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Posts Tagged ‘Buttercup’

It’s a flower that is hated as much as it is loved. The humble little orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) is from Europe and is considered an invasive weed in places, especially by ranchers, but I searched for quite a while to find one.  Why would I? Count all the orange wildflowers you know and I’d guess that you’ll count them all on the fingers of one hand if you live in this part of New Hampshire. That’s why I like to see them. Orange seems to be a rare color in nature, possibly because it’s a color that is nearly invisible to bees. Orange hawkweed does reflect ultra violet light, so it is thought that some insects must find them.

Orange hawkweed starts out very red when it just comes out of the bud and it looks a bit like a paintbrush, so it is also called Indian paintbrush and / or Devil’s paintbrush. I think the latter name probably came from farmers or ranchers.

The queen of the aquatics, fragrant white waterlily has just started blooming, and they dot the surface of ponds and slow flowing rivers. They are such beautiful things with that golden flame burning in the center of each one. And fragrant too; they are said to smell like ripe cantaloupe. I watched a teen on a boardwalk once lean out to smell one and he couldn’t decide exactly what it smelled like, but he said it was very pleasant. This is a flower I could sit with all day long, even if I couldn’t smell them.

Red sandspurry (Spergularia rubra) never looks red to me. It always looks purple, but it is a deeper purple than the tiny blossom in this photo is wearing. This one was taken by the sky so it seems lighter than it actually is. Red sandspurry was originally introduced from Europe in the 1800s but it could hardly be called invasive. It is such a tiny plant that it would take many hundreds of them just to fill your shoe.

This photo of a red sandspurry blossom over a penny that I took last year will give you an idea of just how tiny they are. Each one could easily hide behind a pea with room to spare. For those who don’t know, a penny is .75 inches [19.05 mm] across. I’m guessing you could fit 8-10 blossoms on one.

We go from the tiny sandspurry blossom to the huge (relatively) blossom of goat’s beard (Tragopogon pratensis.) Like red sandspurry this one likes to grow in waste areas and roadsides in full sun. I have to get to them in the morning though, because goat’s beard flowers close up shop at around noon and for this reason some call it “Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon.” A kind of bubble gum can be made from the plant’s milky latex sap and its spring buds are said to be good in salads. Another name for goat’s bead is meadow salsify. It is native to Europe but doesn’t seem to be at all invasive here. In fact I usually have trouble finding it.

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.

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.

Bristly locust (Robinia hispida) is more shrub than tree, but it can reach 8 feet. 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.

The beautiful pinkish purple bristly locust 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.

Compared to some speedwells with flowers that are one step above microscopic I find that the germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) seems 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 know of only one place to find this one.

Common speedwell (Veronica officinalis) has been blooming for about a month and it has taken me almost that long to get a useable photo of its flowers. The flowers are very small and hard to get a good photo of but they’re also very pretty and worth the effort. This plant is a European native and its leaves were once used as a substitute for tea there. It has also been used medicinally for centuries.

Wood sorrel (Oxalis montana) is a ground hugger that is easily hidden by taller plants. I can’t speak for its rarity but I know of only two places to find it. It is considered a climax species, which are plants that grow only in mature forests, so that could be why I rarely see it. It likes to grow where it’s cool and moist and the humidity is high, and I’ve always found it near water. Though the word Montana appears in its scientific name it doesn’t grow west of the Mississippi. It’s a pretty little flower that is worth searching for.

The waxy shine on the petals of a buttercup (Ranunculus) 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. These layers act together to reflect yellow light, while blue green light is absorbed. Though the shine is easy to see it’s quite hard to capture with a camera. I had to try several times.

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 and I’m happy to see more of them these days.

This is the first appearance of native blunt leaf sandwort (Moehringia laterifolia) on this blog, probably because I’ve walked right by it in the past thinking it was another stitchwort, chickweed, or even sweet woodruff, which at a quick glance it might be thought to resemble.  It is considered rare in some places though, so maybe it is here as well. Clusters of small (1/3”) white 5 petaled flowers dance at the end of long weak stalks that often need the support of other plants. The stalks are covered with fine hairs and each flower has 10 stamens and 3 styles. The plant’s common name comes from its preference for growing in sand and gravel.

How can you not love the five heart shaped petals on a sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) blossom? They fade from bright to pale yellow and have veins that point the way directly to the center of the blossom where there are 30 stamens and many pistils. This is a very rough looking, hairy plant that was originally introduced from Europe. It grows in unused pastures and along roadsides but it is considered a noxious weed in some areas because it out competes grasses. Here in this area it could hardly be called invasive; I usually have to hunt to find it. This beautiful example grew in an unmown field.

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?

When it comes to small yellow flowers in my opinion one lifetime isn’t enough time to identify them all. I usually admire them and leave them alone but its silvery leaf backs make silver leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea) easy to identify. It comes from Europe and is considered invasive but though they are easily found they don’t choke out other plants. I like the way they often line sunny roadsides.

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.

Some of you seem to enjoy hearing about the memories that are attached to the flowers I know, so here’s one about a lowly weed that helped me see things differently: 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.

Who would have thought it possible that a tiny little flower could preoccupy a person so completely that there simply wasn’t room for any other thought?
~Sophie Scholl

Thanks for coming by.

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There are over 200 viburnum varieties and some of our native shrubs  are just coming into bloom. One of the earliest is the arrow wood viburnum. Smooth arrow wood (Viburnum dentatum) has yellowish white, mounded flower clusters and is blooming along stream banks and drainage ditches right now. Native dogwoods are also beginning to bloom, but they have four petals and the viburnums have five. Dogwood flower clusters also tend to be much flatter on top and seem to hover just above the branch. Smooth arrow wood viburnum has a much more rounded flowering habit. Later on the flowers will become dark blue drupes that birds love. It is said that this plant’s common name comes from Native Americans using the straight stems for arrow shafts. They also used the shrub medicinally and its fruit for food.

Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) is in full bloom now and is a plant held in high regard for its hard to find clear blue color. This is another tough native plant that bees love. People love it too, and it is now sold in nurseries. The black seed pods full of loose, rattling, seeds that follow the flowers were once used as rattles by children. Not surprisingly, other common names include rattle weed and rattle bush. Native Americans made a blue dye from this native plant that was a substitute for true indigo.

Blue false indigo is in the pea / bean family. If you’ve ever looked at a pea or bean flower then this flower shape should look very familiar.

I thought I’d show an actual pea blossom for comparison. The blossom has 5 petals that form a banner, wings, and keel. The banner is a single petal with two lobes though it looks like two that are fused together. Two more petals form the wings. The remaining two petals make up the keel and are usually fused together. As long as there is a banner, wings and a keel on the blossom the plant is a member of the Pea family. The pea family of plants is the third largest, with somewhere near1,000 genera and 25,000 species. Some grow to tree size and some are tiny. Some members of the family are edible and some are poisonous. Peas have been eaten for nearly 7,000 years; remains of the plants dating from 4800–4400 BC have been found in Egypt.

Puffy little bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is also in the pea family and grows about a foot tall, and is a common sight along roadsides and waste areas. 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 and 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.

We have three native wild roses here in the U.S., the Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana,) the prairie rose (Rosa arkansana) and the wild rose (Rosa acicularis.) We also have roses that appear to be wild but which have escaped cultivation. None are truly invasive here and I think it’s safe to say that all are welcome. I found this beautifully scented example on the edge of a forest.

Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) is a native wildflower but it only grows in two New England Sates as far as I can tell; Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which seems odd but explains why I’ve never seen one in the wild. This example grows in a local park. The dried and powdered root of this plant was used by Native Americans as a laxative, so another common name is American ipecac. Nobody seems to know the origin of the name bowman’s root or whether it refers to the bow of a boat or the bow part of the bow and arrow.

The white flower petals of bowman’s root are asymmetrical and always look like they were glued on by a chubby fingered toddler. But they are beautiful nonetheless, and dance at the end of long stems. And they do dance in the slightest movement of air. Some say that all it takes is the gentle breath of a fawn to set them dancing, and because of that another of their common names is fawn’s breath. I can’t think of a more beautiful name for a flower.

This plant goes by many common names but I’ve always called it peach leaved bluebells (Campanula persicifolia) which comes from its leaves resembling those of the peach tree. It is very easy to grow; literally a “plant it and forget it” perennial. I planted one in my garden years ago and not only is it still growing, but many seedlings from it are also growing all over the yard. I usually give several away each summer to family and friends. It’s a good choice for someone just starting a garden.

The waxy shine on buttercup (Ranunculus) petals 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. I can’t speak for what the spider was doing. Maybe just enjoying the sunshine.

Meadow anemone (Anemone canadensis ) is an old fashioned garden favorite that has much larger flowers than our other native wood anemone.  Though it seems to spread out in a garden it’s easy to control. It’s also called crowfoot because of the foliage. Native Americans used this plant medicinally and its root and leaves were one of the most highly regarded medicines of the Omaha and Ponca tribes. It was used as an eye wash, an antiseptic, and to treat headaches and dizziness. The root was chewed to clear the throat so a person could sing better.

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. 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. Native Americans used it for everything from snake bites to deodorant.

Wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) has pale yellow flowers similar in color to those of the sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) but they can also be white or pink. This plant is considered a noxious weed because it gets into forage and grain crops. I always find it growing at the edges of corn fields at this time of year, not because it likes growing with corn but because it likes to grow in disturbed soil. Wild radish is in the mustard family and is sometimes confused with wild mustard (Brassica kaber,) but that plant doesn’t have hairy stems like wild radish. Everyone seems to agree that this is a non-native plant but nobody seems to know exactly where it came from or how it got here.

This yellow daylily (Hemerocallis) is very early, blooming just after the Siberian irises bloom. This plant was given to me many years ago by a friend who has since passed on and I have divided it many times for family and friends. Two things make this plant special: the early bloom time and the heavenly fragrance that smells of citrus and spices. I have a feeling this is a Lemon daylily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) which is a very old species brought to America in colonial days and originally from China and Europe.  The Greek word Hemerocallis means “beautiful for a day,” and that’s how long each flower lasts. It’s a shame that many of today’s daylilies, bred for larger and more colorful flowers, have lost their ancient fragrance.

Red campion (Silene dioica) likes alkaline soil with a lot of lime and that’s why we rarely see it here. That’s also why I’m fairly sure that this plant is a white campion (Silene latifolia,) which can also be pink. Just to confuse the issue red campion flowers can also be pink or white and it takes a botanist to tell them apart. Both are natives of Europe, Asia and Africa. It’s pretty, whatever it is.

Crown vetch (Securigera varia) has just come into bloom and I’m happy to see it because I think it’s a beautiful flower. It’s one of those that seem to glow with their own inner light and I enjoy just looking at it for a time. Crown vetch has seed pods look that like axe heads and English botanist John Gerard called the plant axewort and axeseed in 1633. It is thought that its seeds somehow ended up in other imported plant material because the plant was found in New York in 1869. By 1872 it had become naturalized in New York and now it is in every state in the country except Alaska.

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), though beautiful, can overrun a garden. These flowers grow from a bulb and are native to southern Europe and Africa. The bulbs contain toxic alkaloids and have killed livestock, so they are now listed as an invasive species.

Invasive multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) originally came from China to be used as an ornamental and as the old story goes, almost immediately escaped and started to spread rapidly. It grows over the tops of shrubs and smothers them by using all the available sunshine. In the above photo it’s growing up into a tree and I’ve seen it reach thirty feet. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was imported more for its scent than any other reason, because to smell it is like smelling a bit of heaven on earth.

It’s easy to see why it is in the rose family but if it wasn’t for their heavenly scent you might as well be looking at a raspberry blossom because multiflora rose blossoms are the same size, shape, and color, and raspberries are also in the rose family.

Wood sorrel (Oxalis montana) is a ground hugger, easily hidden by any plant that is ankle high or more, so I have to hunt for it and though I can’t say if it is rare here, I rarely see it. Each time I find it it’s growing near water, and the above example grew in a wet area near a stream. It’s considered a climax species, which are plants that grow in mature forests, so that may be why I don’t often see it. It likes to grow where it’s cool and moist with high humidity. Though the word Montana appears in its scientific name it doesn’t grow there. In fact it doesn’t grow in any state west of the Mississippi River. It’s a pretty little thing that reminds me of spring beauties (Claytonia virginica,) thought its flowers are larger.

Flowers have a mysterious and subtle influence upon the feelings, not unlike some strains of music. They relax the tenseness of the mind. They dissolve its vigor. ~Henry Ward Beecher.

Thanks for coming by. Happy first day of summer!

 

 

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1. Wild Geranium

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.

2. Rhodora

Henry David Thoreau once wrote “The splendid Rhodora now sets the swamps on fire with its masses of rich color,” and that’s what this little two foot tall shrub does each spring. The flowers appear just when the irises start to bloom and I often have to search for them because it isn’t common. Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense,) is a small, native rhododendron (actually an azalea) 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.

3. Rhodora Close

Because of their habit of growing in or very close to the water I couldn’t get close enough to this rhodora to get a shot of a single flower, but if you’ve ever seen an azalea blossom then you know what they look like. It’s the color of this one that sets it apart from other azaleas, in my opinion. This plant was brought from Canada to Paris in March 1756 and was introduced to England in 1791. It is said to have been a big hit, but it must have been difficult to grow in English gardens since it likes to grow in standing water and needs very cold winters.

4. Buttercup

The waxy shine on buttercup (Ranunculus) petals 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.

5. Witch Alder

Witch alder (Fothergilla major) is a native shrub related to witch hazel. Though native to the southeast it does well here in the northeast, but it is usually seen in gardens rather than in the wild. The fragrant flower heads are bottlebrush shaped and made up of many flowers that have no petals. Their color comes from the stamens, which have tiny yellow anthers at the ends of long white filaments.

6. Witch Alder

Though it looks big in this photo this witch alder is barely 6 feet tall, and it’s the largest one I’ve seen. Most others I’ve seen are 2-3 feet tall. As you can see they flower profusely and are said to make an excellent hedge.

7. Sweet Woodruff

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.

8. Honeysuckle

We have several invasive honeysuckle species here in New Hampshire and I’ve given up trying to identify them all. Most or all are banned from being sold but birds love their bright red berries and that makes the shrubs impossible to ever eradicate. This example had the pinkest flowers I think I’ve ever seen on a honeysuckle.

9. Apple Blossoms

Apple trees grow throughout our forests and this is what makes people believe they’re seeing “wild” apples, when in fact every apple tree in this country (except crabapples) has been imported from somewhere else or was planted by seed; either by man, bird or animal. That’s why John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) did what he did. I love apple trees for their fragrance and so did my grandmother. Each year at this time I used to give her all the apple blossoms I could pick and for a day or two her house would smell like an orchard.

10. Bleeding Heart

Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) grow naturally in forests so they are plants that like cool, shady locations. They’ll go dormant quickly when it gets hot and since it’s already getting hot here I thought I should get a couple of photos of them.  It’s one of the oldest perennials in cultivation and it is called old fashioned bleeding heart. I’ve always liked them and they were one of the first flowers I chose for my own garden.

11. Striped Maple

The flowers of striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) look like bells dangling on a cord. They usually hang down under the leaves and can be very hard to get a good photo of, but every now and then a wind will come along and blow them up over a leaf, and that’s what happened here. The yellowish green bell shaped flowers are quite small, only about 1/4 inch across. Trees can have male, female or both kinds of flowers.

12. Striped Maple

Another view of the unusual striped maple flowers. Each flower has 5 green sepals and 5 greenish-yellow petals with outward turning lobes that are a bit longer than the sepals. Their six to eight stamens show that those in the photo are male flowers. A striped maple needs to be at least ten years old to produce seeds. They like cool moist woods and their large, hand size leaves mean they can take quite a lot of shade, so they grow in the understory. Native Americans are said to have used the wood of striped maple to make arrows and its bark for tea.

13. Pained Trillium

Painted trilliums (Trillium undulatum) are the third trillium I look for each spring. As the purple trilliums fade and nodding trilliums have moved from center stage along comes the painted trillium, which is the most beautiful among them, in my opinion. Each bright white petal has a reddish “V” at its base that looks painted on, and that’s where the common name comes from. Unlike its two cousins its flowers don’t point down towards the ground but face straight out, 90 degrees to the stem. With 2 inch wide flowers it’s not a big and showy plant, but it is loved. Painted trilliums grow in the cool moist forests north to Ontario and south to northern Georgia. They also travel west to Michigan and east to Nova Scotia.

14. Gaywings

Fringed polygala (Polygala paucifolia) flowers often grow in pairs like those shown in the photo. Each blossom is made up of five sepals and two petals. Two of the petals form a tube and two of the sepals form the “wings.” The little fringe like structure at the end of the tube is part of the third petal, which is mostly hidden. A lot has to happen for this little flower to become pollinated. When a heavy enough insect (like a bumblebee) lands on the fringed part, the third sepal drops down to create an opening so the insect can enter the tube, where it finds the flower’s reproductive parts and gets dusted with pollen. That pollination happens at all seems a bit miraculous but in case it doesn’t, this flower has insurance; there are unseen flowers underground that can self-pollinate without the help of insects.

15. Gaywings

Some flowers invite you to sit and admire their beauty. Others would like you to understand them, and most can make you smile, even on cloudy days. I find that all three are true of fringed polygala. They are with us for a relatively short time so I’m always very happy to find them in spring. I just found another small colony on Thursday and getting to know them over the next few months will be a pleasure.

Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it. ~Søren Kierkegaard

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.

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As I said in my last post we’re out of the woods and into the fields! The sun loving meadow flowers are blooming in such abundance that it’s hard to record them all, but here are a few more that I’ve seen recently.The thistles have started blooming and the bees seem happy about that. This is a bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) which is originally from Europe and Asia and is considered a noxious weed. This is one plant that you don’t want to fall on because it is prickly from the tip of its head all the way to its toes. Even the leaf tips are armed with sharp spines. This plant has clearly evolved plenty of protection so it isn’t eaten.  Thistles are troublesome in pastures and hay fields but for all its armor this one is relatively easy to control just by digging deep enough to break the root off 2 or 3 inches below the soil line. While wearing good thick gloves, of course. I’ve always liked purple and yellow together so here’s a buttercup to go with the thistle. This one is the common meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris,) also called tall buttercup. This is another introduced species from Europe and Asia, but it is thought that it might be native to Alaska. This is another plant that farmers don’t like to see in pastures because livestock avoid it due to its foul tasting sap. The “acris” part of the plant’s scientific name means bitter. This plant is toxic if eaten and crushed leaves can blister skin. In fact, one of its common names is blister plant.I found quite a few ground cherry plants growing on a sunny embankment next to a road recently. I think this one is a clammy ground cherry (Physalis heterophylla.) I haven’t seen the edible berries yet, but if this is the clammy ground cherry they will be yellow. Smooth ground cherry (Physalis subglabrata) fruits are orange, red, or purple and that plant doesn’t have hairs on its stem, leaves, and flowers like this one does. The fruit of ground cherries is enclosed in a papery husk that looks like a Chinese lantern. This native plant is in the nightshade family along with its relatives; tomatoes and potatoes. I don’t see as many wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) as I’d like to and I’m not sure why they aren’t more numerous here. This is also called spotted or wood geranium, though I usually find it at the edge of the woods. Some call it cranesbill as well, but other plants also have that name. The fine light colored lines on the petals are nectar guides that guide pollinators to the flower’s center. After about a month of flowering the plants produce seed and go dormant. The butter yellow blooms of Sulphur Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) can be seen along the roadsides now. These flowers are sometimes white with a yellow center and can also be a deeper, buttercup yellow, but the easiest ones to spot have the buttery color shown in the photo. Quite often the petals will have a bit of deeper yellow at the base. The 5 petals are notched and heart shaped. This is another plant that was introduced from Europe and Asia and can now be found in nearly every state in the country. It is considered a noxious weed in many areas. Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia ) is a low growing, vining plant. It is also called wandering Jenny, creeping Jenny, running Jenny, wandering sailor, wandering tailor, creeping Charlie, creeping Joan, herb two pence, and two penny grass . This plant was imported from Europe for use as a groundcover in gardens but has escaped and is now often found in wet areas. The common name moneywort comes from the round leaves resembling coins. Moneywort is quite noticeable because its yellow flowers are quite large for such a ground hugging plant. One story about moneywort says that when snakes get bruised or wounded they turn to moneywort for healing. This gave the plant yet another common name: Serpentaria.Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) isn’t rare or uncommon but neither is it well known because it often grows in among tall grasses, which makes it hard to spot. Books say that this plant will reach 3 feet in height but I’ve never seen it over 18 inches tall. The flowers are unusual but pretty, with a splash of red in the center of 5 yellow petals. They hang from long, weak pedicels (stems) and rest on the leaves or sometimes under them. The quadrifolia part of the scientific name means 4 leaves but the plant is known to sometimes have more than 4 in each whorl.  Whorled loosestrife is a native. The star shaped, 4 petaled flowers of smooth bedstraw (Galium mollugo) are tiny, but there are so many of them that the plant is easy to find. This one was growing in a vacant lot, which seems to be one of their favorite places. I’ve also found them mixed in with tall grass at forest edges and on hillsides. This plant is also called false baby’s breath, and that is the plant it reminds me of when it is blooming. When it isn’t in flower the small whorled leaves remind me of sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum,) which is a sweet scented, much shorter relative of smooth bedstraw. Another name for this plant is wild madder. Smooth bedstraw was introduced from Europe. It wouldn’t feel like summer to me without Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) blooming in the fields. This plant is also called bird’s nest because of the way the flowers curl up into a concave “nest” when they start to go to seed. Queen Anne’s lace is also called wild carrot but I would never eat the root or any other part of any plant that looked like this one because the deadly Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum ) looks a lot like it. I know their differences and can tell the two apart but I’d rather not risk being wrong that one day when I’m half asleep and not paying attention, because when you lose that game, you really lose. Queen Anne’s lace is originally from Europe. The strange fuzzy, joined flowers of partridge berry (Mitchella repens ) are lighting up the darker parts of the forest right now. I’ve never seen them bloom like they are this year, so they must like mild winters.  This native vine makes one bright red berry from two flowers that are joined at their bases. Each berry will have two indentations in its skin to show where the flowers were. Birds eat the berries through the winter and this winter they will have a bountiful harvest. Partridgeberry is a native plant. Wild Maiden pinks (Dianthus deltiodes) can be seen in meadows everywhere right now. Dianthus are in the carnation family and this plant is also called wild carnation. The name “pinks” comes from the petals looking like they have been edged with pinking shears. These plants are native to Europe and Asia and are tougher than they look-not only can these plants stand being mowed but doing so makes them bushier. A very similar plant is the Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) but its flowers have much narrower petals. Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) is still blooming.  There are several species of this plant that grow from coast to coast and they are all beautiful. This is an old time favorite of mine because it was one of the first plants I learned to identify. Blue eyed grass isn’t really a grass at all but is a plant in the Iris family. The flower has 3 petals and 3 sepals, all of which are the same color. The small flowers close in late afternoon so this one needs to be found early in the day.

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life ~ Author unknown

Next time I might have some more garden flowers to show you. Thanks for stopping in.

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In my last post were a lot of big, showy flowers. In this post are just the opposite; the tiny natives on the forest floor that are often hard to see. We need to keep our eyes to the ground and watch where we step. The nodding flowers of the native sessile bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) hide under the leaves with their opening towards the ground. Since these plants were only 6 inches tall I couldn’t get under the straw colored, one inch long flower to look into it.So I propped one up in the fork of a twig. Sessile bellwort flowers have three sepals and three petals, but it takes a botanist to tell them apart. They also have six stamens, which can be seen crowded into the flower opening. The word sessile relates to how the long, undulating, stalkless leaves look like they are sitting on the stem but don’t completely surround it. I found a colony of these growing in a moist forest where trillium, anemone, foamflower and meadow rue also grew. A common name of this plant is wild oats. I keep finding large drifts of flowers. Here bluets (Houstonia caerulea) carpet part of a field. Gardeners could learn a lot by paying attention to nature-flowers always look much more natural when they are planted in drifts.I saw both the bluest and whitest bluets I’ve ever seen growing less than five feet apart. I wish I knew what caused such color variations. A book by Maggie Nelson called Bluets begins “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” When you look at these flowers it’s easy to understand how she could write such a thing.Though I can’t say what causes the color variations in bluets, I read recently that the color variation in spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) is caused in part by the sun. In the study the lighter colored flowers were those that received the most sunlight. This is the darkest one I’ve seen, but it wasn’t in deep shade.This photo hasn’t been edited in any way-that’s exactly what the flower looked like, and it was a beauty. After it flowers the entire plant disappears until the following spring after having made a brief, 2 to 3 week appearance. Growing right alongside the spring beauties were yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum.) I’ve watched this large colony of plants for weeks, waiting for them to bloom. The “trout” part of the name comes from the slightly out of focus speckled leaves. Someone once thought they resembled the fish. The flower has 3 petals and 3 sepals which in full, warm sun, curve backwards to expose the long stamens and anthers. Petals and sepals are known as tepals on plants like these whose sepals and petals are indistinguishable. Trout lilies take from 4 to 7 years to bloom from seed. Before a trout lily’s tepals curl completely you can glimpse the darker bronze or maroon color on their outside surfaces. Each mature plant has two leaves and a single flower which is pollinated by ants and closes each night. This plant is also called the dogtooth violet because its white root is said to resemble a dog’s tooth. An old folk tale says that if a child swallowed one of its milk teeth you had to make him eat a dog violet petal, or his adult tooth would be long, like a dog’s tooth. The plant isn’t related to violets but it is easy to see why it is in the lily family. A spring beauty sat quietly watching nearby while I snapped pictures of the trout lily. The flower of the small flowered crowfoot (Ranunculus abortivus) was so small that I wasn’t sure if I could even get a picture of it. It is a member of the buttercup family and is also called kidney leaved buttercup, named for the round leaves at the base of the stem. Leaf shape changes on this plant so that the leaves further up the stem look nothing like those at the base. The flower has five petals, five sepals that usually bend downward, and many stamens surrounding a berry like center. This is all packed into a flower that is smaller than a pencil eraser. This unusual native, also called the kidney leaf buttercup, likes wet places and is considered poisonous. Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is another tiny flower that you have to sprawl on the ground to get a picture of. What look like white petals on this flower are actually sepals; the petals are the club-like tiny yellow balls at the end of short stalks. The inset in the upper right shows the bright yellow root that gives the plant its name. The shiny, 3 lobed leaves make this one easy to spot. Native Americans chewed the roots of goldthread to treat canker sores, which is why the plant is also called canker root. The natives shared the plant with the English settlers and it became such a popular medicine that by 1785 shakers were paying 37 cents per pound for it dried, which meant people dug up all they could find. After a couple of centuries the plant has recovered enough to be relatively common once again. I played peek-a-boo with this wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) for over a week, visiting each day to see if the flower would be open. All I saw were pink buds like that on the right. Wood anemones refuse to open up if the temperature and light aren’t to their liking, and as soon as the sun moves enough to give them the signal they begin to retreat back into their buds.  I kept missing the open flowers until one day when I found one in the act of closing, but still open enough to get a glimpse of the hidden wonders. This is another native wildflower that doesn’t have petals but has 4 to 9 sepals that look like petals. These plants grew in very damp soil and were about 3 inches tall, with tiny flowers. This plant is considered poisonous. The Chinese call it the “Flower of Death,” and in some European countries it is thought to be a bad omen, though nobody seems to remember why. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen as many wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) plants as I have this spring. They must prefer mild winters. Later on if the bees do their job, each of these flowers will become a small but delicious strawberry. In the garden strawberries easily reproduce vegetatively by runners (stolons,) but the fruit was so plentiful in the wild that colonials in North America didn’t bother cultivating them until the early 1800s. The first documented botanical illustration of a strawberry plant appeared in 1454. After taking pictures of such very small flowers this red (or purple) flowered trillium seemed like a giant. It was only five inches tall but stood on a bit of a rise, so at least I was able to get my chin off the ground to photograph it. Those who read the last post will remember that this is a real stinker whose common name is stinking Benjamin. This trillium likes moist soil and all the sun it can get. Though it might seem that a flower like this one would be easy to see, that isn’t always the case. I’ve walked right by them many times and have even stepped on one or two over the years, unfortunately. Here in New Hampshire the trilliums I’ve seen grow singly or in groups of 3 to 5, but under the right conditions they can form huge colonies. If you would like to see an excellent example of that take a look at the photo of white trilliums by Jerry over at his quietsolopursuits blog. It’s an amazing sight to behold.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these tiny forest dwellers and hope you will find some too. Thanks for coming by.

Perchance we may meet on woodland trails where drifts of trilliums and singing robins still greet the spring.” ~Don Jacobs

 

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