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Posts Tagged ‘Dogbane’

Here are a few more examples of what we have blooming here right now.

1. Black Eyed Susan

Really? I thought. Black eyed Susans already? I like these flowers but at the same time I’m never in any hurry to see them because to me they represent the top of the hill we have been climbing since the last of the snow melted. Once Black eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) bloom we start down the other side of that hill towards autumn, and I’m in no hurry to get there.  These plants are native to the U.S. anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains, and introduced west of them.

2. BlueToadflax

Dry, sunny, sandy roadsides suddenly turn blue when blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) blooms. Tiny, pale blue and white flowers sit on thin, wiry stems. This native plant was introduced to Europe and has naturalized in some areas, including Russia. It is in the snapdragon (Scrophulariaceae) family. Toadflax boiled in milk is said to make an excellent fly poison.

3. Tall Buttercup

I’ve tried several times to get a photo that shows the waxy shine on common buttercup (Ranunculus acris) petals, and I think this one might be it. This shine is caused by a layer of mirror-flat cells that have an air gap just below them, and just below the air gap is a smooth layer of brilliant white starch. All of these layers act together to reflect yellow light while blue-green light is absorbed.

4. Catalpa Blossoms

The orchid-like flowers of the northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) tree have opened. These native trees grow to 70 feet or more and often the branches are so high up that you can’t see the flowers closely, but I was lucky to find an immature tree. Each flower is made up of petals that fuse to form one large, frilly petal. Yellow, orange and purple can be seen in the throat. Flowers will give way to long, thin pods that we used to call string beans when I was a boy.

5. Crown Vetch

Crown vetch (Coronilla varia) has an interesting flower head made up of up to 25 individual flowers. The standard is upright and deeper pink than the 4 lighter petals that make up the keel. Flowers have a typical pea-like shape. This plant was introduced as a forage crop and has escaped to the point where it is found regularly along sunny roadsides.

6. Indian Cucumber Root Flower

The flowers of Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) can be challenging to photograph. Out of more than 20 shots this is the only one worth posting. It shows how the yellow-green petals curve backwards to reveal a long, spidery style and 6 stamens, all in crimson and plum. When these plants aren’t flowering they are sometimes mistaken for starflower because of the way the leaves whorl around the stem. The root of this plant tastes like cucumber and Native Americans used it for both food and medicine. People seem to feel the need to taste the plant’s root and because of it Indian cucumber is now endangered in many areas. Please admire them and let them be so the rest of us can also admire them.

7. Dogbane

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) is supposed to be toxic to dogs so the Apocynum part of the scientific name means “Away dog!” The second part of the scientific name, cannabinum, means “like hemp,” which helps explain the plant’s other common name of Indian hemp. Dogbane has white, sticky sap that is toxic, so animals avoid it. Native Americans made thread and cord from dogbane and used it for nets and snares because the fibers hold their shape and do not shrink when they get wet. Dogbane fibers have been found in archaeological sites that are thousands of years old.

 8. Mountain Laurel Flowers

Our woods are full of native blooming mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) right now. Many believe that these evergreen shrubs are related to rhododendrons, but they are actually more closely related to blueberries. The white to pink flowers of Mountain laurel each have 10 pockets or depressions in the petals that the anthers bend to fit into. When a pollinator lands on the blossom the anthers spring from these pockets and dust the insect with pollen.

 9. Mountain Laurel Flower Backs

This view of the back of mountain laurel blossoms shows the unusual pockets that the anthers fit into. Mountain laurel is very toxic and has been known to kill livestock that have eaten it.

10. Yellow Rattle aka Rhinanthus minor

Yellow rattle box (Rhinanthus crista) is a very strange plant that is, in botanical terms, “hemi parasitic” on pasture grasses. This means that even though it creates its own food through photosynthesis its roots attack the roots of other plants and literally suck the life out of them. If enough of them grow in a pasture they can destroy the grasses in it. This plant is from Europe and gets its common name from the way the dry seeds rattle around in the round, flat pods that form behind each flower.

 11. Lobelia

There are so many lobelias that it is often hard to tell, but I think this is pale spike lobelia (Lobelia spicata.) Lobelias usually prefer moist places so I was surprised to find it in a small, dry clearing on the side of a hill. I was also surprised that the flowers on some plants were such a deep blue, because they usually range from pale blue to white. Flowers are found on a thin, wiry stem. When I was looking for information on this plant I was surprised to find that it is listed as rare in New Hampshire. In my experience it is quite common. Lobelias are toxic so no part of the plant should ever be eaten.

 12. Lobelia-Single Flower

Each flower of Lobelia spicata has an upper lip that is divided into 2 lobes and a larger lip that is divided into 3 lobes. A dark blue stigma sits between the upper 2 lobes. The petals are fused and form a tube. At a glance it might be easy to confuse this plant with blue toadflax.

 13. Flowering Raspberry

The petals of our native flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) always look like somebody forgot to iron them before they put them on. If this flower reminds you of a rose, that’s because it is in the rose family. The 2 inch wide flowers are fragrant and attract butterflies. If pollinated, they are followed by large berries that are said to taste good, but have too many seeds to be useful. The red to orange fruit is shaped like a thimble and that gives this plant another common name-pink thimble berry.

Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.  ~John Ruskin

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The plants in this post, with one exception, are found in meadows, along roadsides, and in areas that don’t see much use. For the most part these are the summer flowers with high visibility, so searching for them like you would a bog orchid isn’t really necessary.I love the sky blue color of chicory (Cichorium intybus.) Originally from Europe, chicory has escaped and can now be found in sunny meadows and along roadsides here in New Hampshire.  I found a large colony of plants growing on a local riverbank. It is said that chicory flowers open and close at the same time each day, but I’ve never witnessed this. Roasted and ground chicory root has long been used as a coffee substitute and the bitter tasting young leaves are called endive, escarole or radicchio.I found a large stand of spreading dogbane (apocynum androsaemifolium ) plants in a forest clearing that had ants all over them.  The plant is supposed to be poisonous to dogs, but I’m not sure how anyone really knows for sure if it is or isn’t.  Anyhow, the Apocynum part of the scientific name means “away dog,” and for some reason I find this hilarious. This plant is a relative of milkweed with pinkish, bell shaped flowers that smell almost like lilac. The insides of the flowers have pink stripes. I haven’t been able to find out why ants like the plant so much, but I did find out why one of its common names is flytrap; small insects that come for its nectar but are not the right size to pollinate the flowers can get trapped by their tongues in the flowers and are left dangling there.  This native plant is considered toxic. Years ago I worked as a gardener for a lady who had an older widower as a neighbor. One day the widower asked me to stop by his house for a minute when I was through. I stopped in to see him as he asked and he told me if I could identify the hedge in his front yard he would hire me to be his gardener right then and there. To make a long story short I told him that his hedge was Purple flowering raspberry and I ended up working for him until he died.  Purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is in the rose family and might be mistaken for a rose if it wasn’t for its large, maple-like leaves. The native shrub will reach 3-6 feet tall and twice as wide under the right conditions.  I found the one pictured growing near a culvert on the side of the road. I don’t know who the visitor was. In one post a while back I showed a photo of maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) and said that they were almost identical to the Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) shown in this photo. One difference between the two plants is petal width; Deptford pink petals are much narrower than those of the maiden pinks and this gives the flower an overall smaller look. Maiden pinks also have a much darker circle in the center of each flower. As the photo shows, the circle on Deptford pink petals is barely noticeable. Both plants were imported from Europe and have escaped gardens. They can now be seen along roadsides and in sunny meadows. Deptford pinks can be found in the wild in all but 3 states. They are more common than maiden pinks. This is a photo of the beautiful showy tick trefoil (Desmodium canadense.) This plant is uncommon here and I was surprised to find a large colony of them growing in gravel at the local landfill. This plant is in the pea family and its leaves grow in threes. Tick trefoils are called that because the seeds cling to clothing and animal fur in the same way ticks do. These plants were about 4 feet tall and the flower spikes were densely packed with flowers as the photo shows. Often the flowers are scattered here and there along the stem.  The flowers in the background are St. Johnswort. This flower could be that of a Large Bract Tick Trefoil (Desmodium cuspidatum ) and if that is the case then this is the first time it has been seen in New Hampshire since 1906. The problem is I have no way of knowing for sure. When I took photos of it I wasn’t sure what it was and once I thought I had identified it I went back to where it grew and couldn’t find it among all the other plants because it was no longer blooming. It is believed that this plant needs areas that have been burned by fire to colonize and because forest fires are put out quickly now in New England, the plant is becoming increasingly rare and even extinct in many states.  There were only 20 known occurrences in 1966 in all of New England. The only other plant this could be is the hoary tick trefoil (Desmodium canescens.) Unfortunately I’ll have to wait a year to find out. If anyone thinks they can identify this plant from pictures I’d like to talk to you.This plant is far more common. Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) is a climbing vine in the potato family that can grow to 10 feet long and can be seen growing on trees and shrubs. One of the more noticeable things about this plant is its unusual odor when it is bruised-it really stinks. It is from Europe and Asia and is considered an invasive weed. The flowers will become berries that are bright red in the fall. All parts of this plant are considered toxic. Other names for bittersweet nightshade are bittersweet, bitter nightshade, blue bindweed, blue nightshade, climbing nightshade, dwale, dulcamara, European bittersweet, fellenwort, fevertwig, morel, nightshade, poisonberry, poisonflower, pushion-berry, scarlet berry, skawcoo, snakeberry, tether-devil, violet-bloom, wolfgrape, and woody nightshade.It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) until you can really see each individual flower. Flowers are usually pink, but they can be purple, creamy, or yellowish, and will often have different colored flowers on each plant as the photo shows. These beautiful, fragrant plants are underrated because they are very important to a huge number of insects, including monarch butterflies. When I was a boy I learned a lot about spiders by sitting in a field of milkweed. Common milkweed has seedpods that are pricklier than other milkweeds.St, Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum) has finally started blooming here. It seems like it is late this year, but with many other plants blooming weeks early it’s hard to tell. For years this plant has been touted as a miracle cure for everything from stopping smoking to depression. According to the Mayo clinic “Overall, the scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of St. Johnswort in mild-to-moderate major depression. The evidence in severe major depression remains unclear.” St. Johnswort was introduced from Europe in the 1700s and is now considered an invasive weed. The 5 yellowish orange flower petals have small black dots along their margins which, along with visible translucent glands on the leaves make St. Johnswort very easy to identify.  The plant is toxic to livestock.St. Johnswort leaves have small translucent glands that make them appear pierced when held up to the light. They can be clearly seen in this photo.I wasn’t sure if I was going to see any orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) this year, but it finally appeared along the roads recently. Orange hawkweed was introduced from Europe as a garden ornamental and, as the old familiar story goes, has escaped and is now considered a noxious weed. Hawkweed plants can produce between 10 and 30 flowering stems and can have 5 to 30 flower heads per stem. A single flower head can produce between 12 and 50 tiny black seeds, so when you do the math it is obvious that these plants are here to stay. They are much harder to control than dandelions. Though it’s easy to find many reasons to hate such a plant, we don’t have many orange wildflowers in this part of the country and I enjoy seeing it.In my last post I talked about finding white sweet clover (Melilotus alba) in a sunny, wet meadow. I found Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis) growing in a hot, dry, gravelly area that really didn’t look like it could support much plant life, but yellow sweet clover was thriving there, so it has different requirements than its white relative. This plant smells very sweet and needs full sun to be happy. It was imported from Europe and Asia for agricultural purposes and has become a major source of nectar for honey bees.Yellow Sweet Clover, at 2-7 feet tall and often 3 feet or more wide, can easily be mistaken for a shrub.There is a bridge over a local stream where you can stand and look down at an island that is fairly large and is covered with interesting looking plants. This island has always been a bit of a tease because I had no way to get onto it. Until this year that is-we haven’t had any significant rainfall for a while now and the water level of the stream has dropped enough so I could walk out to the island on a narrow slice of almost dry ground.  And there I found these Canada lilies (Lilium canadense) growing.  These beautiful flowers grow on plants that are about 3-4 feet tall. The flowers can be yellow, orange, or red. Canada lilies (Lilium canadense) have purple spotted throats that aren’t always seen because the flowers almost always face downwards. This plant is unusual because it prefers wet places. Most lilies, and in fact most plants that grow from bulbs, do not like soil that stays wet. They prefer sandy, well-drained soil.

You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind ~ Henry David Thoreau

As always, I appreciate you stopping in.

 

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