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Posts Tagged ‘Canada Fleabane’

The plants in this post were all found growing in or near water. Almost everywhere else has been too dry to support many blooming plants.  Lately though, passing thunderstorms have helped. Every few days the storm clouds gather. Sometimes they drop rain and sometimes just make a lot of noise.   Blue vervain (Verbena hastate) has appeared here before, but it has been blooming all summer and it’s hard to beat such a beautiful color. The only thing this plant is missing is a scent. Blue vervain provides a virtual nectar bar for many species of bees including the verbena bee (Calliopsis verbenae.) Butterflies also love it. This plant likes wet soil and full sun and can reach 5 feet when it has both. I’ve also seen it growing out of sidewalk cracks, but it was barely a foot tall.Blue Vervain, Yellow goldenrod and pink clover. Could any of us plan anything more beautiful for our gardens?Native boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is another plant that likes its feet wet and its head in the sun. It is usually seen with Joe Pye weed and some call it white Joe Pye weed. There is another boneset called late boneset (Eupatorium serotinum.) Bonest is sometimes used medicinally in teas and tonics even though it has toxic qualities. The greatest danger in using this plant medicinally is that it can be easily confused with our native, extremely toxic white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima,) which has similar flower clusters. All parts of white snakeroot are so poisonous that thousands died in the 19th century by using beef and milk from cattle that had eaten the plant. Its poison can even enter the body through cuts. White snakeroot is also sometimes called tall boneset.The “perfoliatum” part of boneset’s scientific name means “through the leaf,” and that’s what boneset leaves look like-as if they had been perforated by the stem. The leaves look crinkly and have saw- toothed margins and the stem is very hairy. If these four identification points aren’t present then the plant isn’t boneset. The leaves joining around the stem as they do looked like bones knitting together as they healed to ancient herbalists, and that’s how the plant got its common name.As flowers go Canada horseweed (Conyza canadensis) isn’t much to look at. In fact, if it wasn’t for the many small, dandelion-like seed heads I would have passed it right by. The flowers are tiny and seem to stay closed more than they do open. This plant can be easily seen from a distance because it starts branching at about a foot down from the tip of the tall, 3 foot stem and always looks top heavy. This plant is a North American native but is considered a noxious weed over much of the world. Legend has it that dried horseweed stem is one of the best materials for a drill when making fire with friction. Its stems are weak, so rubbing it between your hands rather than using a bow is recommended. It is said to produce a glowing coal with very little effort.There are 12 to 15 species of Gerardia in New England and unless you look closely at the plant while you have a field guide in your hands, you can easily mix them up. This one, I’m fairly certain, is Slender Gerardia (Gerardia tenuifolia.) The wiry stems, long flower stalks, sharply pointed calyx, long, narrow leaves, branching habit and dark spots with yellow pollinator guide lines inside the flower all go a long way towards identifying it. Gerardia is related to both foxgloves and snap dragons, and some call this slender leaved foxglove, even though the flowers are much smaller than those of foxglove. This plant is said to prefer dry areas but we had a thunderstorm the night before I found it and it was growing in very wet sand.  It is native to the eastern U.S. and doesn’t grow west of Missouri.I ran into this native dwarf St. John’s Wort (Hypericum mutilum) on a morning after we had thunder storms the night before. There was quite a large colony of it growing very close to the water near a pond and the plants were so tangled together that you couldn’t tell one from another. The flowers are quite small but they covered the short, bushy plants, making them easy to see. This plant looks like a lot like a small version of common St. John’s Wort, but is more sprawling than tall. I’ve had a hard time getting close to this floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiate) but finally, after 2 months, I got close enough to get a decent photo and its flower was closed! Oh well-you’ll have to trust me when I say that the small yellow, snapdragon-like flower is unusual and beautiful. What I really wanted to point out about the plant are the unusual leaf stalks (petioles) that have evolved into floats. In the fall the plant forms what are called winter buds on its underwater stems. These buds and bits of stem are all that survive the winter on the pond bottom. In spring when the water warms they inflate and float to the surface where they start to grow into new plants. These plants float in ponds and slow moving streams and trap insects in underwater bladders.I found this forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) growing on a river bank. Books tell me that the plant grows naturally on the banks of streams and rivers, but this is the only time I’ve ever seen one there in spite of spending over 50 years exploring such places. There are over 50 species of forget-me-nots; some are native to North America and some are European natives.Heal all (Prunella vulgaris ) just goes on and on. It’s been blossoming all summer and it seems that whenever I find a plant I’d like a photograph of there is heal all, waiting patiently to have its picture taken, too. This time I decided to oblige and snapped a few shots of the shy but very beautiful little thing. Like the forget-me-not that we just saw, heal all can be both a native or European plant, depending on which species you happen to see.As the story goes, once upon a time a lady (with a dirty thumb?) made an impression on this plant  and it has been called lady’s thumb (Polygonum persicaria) ever since. Though it doesn’t show very well in this photo, the base of each leaf forms a clasping sheath where it joins the central stem. Clasping leaves and the spots on each leaf are helpful identifiers. The small whitish-pink flowers are hard to find fully open and most often appear as they do in the photo. This is a small, unobtrusive plant that might reach 2 feet tall on a good day. Lady’s thumb is very similar to other knotweeds and smartweeds, but is the only one with the brownish black “thumb print.” I found the plant pictured growing in the rocky, sandy soil of a river bank, very close to the water line.When you get up close and personal pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) turns out to be quite hairy. This is one feature which, at even a short distance, usually isn’t seen. Pickerelweed, unless it hasn’t rained for a month, is an aquatic plant always found growing in shallow water just off shore of ponds and rivers. This year though, with the lack of rain, this one grew in mud at the edge of a pond and I was able to walk right up to it.  Pickerelweed will bloom right up to a good frost. While the tops die back in the fall, the starchy, fleshy roots will live on under water until the following spring. Deer, muskrat and geese think this plant is a delicacy. At first I thought this plant was northern bugleweed (Lycopus uniflorus) but I can’t find any reference to reddish leaves and dark purple stems for that plant. Instead, it must be the very similar looking taper leaf water horehound (Lycopus rubellus.) Its description includes both reddish leaves and stems which can be more purple than green, especially when it grows in bright light. Both plants love wet soil and are good wetland indicators. I found this one growing in full sun on a riverbank in a place that is often covered by water. I’ve seen it countless times but have really never paid it any attention.Spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is a wet soil loving native plant and I see it on river and stream banks regularly. One story says that water droplets sparkle on the dull green leaves after a rain, and that’s why the plant is called jewelweed. Another says it’s because the flowers sparkle in the sun. Several species of bees and ruby throated hummingbirds visit jewelweeds regularly. The forward bending nectar spur on each flower plus their orange color makes this plant easy to identify.  Another name for the plant is spotted touch me not because of the way the seed pods explode at the slightest touch. I’m sure most of us experienced that surprising event as children. This plant is extremely useful for soothing skin that has come into contact with poison ivy. Just pick a few stems and squeeze the sap onto the itch and rub it in. The itch will be gone in no time.  A similar but less common plant is yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida,) which has pale yellow flowers.This wet meadow has been seen here before. It is a fine place to find all kinds of sun loving wildflowers and some of those in this post live there. It also reminds me of an impressionist’s painting. Monet, maybe?

Be like the sun and meadow, which are not in the least concerned about the coming winter ~George Bernard Shaw

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