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Posts Tagged ‘Fawn’s Breath’

More and more flowers are appearing each day now and the roadsides are beginning to bloom, as these ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) show. This is just a small piece of what was miles of daisies along this road.

Ox eye daisies will always say June to me. I was married in June and because we couldn’t afford flowers from the florist we picked hundreds of Ox eye daisies. They wilted quickly and looked much better in the meadow than in a vase, so I don’t think I’ve ever picked one since. This is a much loved flower so it is easy to forget that it was originally introduced from Europe as an ornamental in the 1800s. It quickly escaped cultivation and has now spread to each of the lower 48 states and most of Canada. Since cattle won’t eat it, it can spread at will through pastures and that means that it is not well loved by ranchers. A vigorous daisy can produce 26,000 seeds per plant and tests have shown that 82% of the buried seeds remained viable after six years underground. I always like to see their spiraled centers.

Blue flag irises (Iris versicolor) are another flower that says June to me. The name “flag” comes from the Middle English flagge, which means rush or reed and which I assume applies to the plant’s cattail like leaves. In this instance they were growing right in the water of a pond, so they don’t mind wet roots.

Though Native Americans used blue flag irises medicinally its roots are considered dangerously toxic and people who dig cattail roots to eat have to be very careful that there are no irises growing among them, because the two plants often grow side by side. Natives showed early settlers how to use small amounts of the dried root safely as a cathartic and diuretic, but unless one is absolutely sure of what they’re doing its best to just admire this one. It’s an easy thing to admire.

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) is also called creeping dogwood and bunchberry dogwood. Just like the dogwood tree flower the large (relatively) white bracts of bunchberry surround the actual flowers, which are greenish and very small. The entire flower cluster with bracts and all is often no bigger than an inch and a half across. Later on the flowers will become a bunch of bright red berries, which give it its common name. Even the plant’s leaves show the same veining as the dogwood tree. Native Americans used the berries as food and made a tea from the ground root to treat colic in infants. The Cree tribe called the berry “kawiskowimin,” meaning “itchy chin berry” because rubbing the berries against your skin can cause a reaction that will make you itch. Bunchberry is often found growing on and through tree trunks, stumps, and fallen logs but exactly why isn’t fully understood. It’s thought that it must get nutrients from the decaying wood, and because of its association with wood it’s a very difficult plant to establish in a garden. Native plants that are dug up will soon die off unless the natural growing conditions can be accurately reproduced, so it’s best to just admire it and let it be.

Dogwood (Cornus) blossoms have 4 large white bracts surrounding the actual small greenish flowers in the center, just like bunchberries. They have just come into bloom.

Every time I look closely at blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) I wonder why they didn’t call it yellow eyed grass, but that’s not all that’s wrong with the name because the plant isn’t a grass at all; it’s in the iris family. Its light blue green leaves do resemble grass leaves though. The beautiful little flowers are often not much bigger than a common aspirin but their color and clumping habit makes them fairly easy to find. I think they must be sun lovers because they’re a little late this year. Some plants liked the cool damp weather, but this wasn’t one of them.

I find goat’s beard (Tragopogon pratensis) growing in a meadow in full sun and that single spot is the only place I find them. Goat’s beard flowers close up shop at around noon and for this reason some call it “Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon,” but I saw these still blooming at around 1 PM. 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 often have trouble finding it.

Maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) have just started blooming and I found the one in the above photo  at the edge of a meadow. It might look like its cousin the Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria,) but that flower doesn’t have the jagged red ring around its center like this one does and it blooms later, usually in July. Maiden pinks are originally from Europe and have escaped cultivation but aren’t terribly invasive. They seem to prefer the edges of open lawns and meadows. Their colors can vary from almost white to deep magenta. I have volunteers growing in my lawn and I mow around them. They’re too beautiful to just cut down.

Red sandspurry (Spergularia rubra) never looks red to me; it always looks purple. But whatever the color it always looks beautiful to me. When I can see it anyway. 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 two years ago 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.

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.

In 2015 the highway department replaced a bridge over the Ashuelot River and widened the road leading to and from it. They put what I thought was grass seed down on the roadsides once the bridge was finished, but it was wildflower / grass seed mix containing lupines (Lupinus.) For a couple of years they were growing all along the sides of the road but this year I counted only three small clumps. That could be because they are an aphid magnet and I saw many in this colony covered with the sucking insects. I’ve always loved lupines and I’m always happy to see them come into bloom, but it doesn’t seem like they’ll survive much longer in this spot.

Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) is a native wildflower but it only grows in two New England Sates as far as I can tell; Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which seems odd but explains why I’ve never seen one in the wild. This example grows in a local park. The dried and powdered root of this plant was used by Native Americans as a laxative, so another common name is American ipecac. Nobody seems to know the origin of the name bowman’s root or whether it refers to the bow of a boat or the bow part of the bow and arrow. The white flower petals of bowman’s root are asymmetrical and always look like they were glued on by a chubby fingered toddler. But they are beautiful nonetheless, and dance at the end of long stems. And they do dance in the slightest movement of air. Some say that all it takes is the gentle breath of a fawn to set them dancing, and because of that another of their common names is fawn’s breath. I can’t think of a more beautiful name for a flower.

Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) is in full bloom now and is a plant held in high regard for its hard to find clear blue color. This is another tough native plant that bees love. People love it too, and it is now sold in nurseries. The black seed pods full of loose, rattling, seeds that follow the flowers were once used as rattles by children. Not surprisingly, other common names include rattle weed and rattle bush. Native Americans made a blue dye from this native plant that was a substitute for true indigo.

When I was just a young boy living with my father I decided that our yard needed a facelift. We had a beautiful cabbage rose hedge and a white lilac, and a Lorelai bearded iris that my mother planted before she died but I wanted more. I used to walk the Boston and Main railroad tracks to get to my grandmother’s house and I’d see these beautiful blue flowers growing along the tracks, so one day I dug one up and planted it in the yard. My father was quiet until I had planted 3 or 4 of them, and then he finally asked me why I was bringing home those “dammed old weeds.” He also walked the tracks to get to work and back, so he saw the tradescantia (Tradescantia virginiana) plants just as often as I did. Though I thought they were lost and needed to be rescued, he thought somebody threw them away and wished they’d have thrown them just a little farther. We had blue flowers in the yard for a while though, and today every time I see this plant I think of my father.  I know I tell this story every year at this time and longtime readers are probably bored with it but there aren’t many flower memories I can associate with my father, so I like to remember him through this one. It’s a beautiful flower that I wish he’d looked at a little more closely.

Plant breeders have been working on tradescantia; I find this purple flowered one in a local park. Interesting but I like the blue that I grew up with best. Bees, especially bumblebees, seem to like this one best though. Why that is, I don’t know.

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.

To just sit with a fragrant white waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) admiring its beauty for a while is enough for me sometimes, depending on the day. They’ve just started blooming and they dot the surface of ponds and slow flowing rivers throughout the region. 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 was surprised to see that the new camera actually caught some of the submerged stems and even a round flower bud. I guess I’ll have to take back some of the bad thoughts I’ve had about it because I’ve never gotten a photo of these features before.

Live this life in wonder, in wonder of the beauty, the magic, the true magnificence that surrounds you It is all so beautiful, so wonderful. Let yourself wonder. ~Avina Celeste

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1. Blue Flag Iris

It’s hard to believe that it is iris time already, but here they are. This is a native blue flag (Iris versicolor) that I found growing near a pond. Such beauty, and all to convince the bees that this, more than any other, is the flower that they should visit.

2. Bunchberry Flowers

If, when you look at a bunchberry plant (Cornus canadensis) it reminds you of something else, that’s because it is in the dogwood family. Like a dogwood blossom its large white bracts surround smaller flowers. Even the 2 larger and 4 smaller leaves look like a dogwood. In fact, an old name for the plant is creeping dogwood. They like moist, shady woods.

3. Bunchberry Flowers

A closer look at tiny bunchberry flowers. If pollinated each flower will become a bright red, single seeded drupe, and the plant will then have the bunch of “berries” that give it its common name.

4. Rhodora Blossoms

Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense,) is a small, native rhododendron that loves swampy places. It is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada and both its western and southern limits are reached in Pennsylvania. The flowers appear before the leaves, but only for a short time in spring. By mid-June they will have all vanished. On May 17, 1854 Henry David Thoreau wrote “The splendid Rhodora now sets the swamps on fire with its masses of rich color,” and that is exactly what this beautiful little plant does.

5. Cow Vetch

Cow vetch (Vicia cracca) is a native of Europe and Asia that loves it here and has spread far and wide. According to the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States the vining plant is present in every U.S. state. Cow vetch can have a taproot nearly a foot long and drops large numbers of seeds, so it is hard to eradicate. It is very similar to hairy vetch, but that plant has hairy stems. I like its color and it’s nice to see it sprinkled here and there among the tall grasses.

6. Ox Eye Daisy

I got married in June and we couldn’t afford flowers from a florist so we picked ox-eye daisy blossoms (Leucanthemum vulgare.) That’s when I discovered that they look much better along a roadside than they do in a vase. This one had a visitor.

7. Yellow Hawkweed

Each strap shaped, yellow “petal” on a yellow hawkweed flower head (Hieracium caespitosum) is actually a single, complete flower. The buds, stem, and leaves of the plant are all very hairy and the rosette of oval leaves at the base of the stem often turn deep purple in winter. The Ancient Greeks believed that hawks drank the sap of this plant to keep their eyesight sharp and so they named it hierax, which means hawk.

8. White Foxglove

I’ve seen foxglove flowers (Digitalis) in the past which, even though they tried very hard to be white, were more off white or pale yellow, but those pictured were definitely white. Though eye catching, all parts of this plant are toxic and eating even a small amount can be fatal.

9. White Foxglove

Though it is said that the spots on a foxglove flower are elfin finger prints, they are actually a kind of guide or “landing strip” for bees. In many foxglove blossoms the spots are fluorescent at night under black light and, since bees see in ultraviolet light, viewing the flowers under black light gives us an idea of what bees must see.

10. Black Locust Blossoms

I love smelling the flowers of the black locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia.) I think of them as a kind of poor man’s wisteria because their fragrance seems very similar to me. The flowers might also look familiar to vegetable gardeners because the black locust is in the pea family (Fabaceae.) 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.

11. Purple Robe Black Locust

These flowers also belong to the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia, ) but I believe that this tree is a cultivar called “purple robe” that has escaped cultivation. I find it in the woods occasionally and have been a little confused about its origin. It lacks the short spines at the base of its leaves and instead has bristly hairs on its stems. It always seems to be growing in small colonies when I see it and I’m hoping that a reader might know more about it. The flowers are very fragrant and bees really love this tree. Every time I find one in bloom it is absolutely covered with bees, which makes getting photos a challenge.

Note: Josh from the Josh’s Journal blog has identified this plant as bristly locust (Robinia hispida,) which is a native, shrubby locust. Thanks to Josh for putting several years of wondering about this plant to rest. This is a great illustration of how long it can take to correctly identify plants in rare cases.

12. Blue Toadflax

I recently found the biggest colony of native blue toadflax plants (Nuttallanthus canadensis) that I’ve ever seen growing alongside a road. This plant seems to like sunny and dry, sandy waste areas 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.

13. Bowman's Root

Bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) has many other common names, such as Indian physic or American ipecac, both of which tell me that I don’t want to be eating any of it. Native Americans dried the root and used it as an emetic and laxative so some of its common names make sense, but I’ve never been able to find out where the name bowman’s root originated. This two foot tall native plant makes an excellent addition to a partially shaded perennial border.

14. Bowman's Root

An unusual feature of bowman’s root is how the five petals on the beautiful white, star shaped flowers are never quite symmetrical.

Another common name for this plant is fawn’s breath and, though I don’t know its origin, these flowers sway in the gentlest hint of a breeze and I can imagine someone thinking that it didn’t take more than the breath of a fawn to get them dancing.

15. Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) are one of the most beautiful things you’ll see in the woods of New Hampshire in the spring. Their blooming period has nearly ended for this year, so I thought I’d show one more before next spring. This is the darkest colored one that I saw this year.

I often try to take a photo of the darkest flower in a group and then compare them at the end of the blooming period. I do this with many different kinds of flowers and the differences are sometimes quite surprising.

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. – Christopher Morley

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