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Posts Tagged ‘Bittersweet Nightshade’

1. Phantom Crane Fly

The phantom crane fly (Bittacomorpha occidentalis) is a beautiful thing and gets its common name from the way it appears and disappears as it floats through light and shadows. They can float on breezes and air currents with minimal use of their wings because each lower leg is hollow, inflated, and sac like.

2. Blue Bottle Fly

I’ve always liked blue and yellow together and this blue bottle fly and yellow milkweed aphids were eye catching.

3. Leaf Hopper

I think this is some kind of leaf hopper. He was very triangular.

NOTE: Amelia at the A French Garden blog has identified this creature as a tree hopper called Stictocephala bisonia. It can cause a world of problems for grape growers, as Amelia can attest. If you’d like to read her blog post about it, just click here. Thanks Amelia!

4. Dog Lichen

Usually when you find dog lichens, in this case membranous dog lichen (Peltigera membranacea,) they are growing with moss. That’s because lichens like plenty of moisture and mosses soak it up like a sponge and release it slowly back to the surrounding vegetation. You can tell that the one in the photo has had plenty of moisture by its color. They turn a light ashy gray when dry. I like its frosted edges.

5. Greater Whipwort Liverwort aka Bazzania trilobata

I never noticed this liverwort, called greater whipwort (Bazzania trilobata,) until last year but now I’m seeing it everywhere I go. It likes to grow in large colonies on damp stones usually near streams, and is very small and easily mistaken for a moss when you’ve never seen it. Each “leaf” is only about 1/8 inch wide and ends in 3 lobes or notches. That’s how it comes by the trilobata part of its scientific name. It’s another one of those beautiful things found in nature that often go unnoticed.

 6. Poke Berries

And speaking of beautiful things that go unnoticed; I love seeing the little purple “flowers” on the back of pokeweed berries (Phytolacca americana.) They are actually the flowers’ five lobed calyx, but mimic the flower perfectly. People do eat its new shoots in the spring but all parts of this plant are considered toxic, so it’s wise to know exactly what you’re doing if you choose to try it. Native Americans used the plant medicinally and also used the red juice from its berries to decorate their horses.

7. Bittersweet Nightshade Berries

Ripe bittersweet nightshade berries (Solanum dulcamara) dangle like tiny Roma tomatoes, but eating them wouldn’t be good because they are very toxic. The plant can be especially dangerous around small children, who might be attracted to the bright red berries. Native to northern native to Africa, Europe and Asia, it has spread throughout much of the world thanks to migrating birds that are immune to its poisons.

8. Cabbage

I liked the netting on this savoy cabbage that I saw in a friend’s garden.

9. Wild Cucumber Fruit

A different kind of netting is found on wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata,) and once the seed pods dry the netting found inside them is even more interesting. A man wrote to me once and told me that he decorated pens that he makes with that same netting. For me these plants are like a time machine that always takes me back to my boyhood, when we used to throw the soft spined fruits at each other.

10. Wild Grapes

Wild grapes are showing signs of ripening. The ones pictured also show a good example of bloom, the powdery, waxy white coating found on grapes and other soft fruits like plums and blueberries which protects them from moisture loss and decay.

11. Black Raspberry

Many other plants like the first year black raspberry cane (Rubus occidentalis) pictured here use the same waxy white bloom as a form of protection. On plants like black raspberries, blue stemmed goldenrod, and smoky eye boulder lichens the bloom can appear to be very blue in the right kind of light. Finding such a beautiful color in nature is always an unexpected pleasure.

12. Silky Dogwood Berries

Silky dogwood berries (Cornus amomum) start out white and then turn blue. Somewhere in between they look like Chinese porcelain. In fact, I’ve wondered if the idea for their blue and white decorated porcelain didn’t originally come from these berries. Ideas always come from somewhere, and nature would be the most obvious source of inspiration.

13. Spinulose Woodfern Shadow

No plant can live without light and nature always provides enough, even if that means being spotlighted by a sunbeam for only an hour each day like this spinulose wood fern (Dryopteris carthusiana.)

14. Long Leaf Pondweed

I first became attracted to long-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus) earlier this summer when I paddled my kayak through a large colony of it. They are unlike many of our more common aquatics and I like the leaf shape and the way they float on the water. The floating leaves are only half the story though, because the plant also has quite a crop of submerged leave floating just under the surface. The submerged leaves have the longest leaf stem (petiole) of any pond weed. It can reach 5 or more inches in length.

15. Maple Leaf Viburnum 3

In my opinion one of the most beautiful things in the forest at this time of year is the maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium.) Its leaves go through several color changes and In addition to the deep maroon seen in the photo they can become red, yellow, orange, deep pink, and often a combination of two or three colors at once. Finally, just before they fall, they turn a pastel pink so light it is almost white.

He who has experienced the mystery of nature is full of life, full of love, full of joy. Radiance emanates from the whole existence itself; it does not know the meaning of holding back. ~ Maitreya Rudrabhayananda

Thanks for coming by.

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I hate to say it but the days of back to back posts with each containing 12-15 previously unseen wildflowers might be coming to an end. Drought and the usual late summer doldrums mean that there aren’t many flowers blooming right now, either in or out of the garden.  Not to worry though, because there are a lot of exciting things happening in the woods and I still have plenty of fascinating things to show you, even though there may not be petals involved.Our native white turtleheads (Chelone glabra) are flowering much earlier than the pink one in my garden. As you can see in the photo, some hungry insect had eaten all of the leaves off this plant but hadn’t touched the flowers. These plants like sunshine and constantly moist soil. I found this one growing about 50 feet from a pond in wet soil.Someone thought the flowers of Chelone glabra looked like turtle heads but I’m not really seeing it. I have to admit though, that I don’t see many turtles. In any case they don’t look like any other flower that blooms at this time and are very easy to identify. Bumblebees pollinate these flowers. They are an excellent choice for a woodland garden because deer and other herbivores don’t usually eat the bitter foliage. The bright colors on this blister beetle (Coleoptera) warn potential predators of its poisonous nature. The bug secretes a poisonous substance called cantharidin that, it is said, can blister skin. This one was happily munching on this red clover (Trifolium pretense) blossom. I wasn’t in ready to find out if it really could blister skin so I left it alone.I’ve been trying to rid my gardens of obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) for several years and, though there are no large colonies of it left, small groups of two or three plants will still appear. I was about to pull these when I noticed these two Goldenrod Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) being friendly on a blossom.  I decided to leave the plants alone even though they are among the most invasive native plants that I have seen. Obedient plants get their common name from the way the flowers  stay where they are moved-they are “obedient.” I like the flowers, but don’t like having to weed the plants out of just about everywhere.The beetles weren’t happy with my watching them so they crawled into a blossom to be alone. I took that as my cue to leave.The flower spikes are so packed with blossoms that you don’t often get to see a single Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) flower. They are beautiful flowers but unfortunately this is another extremely invasive plant from Europe. I’ve seen stream banks recently that originally lost their native plant populations to Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) several years ago. Now, purple loosestrife has choked out even the knotweed, and huge swaths of it follow long stretches of stream banks. Though these scenes can be breathtakingly beautiful, there are generations of people who will have never seen a native stream bank.A few posts ago I showed photos of garden tall phlox plants with yellowing leaves which were suffering from drought. I noticed that our native Purple phlox weren’t having the same problems. In fact, they’re looking very healthy because they are tougher plants. There are so many varieties of phlox that it’s easy to get confused. Even Native Americans used over 40 species of the plan! I believe the one shown here is Phlox paniculata, which is native to the eastern U.S.Silverrod (Solidago bicolor) is sometimes called white goldenrod but at a glance the only thing it seems to have in common with goldenrod is its leaves. The way the flowers are scattered along the stem doesn’t resemble any goldenrod that I know of but the single blossoms do look like those of yellow goldenrods. The plant pictured grows beside my driveway under an old hemlock tree. If you look at the flower clusters of goldenrod (Solidago) closely you can see the often bypassed beauty of each individual blossom.Bittersweet nightshadei (Solanum dulcamara) is in all stages of growth; flowering, setting seed, and some plants already have ripe, bright red berries that resemble tiny tomatoes. This plant was just forming one green fruit. All parts of this plant are toxic and the berries are known to kill humans.Small white flowered asters (Aster vimineus) are named well. They are very small-smaller in diameter than a pencil eraser, but each flower cluster has enough white blossoms to stand apart from the darker forest growth that always seems to be behind them. One thing that always surprises me about asters is how some of them look as if a small child had glued the petals (rays) on to the center disk. They can appear very irregular and asymmetrically placed.

To identify this one look for the smallest white aster blossom you can find and take note of how most of the numerous flowers and flower buds seem to align themselves to one side of the purplish stem.  Also, the upper leaves on the branches will be smaller than those lower down on the main stem. These plants can reach 5 feet and branch heavily over the top one third of their height. They like soil on the dry side. Wild senna (Cassia hebecarpa) is a native plant that is rarely seen in the wild here in the Northeast and is listed as threatened or endangered. They say this is primarily due to loss of habitat. The leaves and seed pods of wild senna contain compounds called anthraquinones, which are powerful laxatives, so deer leave it alone. I have this plant in my yard to attract butterflies and bees and also because I like the yellow flowers with their hairy pistils and dark brown anthers. Almost all of the other water lilies in this pond had flowers that sat right on the water, but this one was apparently an over achiever. Or a different species than all of the others in the pond.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.  ~
Henri Matisse

Thanks again for visiting.  Be sure to tune in next time for a post full of color, but without a single flower in it.

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The plants in this post, with one exception, are found in meadows, along roadsides, and in areas that don’t see much use. For the most part these are the summer flowers with high visibility, so searching for them like you would a bog orchid isn’t really necessary.I love the sky blue color of chicory (Cichorium intybus.) Originally from Europe, chicory has escaped and can now be found in sunny meadows and along roadsides here in New Hampshire.  I found a large colony of plants growing on a local riverbank. It is said that chicory flowers open and close at the same time each day, but I’ve never witnessed this. Roasted and ground chicory root has long been used as a coffee substitute and the bitter tasting young leaves are called endive, escarole or radicchio.I found a large stand of spreading dogbane (apocynum androsaemifolium ) plants in a forest clearing that had ants all over them.  The plant is supposed to be poisonous to dogs, but I’m not sure how anyone really knows for sure if it is or isn’t.  Anyhow, the Apocynum part of the scientific name means “away dog,” and for some reason I find this hilarious. This plant is a relative of milkweed with pinkish, bell shaped flowers that smell almost like lilac. The insides of the flowers have pink stripes. I haven’t been able to find out why ants like the plant so much, but I did find out why one of its common names is flytrap; small insects that come for its nectar but are not the right size to pollinate the flowers can get trapped by their tongues in the flowers and are left dangling there.  This native plant is considered toxic. Years ago I worked as a gardener for a lady who had an older widower as a neighbor. One day the widower asked me to stop by his house for a minute when I was through. I stopped in to see him as he asked and he told me if I could identify the hedge in his front yard he would hire me to be his gardener right then and there. To make a long story short I told him that his hedge was Purple flowering raspberry and I ended up working for him until he died.  Purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is in the rose family and might be mistaken for a rose if it wasn’t for its large, maple-like leaves. The native shrub will reach 3-6 feet tall and twice as wide under the right conditions.  I found the one pictured growing near a culvert on the side of the road. I don’t know who the visitor was. In one post a while back I showed a photo of maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) and said that they were almost identical to the Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) shown in this photo. One difference between the two plants is petal width; Deptford pink petals are much narrower than those of the maiden pinks and this gives the flower an overall smaller look. Maiden pinks also have a much darker circle in the center of each flower. As the photo shows, the circle on Deptford pink petals is barely noticeable. Both plants were imported from Europe and have escaped gardens. They can now be seen along roadsides and in sunny meadows. Deptford pinks can be found in the wild in all but 3 states. They are more common than maiden pinks. This is a photo of the beautiful showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense.) This plant is uncommon here and I was surprised to find a large colony of them growing in gravel at the local landfill. This plant is in the pea family and its leaves grow in threes. Tick trefoils are called that because the seeds cling to clothing and animal fur in the same way ticks do. These plants were about 4 feet tall and the flower spikes were densely packed with flowers as the photo shows. Often the flowers are scattered here and there along the stem.  The flowers in the background are St. Johnswort. This flower could be that of a Large Bract Tick Trefoil (Desmodium cuspidatum ) and if that is the case then this is the first time it has been seen in New Hampshire since 1906. The problem is I have no way of knowing for sure. When I took photos of it I wasn’t sure what it was and once I thought I had identified it I went back to where it grew and couldn’t find it among all the other plants because it was no longer blooming. It is believed that this plant needs areas that have been burned by fire to colonize and because forest fires are put out quickly now in New England, the plant is becoming increasingly rare and even extinct in many states.  There were only 20 known occurrences in 1966 in all of New England. The only other plant this could be is the hoary tick trefoil (Desmodium canescens.) Unfortunately I’ll have to wait a year to find out. If anyone thinks they can identify this plant from pictures I’d like to talk to you.This plant is far more common. Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) is a climbing vine in the potato family that can grow to 10 feet long and can be seen growing on trees and shrubs. One of the more noticeable things about this plant is its unusual odor when it is bruised-it really stinks. It is from Europe and Asia and is considered an invasive weed. The flowers will become berries that are bright red in the fall. All parts of this plant are considered toxic. Other names for bittersweet nightshade are bittersweet, bitter nightshade, blue bindweed, blue nightshade, climbing nightshade, dwale, dulcamara, European bittersweet, fellenwort, fevertwig, morel, nightshade, poisonberry, poisonflower, pushion-berry, scarlet berry, skawcoo, snakeberry, tether-devil, violet-bloom, wolfgrape, and woody nightshade.It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) until you can really see each individual flower. Flowers are usually pink, but they can be purple, creamy, or yellowish, and will often have different colored flowers on each plant as the photo shows. These beautiful, fragrant plants are underrated because they are very important to a huge number of insects, including monarch butterflies. When I was a boy I learned a lot about spiders by sitting in a field of milkweed. Common milkweed has seedpods that are pricklier than other milkweeds.St, Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) has finally started blooming here. It seems like it is late this year, but with many other plants blooming weeks early it’s hard to tell. For years this plant has been touted as a miracle cure for everything from stopping smoking to depression. According to the Mayo clinic “Overall, the scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of St. Johnswort in mild-to-moderate major depression. The evidence in severe major depression remains unclear.” St. Johnswort was introduced from Europe in the 1700s and is now considered an invasive weed. The 5 yellowish orange flower petals have small black dots along their margins which, along with visible translucent glands on the leaves make St. Johnswort very easy to identify.  The plant is toxic to livestock.St. Johnswort leaves have small translucent glands that make them appear pierced when held up to the light. They can be clearly seen in this photo.I wasn’t sure if I was going to see any orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) this year, but it finally appeared along the roads recently. Orange hawkweed was introduced from Europe as a garden ornamental and, as the old familiar story goes, has escaped and is now considered a noxious weed. Hawkweed plants can produce between 10 and 30 flowering stems and can have 5 to 30 flower heads per stem. A single flower head can produce between 12 and 50 tiny black seeds, so when you do the math it is obvious that these plants are here to stay. They are much harder to control than dandelions. Though it’s easy to find many reasons to hate such a plant, we don’t have many orange wildflowers in this part of the country and I enjoy seeing it.In my last post I talked about finding white sweet clover (Melilotus alba) in a sunny, wet meadow. I found Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis) growing in a hot, dry, gravelly area that really didn’t look like it could support much plant life, but yellow sweet clover was thriving there, so it has different requirements than its white relative. This plant smells very sweet and needs full sun to be happy. It was imported from Europe and Asia for agricultural purposes and has become a major source of nectar for honey bees.Yellow Sweet Clover, at 2-7 feet tall and often 3 feet or more wide, can easily be mistaken for a shrub.There is a bridge over a local stream where you can stand and look down at an island that is fairly large and is covered with interesting looking plants. This island has always been a bit of a tease because I had no way to get onto it. Until this year that is-we haven’t had any significant rainfall for a while now and the water level of the stream has dropped enough so I could walk out to the island on a narrow slice of almost dry ground.  And there I found these Canada lilies (Lilium canadense) growing.  These beautiful flowers grow on plants that are about 3-4 feet tall. The flowers can be yellow, orange, or red. Canada lilies (Lilium canadense) have purple spotted throats that aren’t always seen because the flowers almost always face downwards. This plant is unusual because it prefers wet places. Most lilies, and in fact most plants that grow from bulbs, do not like soil that stays wet. They prefer sandy, well-drained soil.

You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind ~ Henry David Thoreau

As always, I appreciate you stopping in.

 

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