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Posts Tagged ‘Cornelian Cherry’

This spring it was as if someone had thrown a switch and turned on all the bird songs, all at once. One day it was quiet and the next it seemed like there was a bird symphony playing. Now the flowers are following along-last weekend there were a scant few but now, after 2 or 3 days with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees, they are everywhere.

 1. Crocus

This is the first crocus I’ve seen this year. As the week wore on many more followed.

 2. Scilla

Scilla (Scilla siberica) was the first to bloom in my yard. The oak leaves are a gift that the winds bring me each fall and spring. I don’t have an oak in my yard.

 3. Iris reticulata

I found this clump of Iris reticulata growing at the local college.  I like the dark violet color of these dwarf blossoms.

 4. Cornelian Cherry Blossoms

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is just coming into bloom with clusters of small yellow flowers. This large shrub has nothing to do with a cherry tree but is in the dogwood family and comes from the Black Sea region. The fruit resembles a red olive and matures in the fall. It is very sour but high in vitamin C, and has been eaten throughout recorded history. The Persians, ancient Greeks and Early Romans would all recognize these flowers.

5. Vernal Witch Hazel Blossoms

I just learned that in previous posts I misidentified this shrub as vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis.) It lives in a local park and is most likely a cross between Japanese witch hazel (Hamamelis japonica ) and Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis.)  It has just about finished blooming after starting in February. Its very fragrant flowers are smaller but much more numerous than those of autumn witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana.) Vernal witch hazel is a native of the southern states and is also called Ozark witch hazel. Its hardiness this far north is doubtful. Sorry about the confusion.

6. Striped Squill aka Puschkinia scilloides

Striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides) resembles scilla, which is also called Siberian squill. I like the blue stripe on the petals, which is how the plant gets its common name. These flowers are slightly fragrant. The squills come from Europe and Asia.

 7. Forsythia Blossoms

This is the first forsythia I’ve seen blooming. Soon they will be seen on nearly every street in every town in the region.  I know of a place where a long row of old forsythia shrubs grow at the top of an embankment beside the road. When they bloom in the spring it looks as if a yellow waterfall is flowing over and down the embankment and people from all over New England come to view and photograph them.

 8. Coltsfoot

I took another photo of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara ) so those who don’t know the plant can see the scaly stems that are quite different than dandelion stems.  These scales are one way the plant protects its vascular system against freezing in cold weather. The leaves, which some say resemble a horse’s hoof, don’t appear until the flowers have finished blooming. This plant has been used medicinally for centuries and that is most likely why it was brought over from Europe by the first colonists.

9. Hazelnut Flower

One of the smallest flowers that I know of is the female blossom of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana.) To give you a sense of just how small they are, the bud that the flowers grow from is slightly smaller than a BB that you would use in an air rifle. The crimson thread-like bits are the stigmas of the unseen female flowers, waiting for the wind to bring them some pollen from the golden male catkins.

10. Elm Flowers

The green and purple blossoms of American elm (Ulmus americana) are just starting to show. Soon the mature, wind pollinated flowers with bright red anthers will hang at the ends of long, thin filaments called pedicels.

 11. Red Maple Buds

Red maples (Acer rubrum) still have their crimson flower parts tucked up inside the buds but the ends of the bud scales have come off, meaning the flowers will appear any day now.

Stretching his hand up to reach the stars, too often man forgets the flowers at his feet.  ~Jeremy Bentham

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Here are some of the things I’ve seen in woods, parks and yards this week.

 1. Skunk Cabbage in Snow

The skunk cabbage flowers (Symplocarpus foetidus) just shrugged off the recent snow and melted their way through it. These plants use cellular respiration to produce energy in the form of heat, and can raise the air temperature around themselves enough to melt snow and ice. The process is called thermogenesis, and very few plants have this ability. In spite of being able to fuel their own furnaces, these plants don’t seem to be in any hurry to grow leaves. You can see a small one just starting between the two flowers.

 2. Amber Jelly Fungus aka Exidia recisa

Amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) looks like cranberry jelly to me, but the software I use to cheat color blindness sees more brown than anything else. This fungus likes to grow on willow trees and is also called willow brain fungus. It also grows on alders and poplars, and that is where I usually find it.

3. Red Maple Buds

The plum colored bud scales of red maples (Acer rubrum) have opened enough to let the tomato red flower buds begin warming in the sun. It won’t be too much longer before we see the bright red blossoms dangling from this tree’s branches.

4. American Elm Buds

The oval, flat, pointy buds of American elm (Ulmus americana) also have plum colored scales, but what they hide inside is much browner than that of red maple. Before Dutch elm disease wiped out most of our elms in the 50s and 60s Keene, New Hampshire had so many huge old elms that it was called the Elm City. Many businesses in the area still use Elm City in their names, even though most of the trees are now gone. There are a few hardy survivors widely scattered about the region though, and I visited one of them to get this picture. Elm flowers are beautiful enough to warrant a return trip.

5. Shagbark hickory Bud

The buds of shagbark hickory (Carya ovate) won’t win any beauty contests but they are slowly unfurling themselves, just as the earth is slowly warming and awakening to welcome spring.  There is no doubt that nature is turning to a new season, whether we are watching or not.

6. Scilla

Speaking of awakening-the scilla (scilla siberica) bulbs that I planted 2 years ago are just starting to show some color. It’ll be nice to see their cheery blue blossoms under the honeysuckles at the edge of the forest again. These bulbs are easily confused with glory of the snow (Chionodoxa) because the differences are so slight (flattened stamens) that even botanists have trouble telling them apart. It is for that reason that many botanists think the two plants should be classified as one.

 7. Cornelian Cherry Bud aka Cornus mas

We’re lucky to have a cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) in a local park and I was happy to see it showing some color. This very unusual, almost unknown shrub isn’t a cherry at all-it is a in the dogwood (Cornus) family and blooms very early in the spring before the leaves appear. It hails from Europe and Asia and has beautiful yellow, 4 petaled flowers that grow in large clusters. This is a rarely seen, under-used plant that would be welcome in any garden.

8. Box Flower Buds

Also getting ready to bloom was this boxwood shrub (Buxus sempervirens.)  Though the buds are white, soon small greenish yellow flowers will line each stem at the leaf axils. This shrub is very common and is often used for hedges.

9. Oak Rough Bullet Gall

Rough bullet galls on oaks are caused by the oak rough bullet gall wasp (Disholcaspis quercusmamma.) According to the Iowa State University Extension Service, in the fall the adult wasp chews its way out of the gall and lays its eggs in the dormant terminal buds of the oak host tree. In the spring when the egg hatches and the white, legless larvae feeds the oak tree will grow around it, completely enclosing it in a gall. The larva feeds on the inside of the gall, becomes an adult, and the cycle repeats itself. These galls are found only on bur oak, (Quercus macrocarpa,) and swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor.) The galls don’t hurt the tree, but they do excrete a sticky substance which attracts ants and bees.

 10. Opened Goldenrod Gall

 In this case the cycle didn’t get to repeat itself, because a bird pecked its way into this goldenrod gall and ate the fly larva it found inside. If the larva had escaped the gall on its own the evidence would be a tiny, round hole-not the large, ragged gash seen in the photo. Chickadees, woodpeckers, and even some beetles eat the larva of the goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis.)

 11. Scattered Rock Posy Lichen

I went back to visit the one scattered rock posy lichen (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans) that I know of in this area to see what affect the recent cold and snow had on it. It doesn’t seemed to have changed at all since I saw it last month, except maybe for a few more flat, pale orange fruiting bodies (Apothecia.) It grows on granite in full sun.

Only with a leaf
can I talk of the forest.
~Visar Zhiti

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We had a strange, warm winter here in southwestern New Hampshire and now it appears that spring will be as strange, and even warmer. Temperatures in the 80s caused many flowers and trees to bloom as much as a month ahead of their average time. Now the cold returns and we all wait to see what harm it might do. Anything below 15 degrees will damage fruit tree buds enough so they won’t bear. 

I ran into these strange flower clusters in a local park and though I didn’t know what they were I took a few pictures. Once I had the time I began trying to identify them. At first I thought they might be Sassafras but they weren’t. After several hours of looking in shrub books and online, I now know this to be the Cornelian cherry (Cornus officinalis,) also known as Japanese Cornel Dogwood. It is an unusual member of the dogwood family that can bloom as early as February and isn’t often seen, except in city parks and arboretums.

Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)wasn’t unexpected, but I found them growing in a spot where trout lilies grew last year and I saw no sign of the lilies. Each flower last for only 3 days. 

It’s early for bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis.) Every time I see this flower with its strange stem clasping leaf I think of ancient times when travelers wrapped themselves in cloaks. Behind and to the right of the larger flower a green spike of lily of the valley is just emerging.

 The plant usually blooms in mid-April here and is called bloodroot because of the red sap that flows from the bruised root. One blossom was trying to open. These are among the most beautiful of early spring flowers.

Pussy willow (Salix) bloomed at the edge of a large vernal pool that will have completely disappeared before too long if this dry weather keeps on. 

Box (Buxus sempervirens) is a common shrub often used for hedges, but many don’t realize that its flower is worth waiting for. This is a good example of why shrubs shouldn’t be trimmed too early in spring. 

This tree didn’t look like an American elm (Ulmus americana,) but the flowers certainly looked like they belonged on an elm. The tree could be an elm hybrid, of which there are many. Elms have incomplete flowers lacking petals and sepals that hang at the end of long, thin stems (pedicels.) Three or four of these trees grow along a busy street in Keene, N.H. 

Red maple(Acer rubrum) flowers are easy to find in spring and are very fragrant. The photos above show the male (left) and female flowers. The male flowers have numerous colorful stamens with pollen bearing anthers on the ends and the female flowers have stigma bearing pistils, ready to receive the pollen. The trees can be confusing; some trees have only male flowers, some only female flowers, and some perfect flowers, which have both male and female parts. To make things even more confusing both male and female flowers can appear on the same tree, and flower color can range from yellow to red. The male flowers are responsible for much of the pollen floating about at this time of year. 

I was sorry to find ornamental cherry trees (Prunus) blooming. These blossoms are very susceptible to cold and with 2 or 3 below freezing nights in the forecast, I’m afraid their beauty was short lived this year. 

If you like a plant that is tough to identify, might I recommend one of the over 5000 sedge species? Without fruit a positive identification is close to impossible, but I’m fairly sure that this plant is Pennsylvania sedge, also called common oak sedge (Carex pensylvanica.) Here the pointed, scaly looking spike that is the staminate flower bud rises above the smaller and less noticeable pistillate flower buds on the same stalk. These plants are wind pollinated and native to eastern North America. The fruit holds a single, tiny seed.

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) has a nice flower that it is only 1/8 of an inch across and easy to miss. Though it looks like the flower has 10 petals, there are really 5 with a deep notch dividing each one nearly in half. The 5 green sepals directly under the flower help to identify this one. Chickweed is very common in lawns. 

Hearts ease (Viola tricolor,) also known as Johnny jump ups. So why is it called tri color when only two colors are visible? Quite often the two uppermost petals will be blue or purple, but not always. The flowers can be white, purple, blue, yellow, or combinations of any or all of them. These were introduced from Europe so long ago that they are thought to be native by many. Today’s garden pansies were developed from this plant. 

A dandelion grew right next to the viola. This is the first one I’ve seen since I took a photo of one on December 21st. What a strange winter and spring!

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