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Posts Tagged ‘Bunchberry’

This is another of those posts full of all those things that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.

1. Staghorn Sumac Fruiting

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) berries are forming. This is an extreme close up of them. The fuzziness is what gives the plant its common name.  I watched these berries closely last fall to see how long it would take for the birds to eat them. Much to my surprise, they weren’t eaten until migrating birds like red winged blackbirds returned in the spring. Birds that stay here year round don’t seem to like them.

2. Blue Bead Lily Fruit

The blue of the berries on a blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis) plant is hard to match anywhere else in nature. It’s a kind of electric, neon blue that is very easy to see in the forest.  Birds and chipmunks love these berries though, so they can be hard to find before they’re eaten.

 3. Blue Bead Lily Fruit

Native blue bead lily is also called corn lily, cow tongue, yellow bead lily, yellow blue bead lily, snake berry, dog berry, and straw lily. Native Americans used this plant treat injuries and bruises.

4. Bunchberry Berries

This bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) had a bunch of red berries.

 5. Nipple Galls or Coneheads on Hazel Leaf caused by aphid Hormaphis hamamelidis

The witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) have nipple galls, made by the witch hazel gall aphid (Hormaphis hamamelidis). These galls won’t hurt the plant, but they do look a little strange. They are also called cone heads.

 7. Indian Pipes 4

When Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) stand up straight from their usual nodding position that means the flowers have been pollinated. Soon after the plants begin to darken as they put all their energy into making seeds.  The plant gets its common name from the way its nodding flowers resemble the peace pipe used by Native Americans. Other names include corpse plant, death plant, ice plant, ghost flower, bird’s nest, fairy smoke, eyebright, fit plant, and convulsion root.

6. Indian Pipe Flower

After fertilization a single seed capsule containing thousands of tiny seeds forms. In spite of its toxicity, Native Americans used Indian pipe medicinally to treat a variety of illnesses. Colonial Americans also used the plant in the same way.

 8. Pinesap

At a quick glance pinesap plants look much like Indian pipes, but a closer look shows that pinesap is a yellow / tan /reddish color compared to the stark white of Indian pipes. Indian pipes also have a single flower and pinesap has several, the buds of which can be seen in this photo. Despite their differences the two plants are closely related.

9. Crushed Glass

I had to go to the local recycling center last week and saw this pile of crushed glass sparkling like gemstones in the bright sunlight. Naturally, I had to get a picture of it.

10.Orange Spindle Coral Fungi aka Ramariopsis laeticolor

This photo of orange spindle coral fungi (Ramariopsis laeticolor) isn’t the sharpest I’ve ever taken, but they are tiny things and it was quite dark where they grew. Soon coral mushrooms of all kinds will be seen all over the forest floor.

11. Blue Slime Mold possibly Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa

This blue slime mold was even smaller than the spindle coral mushrooms and grew in an even darker place. I don’t like to use a flash unless it is absolutely necessary but in this case, it was. Blue is a very rare color among slime molds in this area and I’m always happy to see it. Though I haven’t been able to positively identify it, I think it could be Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa.

12. Scrambled Egg Slime Mold

Scrambled egg slime mold (Fuligo septica) looks just like scrambled eggs at this stage in its development.  Tomorrow it could look entirely different or might have disappeared completely.

13. Tiny Orange Waxcap Mushrooms

Wax cap mushrooms prefer areas that have not been worked by man and I find them in the two or three old undisturbed forests that I visit. There are over 250 species of wax caps and all are very colorful. I haven’t been able to identify these except to assume that they are part of the hygrocybe group.

16. Queen Anne's Lace Purple Flower

If you give a Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) flower head (Umbel) a quick glance you might think that there was a small insect right in the middle of it. That’s not an insect though-it’s a tiny, infertile flower that’s less than half the size of a pea. Not all plants have these central florets that can be purple, pink, or sometimes blood red. From what I’ve seen in this area it seems that as many plants have it as those that do not.

15. Queen Anne's Lace Purple Flower

This is a close up of the tiny purple floret that sometimes appears on a Queen Anne’s lace flower head. I’ve heard many theories of why this floret grows the way it does but the bottom line is that botanists don’t really know why.  It seems to serve no useful purpose, but it might have at one time.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. ~ John Muir

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Here are a few more of the flowers I’ve seen recently.

1. Blue Flag Iris

Last year I saw two native blue flag iris (Iris versicolor ) on the far side of a local pond. This year they are on all sides of the pond, so they spread fast. If you happen to be a forager and like making flour from cattail roots you want to be sure that you don’t get any iris roots mixed in, because they are very toxic.

2. Bunchberry

These bunchberry plants (Cornus canadensis) like growing on the side of this oak tree. These plants are often seen growing on or near rotting logs, so a lot of their nutrients must come from there. If bunchberry flowers remind you of dogwood blossoms, that’s because both dogwoods and bunchberry are in the same family. (Cornaceae) Just like with dogwoods blossoms the white parts of the bunchberry blossom are bracts, not petals.

 3. Bunchberry

The actual bunchberry flowers are the small bits in the center of the white bracts. The flowers will become “bunches” of bright red berries later on. The berries are loaded with pectin and Native Americans used them both medicinally and as food. The Cree tribe called bunchberry “itchy chin berry” because they can make you itch when rubbed against the skin.

4. Honey Locust Blossoms

Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) grows in all but two of the lower 48 states in the country. People in Oregon and Washington won’t get to see and smell its beautiful blooms but the rest of us will. This tree gets its common name from the sweet pulp found on the inside of its long, ripe seed pods. This tree has some very sharp thorns and is also called thorny locust.

5. Native Pink Azalea aka Rhododendron periclymenoides

 Last summer I found a shrub that looked like an azalea, so this year I went back and found that, sure enough, the shrub was our native pink azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides .) In my experience this shrub is very rare-I’ve only seen two of them in my lifetime, and this is one of those. I’ve since discovered that it is listed as endangered in New Hampshire .The flowers had mostly all gone by before I re-visited it, so next year I’ll have to visit it a little earlier. It’s a beautiful thing rarely seen, so it is well worth the effort.

6. Columbine

Other plants that I found last year were some columbines (Aquilegia) growing along a roadside. It was well past their bloom time so I made a note to revisit them this spring. Unfortunately a road crew had come along and scraped up all but two plants. I visited those that were left several times this spring until they finally bloomed.  Again unfortunately, instead of being our native red flowered Aquilegia they were a pinkish / purple garden escapee. I’ve included their photo here only because it took 7 months and a good dose of patience to get it.

7. Ashuelot Wildflowers

Native blue lupines (Lupinus Perennis) are blooming along the Ashuelot River in Swanzey, New Hampshire, along with yellow bird’s foot trefoil. The town has decided that this area will be a park, so the lupines and many other wildflowers that grow here will most likely be destroyed. How ironic that blue lupines are listed as a threatened species in New Hampshire.

 8. Maiden Pink

 Maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) get their common name from the way the petals look like they were edged with pinking shears. This European native has escaped gardens and can be found in lawns and meadows in many states in the U.S. Oddly enough, it is listed as a nationally scarce species in England. I think we could send them boatloads, just from the stock we have here in New Hampshire. A very similar plant is the Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) but its flowers have much narrower petals.

 9. Blue Eyed Grass

There are several species of Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium) that grow from coast to coast in the U.S. Though its common name says that it is a grass the plant is actually in the iris family. The flowers have 3 petals and 3 sepals and all are the same color blue. Blue eyed grass is an old favorite of mine.

 10. Oxeye Daisy

Ox eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) bloomed early this year. If ever there was a flower that said it was June this is it, but I found a few blooming in May. This is another European native that escaped gardens and is now found in meadows in every state in the U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii. A vigorous plant can produce up to 26,000 seeds. In tests 82% of those seeds remain viable even after being buried for 6 years, so don’t look for this one on the endangered list any time soon.

 11. Heal All

Heal all (Prunella vulgaris) has just started blooming this week here. Its tiny purple flowers are always a welcome sight. Nobody seems to agree on where this plant originated because it is recorded in the histories of several countries before the history of travel was recorded. Maybe everyone should agree that it is a plant known since ancient times and leave it at that. It was once thought to be a holy herb sent by God to cure man’s ills. The name heal all comes from the way that It has been used medicinally on nearly every continent on earth to cure virtually any ailment one can name.

 12. Yellow Hawkweed

Yellow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) flowers can rise to a height of up to 3 feet on wiry, leafless stems. The leaves are in a cluster at the base of the long stem and this makes photographing the plants in their entirety very tricky, unless you are an expert in depth of field. I’m not, so you get to see the flowers and not the leaves. This plant hails from Europe and is considered a noxious weed in many states. The common name of hawk weed came about because Pliny the elder wrote that hawks ate the plants to improve their vision. I wonder if Pliny himself had vision problems.

 13. Orange Hawkweed

Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) doesn’t get quite as tall as yellow, but getting the entire plant in one photo is still a challenge. This plant is another that was introduced from Europe and is now considered a noxious weed. I like it for its color because orange isn’t seen that often in nature. One common name of orange hawkweed is Devil’s paintbrush. When I was a boy everyone called it Indian paintbrush even though true Indian paintbrush (Castilleja) is an entirely different plant.

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

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I think I could post something like this every day and still not be able to show all of the flowers that are blooming right now. Most of the flowers appearing in this post are old friends that I’ve known for years. White Clover (Trifolium repens) is blooming everywhere now and is very good for a lawn because it is a nitrogen fixing plant, meaning it converts atmospheric nitrogen into a soluble form that turf grasses and other plants can use. By doing this it acts as a free source of nitrogen. White clover also mows easily, stays quite short, and stays green throughout the season. It shouldn’t be used for high traffic areas though, because it can’t stand the abuse. I once gardened for some people whose lawn was about 90 percent white clover and it was beautiful. Red clover (Trifolium pretense) on the other hand, although it fixes nitrogen like white clover, grows too fast and too tall for a lawn. It also forms large, tough clumps that are hard to mow. It’s an excellent feed crop, so keep red clover in pastures and meadows. This is Vermont’s state flower. Nothing says June like the Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare.) The trouble is, it’s still May, so these are about 2 weeks early. Though we have come to think of this plant as a native, it was actually introduced from Europe or Asia. The Shasta daisy that is so well known in gardens was developed by plant breeder Luther Burbank from introduced species like this one.

A close-up of an oxeye daisy. Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is considered an invasive species and can be seen in fields and along roadsides in abundance.  It was so highly valued that it was brought over from England by the colonists in the 1600s. This plant forms clumps much like phlox and can get 5 feet tall under the right conditions. The flowers range from purple to white and are very fragrant, especially in the evening. The easiest ways to tell that this plant isn’t phlox is by the narrower, slightly toothed leaves and the fact that phlox has 5 petals and dame’s rocket has 4. This plant is in the mustard family. Bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a common plant seen on roadsides and parking lot edges, which is where I found this one. It is in the pea family and grows about a foot tall. It gets its common name from its clusters of brown, 1 inch long seed pods which someone thought looked like a bird’s foot. The plant has 3 leaflets much like clover. This plant was introduced from Europe as livestock feed but has escaped and is now considered invasive in many areas. It can form large mats that choke out natives. There are many different species of forget me nots (Myosotis.) Some are native and some were introduced and all have cross bred so there are many hybrids. There is a lot of confusion surrounding these plants, with some insisting they are native and some insisting they came from Europe. I try to stay out of all that and just enjoy their beautiful blue color. Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) is blooming. I haven’t seen many of these this year, which is strange because they used to be very common. The Cornus part of the scientific name tells us that this plant is in the dogwood family, though just looking at it gives that away because it looks much like a dogwood blossom. Like a dogwood the flowers are the tiny greenish white clusters that make up the center disc. The large white “petals” are actually bracts. The common name “bunchberry” comes from its tight cluster of red berries. After trying to photograph speedwell flowers that were one step above microscopic I found the germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys,)  seemed gigantic in comparison because of its 3/16 to 1/4 inch flowers. It also called bird’s eye speedwell. This 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. I was lucky enough to stumble onto a colony of 50 or 60 painted trilliums (Trillium undulatum) that were spread out along a roadside. These blossoms were fresh-not like the ones that had just about gone by that I posted before. This is, in my opinion, one of our most beautiful wildflowers. This native plant fools a lot of people because it looks so much like Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum commutatum.) It is actually false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum,) and the best way to tell that is by the flower cluster at the end of the stem. True Solomon’s seal flowers dangle under the leaves all along the stem. If the plant isn’t flowering you can still tell the difference by the stem itself; on false Solomon’s seal it zig zags like what is seen in the photo and on true Solomon’s seal it grows very straight. Here is a photo of true Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum commutatum ) for comparison. Note the very different flowering habit between this plant and the false Solomon’s seal shown previously.  There are about 50 species of true Solomon’s seal so identification can be tricky at times. Yet another plant that mimics Solomon’s seal is Star Flowered Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum stellatum,) so called because of the tiny star shaped blossoms that appear at the end of the stem. When compared to the true Solomon’s seal in the previous photo it is easy to see that the flowering habit is completely different. Again, the stem on this plant also zig zags, while the stem on true Solomon’s seal is straight. I haven’t been able to identify the insect that was working so hard on this blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis) flower, but I think it was a false blister beetle, which is a pollen eater.  This native plant is in the lily family. Its leaves resemble those of the lady’s slipper and it is sometimes mistaken for that plant or wild leeks. I found large colonies of it growing in a shady part of the forest where trillium and lady’s slippers grew. The yellowish green flowers will be followed by a shiny bright blue berry which is supposed to taste horrible. I’ve never seen a lupine (Lupinus) bloom in May but here they were, blooming happily on a river bank.  This plant is in the pea family and like white and red clover fixes atmospheric nitrogen into a soluble form that can be used by plants. It is said that the lupine has been cultivated for 2000 years or more, beginning in ancient Egypt, because the seed is so high in protein. These are beautiful plants to have in the garden but are very susceptible to aphid attack. Sweet Viburnum (Viburnum lentago) is also known as nannyberry. These native bushes are dotting the woods with their white, mounded flower clusters right now. Red twig dogwoods are also beginning to bloom, but they have four petals and the viburnum have five. Dogwood flower clusters also tend to be much flatter on top and seem to hover just above the branch. Sweet viburnum has a much more rounded flowering habit. These shrubs are also called wild raisin and nanny plum for their fruit, which is a small black drupe with one flat seed. Northern Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) has suddenly popped up around the local pond. These native plants love water and near water is where I always find them. There is also a southern blue flag (Iris virginica.) The “flag” part of the name comes from the Middle English flagge, which means rush or reed. The roots of this plant are extremely toxic, so if you forage for cattail roots be sure the roots of blue flag aren’t mixed in with them.

Suddenly I realize

That if I stepped out of my body I would break

 Into blossom.~James Wright 

I hope you enjoyed this one. Thank you for stopping by.

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