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Posts Tagged ‘False Indigo’

This post is part two of all the things I see that don’t seem to fit in other posts but are too interesting to disregard. This post is more about shapes, colors and textures than anything else.This looks more like a pineapple than a pinecone to me, but it is called a pinecone willow gall. This gall appears at the branch tips and is caused by a midge (Rhabdophaga strobiloides) laying eggs in them. Once the eggs hatch the larva burrow into the branch tip and the plant reacts by forming a gall around them. This gall was smaller than an egg, but still quite big. This oak gall was fairly fresh-they are a darker brown after they have aged. There are horned oak galls, gouty oak galls, artichoke oak galls, potato oak galls, and oak marble galls. The photo above is of a marble gall and it really is about the size of a marble. These marble galls are usually near perfect spheres but this one looked like it had been stretched a bit. Some galls form on the undersides of leaves, some on the tree’s roots and others, like the one shown, on the twigs and stems. All are caused by different wasps or mites which will only lay their eggs on the leaves, roots, or twigs of their favorite species of oak tree. Native blue cohosh fruit (Caulophyllum thalictroides) couldn’t be mistaken for anything else even though lack of rain dried the plant’s leaves up. You can also see a few of the unripe green fruit in this photo. I tried very hard to find this plant last spring and couldn’t, so this discovery means that I’ll see it next spring if I can get to it. The medicinal qualities of this plant have been known for hundreds if not thousands of years-it was used by Native Americans to ease childbirth. It has since been learned that, though the plant does indeed ease childbirth, it also damages the heart and all parts of it are considered toxic. This burl was on near a large pine tree that had fallen. You can clearly see all the gnarled, swirled grain patterns that burl is famous for and which make it so valuable. I thought it was a beautiful thing and because it was a small, detached piece I brought it home. If you look closely at the right hand edge of the burl you can see bits of blue lichens, which are rare. I wish I’d seen them when I was taking the picture.This burl I saw on a maple tree would most likely look every bit as nice as the previous one once it was taken from the tree, carved and turned on a lathe to create a bowl.Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) flowers seem to turn into fruit so fast that you can almost see it happen as you stand there watching. Those in the photo will eventually become black, shiny, poisonous berries. Pokeberries have long been used as a source of ink-the United States Constitution was written in ink made from them. Native Americans used to make a red dye from the berries that they used to decorate their horses. I took this photo because of the vivid purple stems.Some parts of white cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) have no chlorophyll and this gives it a silvery- gray appearance. This moss, because of its shape and color, is one of the easiest to identify. It is very common in moist, shaded areas.I thought these prickly sow thistle seed heads (Sonchus asper) looked like they were worthy of having their picture taken. I have no doubt that the previous plant was a sow thistle (Sonchus asper,) but I can’t find an example in any book of a sow thistle with plum colored buds like these, which were on the same plant. This plant has been used as a potherb since ancient times. It is native to Europe and Asia. The black seed pods of blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) were once used as rattles by children. Not surprisingly, other common names include rattle weed and rattle bush. Native Americans made a blue dye that was a substitute for true indigo from this native plant.Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) was hit hard by our lack of rain but it can still make you itch, even at this stage.This puffball was about the size of a tennis ball. I can’t come up with an identical match for it, either in books or online, so I’m not really sure what it is.I’ve seen a lot of wild grapes this year. Since there are dozens of species it’s always hard to tell which one it is that you have, but I think these are fox grapes. The fox grape is as big as a nickel, deep purple in color, and said to be the most delicious wild grape in North America. Concord, Isabella, Catawba, Niagara, Chautauqua, and Worden grapes all come from the fox grape. Heavy with not quite ripe, speckled fruit is false Solomon’s seal (Smilacina racemosa.) I see large bunches of these berries everywhere I go, so it’s going to be a good year for birds, mice, grouse, and other forest critters. When these berries are fully ripe they will be bright red, but I like them speckled too. Soil pH can affect fruit color. Native American’s used all parts of this plant. Its roots contain lye and must be boiled and rinsed several times before they can be used.Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) seed heads are more interesting than the flowers, I think. This is our most common native clematis and can be seen on roadsides draped over shrubs or climbing high up in the trees. Many bird species eat the seeds and goldfinches line their nests with the soft, feathery seed coverings that are just beginning to show in this photo. Clematis can cause internal bleeding, so it should never be eaten.The fuzziness of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina,) on the right, is apparent even in its fruit while smooth sumac (Rhus glabra,) on the left, has smooth fruit. It isn’t just the fruit but the limbs and leaves which are smooth or hairy. Smooth sumac seems to have brighter red fruit. Its leaves are also darker green and shiny. Around here staghorn sumac gets much taller and forms larger colonies than smooth sumac. Smooth sumac trunks are usually much more crooked as well. The leaves of both plants turn brilliant red in the fall.This beech tree looked like it had gone through some tough times but didn’t have any dead branches or appear to be ailing. It looked like someone had wrinkled it up and then hadn’t quite straightened it out again. I couldn’t help wondering what its grain pattern would look like, but I’d bet that a sawyer would love to find out. This tree is on state land however, and will hopefully be protected for its lifetime.

Free your heart from your mind. Embrace wonder for one moment without the need to consider how that wonder came to be, without the need to justify if it be real or not. ~Charles de Lint

Thanks for visiting.

 

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Flowers, both wild and cultivated, are everywhere you look right now. Since I’ve never met a flower that I didn’t like, I like to occasionally show a few garden flowers on this blog along with the wildflowers and other bits of nature. After all, all flowers were once wild. I found this strange dwarf sunflower (Helianthus) plant in a local park. The thing that made it so strange, I thought, were the large flowers on such a small plant. They had to have been the size of a small dinner plate and looked odd on a plant only 18 inches tall. But that’s just my opinion and in any case, they were very beautiful flowers. A longtime garden favorite of mine is the painted daisy (Chrysanthemum coccineum.) This plant is in the Chrysanthemum family and is also called pyrethrum.  Gardeners may recognize the word pyrethrum from the natural insect sprays that are made from this plant. Pyrethrum has been used as an insecticide for centuries and is still used today by people not wanting to use chemical pesticides. One of these grew in my garden for many years but I think the recent unusually warm winter was too much for it since it never came up this spring.  The plant pictured grows at a local school. The hood shaped upper petal of a monkshood (Aconitum) flower helps to easily identify it. I found this one growing in a local children’s park, which is disturbing since Aconite, which monkshood is, is one of the most poisonous plants known.  In fact, some species of aconite are so poisonous that their aconitine toxin can easily be absorbed through the skin while picking their leaves. Aconite is also called wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, and Friar’s cap. People who have mistaken its roots for horseradish have died 4-6 hours after eating them. This plant has been known medicinally for centuries and has long been used to poison arrows and spears.  Children should always be warned about its dangers. Spirea (Spiraea ) is a very common shrub often seen planted in store and bank parking lots because it needs very little care. The old fashioned white varieties were called bridal wreath but now many hybrids exist and usually have white to pink flowers. However, some I’ve seen look almost neon blue, so plant breeders are still working on it. The plant pictured was a very low growing dwarf that was absolutely covered with mounds of pink flowers. I found it growing in a store parking lot. This plant fools a lot of people because the leaves look a lot like sumac leaves. Then the flower buds appear and it’s clear that it isn’t sumac, but what is it?  Its name is false spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia.) If you look at the spirea plant in the previous photo you’ll see small round, pink flower buds. The false spirea has small, round, white flower buds and when they open like in the photo below the flowers look almost like those of spirea. The beautiful plumes of false spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) flowers cover this small shrub that looks much like stag horn sumac. Its round white buds and long stamens on the flowers point to it being something very different than sumac though. Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea ) blooms in my yard wherever it happens to grow because it self-sows so easily. Since I no longer have small children I don’t have to worry, but this is another plant that children should be warned away from. The heart medicine digitalis was originally made from plants in this family. All parts of the plant are poisonous and people who have mistaken the leaves for those of comfrey have died. One half of a gram of dried seed is deadly. Other names for foxglove are witches’ gloves, dead men’s bells, thimbles, fairy cap, fairy glove, fairy thimbles, fairy finger, fairy bells, dog’s-finger, finger flower, lady’s-glove, lady’s-finger, lady ‘s-thimble, popdock, flapdock, flopdock, lion’s-mouth, rabbit’s-flower, cottagers, throatwort, Scotch mercury, bloody fingers, and virgin’s glove. The plant is originally from Europe and has been used medicinally for centuries. In old England picking foxgloves was unlucky, and its blooms were absolutely forbidden inside because it was believed that they gave witches and / or Beelzebub access to the house. This blossom is probably seen coast to coast, because it is the very popular Stella d’ Oro daylily (Hemerocallis.) The reason this plant is so popular is because it was one of the first “ever blooming” day lilies. The dwarf plant has flowers that only last a day like any daylily but there are so many of them that it blooms for months and will often be the latest blooming daylily in a flower bed. This plant was developed in 1975 and is still seen all along city streets and in commercial parking lots. This one grows at a local bank. Also growing at the same bank as the Stella d’ Oro daylily were large beds of ornamental flowering onion (Allium.) Alliums are useful bulbs that are a bridge between spring and summer flowering bulbs. The globular heads of star shaped flowers come in pink, white, blue, purple, and rarely yellow. These plants aren’t common but they should be used more than they are because they will bloom for a month or more. The flat topped flowers and feathery leaves of the common white roadside yarrow (achillea) are repeated in garden yarrow. The major difference is color and size of bloom; garden yarrow can be pink, yellow, white, red, and even apricot and the flowers are generally much larger than common yarrow. Yarrow is a native plant that is useful in sunny, dry spots in the garden. Its flower heads retain their color well when dried.Astilbe (Astilbe ) (pronounced ah-still-bee) is a perennial that doesn’t need fussing over. I planted several in my yard years ago and have hardly touched them since. I like the unusual feathery flower heads. I grow white, pink and red varieties, which is the extent of their color range. They are excellent for semi shade areas and look good planted alongside ferns and hostas. These flowers also dry well and will hold their color for months.Since Indigo is the color of a blue dye it seems strange to name a plant Yellow false indigo, but here it is. False indigo (Baptisa) is a shrub-like perennial with blue, purple, and even yellow flowers that resemble pea blossoms.  This is a very tough, 3-4 foot tall plant that can stand a lot of dryness. As the photo shows, bumble bees love it.  I found this example in a local park. This Shasta daisy (Chrysanthemum maximum) that I grow had tiny little flies all over it the day that I took this picture. I don’t know what they were and I’ve never noticed them on the plant before. The Shasta daisy was developed by plant breeder Luther Burbank over 100 years ago and was named for the white snow of Mount Shasta. These plants are a hybrid cross of the common roadside ox-eye daisy and an English field daisy called Leucanthemum maximum. They are one of the easiest perennials to grow and, other than weeding, need virtually no care. Dwarf varieties are less apt to have their stems bent over by heavy rains.

Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty, if only we have the eyes to see them. ~John Ruskin

I hope you enjoyed a small glimpse of what New Hampshire flower gardens have to offer. Thanks for stopping in.

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I thought I’d take another tour through the flower beds before they get ahead of me. Everything seems to want to bloom at once this year. Clematis is one of my favorite flowers. Nothing could be easier to grow than these virtually no maintenance vines. I planted one on each side of my front steps many years ago and haven’t really touched them since. In spite of my neglect they still reward me with flowers like that in the photo. Clematis are in the buttercup family. The well-known wild virgin’s bower is a clematis. Dianthus is a huge family of fragrant plants which carnations belong to.  Pinks like in the photo above are also dianthus, and are called pinks not because of their color but because the petal edges look like they have been trimmed with pinking shears, giving them a frilly appearance. These flowers are among the most fragrant in the garden. The leaves of garden pinks are usually a grayish blue color. Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliate) isn’t often seen in gardens and that’s too bad because it is a beautiful plant in the rose family that is covered with fragile looking, 5 petaled, white flowers. This plant is native to the eastern U.S. and is also called American ipecac for the purgative power of the roots, which Native Americans are said to have used. English colonials called Native Americans “bowmen” which explains the other common name. This yellow bearded Iris was given to me by a friend several years ago and is a favorite of mine.  Unfortunately it is also a favorite of Japanese beetles whose damage can be seen on the petals.  Since I don’t use pesticides, we share and learn to get along. On a bearded Iris a fringe or “beard” runs down the center of each of the three petals that fall or hang down. This is an example of a beardless iris that is most likely a yellow Siberian iris (Iris siberica.) When this flower is compared to the bearded iris it is easy to see that they are very different. Meadow anemone (Anemone canadensis ) is an old fashioned garden favorite that has much larger flowers than our other native wood anemone.  This plant is also called crowfoot because of the foliage. Native Americans used this plant for many different medical reasons. When I was a boy I used to find Tradescantia, or spiderwort, growing along the railroad tracks. I’d pull them up to take home and plant in the yard along with asters, goldenrod and anything else I could find that had flowers on it. My father couldn’t understand what I wanted with those “damned old weeds.” Wouldn’t he be surprised to know that most of those “weeds” are now grown in gardens!  Tradescantia is another native that has gone to the gardens because true blue flowers are so hard to come by.  The common and well known house plant called wandering Jew is a tradescantia. Weigelia is an easy to care for shrub that is originally from Asia but has become quite common in American gardens. A little pruning to maintain its shape is all it really needs.  Weigelia flowers can come in white, yellow, lavender, red and pink. I grow the pink one seen here in my yard and the hummingbirds love it.The blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) is in full bloom now and is another plant held in high regard for its hard to find clear blue color. This is another tough native plant that bees love. Black seed pods full of loose, rattling, seeds will follow the flowers. Hyssop (Hyssopus) hails from Europe and Asia and has been under cultivation for so long that it is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Exodus. In the mint family, today it is used as an herb in soups and on meats.  It is yet another plant highly valued in the garden for the blue of its blossoms. Peony (Paeonia) is a flower with a scent close to that of old fashioned rugosa roses. Much loved and used for hundreds of years in American gardens, their only drawback is their weak stems which, unless staked, will leave the flowers dragging in the mud after a rain. I’ve come across old field stone cellar holes along long forgotten, overgrown roads that still have peonies blooming in what was once the front yard. Plants have been known to last for well over 100 years. Here is the owner of the scent that peonies seem to mimic. I grew up with a hedge of Rugosa roses in the yard and the fragrance of so many blooms was almost too much to bear. Unfortunately Japanese beetles love this flower and come from miles around to feed on the blooms, which is why it is almost impossible to find a blossom without damage.  If you have ever smelled the fragrance packet on a Japanese beetle trap then you know what Rosa rugosa smells like. This rose is originally from Asia. I thought this white peony that was just opening was a beautiful thing to behold. If a white peony is floated in a bowlful of water into which a few drops of red food coloring have been added, the flower will absorb the colored water and the veins in each petal will be seen. Peonies have been grown in Asian gardens for thousands of years.

In joy or sadness flowers are our constant friends.~ Kakuzō Okakura

That’s it for this trip through the garden. Isn’t it interesting how many native plants we have adopted to grow in our gardens?  Thanks for visiting.

 

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I thought I’d get out of the forest and back into the garden again for this post. Flowers are beautiful no matter where they grow, so you’ll find a little of everything from everywhere here.

Pheasant Eye Daffodil-also called Narcissus poeticus. This is supposed to have been one of the first daffodils cultivated in ancient times, and this is the latest and most fragrant one to flower here. I’ve seen more and more of these in fields and along roadsides so they are naturalizing. The yellow center cup with a red fringe and the late blooming period are good ways to identify this flower. Azaleas are blooming heavily this year, with bushes so full of flowers that you would think they would topple over under the sheer weight of it all. This deep pink one is in my yard and is a dwarf evergreen azalea. All azaleas are in the genus Rhododendron, and evergreen azaleas are in the subgenus Tsutsusi.This is a deciduous azalea that is much larger than the previous one shown and very fragrant. It grows in a local park. Deciduous azaleas are in the subgenus Pentanthera. I’m eagerly anticipating the native azaleas that will bloom soon. This deep purple Beaded Iris (Iris germanica) was in the same park and looked almost black. I don’t know the name of the cultivar. I’m sorry about the harsh lighting in some of these photos, but with a full time job and home renovations on-going, I just don’t have the luxury of waiting for an overcast day to take pictures.I thought this white bearded iris (Iris germanica) was especially beautiful.  Too much shade will cause weak blooming in bearded irises and these that I found in a park were being shaded by trees and shrubs. If they were moved to a sunnier spot they would do better. This is a Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) that blooms before all other irises in my gardens. This native to northern Asia and Europe is such a tough plant that I usually use an axe to divide it into smaller plants. Partial shade doesn’t bother this iris. In fact, nothing bothers this iris. This yellow daylily (Hemerocallis) is very early, blooming just after the Siberian irises bloom. This plant was given to me many years ago by a friend who has since passed on and I have divided it many times for family and friends. Two things make this plant special: the early bloom time and the heavenly fragrance that smells of citrus and spices. I have a feeling this is a Lemon daylily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) which is a very old species brought to America in colonial days and originally from China and Europe.  The Greek Hemerocallis means “beautiful for a day,” and that’s how long each flower lasts. It’s a shame that many of today’s daylilies, bred for larger and more colorful flowers, have lost their ancient fragrance. Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) is a beautiful plant in the pea family. This is a native plant that is sold in nurseries because it is so popular. Its flowers resemble those of the lupine, which is also in the pea family. Native Americans used this plant to make blue dye. True indigo (Indigofera) comes from the tropics.The pink flowers on this horse chestnut tree were really beautiful. I found it in a park so I don’t know what cultivar it is, but I’d like to have it in my yard. Believe it or not this is a columbine-a double flowered variety. Interesting, but I think I like the ordinary, single flowered columbines more.

Ornamental perennial salvia is blooming already. The culinary form of salvia is the herb known as sage. I’m wondering what fall will be like this year. Everything is blooming so early; I wonder if there will be anything left to bloom in September. Dogwood used to be a tree that you saw only occasionally, but now you see them everywhere-even at fast food restaurants. That doesn’t mean they are any less beautiful though. The sepals on this one were beyond white-I think the whitest I’ve seen on a plant. In a post I did recently called Under Cultivation I showed a photo of this flower and said I thought it might be a button bush, but I couldn’t be sure. Now I’m sure; it’s a native shrub related to witch hazel and is called Witch alder (Fothergilla major.) I’ve never seen this before this year, but I like it because it is so unusual. Witch alder (Fothergilla major.) 

Seed head of the pasque flower (Anemone patens,) which is almost as beautiful as the flower itself. One is just coming into bloom in the upper part of the photo. I saw a flash of color in the corner of my eye as I was driving and what I discovered, after I backed up and jumped out, was a wisteria vine trying hard to make it all the way to the top of a cherry tree.  The problem is I don’t know if it is a Chinese or Japanese wisteria. It’s doubtful that it is the American species because that one isn’t supposed to be hardy in New Hampshire. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful, and I want to go back later and try to identify it. Wisteria can grow under siding and shingles and actually tear them off, so they should never be planted near a house. Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), though beautiful, can overrun a garden. These flowers grow from a bulb and are native to southern Europe and Africa. The bulbs contain toxic alkaloids and have killed livestock, so they are now listed as an invasive species.


The common purple Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is the state flower of New Hampshire so I guess I’d better include it here.  Their scent, along with the honeysuckle and autumn olive, makes doing anything outside so much more enjoyable. Lilacs were first imported into New Hampshire from England in 1750 and grown at the Portsmouth home of Governor Benning Wentworth. The original plants are still blooming today in that garden and are believed to be the oldest lilacs in America.

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.  ~Walt Whitman

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what is blooming here in New Hampshire, and this day I hope you’ll forgive my forgetfulness! Thank you for stopping by.

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