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Posts Tagged ‘Chicory’

 

Nothing says summer to me like lilies blooming, and we’re lucky to have them blooming in fields and along roadsides right now. The flowers of Canada lilies (Lilium canadense) are as big and as beautiful as the garden lilies I think we’re all familiar with, and they come in red and orange as well as yellow. Their habit of nodding towards the ground can make getting a photo difficult, but I (very gently) tilt the stem back with one hand while I take the photos with the other. It’s not the ideal set up but it lets me show you the brownish purple spots on the inside throat of the trumpet and the huge red anthers. I had a hard time finding them this year though. One spot I know of where a large colony grows had nothing but chewed stems, and I think deer might have eaten them. Another spot near a stream had many lilies blooming 2 years ago and now there is no sign of them. I’m not sure where they could have gone.

These big lilies don’t toil or spin but they thrive out in the fields, sometimes reaching 7 to 8 feet tall. They always remind me of arts and crafts period chandeliers. These examples had a lot of orange on their outsides which is something I don’t often see. They’re usually bright yellow. The flower buds and roots were gathered and eaten by Native Americans. The scaly bulbs were cooked and eaten with other foods, such as venison and fish. They were also cooked and saved for winter use. They are said to have a very peppery flavor.

Lilies say summer but black eyed Susans remind me that summer will end all too soon. This plant will always be a fall flower to me, probably because they have such a long blooming period and are seen everywhere in the fall. I’m always happy to see them but at the same time not so happy that another summer is flying by. At least this year they waited until July to bloom.

For some reason chicory (Cichorium intybus) likes to grow in places that get mowed regularly, like along our roadsides. I’m always dismayed when I see such beautiful flowers being cut down but I have seen normal size flowers can bloom on a plant no more than three inches tall, so though the plants may get mowed they aren’t being killed. I’m glad of that because I love their blue color.

One day I was walking on the banks of the Ashuelot River up in Surry, which is north of Keene, and came upon a plant that I had never seen. It turned out to be herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) and my question, once I had identified it, was: Robert who? As it turns out Robert was a French monk who lived in 1000 AD and cured many people’s diseases using this plant, and that leads to another common name: Saint Robert’s Herb. If you crush its leaves they are said to smell like burning tires, so yet another common name is stinky Bob.

Stinky or not herb Robert has a pretty little flower, but they’re much smaller than other geraniums. Each one seems to be no bigger than a standard aspirin.

Blue, bell shaped flowers all on one side of the stem can mean only one thing; creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides.) The pretty flowered plant was introduced as an ornamental from Europe and has escaped gardens to live in dry places that get full sun. It is a late bloomer but is usually finished by the time the goldenrods have their biggest flush of bloom. It is considered an invasive plant in some places because it is hard to get rid of once it has become established. It can choke out weaker native plants if it is left alone. It isn’t considered invasive here in New Hampshire though, and in fact I usually have to look for quite a while to find it. When I do it is usually growing on forest edges.

American basswood trees (Tilia americana) are members of the linden family. Though they are native trees I rarely see them. They belong to the same genus as the lime trees commonly seen in Europe and England. Its flowers are very fragrant and it’s a nice looking shade tree but unfortunately it is also an insect magnet and among the insects it attracts are Japanese beetles in the many thousands. Bees are also attracted in great numbers and the honey produced from basswood foraging bees is said to be choice and highly sought after.

Each of the basswood’s flower clusters (cymes) clings to the middle of an elongated whitish green floral bract. Each small flower is about a half inch in diameter with 5 cream-colored petals, 5 cream-colored sepals, a pistil with a white style, and several stamens with yellow anthers. They are always hard to get a good photo of for some reason, and I usually have to try several times. The seeds of this tree are eaten by squirrels, chipmunks, and mice. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for the tree and made rope from its tough inner bark. Freshly cut bark was also used as bandages. Syrup was made from the sweet sap and young leaves were eaten in the spring. Not a single part of the tree was wasted.

Many plants that can tolerate a lot of shade have large, light gathering leaves and the shade tolerant purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is one of those. This plant is in the rose family and the 2 inch wide flowers might look like a rose at first glance, but one look at its large, maple like leaves will show that it isn’t. Flowering raspberry has no thorns like roses or raspberries but Japanese beetles love it just as much as roses and it’s common to see the large leaves looking like they’ve been shot full of holes. The fruit looks like a large raspberry but is on the tart, dry side. Native Americans had over 100 uses for this plant, both as food and medicine.

I thought I’d show a rose blossom so those who have never seen a flowering raspberry flower could compare the two of them. The flowering raspberry really doesn’t look anything like a rose except maybe in size of bloom, but they do get confused occasionally. This is a “wild” rose; beautiful and fragrant enough that I wished it grew in my own yard.

I’ve seen this plant before but I’ve never seen it bloom because the single example I know of grows near a shopping mall and in the past it has always been cut down before it could blossom. But it is persistent and keeps growing back, and finally this year it was able to blossom in peace before being cut. At first I thought it was some type of vining honeysuckle but the tiny flowers and its white latex sap pointed me in the direction of milkweeds.

But the flowers weren’t really right for a milkweed so I tried dogbane, which is in the milkweed family. Finally I found that it is called Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum,) which is also called dogbane hemp. It is a  poisonous plant which can cause cardiac arrest if ingested but it’s also a great source of strong fibers and was used by Native Americans to make nets, bow strings, fishing lines, clothing, and twine. Some tribes also used it medicinally despite its toxicity to treat rheumatism, coughs, whooping cough, and asthma.

One of the chief identifiers for Indian hemp are the pretty plum colored stems.

Tall thimbleweed’s (Anemone virginiana) white flower sepals don’t seem to last very long. Every time I see them they have either turned green or are in the process of doing so, and you can just see a hint of green on two or three of these. There are usually plenty of yellowish stamens surrounding a center head full of pistils though. The seed head continues growing after the sepals have fallen off and it becomes thimble shaped, which is where the common name comes from. These flowers are close to the diameter of a quarter; about an inch. Though the plant is poisonous Native Americans used the root to ease whooping cough and the smoke from the seeds was used to treat breathing difficulties.

Meadowsweet (Spirea alba) grows in the form of a small shrub and is in the spirea family, which its flowers clearly show with their many fuzzy stamens. The flowers are fragrant and have a sort of almond-like scent. I almost always find it near water. It is another plant which for me marks summer’s passing.

Tall lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) can reach 10 feet tall, towering above other plants in the area. This makes it easy to see but sometimes it’s not so easy to get a good photo of. The leaves of this plant can be highly variable in their shape, with even the leaves on the same plant looking different from each other. Native Americans used the plant for pain relief, as a stimulant, and for calming the nerves. The milky white sap contains a compound called lactucarium, which has narcotic and sedative properties. It is still used in medicines today but should be used with caution because overdoses can cause death.

Though tall lettuce can reach 10 feet tall its flowers are very small; no more than a 1/4 inch across, and appear in loose clusters at the top of wiry stalks.

The pale yellowish green flowers of tall lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) are often tinted by red or pink on their edges and are really quite pretty, but I think they are flowers that most people miss. This one was offering up a lot of pollen.

Last year I followed a trail through a swamp and was astonished to see a two foot tall greater purple fringed bog orchid (Platanthera grandiflora) growing right there beside the trail. This year I’ve been following its progress off and on for months, watching it grow and produce buds, hoping all the while that a hungry deer wouldn’t come along and eat it. The deer left it alone and finally it bloomed at exactly the same time it had last year.

Gosh what a beautiful thing it is; like a bush full of purple butterflies. It is something I’d happily walk many miles to see because such a sight is so very rare; truly a once in a lifetime find in these parts. It grows in black, very wet swamp mud where for part of this spring there was standing water, so it obviously likes wet feet. Last year I was confused about its identity because the middle lower petal didn’t show any fringe but this year as you can see they are fringed, so that clinches it. The flowers are pollinated by large butterflies and moths, but I’ve never seen an insect near them. I do hope they get pollinated and produce plenty of seeds. I was stunned to read that the Native American Iroquois tribe actually dug this orchid up for its roots! They made tea from the roots to protect them from ghosts. Maybe there were a lot more plants then. I could never dig up something so beautiful and rare.

How I wish everyone could become lost in nature at least once. A camera is a good way to experience it because a camera makes you focus intently on what you see, and often when you do that you find that all other thoughts will fade. Your mind and heart open and then it is just you and the incredible beauty of what is before you. You become lost in that beauty and become part of it, and time slips away. It doesn’t matter that you are kneeling in mud because you can’t care about such things. It’s just you and what your attention is focused on, and for that moment in time there is simply nothing else. I’m often astonished to find that what seemed like just a few minutes has actually been an hour or more. That’s how I know that I have been taken away to that other place. It’s a place where, once visited, you know you’d love to stay, and I do hope you’ll find that out for yourself one day.

Silently a flower blooms,
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place,
The world of the flower, the whole of the world is blooming.
This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom:
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.
~ Zenkei Shibayama

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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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We’re coming into high summer now and though we still haven’t had any really beneficial rain, flowers continue to bloom. This shy little Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria) peeked out of the tall grass at the edge of the forest. They don’t always grow in the same large clumps as their cousins the maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) do, and this was the only one I saw. They also don’t have the same bold, jagged, deep maroon ring near their center as maiden pinks do, and that’s a good means of identification. Both plants are originally from Europe and have escaped cultivation. Maiden pinks seem to prefer open lawns and meadows while Deptford pinks hide their beautiful faces at the sunny edges of the forest.

I have trouble seeing red against green due to colorblindness and that’s why you don’t see much red in these posts, but these bee balm blossoms stood high enough above the surrounding foliage to be clearly visible. The name bee balm comes from the way the juice from its crushed leaves will soothe a bee sting. Our native scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma) is also called Oswego tea, because the leaves were used to make tea by the Native American Oswego tribe of New York. Early settlers also used the plant for tea when they ran out of the real thing. It’s a beautiful flower that I’m always happy to see. Hummingbirds love it too and will come from all over to sip its nectar.

3. Mallow

Driving home from work one evening I saw a flash of what looked like blue on the side of the road out of the corner of my eye so I turned around, hoping that I’d found another stand of chicory plants. Once I’d driven back to where I saw the plants I found that not only hadn’t I seen blue flowers, I hadn’t seen chicory either. But I wasn’t disappointed, because the mallow plants I found there were beautiful. I think they might have been musk mallow (Malva moschata.) Since it’s another plant that is originally from Europe it was probably a garden escapee, but you could hardly call it invasive. I see them once in a blue moon, even less than the elusive chicory that I’m always hoping to see.

4. Mallow

I thought the mallow flowers were pink but my color finding software sees lavender. I love looking at such beautiful flowers, especially those that I rarely see. I’m sure there were many people who drove by that day wondering why I was kneeling on the side of the road, but it wasn’t the first time for that.

I had to stop working on this post and go out for a while and when I did, just after writing that I rarely see chicory (Cichorium intybus,) there was a large stand of it beside the road. Actually the road was a very busy highway and I wasn’t sure about stopping but in the end I did and was glad that I had. Chicory is a large, inch and a half diameter flower that is a beautiful shade of blue. Unfortunately it’s rare in this area and I’m lucky if I see it at all. I always hope the plants that I do see produce plenty of seeds but its habit of growing so close to roads means it gets mowed down a lot.

Many plants that can tolerate a lot of shade have large, light gathering leaves and the shade tolerant purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is one of those. This plant is in the rose family and the 2 inch wide flowers might look like a rose at first glance, but one look at its large, maple like leaves will show that it isn’t. Flowering raspberry has no thorns like roses or raspberries but Japanese beetles love it just as much as roses and it’s common to see the large leaves looking like they’ve been shot full of holes. The fruit looks like a large raspberry but is on the tart, dry side. Native Americans had over 100 uses for this plant, both as food and medicine.

I thought I’d show a rose blossom so those who have never seen a flowering raspberry flower could compare the two of them. The flowering raspberry really doesn’t look anything like a rose except maybe in size of bloom, but they do get confused occasionally. This rose grew at the edge of the woods so I don’t know anything about it except that it was beautiful and fragrant enough so I wished it grew in my own yard. There was a sun shining radiantly at its center.

8. Enchanter's Nightshade

When I get a new camera like I did recently one of the first things I do is look for the smallest flowers that are blooming at the time so I can try out its macro ability, and they don’t come much smaller than enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana canadensis.) This woodland plant is a shade lover and I notice it along trails only when it blooms in July. It gets its scientific name Circaea from Circe, an enchantress in Homer’s Odyssey with a fondness for turning men into swine. There are similar plants native to Europe and Asia.

Each tiny 1/8 inch wide enchanter’s nightshade flower consists of 2 white petals that are split deeply enough to look like 4, 2 green sepals, 2 stamens, and a tiny central style. The new camera surprised me on this day; I’ve never gotten such clear shots of this little flower.

At the base of each flower there is a 2 celled ovary that is green and covered with stiff hooked hairs, and this becomes the plant’s bur like seed pod, which sticks to just about anything. When a plant’s seed pods have evolved to be spread about by sticking to the feathers and fur of birds and animals the process is called epizoochory. The burs on burdock plants are probably the best known examples of epizoochory.

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) isn’t covered with sharp spines like the larger bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) that most of us have tangled with. Though it does have spines along the leaf margins and stem, they are quite small. Despite its common name the plant is actually a native of Europe but has spread to virtually every country in the northern hemisphere. It has a deep and extensive creeping root system and is nearly impossible to eradicate once it gains a foothold. For that reason it is considered a noxious weed in many states.

I’ve grown a lot of beans but I’ve really never paid that much attention to the flowers. They’re unusual and quite pretty I thought, when I saw them in a friend’s garden.

13. Vervain

Vervain (Verbena hastata) is described as having reddish blue or violet flowers but I see the same beautiful blue color that I saw in the chicory flower. Somebody else must have seen the same thing, because they named the plant blue vervain. Vervain flowers are considerably smaller than chicory, but there are usually so many blooming that they’re as easy to spot as chicory is. Vervain can get quite tall and has erect, terminal flower clusters. The bitter roots of this plant were used medicinally by Native Americans.

14. Swamp Milkweed

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is one of those flowers that take me out of myself. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful of all the milkweeds and is one of those flowers that I most look forward to seeing each summer.

How could you not look forward to seeing something so beautiful? I could look at it all day.

16. Purple Fringed Orchid

I walked down a trail through a swamp that I didn’t know well one day and there growing beside it was a two foot tall purple fringed orchid (Platanthera psycodes.) It was one I’ve never seen; it looked like a flock of beautiful purple butterflies had landed right beside me.

17. Purple Fringed Orchid

Once I came to my senses I moved closer and knelt beside the plant. Struck dumb by its beauty, all I could do was gaze and admire, so very grateful that I had found such a wondrous thing.

18. Purple Fringed Orchid

Later, after I left the swamp I thought of John Muir, who wrote of finding the beautiful calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa) after being nearly lost in a swamp all day:

I found beautiful Calypso on the mossy bank of a stream… The flower was white and made the impression of the utmost simple purity like a snowflower. It seemed the most spiritual of all the flower people I had ever met. I sat down beside it and fairly cried for joy… How long I sat beside Calypso I don’t know. Hunger and weariness vanished, and only after the sun was low in the west I plashed on through the swamp, strong and exhilarated as if never more to feel any mortal care.

John Muir was completely lost in the beauty of nature; totally absorbed by the flower before him. It’s a wonderful experience and anyone it has ever happened to longs for it to happen again, and it does. I hope everyone has the chance to experience it, at least once.

Maybe, beauty, true beauty, is so overwhelming it goes straight to our hearts. Maybe it makes us feel emotions that are locked away inside. ~James Patterson

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Over the course of the almost 5 years that I’ve had this blog I’ve seen many things that have gotten my goat. That’s New England Yankee speak for something that angers you, by the way.  Anyhow, I’ve decided that keeping my mouth shut about these annoyances is accomplishing nothing except allowing them to continue, so I welcome you to the first installment of Things that get my goat. Maybe I’ll hear from others who are also bothered by these things. I can’t be the only one.

1. Gomarlo's Market

At one time there was a small grocery store that stood very close to the Ashuelot River in Swanzey, New Hampshire. You wouldn’t have had to walk too far behind the car in this 1952 photo to have reached the covered bridge that crossed the river, and still crosses it today. Not too long ago, a couple of years I think, I watched this building being torn down and it was then that I heard rumors of a town park being built on the property. I didn’t have a good feeling about that.

2. Terracing

The park, as it stands now, seems to consist of granite block terracing and an expanse of crab grass. It reminds me of an amphitheater, but if you sat on these granite blocks you would look out on more crabgrass, so I’m not sure amphitheater is the right word.

3. Fake Stone Wall

The park is sunken below street level and the retaining wall where it meets the street was once part of the foundation of the store in the first photo. Now concrete blocks that are supposed to look like stone are used as a retaining wall.

4. Fencing

A new fence was installed and it makes sense because there is a 7-8 foot drop from street level down to where the riverbank starts.

5. Cut Embankment

What doesn’t make sense is what was done to the riverbank. All of the shrubs and wildflowers that once grew there have been cut down, and what is left is an ugly scar.

6. Ashuelot Wildflowers

This photo I took last year shows what this section of the river bank once looked like. There were lupines, ox-eye daisy, birds foot trefoil, asters, yarrow, goldenrod, button bush, silky dogwood, smooth and staghorn sumacs, Virginia creeper, and many other plants and shrubs that were important to the birds, waterfowl and other wildlife in the area.

7. Thompson Bridge

One of the things Swanzey is known for its covered bridges. This one was built in 1832 and is called the Thompson Bridge, named after the playwright Denmon Thompson, who lived in town. Of open lattice design, it has been called the most beautiful covered bridge in New England and it draws a lot of tourists to the area. Tourists easily translate to income and the cutting has opened up the view so they can see the bridge better. I understand that; it seems like a valid reason. But what I can’t understand is why all of these plants had to be butchered back to ground level when more selective cutting would have opened up the view and left a riverbank overflowing with blooming shrubs, vines, and wildflowers. Why not have someone who knows what they’re doing come and at the very least give their opinion about what should be done before just hacking away at it?

8. Ashuelot Wildflowers

Because what once looked like this…

9. Butchery

…now looks like this. I doubt very much that tourists are going to be drawn to this. Are there more “improvements” in store, I wonder? I have to say that I hope not. Over there on the upper right is where one of only two examples of chicory plants that I knew of grew. The beautiful blue flowers would have pleased the tourists more than this empty riverbank, I think.

10. Silky Dogwood

At this time of year the beautiful blue berries of silky dogwood hung out over the water.

11. Cedar Waxwing

You might say “big deal, sumacs and silky dogwoods grow everywhere, so who cares if we cut a few of them down?” Well, the cedar waxwing in the above photo probably cares. They rely heavily on silky dogwood berries at this time of year and when I was on the bridge watching one recent evening he and many of his cousins kept flying to where the shrubs used to be, as if they couldn’t figure out why there were no berries there. Who knows how many generations of birds have been taught to forage here?

And that’s saying nothing about the 25 species of ducks and 28 species of birds that feed on buttonbush seeds. Or the robins, bluebirds, crows, mockingbirds and 300 species of songbirds that feed on the sumac berries. Or the raccoons, rabbits, muskrats and squirrels that used the shrubs for cover and food. Or the birds that nest in the thickets the shrubs create. Or the bees, butterflies and other insects that feed on the wildflowers.

As John Muir once said: When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

12. Cedar Waxwing

The saddest and most ironic part of this story is, I think, how just a few hundred yards downriver on the other side of the bridge a 250 year old timber crib dam was torn down in 2010. At the time that section of river bank was also “improved” and good money was paid by taxpayers to plant native shrubs and trees there. Many of the shrubs that were planted are silky dogwoods!

So here we are on one side of the bridge spending tax dollars to plant silky dogwood while on the other side of the bridge, just a couple of hundred yards away, we’re busy paying more tax dollars to cut them all down. I’m sure this must make sense to someone somewhere who probably wouldn’t know a dogwood from a dandelion, but it makes absolutely no sense to me.

13. Uncut Riverbank

Just as ironic is how most of the native wildflowers were cut and good sized patches of purple loosestrife, one of the most invasive plants that we have in this area, were left standing. There are still one or two goldenrods, asters and smartweeds growing here but they won’t be able to compete against the loosestrife. It will eventually win out.  Instead of using it to cut down native plants would the money be better spent trying to eradicate invasive species along the river bank? There are many, including Japanese barberry, burning bush, and oriental bittersweet. They’ve taken over the woodland just downriver from here.

14. Clouded Sulfur Butterfly

Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance. ~Theodore Roosevelt

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1. Tansy

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a European native that has been cultivated for centuries. The ancient Greeks knew it well and it was grown in the herb gardens of Charlemagne. It was brought from England by early colonists and by 1785 it had naturalized in New England. The flat flower heads are made up of many button-like disc flowers that have a peculiar, medicine like fragrance that some compare to camphor. The plant has a long history of use as an insect repellant and colonials added it to the straw in mattresses to keep bedbugs away.

 2. Possible Purple Stemmed  Aster-

Asters can be difficult to identify but I know a few of them well enough to feel comfortable making an identification. This one is one of the difficult ones. Its flowers look like New England asters but where those flowers are quarter size, these are barely nickel size. I think it might be the purple stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum,) which is also called the swamp aster or glossy leaved aster, and I think that because it was growing near water and has a somewhat crooked, dark purple stem.

3. Purple Stemmed Beggar Ticks

I often find purple stemmed beggar ticks (Bidens connata) growing in the wet soil at the edges of ponds and rivers. It has curious little yellow orange ray-less disc flowers that never seem to fully open and dark, purple-black stems. It is closely related to bur marigold (Bidens tripartita), which is also called water hemp because of the leaf shape. The name beggar ticks comes from its barbed seeds that stick to fur and clothing like ticks. It is an annual that grows new from seed each year.

 4. Nodding Bur Marigold aka Bidens cernua

Nodding bur marigold likes full sun and wet feet and can often be found growing right beside its cousin the purple stemmed beggar tick that we saw in the previous photo. Its flower is much showier though, and looks something like a miniature sunflower. As they age the flower heads nod towards the ground and that’s how it comes by its common name. Another common name is nodding beggar tick, because its seeds are also barbed and also stick to just about anything that happens by. In this part of New Hampshire this plant grows about knee high, sometimes in standing water.

 5. Rose of Sharon

Though rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) isn’t a wildflower in New Hampshire but I thought I’d add it to this post because there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding it each year at this time. People don’t know if it’s a hibiscus or a mallow or a hollyhock, and that’s because all of those plants are in the mallow family (Malvaceae) and have similar flowers. The easiest way to identify a rose of Sharon is by looking at the plant the flowers are on. If the flower is on an upright, often tall woody shrub it is a rose of Sharon. Mallow and hollyhocks are perennials and / or biennials and will usually die back to the ground each year. Hibiscus resembles rose of Sharon but you’ll only find it growing outside year round in the southern states because it is very tender. I think of rose of Sharon as a hardy hibiscus.

6. False Dandelion

At a glance you might think you were seeing a hawkweed flower when you look at a false dandelion (Hypochaeris radicata) flower because they’re close to the same size. One look at the leaves however, will show you that you’re seeing something entirely different because they resemble those of the dandelion more than hawkweed foliage. Hawkweed and false dandelion also bloom at different times, which helps when trying to identify them. The flowers are much smaller than those of true dandelions and they sit at the top of long, wiry stems, much like hawkweed.

7. False Dandelion Foliage

False dandelion’s other common names include cat’s ear and flat weed; cat’s ear because of the hairs usually found on the upper and lower leaf surfaces and flat weed because the leaves usually lie flat on the ground. As seen in the photo above this plant wanted to be different and its smooth leaves are standing up. If it weren’t for the two wiry flower stems seen on the left you might wonder if I hadn’t taken a photo of a dandelion by mistake. This plant is originally from Europe and is considered a noxious weed in many areas.

8. White Heath Aster

I have misidentified this aster in the past as the small flowered white aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum) but after taking a closer look I think it is the white heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides). There are many asters that look alike, and to complicate matters they cross breed and create natural hybrids. This one has 1/4 to 1/2 inch white flowers, and nearly every inch of free stem has a blossom on it all on one side of the stem. The shrubby little plants are about knee high and I find them growing in unmown fields and pastures.

9. White Heath Aster

This photo shows how all of the flowers grow on one side of the white heath aster’s stem. This habit makes the plant appear very bushy.

 10. Bladder Wort Plant

The swollen, air filled, modified leaf stems of the native little floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiata) radiate out from a point on the stem like the spokes of a wheel and keep the flower above the water while currents carry it over the surface of ponds. The parts of the plant that trail under the water look like roots and are where the bladders are located. Each bladder has small hairs on it which, when touched by an insect, trigger a trapdoor that opens quickly and sucks the insect inside. Once trapped inside there is no escape, and the insect is slowly digested.

11. Northern Water Horehound

I can’t think of a single time that I have found northern water horehound (Lycopus uniflorus) growing away from water. It’s an odd little plant that might get knee high on a good day, and often leans toward the water that it grows near. Its tiny flowers grow in round tufts at each leaf axil and remind me of motherwort, which has the same habit. It is in the mint family and has a square stem as so many of the plants in that family do. It is also closely related to American water horehound (Lycopus americanus) and the two plants are easily confused. Paying close attention to leaf shape helps tell them apart. The foliage is said to be very bitter and possibly toxic, but Native Americans used the tuberous roots for food.

 12. Northern Water Horehound Flowers

The flowers of northern water horehound are pretty little bell shaped things, but they are small enough to need a hand lens (or macro lens) to really appreciate them. They are pollinated by bees, wasps and flies and each one will become 4 small nutlets.  I don’t know what birds or animals eat the seeds, but muskrats love the roots.

13. Chicory

I’m happy to see that chicory (Cichorium intybus) is still going strong. I love its cheery, bright blue color. Our average first frost happens in mid-September, so this might be the last photo of it this year.

14. Tall White Rattlesnake Root aka Prenanthes trifoliate

White rattlesnake root (Prenanthes alba) can be tough to identify because even plants growing side by side can have differently shaped leaves, but once they bloom identification becomes much easier. I can’t think of another plant that has small, drooping white, lily like blossoms at this time of year. The half inch flowers appear in clusters at the end of branched stems that can reach 5 or 6 feet in some cases, and have forked stamens that are longer than the petals. The plant gets its common name from the Native American belief that it could cure rattlesnake bites.

15. White Snakeroot

Though its flowers resemble those of boneset, which flowers at the same time, white snakeroot’s large heart shaped, toothed leaves look nothing like boneset leaves. This plant is very toxic and in the early 19th century it killed thousands of settlers in the Midwest. A compound called trematol is passed from the plant to cows that graze on it and when humans drank the milk before too long they started to show signs of what was called “milk sickness.” In a week or less most would die of heart or liver failure. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from milk sickness when he was just 9 years old. All parts of the plant are toxic to cattle, horses, sheep, and humans. Today’s farmers eradicate the plant from their pastures and mix the milk from many cows together, so milk sickness is almost unheard of. A Native American woman from the Shawnee tribe is credited with finally warning settlers about this plant and most likely saving thousands of lives.

Stop every now and then.  Just stop and enjoy.  Take a deep breath.  Relax and take in the abundance of life. ~Anonymous

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1. Canada Lilies

Off in the distance in the underbrush I spotted yellow Canada lilies (Lilium canadense) poking up above the choking growth. To get to them I had to fight my way through a tangled mass of grape vines, Virginia creeper, oriental bittersweet, and virgin’s bower, and once I reached the lily plants I was in undergrowth up to my shoulders. I was surprised to see that the lily plants were at least seven feet tall-easily the tallest lilies I’ve ever seen.

2. Canada Lilly 2

After fighting my way through the closest thing to a jungle that you’ll ever find in New Hampshire I visited a local cemetery and found Canada lilies growing everywhere, just at the edges of the mown lawns. They’re beautiful enough to warrant having to work a little harder to get close to, I think. They were big, too-this single bloom must have been 5-6 inches across.

3. Swamp Milkweed

I visited the three places that I know of where swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) grows and the plants were either gone completely or weren’t flowering, but then I found a new colony that looked good and healthy. These are extremely beautiful flowers that seem to glow from within when the light is right. They are of the kind that you can lose yourself in and suddenly discover that you’ve been admiring their beauty for far longer than you had intended. Time might slip away but as the bees taste the nectar, so can you taste the place of deep peace from which flowers come.

4. Canada Thistle

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) is small flowered thistle native to Europe and Asia and has nothing to do with Canada except as an invasive, noxious weed. It is taken care of quickly by farmers because once it becomes established in a field it is almost impossible to get rid of. Its roots can spread 20 feet in a single season and pieces of broken root will produce new plants. As thistles go its flowers are small; less than a half inch across, even though the plant itself can reach 5 feet tall. The leaves are very prickly.

5. Chicory Blossom

One of my favorite blue flowers is chicory (Cichorium intybus,) but none of the plants that I’ve seen in the past grew this year. I found this one growing beside a road and it’s now the only chicory plant that I know of. I’m hoping that it will produce lots of seeds.

 6. Bee Balm Blossom

Red flowers can be tough to get a good photo of and this year I found that the background played an important part in the end result. Green seemed to work well for this bee balm (Monarda didyma,) but so did an old weathered gray board. The Native American Oswego tribe (Iroquois) showed early colonists how to make tea from bee balm leaves, and it has been called Oswego tea ever since. Its leaves are also used as an ingredient in other teas as well.

7. Purple Loosestrife

It really is too bad that purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is so invasive. It’s hard to deny its beauty, but I’ve found it on the banks of the Ashuelot River poised to turn them into a monoculture. It would be a terrible thing to lose the diversity that is found along that river, so my admiration of its beauty is tempered by concern for the native plants that have lived there for so long.

8. Creeping Bellflower

One way to tell that you have a creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) rather than another campanula is by noticing the curious way the flowers all grow on one side of the stem, and the way that the stem almost always leans in the direction of the flowers. This plant is originally from Europe and is considered an invasive weed. It can be very hard to eradicate.

 9. Queen Anne's Lace Center Flowers

Nobody really knows why, in the center of some Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) flower heads, a purple flower will appear. Botanists have been arguing over the reason for over a century and a half, but none have an answer. Some believe the purple flowers are there to fool any insects flying by into believing that there is another insect on the flower head. Since what is good for one is good for many, they land and help to pollinate the flowers. But that is just a theory. Some ancients believed that eating the purple flower would cure epilepsey.

10. Dewdrop

I had quite a time getting both the flower and leaf of this dewdrop (Rubus dalibarda) in focus. I thought it was important though, because someone once thought its leaves looked like violet leaves, and from that comes another common name: false violet. It likes to grow in moist coniferous woodlands and doesn’t need a lot of sunshine. This plant is quite rare in these parts. I know of only one small colony of plants in Fitzwilliam. It is considered extremely rare in Connecticut and “historical” in Rhode Island, meaning it is just a memory there. It is also threatened in many states, including Michigan and Ohio.

11. Dewdrop Blossom

The odd thing about the dewdrop plant is how most of the flowers that appear above the leaves are sterile and produce no seeds. The fertile flowers appear under the leaves and can’t be seen, and every year when I take its photo I forget to look for them.

 12. Cow Wheat

Humble little narrow-leaf cow wheat seems like a shy little thing but it is actually a thief that steals nutrients from surrounding plants. A plant that can photosynthesize and create its own food but is still a parasite on surrounding plants is known as a hemiparasite.  Its long white, tubular flowers tipped with yellow-green are very small, and usually form in pairs where the leaves meet the stem (axils). I find this plant growing in old, undisturbed forests.

 13. Monkey Flower Side

No matter how I look at an Allegheny monkey flower (Mimulus ringens) I don’t see a smiling monkey’s face. This is a side view. I can’t help but wonder; if I came upon a wildflower that I had never seen before, would I be thinking of monkeys? I don’t think so. I rarely think of monkeys and I don’t think I’ve ever thought of them while admiring wildflowers. The way that flowers find their common names is an endless source of fascination for me. This little monkey likes wet, sunny places and is also called square stemmed monkey flower.

14. Monkey Flower Front

Even a front view of Mimulus ringens doesn’t show me a monkey’s face, but someone once thought so. The mimulus part of the scientific name means “buffoon,” but I don’t see that either. All I see is a very pretty little wildflower that I wish I’d see more of.

If you wish your children to think deep thoughts, to know the holiest emotions, take them to the woods and hills, and give them the freedom of the meadows; the hills purify those who walk upon them.  ~Richard Jefferies

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Wildflower posts are bound to get shorter soon, but for now there’s still plenty to see.

 1. Black Eyed Susan

Our native black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) can be found in all fifty states and all across Canada. It is believed that they got their start in the great prairies and moved to other locations from there. They were noted in Maryland in colonial times and became that state’s state flower. I saw my first one this year at the end of June and here they are, still blooming.

2. Blue Vervain

Blur vervain (Verbena hastata ) is almost done blooming. You can tell that by the way the flowers are at the tip of the flower stalk. They start at the bottom, a few at a time, and work their way up the stalk. Once done flowering the stalks look almost reptilian.

 3. Bladderwort on Shore

This is something I wasn’t expecting-a bladderwort growing in soil. Apparently, from what I’ve read, this aquatic plant will grow in soil if the conditions are agreeable, but what I don’t understand is how it gets any nutrition when it does. Bladders on its underwater leaves have small trap doors that open quickly to trap insects, making it a carnivorous plant, but if those underwater bladders are buried in soil, then how do they work?

 4. Bladderwort on Shore

This is a close up of the strange terrestrial bladderwort (Utricularia.) It looks like any other bladderwort.

 5. Chicory

Another thing that I never thought I’d see is chicory (Cichorium intybus) blooming in August, but here it is.

 6. Burdock Flowers

Burdock is another import that has escaped and is commonly seen on roadsides and in waste places. Its flowers aren’t real big and showy but they are beautiful. Once the flowers are finished the round, barbed seed heads that we all know so well appear. I read recently that burdock seed heads were the inspiration for Velcro. Unfortunately they can also act as snares and catch small birds that often aren’t able to free themselves.

7. Common Mullein

Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus ) is known as a pioneer plant, meaning that it is often first to colonize burned or disturbed areas. Each plant can produce 100,000 or more seeds each year. Another name for it is flannel leaf because of its large, soft, fuzzy leaves. At one time the plant was thought to be useful in fighting leprosy and Pliny the Elder of ancient Rome used the warmed leaves as poultices for arthritis. Its tall persistent seed stalks really stand out in winter. These seed stalks were dipped in tallow and used as torches by Roman legionnaires. This plant is from Europe and is considered invasive.

 8. Ground Nut Blossoms

The strange, brownish flowers of groundnut (Apios americana) remind me of the helmets once worn by Spanish explorers. Swollen underground stems on this vining plant form small tubers that look like potatoes but have three times the protein that potatoes do. Groundnuts were a very important food source for Native Americans and the Pilgrims survived on them when their corn supply ran out in 1623. Henry David Thoreau wrote that they tasted better boiled than roasted. The only thing keeping the groundnut from becoming a commercially viable food crop is the two to three years it takes for its tubers to form.

9. Hog Peanut Flower

 Native hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata ) flowers are small but beautiful. Like the groundnut in the previous photo the plant is a legume in the bean family.  Like a true peanut, after pollination some of its flowers bury themselves in the soil and form a small, edible, bean like seeds that give the plant its common name. Mice collect these seeds and store them in large caches that Native Americans used to search for. They can be eaten raw or cooked. The plant also forms inch long, pea-like, above ground pods that contain three or four inedible seeds.

10. Hog Peanut Foliage

Hog peanut is a strong, wiry vine that can cover large areas of forest floor and choke out other plants. It is also good a tripping up hikers.

11. Morning Glory

I found this morning glory (Ipomoea) growing at the town landfill. I love its deep blue color but I find the ones that have more white in their throat, like “heavenly blue” more visually pleasing.

12. Tansy

 Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a European native that has been cultivated for centuries. The flat flower heads are made up of many button like disc flowers-almost like a daisy without the white ray flowers that we call petals. Tansy is a natural insect repellent and was used as such in colonial times. Dried tansy added to the straw in mattresses was said to keep bedbugs away. Most tansy plants are seen in gardens but it had naturalized itself in New England by 1785 and can still be found growing along roadsides like the one pictured was doing. The ancient Greeks grew tansy for medicinal use but it should be considered toxic.

13. Rabbit's Foot Clover

Rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense) has appeared here a few times, but not bejeweled with dew like this one.

Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock. ~Henry Ward Beecher

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