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Posts Tagged ‘Common Speedwell’

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

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Back a few years ago I had the luxury of working from home, telecommuting in a way. At times it could get slightly monotonous so to break up the monotony I took a walk at lunch time each day. Of course I had a camera with me and many of the photos I took on those lunchtime walks appeared here on this blog. The above photo shows the road I walked on, what we always called the “dirt road,” because it was a dirt road for many years until the town came along and paved it.

To the right of the road is a small pond where Canada geese used to swim but now it is home mostly to frogs, snapping turtles, and muskrats.

The muskrats eat the cattail roots. The snapping turtles eat the frogs, and the frogs eat up a lot of mosquitoes, for which I am very grateful. I’m looking forward to hearing the spring peepers start singing again in March.

To the left of the road is a large alder swamp where in the spring red wing blackbirds by the many hundreds live. They don’t like people near their nesting sites and when I walked by here they always let me know how disappointed they were with my walking habits. Just out there in the middle of the swamp was an old dead white pine I used to call it the heron tree, because great blue herons used to sit in its branches. Since it fell I haven’t seen as many herons fishing here.

The alders were heavy with dangling catkins, which in this case are the shrub’s male (Staminate) flowers. I believe that most of the alders here are speckled alders (Alnus incana) but I can’t get close enough to most of them to find out, because this swamp never freezes entirely.

The beautiful alder catkins, each packed with hundreds of male flowers, will open usually around the last week in March to the first week of April. When the brownish purple scales on short stalks open they’ll reveal the golden pollen, and for a short time it will look as if someone has hung jewels of purple and gold on all the bushes. That’s the signal I use to start looking for the tiny crimson female (Pistillate) flowers, which will appear in time to receive the wind born pollen. They are among the smallest flowers I know of and they can be hard to see.

The female alder flowers become the hard little cones called strobiles which I think most of us are probably familiar with.  These strobiles have tongue gall, which is caused by a fungus called Taphrina alni. The fungus chemically deforms parts of the ovarian tissue of the developing cone and causes long, tongue like galls called languets to grow from them. I’m guessing that the fungus benefits from these long tongues by getting its spore bearing surfaces out into the wind. They don’t seem to hurt the alder any. In fact most galls don’t harm their hosts.

Medieval writers thought witch’s brooms were a bewitched bundle of twigs and called them Hexenbesen, but witch’s brooms are simply a plant deformity; a dense cluster of branches caused by usually a fungus but sometimes by a parasitic plant like mistletoe. Witch’s broom can sometimes be desirable; the Montgomery dwarf blue spruce came originally from a witch’s broom. This example is on an old dead white pine (Pinus strobus) and is the only one I’ve ever seen on pine.

A colorful bracket fungus grew on a fallen log. Or maybe I should say that it was frozen to it, because it was rock hard. My mushroom book says that this fungus can appear at all times of year though, so it must be used to the cold. It’s described as hairy with ochre to bright rust yellow and rust brown banding and if I’ve identified it correctly it’s called the mustard yellow polypore (Phellinus gilvus.) That’s an odd name considering that it has very little yellow in it but even the photo in the book shows only a thin band of yellow.

This bracket fungus was very thin and woody and grew in several examples around the perimeter of a fallen tree. I think it’s probably the thin maze polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa,) which is fairly common.

This photo is of the maze-like underside of the thin maze polypore. This is a great example of how some mushrooms increase their spore bearing surfaces. When fresh the surface is pale gray and turns red when bruised. This fungus causes white rot in trees.

Despite having more cold days than warm days the sun is doing its work and melting the snow in places with a southerly exposure. Our average temperature in February here in southern New Hampshire is 35 degrees F. so try as it might, winter can’t win now. It can still throw some terrible weather at us though; the average snowfall amount is 18 inches but I’ve seen that much fall in a single February storm before. We are supposed to see 10-12 inches later today, in fact.

The reason the area in the previous photo is so clear of growth is because a large stand of bracken fern grows (Pteridium aquilinum) there. Bracken fern releases release chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants and that’s why this fern grows in large colonies where no other plants or trees are seen. Bracken is one of the oldest ferns, with fossil records dating it to over 55 million years old. Though they usually grow knee high I’ve seen some that were chest high.

Down the road a ways a large colony of American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) grows. Since this was the first plant I learned to identify I’m always happy to see it. It is also called teaberry or checkerberry and those who have ever tasted Clark’s Teaberry Gum know its flavor well. Oil of wintergreen has been used medicinally for centuries and it is still used in mouthwash, toothpaste, and pain relievers. Native Americans carried the leaves on hunts and nibbled on them to help them breathe easier when running or carrying game. The leaves make a pleasant minty tea but the plant contains compounds similar to those found in aspirin, so anyone allergic to aspirin shouldn’t use this plant.

Common speedwell (Veronica officinalis) has also been used medicinally for centuries in Europe and its leaves were used as a tea substitute there. Though it isn’t really invasive it is considered an agricultural weed. It forms mat like growths like that seen in the above photo but sends up vertical flower stalks in May. Each flower stalk (Raceme) has many very small blue flowers streaked with dark purple lines. They are beautiful little things, but they aren’t easy to photograph.

Yet another plant found in large colonies along the road is yarrow (Achillea milefolium.) Yarrow has been used medicinally since the dawn of time, and bunches of the dried herb have been  found in Neanderthal graves. It is one of the nine holy herbs  and was traded throughout the world, and that’s probably the reason it is found in nearly every country on earth. I’ve never looked closely at its seed heads before. I was surprised to see that they look nothing like the flowers. If it wasn’t for the scent and the few dried leaves clinging to the stem I’m not sure I would have known it was yarrow.

In one spot a small stream passes under the road. Strangely, on this side of the road it was frozen over…

…while on this side of the road it was ice free. That shows what a little persistent sun or shade can do at this time of year.

This is the tree that first got me wondering why some Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) had red on their bark when most didn’t. I’ve never been able to answer that question so I don’t know if it’s caused by algae, or is some type of loosely knitted lichen, or if it is simply the way the tree’s genes lean.

My lunchtime walk sometimes found me sitting in the cool forest on an old fallen hemlock tree, with this as my view. Just over the rise, a short way through the forest, is a stream that feeds into the swamp we saw previously. This is a cool place on a hot summer day and one that I used frequently. Sometimes it was hard to go back to work but you need discipline when you work from home and I always made it back in time. It was fun taking this walk again for this post. So many good memories!

The walks met a need: they were a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and once I discovered them as therapy they became the normal thing, and I forgot what life had been like before I started walking.  ~ Teju Cole

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This woodland path was dominated by white wood asters and goldenrods on either side and I didn’t see anything else blooming there, but though in this part of New Hampshire asters and goldenrods sing the loudest right now there are still other flowers to see. You just have to look a little closer to see them at this time of year, that’s all.

I found some very dark purple New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) recently. I look for the darkest ones I can find each year and these might win the prize for 2017, but I’ll keep looking.

New England asters are large flowers and very beautiful, no matter what shade of purple they are. When light and dark flowers grow together the bees always seem to prefer the lighter ones but in this area there were no lighter ones so I had to hope I didn’t get stung. There were bees everywhere, and they were loving these flowers as much as I was.

The pink turtleheads (Chelone lyonii) are blooming in my garden; one of the very last plants to do so. A friend gave me this plant many years ago and I think of her every time I see it bloom. That’s one of the best things about giving and receiving plants; they come with memories. I don’t know the origin of this plant and have never known if it was a native or a cultivar but it does very well and asks for nothing. Pink turtleheads are native to the southeastern U.S. and don’t seem to mind dryness in spite of naturally growing near water.

It’s very hairy inside a turtlehead blossom. The hairs remind me of the beard on a bearded iris.

I was surprised to see common speedwell (Veronica officinalis) still blooming. 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.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) is a garden flower native to Mexico. The flowers are usually daisy like, but some have tubular petals. Cosmos is an annual plant that self-sows quite reliably. If you’re careful weeding in the spring and don’t pull all the seedlings, a six pack of plants might sow themselves and produce seedlings year after year for quite some time. I found this one at the local college.

Cup plants (Silphium perfoliatum ) are tall native perennials that can reach 8 feet, and with the flowers at the top I don’t get many chances to show them, but this plant had kindly bent over. It’s called cup plant because its leaf pairs-one on each side of the square stem-are fused together and form a cup around the stem. This cup usually has water in it. The plant produces resins that smell like turpentine. It was used medicinally by Native Americans.

Northern bush honeysuckles (Diervilla lonicera) are still showing their tubular, pale yellow flowers. This low growing shrub is interesting because of its orange inner bark. It isn’t a true honeysuckle, but gets its common name from its opposite leaves that resemble honeysuckles. It is native to eastern North America.

The little lobelia called Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) blooms quite late but is almost finished for this year. Its small flowers are about 1/3 of an inch long and pale lavender to almost white. It is the only lobelia with calyxes that inflate after the flowers have fallen and to identify it I just look for the inflated seedpods. The plant gets its name from the way its inflated seed pods resemble the smoking material pouches that Native Americans carried. The inflata part of its scientific name also comes from these inflated pods. The pods form so quickly that they can usually be found on the lower part of the stem while the upper part is still flowering.

I was very surprised to find sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) still blooming. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them this late in the year. Close to the center packed with 30 stamens and many pistils each petal looks like it was daubed with a bit of deeper yellow. 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.

This pink rose grows in a local park. I was going to call it the last rose of summer until I saw all the buds surrounding it. It’s a beautiful thing but unfortunately it has no scent. Plant breeders will often sacrifice scent in favor of larger, more colorful blooms but give me an old fashioned cabbage rose any day. I grew up with them and they had a marvelous scent that I’ve never forgotten.

Annual fleabane (Erigeron annuus) is an easy flower to ignore and I’m often guilty of doing so, maybe because it’s so common and I see it everywhere all through the summer, from June to October. At this time of year it would be easy to mistake annual fleabane for an aster if the fleabanes didn’t start blooming so much earlier. There’s also the fact that they just don’t have the “aster look” when you see the entire plant. There can sometimes be 40-50 small, half inch flowers blooming at the same time.

The white heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is a plant that is so loaded with small white flowers along its stems that it doesn’t look as if you could fit one more on it. For that reason it has another common name; the many flowered aster.

There are many asters that look alike and to complicate matters they cross breed and create natural hybrids, so they can be hard to identify. One of the features that help with the identity of the heath aster is how it has nearly every inch of free stem covered by a blossom, all of them on the sunny side of the stem. The shrubby little plants are about knee high and I find them growing in unmown fields and pastures.

White heath aster blossoms are fairly small; 1/4 to 1/2 inch across at best. Asters were burned by the Greeks to drive away serpents, and the Romans put wreaths made of aster blossoms on alters to the gods. In this country Native Americans used asters in sweat baths.

Forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) should have stopped blooming quite a while ago but every now and then I stumble on a plant still in bloom. Since it’s one of my favorites I had to get another photo of it. These little beauties get barely ankle tall and like to grow in sandy soil in full sun.

Phlox still blooms here and there but it’s about time to say goodbye to these beauties for another year. Late summer wouldn’t be the same without them. Native Americans used phlox medicinally to heal sores and burns. They were among the first wildflowers in the United States to be collected and exported back to Europe, where they became very popular.

I saw a large swath of yellow from quite far away and I supposed it was a large colony of Jerusalem artichokes or one of the other native Helianthus species, but as I got closer I could see by the leaves that I was wrong. I’d been by this area many times and had never seen these plants but this time I saw a sign that said the area was a wetland restoration project, and warned me not to harm the plants or wildlife.

The yellow flowers, many hundreds of them, turned out to belong to the long-bracted tickseed sunflower (Bidens polylepis.) This plant likes wet feet and partial shade and is considered a wetland indicator. It is said to be of special value to native bees and is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of them. It is an annual plant that grows new from seed each year and is a native, but I wondered if it had been planted since I’ve never seen it. In any event it’s a native plant with a beautiful flower so it doesn’t really matter how it got here. Native Americans used the plant to treat fevers and I’ve read that it can produce natural dyes in brown and orange. I’m going to have to return next spring and summer to see what else might grow here.

Our indigenous herbalists say to pay attention when plants come to you; they’re bringing you something you need to learn. ~Robin Wall Kimmerer

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

 1. Chicory

Blue has always been my favorite color and I can’t think of another flower more blue than chicory (Cichorium intybus.) I’ve read that chicory flowers can also rarely be white or pink, but I’ve never seen them. These plants aren’t real common here but you can find small colonies dotted here and there throughout the countryside. The large, inch and a half diameter flowers on 4 foot tall plants means they’re easy easy to see. The roasted and ground root of chicory makes a passable coffee substitute.

 2. Blue Vervain

Vervain (Verbena hastata) is described as having reddish blue or violet flowers but I see the same beautiful blue color that I see in the chicory flower in the previous photo. Somebody else must have seen the same thing, because they named the plant blue vervain. Sometimes color blindness isn’t so bad! Vervain flowers are considerably smaller than chicory, but there are usually so many blooming that they’re as easy to spot as that plant is. Vervain can get quite tall and has erect, terminal flower clusters. The bitter roots of this plant were used medicinally by Native Americans.

3. Common Speedwell aka Veronica officinalis

Common speedwell (Veronica officinalis) is another flower that looks blue to me, but that some books describe as purple. In other books I’ve seen it described as “blue to white.” In any case the flowers are very small, so you usually have to lie on your stomach in the dirt to get a good photo of them. 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.

4. Ants on Bristly Sarsaparilla

This bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) flower head had ants all over it, so I’m assuming that’s how it is pollinated. This plant is a native but it isn’t common and isn’t well known. I find it growing in full sun in very dry, sandy waste areas. It is listed by the USDA as endangered in many states. The stems are covered in short, sharp, bristly hairs and that’s where its common name comes from. The lower part of its stem is woody and persists throughout winter, so technically it is considered a shrub.

5. Moth Mullein

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) gets its common name from the way the flowers’ stamens resembled moth antennae to the person who named it. This plant was introduced from Europe and found in Pennsylvania in 1818 and immediately escaped gardens to become a roadside weed now found in every state except Wyoming and Alaska. It isn’t very common in this area however-I only know of one plant. Its flowers can also be white.

6. Tall Meadow Rue

In early spring it is easy to confuse tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) with columbine because their leaves look so much alike, but as you watch the plant grow to sometimes 6 feet in height it is obvious that it isn’t columbine. The flowers of tall meadow rue don’t have any petals-the yellow tipped white parts are male stamens on the example in the photo. Female plants have white pistils that appear much like the male stamens at a glance. It’s appropriate that these plants bloom near the 4th of July because they remind me of “bombs bursting in air.”

7. Partridgeberry

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) flowers have filled the woods this year. This is an evergreen trailing plant that can form dense mats that are quite large. The strange thing about partridgeberry is how its two flowers fuse at the base to form one ovary. In one flower the male stamens are long and the female pistil is short. In the other flower the female pistil is longer than the male stamens. This prevents self-fertilization. The two flowers produce one red berry that bears two dimples, showing where the flowers were.  I always try to show the very hairy white petals when I take photos of partridgeberry.

8. American Wintergreen

 American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is just starting to open its small white flowers that look a lot like blueberry flowers. Wintergreens get their common name from the way they stay green in the winter-what we call evergreen-and this plant is probably the most well-known among natives because of its shiny green leaves that turn purple when it gets colder. I call the plant teaberry because its red berries taste just like teaberry gum. My grandmother always called it checkerberry.

 9. Shinleaf

Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) is a common wildflower in the wintergreen family. Many plants in the wintergreen family contain compounds that are very similar to aspirin, and shinleaf was used by Native Americans as a poultice on injured shins and other parts of the body. That’s how this plant gets its common name. Shinleaf leaves form a rosette at the base of the single, 4-5 inch tall flower stalk.

10. Shinleaf Blossom

Ten orange tipped, pollen bearing stamens hide under the upper two petals on shinleaf blossoms. Shinleaf is pollinated by flies.

11. Shinleaf Blossom

The best way to identify shinleaf is by the long, curved style that hangs down from the center of the flower. It’s easy to see how an insect would use the stigma at the end of the style for a landing pad and leave sticky pollen behind.

12. Pipsissewa Colony

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellate or Pyrola umbellata) is also in the wintergreen family and recently I found a large colony of it. This plant likes to grow in groups, but they are usually made up of 10-15 plants. This group had many hundreds of plants and is the largest I’ve seen. The shiny green leaves make this plant easy to find.

13. Pipsissewa Flower

 Pipsissewa has nodding flowers that grow quite close to the ground and this makes getting a good photo difficult. Luckily I found a plant with a bent flower stalk and was able to get a look at the large center pistil and the 10 odd shaped anthers. It is said that the plant’s common name comes from the Native American word pipsiskeweu which means “it breaks into small pieces.” This refers to their belief that pipsissewa would break up kidney stones.

14. Striped Wintergreen

Yet another plant in the wintergreen family is striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata,) but unlike pipsissewa, teaberry, and shinleaf, this plant is rare in this area. In fact, it is considered rare in Canada and all of New England. I’ve only seen two in my lifetime and the plant pictured is one of them. This plant is also called spotted wintergreen or striped pipsissewa. The flowers are very beautiful and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find this plant again so I can show them to you. Native Americans used striped wintergreen medicinally for a variety of internal and external ailments.

He who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth is generally considered a fortunate person, but his good fortune is small compared to that of the happy mortal who enters this world with a passion for flowers in his soul. ~ Celia Thaxter

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