which has 10 petals and which appears in the above photo. I believe the variety is “Astra Double Blue.”All of the petals are fused together in a Balloon flower bud until they open. Balloon flower is another easy to grow perennial. I planted one many years ago and haven’t touched it since. Balloon flowers also come in purple, pink, and white.This peach colored daylily (Hemerocallis) is a welcome sight in my garden each summer. I grow several varieties of early, midseason and late daylilies so there seems to always be at least one daylily in bloom no matter what month it is. Growing globe thistle (Echinops) is another excellent way to introduce blue into the garden.  This plant will bloom for weeks and also makes an excellent cut flower. It likes full sun and doesn’t mind dry soil. Cooler night time temperatures bring out a deeper blue in the flowers. Globe thistle will readily self-seed so the spent blossoms should be cut off if more than one plant isn’t wanted.  I think their shape as well as their color adds interest to a garden. What would a perennial garden be without tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)? This pink one is one of several that I grow.  I have it planted under windows so its fragrance can drift into the house. Phlox is another flower of fives and has 5 fused petals, 5 sepals and 5 stamens.  It is native to the Americas and in Peru one species is known as the sacred flower of the Incas. The word “phlox” comes from the ancient Greeks and means flame. So far this season I’ve shown white, pink and yellow yarrow (Achillea millefolium,) so here is a purple one to go with them. At least, I think it is purple-it could be a deep pink. Now if only I could find a red one to show you. In Greek mythology Achilles was taught the medicinal properties of Yarrow by the centaur Chiron. (See centaurea plant above) Once he had this knowledge Achilles was able to heal his wounded soldiers, but why this plant was named for him and not Chiron is anyone’s guess.  Yarrow is a very pungent herb and if cows eat it their milk and anything made from it, such as butter or cheese, will taste like the plant. 

Black and brown eyed Susans are rudbeckias. Here is another rudbeckia, and it’s called “Autumn sun.” There is a new, cherry red rudbeckia with a brown center that I’m kind of anxious to see. It’s called “cherry brandy” and I keep hoping I’ll see it in one of the various parks that I visit but so far, I haven’t seen it. Rudbeckias are an excellent choice for the garden because they bloom in hot, dry weather when many other plants aren’t blooming.Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)  is also called yellow buttons, because that’s just what these flowers look like. Knowledge of this plant goes back a very long time; the ancient Greeks cultivated it and it has a long history of being used as an insect repellant. Recent research shows that tansy repels ticks, moths, and other insects.  This plant has also been used in the past for embalming -probably due to its strong, pungent odor more than for any other reason. Tansy was introduced from Europe and though it has escaped gardens it isn’t often seen in the wild.0 This is one view of a local park I often visit. Though there are mostly balloon flowers blooming right now you can see some yellow helianthus and white Queen Anne’s lace.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts ~ Rachel Carson

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