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Posts Tagged ‘Blue Toadflax’

If our native blue flag irises (Iris versicolor) are blossoming it must be June. The name flag comes from the Middle English flagge, which means rush or reed and which I assume applies to the plant’s cattail like leaves. Though Native Americans used this plant medicinally its roots are considered dangerously toxic and people who dig cattail roots to eat have to be very careful that there are no irises growing among them. Natives showed early settlers how to use small amounts of the dried root safely as a cathartic and diuretic.

Another flower that will always say June to me is the Ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare.) I was married in June and because we couldn’t afford flowers from the florist we picked hundreds of Ox eye daisies. They wilted quickly and looked much better in the meadow than in a vase, and I don’t think I’ve ever picked one since. This is a much loved flower so it is easy to forget that it was originally introduced from Europe as an ornamental in the 1800s. It quickly escaped cultivation and has now spread to each of the lower 48 states and most of Canada. Since cattle won’t eat it, it can spread at will through pastures and that means that it is not well loved by ranchers. A vigorous daisy can produce 26,000 seeds per plant and tests have shown that 82% of the buried seeds remained viable after six years underground. I always like to see their spiraled centers.

Here in this part of the state we see more mountain ash trees (Sorbus americana) in gardens than we do in nature but they are out there and they’re easiest to find when they’re in full bloom like this one was. The white blossoms, showy orange berries and small size are what have made this tree a good choice for parks and gardens since 1811. Mountain ash bark was once used in a medicine to combat malaria because it resembles the quinine tree. Whether or not it worked I don’t know. Native Americans dried and ground the berries of the tree for use in soups and stews. There is a European cousin of this tree called rowan (Sorbus aucuparia.)

Now that the common lilacs are done blooming the dwarf Korean lilacs (Syringa meyeri) take over. They are fragrant but have a different scent than a common lilac. Though called Korean lilac the original plant was found in a garden near Beijing, China by Frank Meyer in 1909. It has never been seen in the wild so its origin is unknown. If you love lilacs but don’t have a lot of room this one’s for you. They are a no maintenance plant that are very easy to grow.

Lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea) flowers are very small but there are enough of them so the plant can’t be missed. They light up the edges of fields and pastures, and along pathways. The stems of this plant live through the winter so it gets a jump on the season, often blooming in May. It is a native of Europe and is also called chickweed, but there are over 50 different chickweeds. The 5 petals of the lesser stitchwort flower are split deeply enough to look like 10 petals. This is one way to tell it from greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea,) which has its 5 petals split only half way down their length. The flowers of greater stitchwort are also larger.

Robin’s plantain (Erigeron pulchellus) is the earliest of the fleabanes to bloom in this area. Its inch and a half diameter flowers are larger than many fleabane blossoms and its foot high stalks are shorter. One way to identify this plant is by its basal rosette of very hairy, oval leaves. The stem and stem leaves (cauline) are also hairy. The flowers can be white to pink to lavender and are made up of ray florets surrounding yellow disk florets in the center. These plants almost always grow in large colonies and often come up in lawns. You can always tell where the flower lovers among us live because at this time of year you can see many neatly mown lawns with islands of unmown, blossoming fleabanes.

Wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) have just started blooming. Other common names include alum root, old maid’s nightcap and shameface. In Europe it is called cranesbill because the seed pod resembles a crane’s bill. The Native American Mesquakie tribe brewed a root tea for toothache from wild geranium, but I’m not sure if it’s toxic. Much Native knowledge was lost and we can’t always use plants as they did. Somehow they knew how to remove, weaken or withstand the toxicity of many plants that we now find too toxic for our use.

Little native blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) is one of our longest blooming wildflowers. This plant seems to like sunny, dry, sandy waste areas or roadsides because that’s where I always find it growing. It’s always worth getting down on my hands and knees to admire its tiny but beautiful blue / purple flowers. Toadflax flowers have an upper lip that is divided into 2 rounded lobes, and a lower lip which is divided into 3 lobes that are rounded and spreading. Blue toadflax was introduced in Europe and has naturalized in some areas, including Russia. It is in the snapdragon (Scrophulariaceae) family. Toadflax boiled in milk is said to make an excellent fly poison but I’ve never tried it.

Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) was imported for cultivation from Japan in 1830 and is now one of the most invasive shrubs we have. It’s a plant that’s hard to hate though, because its berries are delicious and their content of lycopene is 7 to 17 times higher than tomatoes. Also, the pale yellow flowers are extremely fragrant just when lilacs finish blooming. It is a very vigorous shrub that is hard to eradicate; birds love its berries and spread it far and wide. Its sale is prohibited in New Hampshire but that will do little good now that it grows along forest edges almost everywhere you look. Autumn olive was originally introduced for landscaping, road bank stabilization and wildlife food.

When I was just a young boy living with my father I decided that our yard needed a facelift. We had a beautiful cabbage rose hedge and a white lilac, and a Lorelai bearded iris that my mother planted before she died but I wanted more. I used to walk the Boston and Main railroad tracks to get to my grandmother’s house and I’d see these beautiful blue flowers growing along the tracks, so one day I dug one up and planted it in the yard. My father was quiet until I had planted 3 or 4 of them, and then he finally asked me why I was bringing home those “dammed old weeds.” He also walked the tracks to get to work and back, so he saw the tradescantia (Tradescantia virginiana) plants just as often as I did. Though I thought they were lost and needed to be rescued, he thought somebody threw them away and wished they’d have thrown them just a little farther. We had blue flowers in the yard for a while though, and today every time I see this plant I think of my father.

Plant breeders have been working on tradescantia; I find this purple flowered one in a local park. Interesting but I like the blue that I grew up with best. Bees, especially bumblebees, seem to like this one best though. Why, I don’t know.

We have several invasive shrubby honeysuckle species here in New Hampshire and I’ve given up trying to identify them all. They were originally introduced in the late 1800s as ornamentals but escaped gardens and can now be seen just about anywhere. Most or all are banned from being sold but birds love their bright red berries and that makes the shrubs impossible to ever eradicate.

I think this particular honeysuckle might have been Bell’s honeysuckle (Lonicera x bella,) which is a hybrid between Morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) and tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tartarica.) It has white or pink flowers that turn yellow as they age and are very fragrant.

Friends of mine grow alliums in their garden and every time I see them I wonder why I never grew them. It wasn’t just me though; nobody I gardened for grew them either. It’s another one of those plants like hellebore that people didn’t seem to want, but I like them both.

Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum) has leaves that grow in a whorl, which you can see in this photo. This is a low growing summer wildflower with 4 petaled white flowers that seems to prefer the shade at the edges of forests. It makes an excellent old fashioned groundcover which, if given plenty of water, will spread quickly. The odoratum part of the scientific name comes from the pleasant, very strong fragrance of its dried leaves. The dried leaves are often used in potpourris because the fragrance lasts for years. It is also called sweet scented bedstraw and is a native of Europe.

Our meadows and roadsides are just coming into bloom and the maiden pink (Dianthus deltoids) in the above photo was found at the edge of a meadow. It might look like its cousin the Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria,) but that flower doesn’t have the jagged red ring around its center like this one does and it blooms later, usually in July. Maiden pinks are originally from Europe and have escaped cultivation but aren’t terribly invasive. They seem to prefer the edges of open lawns and meadows. Their colors can vary from almost white to deep magenta. This pink one was somewhere in the middle. I was happy to see some growing in my lawn when I mowed it earlier, so I’ll mow around them.

After trying to photograph speedwell flowers that are one step above microscopic I found that the germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) seemed gigantic in comparison because of its 3/16 to 1/4 inch flowers. It’s also called bird’s eye speedwell and is another plant introduced from Europe and Asia. It has the strange habit of wilting almost as soon as it is picked, so it isn’t any good for floral arrangements. Like all the speedwells I’ve seen it has one lower petal smaller than the other three. Speedwell is very common in lawns but I don’t see too much of this one.

Speedwell, as far as I know, has always been considered a weed here in New Hampshire but here were these nice little compact, mounded plants growing in the planting beds at a local park. They were very pretty little things with their blue striped flowers against the dark green leaves but I have to wonder if they’re weedy. I’ve tried to find out more about them online but didn’t have any luck at all. They look very much like the germander speedwell but the flowers aren’t as blue.

Cow vetch (Vicia cracca) is a native of Europe and Asia that loves it here and has spread far and wide. According to the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States the vining plant is present in every U.S. state. Cow vetch can have a taproot nearly a foot long and drops large numbers of seeds, so it is hard to eradicate. It is very similar to hairy vetch, but that plant has hairy stems. I like its color and it’s nice to see it sprinkled here and there among the tall grasses but it can be a real problem in gardens.

There was a time when all red clover (Trifolium pretense) plants meant to me was more hard work. I didn’t like having to weed it out of lawns and garden beds but it was so unsightly with its long, weak flower stems and sprawling, weedy habit. And then one evening a single ray of sunshine came through the clouds and fell directly on a red clover plant at the edge of a meadow, and when I knelt in front of it to take its photo for the first time I saw how beautiful it really was. I saw that it had an inner light; what I think of as the light of creation, shining brightly out at me. I’ve loved it ever since, and since that day I don’t think I’ve ever truly thought of another flower, no matter how lowly, as a weed.

The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind. ~Rumi

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1. Crooked Stem Aster

This crooked stem aster (Symphyotrichum prenanthoides) is one of the first blue asters I’ve seen this year. I found a small colony growing in a sunny spot in the woods, surrounded by many other white asters.  I don’t usually try to identify asters but the one inch diameter light blue flowers and zigzagging stems made this one easier than most. The Native American Iroquois tribe used this plant medicinally to treat fevers and other ailments.

2. Bigleaf Aster

Native large leaved aster (Eurybia macrophylla) is another aster that is relatively easy to identify because of its big heart shaped leaves. The plant spreads by rhizomatous roots and can form very large colonies, especially on hillsides as these examples were. Its leaves are often as big as my hand and they can take a lot of shade. The plant seems to be blooming well this year in spite of drought so I’m assuming that they don’t mind dry soil. They don’t like being disturbed by human activity so I don’t see them close to roadsides often. These were separated from the road by a wide drainage ditch.

3. Bigleaf Aster

Most of the flowers that I find on large leaved asters are white but they can also be light blue or lavender. As in many asters the ray florets are irregularly spaced around the central disc florets. The tubular disc florets turn from yellow to orange-red as they age and then change to dark red before finally turning brown.

4. Mint

If the square stems and tufts of tiny pink / purple flowers in the leaf axils don’t ring a bell, then one sniff of a crushed leaf will tell you immediately that this plant is wild mint (Mentha arvensis.) Mint has been used by man since the dawn of time and Pliny, Hippocrates, Aristotle and Charlemagne each wrote of its virtues. Each time we see it we are seeing one of mankind’s earliest memories. I find it growing in the tall grass at the edge of the forest and I always have to smell it.

5. Narrow Leaved Speedwell aka (Veronica scutellata)

I never thought of speedwell as an aquatic plant until I met the narrow leaved speedwell (Veronica scutellata.) It is also called marsh speedwell and that makes perfect sense, because it grew in standing water in full sun at the edge of a field last year. This year there was no standing water but the soil was still saturated. Though most speedwells we see here are non-native, this one belongs here. Like lobelias, Native Americans used plants in the veronica family to treat asthma.

6. Narrow Leaved Speedwell aka (Veronica scutellata)

Small blue flowers with darker blue stripes are typical of speedwells, but these can also be white or purple. They are very small and only have room for two stamens and a needle-like pistil. The plants obviously love water because there are many plants growing in this very wet area. If you were looking for a native plant for the shallow edges of a water garden it might be a good choice.

7. Forked Blue Curls

Tiny eastern forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) has flowers that might make a half inch across on a good day, so it’s a challenging plant to photograph. One unusual thing about the flower, other than its unique beauty, is its four long, arching stamens that dust bees with pollen when they land on its lower lip. This plant is an annual that grows new from seed each year. It seems to like sandy soil and I find it growing along river banks and sometimes roadsides. It’s a beautiful little thing that’s worth looking for, but getting a good photo of it is tricky. It took 8 tries to get this one.

8. Forked Blue Curls

Forked blue curl plants barely reach your ankle. The entire plant pictured could have easily fit inside a coffee mug.

9. Pilewort

Pilewort (Erechtites hieracifolia) is a strange plant with inch long flower buds that never seem to open beyond what you see in the above photo. Even after they open they still look like they are in the bud stage, so you have to look at them closely.  This plant gets its common name from the belief that it was useful in the treatment of piles (hemorrhoids,) because the buds are the size and shape of suppositories. The Native American Algonquin people used the plant to treat poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) rashes. It has also been used as a source of a blue dye for cotton and wool.

10. Pilewort

This is all we see of a pilewort flower when it opens. It is made up of many disc florets which are pollinated primarily by wasps and hornets. Once they go to seed they will float away on the wind much like dandelion seeds. In some areas it is called burn weed because of the way it moves quickly into burned areas. I usually find it along river and stream banks.

11. Pipewort

The drought we find ourselves in is presenting many problems but also a few opportunities. Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum) usually grows in ankle deep standing water but the water of this pond had receded enough so that I could walk right up to the plants shown without taking my shoes off. Since they grow with their lower stems submerged I’ve never been able to see the entire plant, but now I could.

12. Pipewort

I’m not sure what I expected to see but the leaves surprised me. With leaves the pipewort looked just like many other plants but its basal leaves normally grow underwater, which seems a little strange. I’m guessing that they must still get enough sunlight through the water to photosynthesize. The stem has a twist to it with 7 ridges and because of that some call it seven angle pipewort.

13. Pipewort

Most pipeworts grow just offshore in the mud and send up a slender stalk that is topped by a quarter inch diameter flower head made up of very tiny white, cottony flowers. Eriocaulon, the first part of pipewort’s scientific name, comes from the Greek erion, meaning wool, and kaulos, meaning plant stem. The second part of the scientific name, aquaticum, is Latin for a plant that grows in water, so what you have is a wool-topped stem growing in water, which of course is exactly what pipewort looks like. Pipewort is wind pollinated. It is also called hat pins, for obvious reasons.

14. Wild Cucumber

Native wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is a late summer blooming vine that climbs on shrubs and trees and hangs on using tendrils like a grape. It likes to grow in sandy soil and prefers partial shade over full sun. The flower spikes (Racemes) grow to 6 inches or more all along the main stem. These plants are annuals and grow from seed each year.

15. Wild Cucumber

The greenish white, star shaped male flowers of wild cucumber have 6 petals that are twisted slightly. The female flowers are yellowish green and not at all showy. They grow at the base of the male flower stems. There is usually only one female flower for every 5 or 6 male flowers, which is why there are so few fruits seen on each vine.

16. Wild Cucumber fruit

The spiny, 2 inch long fruits of the wild cucumber have a watermelon shape. Though the spines look menacing they are quite soft and children have been throwing them at each other for as long as I’ve been around. The fruit is not edible. The example shown here hadn’t grown to full size yet.

17. Toadflax

Little native blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) has been blooming since May and is one of our longest blooming wildflowers. This plant seems to like sunny, dry, sandy waste areas or roadsides because that’s where I always find it growing. It’s always worth getting down on my hands and knees to admire its tiny but beautiful blue / purple flowers. They sparkle like sugar candy in the sunlight.

18. Chicory

Last year the Town of Swanzey cut down all the plants and shrubs along a short stretch of the Ashuelot River and one of those plants was the chicory (Cichorium intybus) in the above photo. It gets mowed regularly now, so I was surprised to see a normal size flower on a plant no more than three inches tall. It looks a little stressed, whether from drought or being mowed I don’t know but it’s a beautiful flower, and stronger than I ever knew.

Beauty does not linger; it only visits. Yet beauty’s visitation affects us and invites us into its rhythm; it calls us to feel, think and act beautifully in the world: to create and live a life that awakens the beautiful. ~ John O’Donohue

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1. Maiden Pink

How to tell a maiden pink (Dianthus deltoids) from a Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria)? Just look for the dark ring near the center of the flower. Deptford pinks don’t have the ring and are smaller flowers. Both plants were introduced from Europe and have naturalized here.  It is another flower that people mow around much like fleabane, because it is so beautiful.

2. Dame's Rocket

Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is another introduced plant that came from Europe in the 1600s but it doesn’t seem very invasive; the colonies that I know of hardly seem to spread at all, and that’s possibly because they are biennials. This plant is in the mustard family, Brassicaceae but is sometimes mistaken for phlox, which has 5 petals rather than the 4 petals seen on dame’s rocket. Phlox also has opposite leaves and those on dame’s rocket are alternate. The young leaves of dame’s rocket are rich in vitamin C and oil pressed from its seed is used in perfumes.

3. Fringe Tree

At one time I thought fringe trees (Chionanthus virginicus) were an exotic import from China or another Asian country but as it turns out they’re native to the east coast right here in the U.S. It’s a beautiful and fragrant tree that you rarely see anywhere, and I wonder why it’s so under used. It is said to be tougher than dogwood, more dependable than saucer magnolia, longer-lived than cherry, and smells better than Bradford pears. So why don’t more of us use it?

4. Lupines

I found a few of these very beautiful lupines growing on the banks of the Ashuelot but not as many as in years past, so I wonder if our harsh winter finished some of them off. These lupines are thought to be a cross between our native western lupine (Lupinus polyphyllos) and various European varieties, so they are not native to New Hampshire. Our native lupine is the sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis,) which is host to the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Next week our annual lupine festival kicks off in the northern part of the state and fields full of them will attract thousands of people to the Sugar Hill area.

 5. Toadflax

This tiny blue toadflax blossom (Nuttallanthus canadensis) had an even tinier tear in its petal. Last year I found a field of these plants along a roadside and this year they are all gone, and that’s probably because are biennials which flower and dies in their second year. Toadflax flowers have an upper lip that is divided into 2 rounded lobes, and a lower lip which is divided into 3 lobes that are rounded and spreading. Toadflax likes sandy soil and waste areas to grow in. It doesn’t last long but the cheery blue flowers are always a welcome sight.

6. Raspberry

Raspberries are blooming and it looks like it’s going to be a good year for them, so the bears won’t be going hungry. Thanks to plant breeders raspberries come in purple and yellow as well as red and black, but I don’t think the bears really care what color they are.

7. Swamp Dewberry aka Rubus hispidus

I think of swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus) as a trailing raspberry because its fruit looks like a black raspberry and its stems are every bit as prickly, but it also looks a lot like a strawberry when it’s in bloom because of its strawberry like leaves. Its fruit is said to be sour and is said to be the reason it isn’t cultivated. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for this plant, including treating coughs, fever and consumption. Swamp dewberry, as its name implies, is a good indicator of a wetland or moist soil that doesn’t dry out.

8. Clematis

I spotted this gorgeous clematis growing in a friend’s garden one recent evening.

9. Black Locust

Our locust trees are blooming. The one shown here is a black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) loaded with white, very fragrant blooms. One way to identify the tree is by the pair of short spines at the base of each leaf. Like many other legumes its leaflets fold together at night and when it rains.

10. Black Locust

Locusts are in the same family as peas and beans and the flowers show the connection. Black locusts were prized by colonial Americans for their tough, rot resistant wood. In 1610 colonists found black locust trees planted beside Native American dwellings and thought the Natives were using the tree as an ornamental, so they decided to use it that way as well .They also used the wood for ship building, forts and fence posts while the Natives used it to make bows and blow darts. It was once said to be the toughest wood in all the world and was one of the first North American trees exported to Europe.

11. Bristly Locust aka Robinia hispida

Bristly locust (Robinia hispida) is more shrub than tree, but it can reach 8 feet. The beautiful pinkish purple flowers are very fragrant and bees really love them. Every time I find one in bloom it is absolutely covered with bees, which makes getting photos a challenge. What sets this locust apart from others are the bristly purple-brown hairs that cover its stems. Even its seedpods are covered by hairs. Bristly locust is native to the southeastern United States but has spread to all but 7 of the lower 48 states, with a lot of help from nurseries selling it for ornamental use.

12. Yarrow

We 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 from a soldier’s wounds. Closer to home, Native Americans used it for everything from snake bites to deodorant. Yarrow 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.

13. White Baneberry

The club shaped flower heads of white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) have appeared but they have many fewer blossoms than they had last year. That of course means fewer of the white berries that have a single black dot and are called doll’s eyes. Fewer of those might not be a bad thing because I find these plants growing at a local park where many children play and the berries are very toxic. Luckily they are also very bitter so the chances that anyone would eat one are fairly slim.

 14. Bowman's Root

Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) is a native wildflower but only grows in two New England Sates as far as I can tell; Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which seems odd but that explains why I’ve never seen one in the wild. This photo shows a fine, 2 foot tall specimen that grows in a local park. Other names are Indian physic or American ipecac because Native Americans would dry the root and use it as an emetic and laxative. It would make a beautiful addition to a shaded perennial garden.

15. Bowman's Root Blossom

An unusual feature of bowman’s root is how the five petals on the white, star shaped flowers are never symmetrical. Another common name for this plant is fawn’s breath and it is appropriate, because these flowers dance and sway in the gentlest hint of a breeze. From a distance it looks like a swarm of beautiful white butterflies are paying it a visit.

16. Siberian Iris

When I think of June I think of irises and here’s a Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica.) I had to move fast this year to get a shot of one of these beauties. It was so hot when they bloomed they said “hey wait a minute; this isn’t Siberia,” and shriveled up into crinkly blue blobs after 2 days. Siberian iris has been known at least since before the 1500s. It was first collected by monks in Siberia in the Middle Ages and grown in monasteries, and later was distributed around Europe. It has been cultivated in England since 1596, so it’s an old, old favorite. This one was given to me by a friend many years ago and I’ve never done a thing to it except hack it to pieces with a hatchet when it gets too big. It’s just about the toughest plant I’ve ever met.

The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day. ~Samuel Beckett

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1. Blue Flag Iris

It’s hard to believe that it is iris time already, but here they are. This is a native blue flag (Iris versicolor) that I found growing near a pond. Such beauty, and all to convince the bees that this, more than any other, is the flower that they should visit.

2. Bunchberry Flowers

If, when you look at a bunchberry plant (Cornus canadensis) it reminds you of something else, that’s because it is in the dogwood family. Like a dogwood blossom its large white bracts surround smaller flowers. Even the 2 larger and 4 smaller leaves look like a dogwood. In fact, an old name for the plant is creeping dogwood. They like moist, shady woods.

3. Bunchberry Flowers

A closer look at tiny bunchberry flowers. If pollinated each flower will become a bright red, single seeded drupe, and the plant will then have the bunch of “berries” that give it its common name.

4. Rhodora Blossoms

Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense,) is a small, native rhododendron that loves swampy places. It is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada and both its western and southern limits are reached in Pennsylvania. The flowers appear before the leaves, but only for a short time in spring. By mid-June they will have all vanished. On May 17, 1854 Henry David Thoreau wrote “The splendid Rhodora now sets the swamps on fire with its masses of rich color,” and that is exactly what this beautiful little plant does.

5. Cow Vetch

Cow vetch (Vicia cracca) is a native of Europe and Asia that loves it here and has spread far and wide. According to the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States the vining plant is present in every U.S. state. Cow vetch can have a taproot nearly a foot long and drops large numbers of seeds, so it is hard to eradicate. It is very similar to hairy vetch, but that plant has hairy stems. I like its color and it’s nice to see it sprinkled here and there among the tall grasses.

6. Ox Eye Daisy

I got married in June and we couldn’t afford flowers from a florist so we picked ox-eye daisy blossoms (Leucanthemum vulgare.) That’s when I discovered that they look much better along a roadside than they do in a vase. This one had a visitor.

7. Yellow Hawkweed

Each strap shaped, yellow “petal” on a yellow hawkweed flower head (Hieracium caespitosum) is actually a single, complete flower. The buds, stem, and leaves of the plant are all very hairy and the rosette of oval leaves at the base of the stem often turn deep purple in winter. The Ancient Greeks believed that hawks drank the sap of this plant to keep their eyesight sharp and so they named it hierax, which means hawk.

8. White Foxglove

I’ve seen foxglove flowers (Digitalis) in the past which, even though they tried very hard to be white, were more off white or pale yellow, but those pictured were definitely white. Though eye catching, all parts of this plant are toxic and eating even a small amount can be fatal.

9. White Foxglove

Though it is said that the spots on a foxglove flower are elfin finger prints, they are actually a kind of guide or “landing strip” for bees. In many foxglove blossoms the spots are fluorescent at night under black light and, since bees see in ultraviolet light, viewing the flowers under black light gives us an idea of what bees must see.

10. Black Locust Blossoms

I love smelling the flowers of the black locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia.) I think of them as a kind of poor man’s wisteria because their fragrance seems very similar to me. The flowers might also look familiar to vegetable gardeners because the black locust is in the pea family (Fabaceae.) One way to identify the tree is by the pair of short spines at the base of each leaf. Like many other legumes its leaflets fold together at night and when it rains.

11. Purple Robe Black Locust

These flowers also belong to the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia, ) but I believe that this tree is a cultivar called “purple robe” that has escaped cultivation. I find it in the woods occasionally and have been a little confused about its origin. It lacks the short spines at the base of its leaves and instead has bristly hairs on its stems. It always seems to be growing in small colonies when I see it and I’m hoping that a reader might know more about it. The flowers are very fragrant and bees really love this tree. Every time I find one in bloom it is absolutely covered with bees, which makes getting photos a challenge.

Note: Josh from the Josh’s Journal blog has identified this plant as bristly locust (Robinia hispida,) which is a native, shrubby locust. Thanks to Josh for putting several years of wondering about this plant to rest. This is a great illustration of how long it can take to correctly identify plants in rare cases.

12. Blue Toadflax

I recently found the biggest colony of native blue toadflax plants (Nuttallanthus canadensis) that I’ve ever seen growing alongside a road. This plant seems to like sunny and dry, sandy waste areas because that’s where I always find it growing. It’s always worth getting down on my hands and knees to admire its tiny but beautiful blue / purple flowers.

13. Bowman's Root

Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) has many other common names, such as Indian physic or American ipecac, both of which tell me that I don’t want to be eating any of it. Native Americans dried the root and used it as an emetic and laxative so some of its common names make sense, but I’ve never been able to find out where the name bowman’s root originated. This two foot tall native plant makes an excellent addition to a partially shaded perennial border.

14. Bowman's Root

An unusual feature of bowman’s root is how the five petals on the beautiful white, star shaped flowers are never quite symmetrical.

Another common name for this plant is fawn’s breath and, though I don’t know its origin, these flowers sway in the gentlest hint of a breeze and I can imagine someone thinking that it didn’t take more than the breath of a fawn to get them dancing.

15. Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) are one of the most beautiful things you’ll see in the woods of New Hampshire in the spring. Their blooming period has nearly ended for this year, so I thought I’d show one more before next spring. This is the darkest colored one that I saw this year.

I often try to take a photo of the darkest flower in a group and then compare them at the end of the blooming period. I do this with many different kinds of flowers and the differences are sometimes quite surprising.

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. – Christopher Morley

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We’ve had 2 or 3 hard frosts here so the meadows full of flowers that we enjoyed all summer long have now gone over to browns and grays, but throughout October, here and there and now and then, I’ve stumbled across a solitary blossom, still hanging on to what was.

Toadflax-2

This blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus Canadensis) grew on the river bank and had a single bloom at the top of an exhausted stalk. There was a nice rust brown stone beside it to use as a background too.

Evening Primrose-2

Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) sneaks in a bloom now and then on a good sunny day but there are few bees left to enjoy them. Bumblebees are moving so slowly that their movements can barely be seen as they crawl rather than fly.

Bluet

A small tuft of bluets (Houstonia caerulea) grew in a lawn that I walked by recently. There were 3 or 4 pale flowers on the plant, and as usual it seemed as if they were competing to see which could show the faintest blue tint on its petals. Deep down, these petals always seem to want to be white and looking for those that are the bluest is always a fun summer activity.

New England Asters 2

New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) can take a lot of cold but even they have mostly closed up shop for the season. An occasional defiant burst of color can still be seen along the roadsides where there is shelter from the frost.

Queen Anne's Lace

I can’t think of many plants more resistant to cold than a carrot and that is really all Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) is, so seeing it blooming at this time of year doesn’t surprise me. The carrots that we eat come from this introduced wildflower, and any carrot is sweeter after a frost has nipped it. There are however some very similar plants that are among the most toxic known, so when I want sweet fall carrots I go to the farmer’s market.

 Sulfer Cinquefoil

One sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) plant in a field of thousands of different species had a single pale, buttery yellow blossom, but even though the blossom was pale it still shone like a miniature sun among the browns and grays of the meadow.

Phlox

The phlox (Phlox paniculata) in my gardens have all given up the ghost but this hardy example I saw beside a road was protected by overhead trees and was still blooming as if it were September.

Sweet Everlasting

You never really know what you’re getting with sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) because its flowers look closed even when they’re open. I just noticed this year how cold hardy they are-I’m seeing more of them than any other wildflower.

 Indian Tobacco aka Lobelia inflata

I was surprised to see this lobelia, called Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata), blooming at the edge of my lawn this late in the season. Apparently it’s not as delicate as I thought. It isn’t under trees so it must have taken the full brunt of the frosty nights. This plant is called Indian tobacco because someone though its seed pods resembled the tobacco pouches carried by Native Americans.

Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) usually tries for a second bloom in the fall and this year it just made it before we had a heavy frost. Man has had a close relationship with yarrow that has lasted thousands of years. A sprig of it was found in a Neanderthal Stone Age burial site estimated to be 100,000 years old.

In the cold dark days of the winter, dream about the flowers to get warmed up! ~Mehmet Murat ildan

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Here are a few more examples of what we have blooming here right now.

1. Black Eyed Susan

Really? I thought. Black eyed Susans already? I like these flowers but at the same time I’m never in any hurry to see them because to me they represent the top of the hill we have been climbing since the last of the snow melted. Once Black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) bloom we start down the other side of that hill towards autumn, and I’m in no hurry to get there.  These plants are native to the U.S. anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains, and introduced west of them.

2. BlueToadflax

Dry, sunny, sandy roadsides suddenly turn blue when blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) blooms. Tiny, pale blue and white flowers sit on thin, wiry stems. This native plant was introduced to Europe and has naturalized in some areas, including Russia. It is in the snapdragon (Scrophulariaceae) family. Toadflax boiled in milk is said to make an excellent fly poison.

3. Tall Buttercup

I’ve tried several times to get a photo that shows the waxy shine on common buttercup (Ranunculus acris) petals, and I think this one might be it. This shine is caused by a layer of mirror-flat cells that have an air gap just below them, and just below the air gap is a smooth layer of brilliant white starch. All of these layers act together to reflect yellow light while blue-green light is absorbed.

4. Catalpa Blossoms

The orchid-like flowers of the northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) tree have opened. These native trees grow to 70 feet or more and often the branches are so high up that you can’t see the flowers closely, but I was lucky to find an immature tree. Each flower is made up of petals that fuse to form one large, frilly petal. Yellow, orange and purple can be seen in the throat. Flowers will give way to long, thin pods that we used to call string beans when I was a boy.

5. Crown Vetch

Crown vetch (Coronilla varia) has an interesting flower head made up of up to 25 individual flowers. The standard is upright and deeper pink than the 4 lighter petals that make up the keel. Flowers have a typical pea-like shape. This plant was introduced as a forage crop and has escaped to the point where it is found regularly along sunny roadsides.

6. Indian Cucumber Root Flower

The flowers of Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) can be challenging to photograph. Out of more than 20 shots this is the only one worth posting. It shows how the yellow-green petals curve backwards to reveal a long, spidery style and 6 stamens, all in crimson and plum. When these plants aren’t flowering they are sometimes mistaken for starflower because of the way the leaves whorl around the stem. The root of this plant tastes like cucumber and Native Americans used it for both food and medicine. People seem to feel the need to taste the plant’s root and because of it Indian cucumber is now endangered in many areas. Please admire them and let them be so the rest of us can also admire them.

7. Dogbane

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) is supposed to be toxic to dogs so the Apocynum part of the scientific name means “Away dog!” The second part of the scientific name, cannabinum, means “like hemp,” which helps explain the plant’s other common name of Indian hemp. Dogbane has white, sticky sap that is toxic, so animals avoid it. Native Americans made thread and cord from dogbane and used it for nets and snares because the fibers hold their shape and do not shrink when they get wet. Dogbane fibers have been found in archaeological sites that are thousands of years old.

 8. Mountain Laurel Flowers

Our woods are full of native blooming mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) right now. Many believe that these evergreen shrubs are related to rhododendrons, but they are actually more closely related to blueberries. The white to pink flowers of Mountain laurel each have 10 pockets or depressions in the petals that the anthers bend to fit into. When a pollinator lands on the blossom the anthers spring from these pockets and dust the insect with pollen.

 9. Mountain Laurel Flower Backs

This view of the back of mountain laurel blossoms shows the unusual pockets that the anthers fit into. Mountain laurel is very toxic and has been known to kill livestock that have eaten it.

10. Yellow Rattle aka Rhinanthus minor

Yellow rattle box (Rhinanthus crista) is a very strange plant that is, in botanical terms, “hemi parasitic” on pasture grasses. This means that even though it creates its own food through photosynthesis its roots attack the roots of other plants and literally suck the life out of them. If enough of them grow in a pasture they can destroy the grasses in it. This plant is from Europe and gets its common name from the way the dry seeds rattle around in the round, flat pods that form behind each flower.

 11. Lobelia

There are so many lobelias that it is often hard to tell, but I think this is pale spike lobelia (Lobelia spicata.) Lobelias usually prefer moist places so I was surprised to find it in a small, dry clearing on the side of a hill. I was also surprised that the flowers on some plants were such a deep blue, because they usually range from pale blue to white. Flowers are found on a thin, wiry stem. When I was looking for information on this plant I was surprised to find that it is listed as rare in New Hampshire. In my experience it is quite common. Lobelias are toxic so no part of the plant should ever be eaten.

 12. Lobelia-Single Flower

Each flower of Lobelia spicata has an upper lip that is divided into 2 lobes and a larger lip that is divided into 3 lobes. A dark blue stigma sits between the upper 2 lobes. The petals are fused and form a tube. At a glance it might be easy to confuse this plant with blue toadflax.

 13. Flowering Raspberry

The petals of our native flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) always look like somebody forgot to iron them before they put them on. If this flower reminds you of a rose, that’s because it is in the rose family. The 2 inch wide flowers are fragrant and attract butterflies. If pollinated, they are followed by large berries that are said to taste good, but have too many seeds to be useful. The red to orange fruit is shaped like a thimble and that gives this plant another common name-pink thimble berry.

Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.  ~John Ruskin

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When I was a professional gardener I always assumed that we would have a frost between September 15th and September 30th. More years than not, that assumption was accurate. Then last year happened and all of that went out the window. We still hadn’t had a frost when we got about sixteen inches of snow on Halloween. This year-here we go again-still no frost here. In fact just yesterday it reached the mid-70s.  The heat I can handle, but I’m hoping there won’t be another Halloween storm like the last. In any case, the flowers love it and many are still blooming.

This nodding burr marigold (Bidens) found a home with a roof, so it won’t have to worry about a frost.

 On a recent rainy day I found a clump of native beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) growing near the road. The Epifagus part of the scientific name means “upon the beech” and that is where these parasitic plants grow. They don’t produce chlorophyll to make their own food so instead they insert a root like structure called a haustorium into a beech root and take what nutrition they need to survive. Native Americans made a tea from this plant that was used to treat mouth sores.

Purple-brownish beechdrop flowers are very small and hard to photograph. Each flower is tubular and has two lip-like “petals.” They produce nectar and attract insects. Tiny, scale like leaves press flat against the stem and are very hard to see. These plants are found from Canada to Florida and west as far as Louisianna. 

Native Blue toadflax (Linaria Canadensis) is another tiny flower, but easier to get a picture of than beechdrops. I found this one growing in full sun on a riverbank recently. It had just about finished blooming. This plant resembles Kalm’s Lobelia (Lobelia kalmia) but the lobelia lacks the nectar spurs found in blue toadflax blossoms. Toadflax boiled in milk is said to make an excellent fly poison.

 Native small flowered water plantain (Alisma subcordatum) was also blooming along the river a couple of weeks ago. The blossoms have now faded but the plants still thrive. These small white flowers have only tree petals so they are hard to confuse with other plants. The egg shaped, thick, fleshy leaves are also unusual. There is also a large water plantain (Alisma triviale) with flowers that are about twice the size as those shown. These plants often grow in the water at the edges of ponds and rivers. Native Americans used to eat the dried root. 

It’s easy, especially at this time of year, to be fooled into thinking that this plant is an aster, but it is actually a chrysanthemum-another popular fall garden plant. I found this one growing in a local park. Its leaves give away its identity.

This is an aster that I found growing on the side of the road. I turned around and went back to get a picture because it was such a deep, dark and beautiful purple-much different than the lighter purple varieties seen.

 This jimson weed (Datura stramonium) is another roadside plant, but it was growing in a pasture along with hundreds of others. Jimson weed is considered poisonous to both humans and livestock so I was surprised to see it in a cow pasture.  This hallucinogenic plant in the nightshade family is also called loco weed and was used by Native Americans on spiritual quests. The original common name was “Jamestown weed” which was given to it after English soldiers in the Jamestown colony began to behave oddly after eating leaves of the plant. It is said that they “behaved like animals for several days.”  This plant is considered exceedingly dangerous due to poisonings and deaths by people trying to get high.

 I have a white flowered native obedient (Physostegia virginiana) plant trying to overtake my gardens and not too long ago someone posted a picture of a beautiful pinkish purplish one like the one in this photo. I told the blogger that I hadn’t ever seen that color obedient plant flower and then, that very day, I found this one. It seems like if I can’t find a plant all I need to do is say that I can’t find it on this blog and before you know it, I’ve found one. That has happened several times.

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is looking a little bedraggled, but still blooms just about everywhere I go. Native Americans made a tea from the plant for use as, among other things, a cough syrup. Today scientists are researching its value as a cancer treatment and for respiratory ailments.

 I wasn’t surprised to find sand jointweed (Polygonella articulata) growing in pure sand along an old road but I was surprised to see it at all, because I had been watching for it for 2 or 3 weeks without any luck. These plants grow to about a foot tall but the thin, wiry stems and small white flowers easily blend into the sand and make them hard to see.  The leaves are small and lie against the stem so the plant appears leafless. The plant gets its name from the way the stems are jointed.

These sand jointweed (Polygonella articulata) flowers looked like they had a bit of pink in them. These plants seem very hard to photograph-I had to make 2 or 3 attempts before I got something I could live with.

 

It’s easy to see why sedum is such a hit in the fall. This pink one I found in a local park is probably a cultivar called “Autumn Joy, “which is an old favorite. I think it would be even more beautiful planted with some dark purple asters.

 When I took its picture I thought this was the last rose of summer that I’d see on my rose bushes. They had a hard time this year with the extreme heat and dryness, but once the rains started in they bloomed more and more until now they are loaded with blossoms. Last year it was still blooming in December.

Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,

We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves ~ Humbert Wolfe

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There are still plenty of wildflowers blooming.  In fact, they come and go so quickly that I can barely keep up with them, but here are a few that I was lucky enough to find. Autumn Olive (iElaeagnus umbellate) is still blooming. This shrub’s fragrance is amazing even as you ride by in a car if you have the windows open. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shrub attract as many insects as this one does. Autumn olive is originally from Asia and is considered an invasive species. The fruit is edible. It looks like it will be a good year for most berries.  Both blackberry (pictured above) and raspberry canes are loaded with blossoms. Blue Toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis ) has just started blooming. These small sky blue and white flowers bloom on wiry stems, starting at the bottom and working their way up. The native plants prefer dry, sandy soil and are often seen on roadsides, which is where these were. The more common and well known butter and eggs plant is also a toadflax. The name “toadflax” was supposedly given to the plant because toads liked to hide “among its branches.” Since none of the toadflax plants that I’ve seen over the years had branches, this must have been a difficult thing for the toads to do. Canada Mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense ) are still blooming. Their blooming season seems to be extended this year as it is with many other plants. As a gardener I can say that this is one of the worst plants to allow in your garden beds because once it is in, it is there to stay. When pulled it breaks off at ground level and the root lives on to grow new plants and it stands up quite well to herbicides. If Canada mayflower is allowed to grow in a garden before too long the garden will look like this. Note the almost complete lack of other species. The white, flat topped flower clusters and feathery leaves of common yarrow can be seen everywhere on roadsides now. Yarrow must take the prize for the plant with the most common names, because it is also called–are you ready? Bad man’s plaything, bloodwort, carpenter’s grass, carpenter’s weed, devil’s nettle, devil’s plaything, dog daisy, fern weed, field hoop, herb militaris, knight’s milfoil, little feather, milfoil, nosebleed, old man’s pepper, sanguinary, soldier’s woundwort, squirrel tail, staunch grass, staunch weed, thousand-leaf, thousand-seal, thousand-weed, and yarroway. Whew! This plant and all of its baggage in the form of names originally came over from Europe. Plant breeders have been working with it for years and have produced many beautiful cultivars for the garden. This plant has been used medicinally for many centuries-remains of yarrow were even found in an excavation of a Neanderthal grave site. Native Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) isn’t one of those showy wild flowers. If you weren’t looking for it you might never even see it because of the flower’s greenish yellow color. I look for the leaves rather than flowers to find it, because its leaves grow in (usually) two whorls around the stem. The edible roots are eaten raw and are said to taste like cucumber, but this plant is scarce and shouldn’t be dug up. It should also never be confused with the similar looking Whorled Pogonia, which is poisonous. This maple leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) grows in my backyard and has just started blooming. Over the years I’ve watched as it has increased to a sizeable colony and I’m happy to have its white flower clusters light up the dark edges of the forest. These plants are very useful because they do well in shaded, dry, poor soils like that usually found at forest edges. In the fall the leaves turn a deep, reddish purple and dark blue, almost black fruit clusters hang where the flowers were. Opposite leaves, five petals and five stamens help identify viburnums. The leaves of American high bush cranberry (Viburnum opulus) are very similar, but that plant has red berries. There are over 100 species of viburnum, but only 15 of those are native. I finally found a 4 flowered starflower (Trientalis borealis) plant! Actually, 3 flowers and a bud, which I’m sure has become a flower by now. That might not seem like a lot to crow about but I’ve never seen more than 3 flowers on a single plant.Showy yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon pratensis,) also known as meadow salsify, has the odd habit of closing its flowers at around noontime each day. This gives it the strange common name of Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon. Aids in identification are how the large, 2 inch flowers follow the sun so that they are always facing it and petals that have 5 notches on their outer edges. Also, the seed heads look like a large dandelion seed head and a white latex sap will ooze from the stems if they are broken. The plant shown here was about 3 feet tall and was found at the local landfill. There is also a very similar western yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon dubius.) The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is by the green bracts, which are shorter than the petals on Tragopogon pratensis and longer than the petals on Tragopogon dubius. This plant is originally from Europe. Showy Yellow Goat’s Beard Bud. Showy Yellow Goat’s Beard seed head. These are big-just slightly smaller than a baseball. I don’t haveto go far to find Yellow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum)  because it grows in my yard. This plant is in the sunflower family and is related to the dandelion. One flower head can produce as many as 50 seeds and the plant can also spread by underground stems called rhizomes. This plant is all about reproduction and it does it well-I’ve never seen as much of it as I have this year. Yellow hawkweed has a familiar story; it was introduced from Europe as a garden ornamental, escaped, and is now trying to take over the world. This plant is much harder to control than dandelions. This Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea ) had a friend visiting when I took its picture. This small flowered plant likes to hide in among the tall grasses at the edges of mown fields and roadsides.  It blossoms on a weak, wiry stem that tends to flop around every which way, so it’s hard to tell where it begins. The white, half inch flowers look like they have 10 petals but actually have only 5 that are deeply split or cleft. Each flower stays open for three days, but there are many of them. This plant that I walk by everyday bloomed only for about a week. It is native to Britain. Tall Meadow Rue (Thalictrum pubescens) probably gets mistaken for columbine quite often when it isn’t blooming because the foliage resembles that of columbine.  Once it blooms though, there can be no mistaking the quarter sized, petal-less flowers that are made up of long, thin stamens if it is a male plant and pistils with just a few stamens if it is female. These plants get quite tall-I’ve seen them at about 4 feet but the books say they can reach 6 feet and a few web sites say 9 feet. I have a cultivated version of this native plant in my garden that has much larger, purple flower clusters. Bees and butterflies love these plants.

None can have a healthy love for flowers unless he loves the wild ones ~Forbes Watson 

Next time I may have to do a post with more wildflowers because there are so many blooming. Thanks for stopping in.

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