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Posts Tagged ‘Field Bindweed’

I was afraid that I wouldn’t find any eastern forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) this year but it was only impatience making me think they were late. They actually came along right on schedule and as always are very beautiful. The plants get barely ankle tall and like to grow in sandy soil in full sun. One unusual thing about the flower, other than its unique beauty, is its four long, arching stamens that dust bees with pollen when they land on its lower lip. You can see the tiny white pollen grains at the end of the anthers on this example.

Here’s a closer look at the business end of the pollen bearing anthers. I really can’t think of a way to explain how small they are unless I compare each pollen grain to a single grain of salt.

Forked blue curls are annual plants that grow new from seed each year. They are very small and you have to get down on your hands and knees to see them up close but it’s worth it because they are beautiful. The plants bloom in the morning and each flower only blooms for one day before falling off the plant like this one did. This native plant grows as far west as Texas.

Big leaf asters (Eurybia macrophylla) are one of the first asters to bloom in late summer. They need big, light gathering leaves because they grow in the forest under trees. The leaves on this plant are very different from other asters, so it’s a hard plant to misidentify. As is common on many asters the wonky flowers look like they were glued together by a chubby fisted toddler. Though normally white, every now and then you see a purple one. That seems to be especially true just when they start blooming.

Big leaf aster gets its common name not surprisingly by way of its big, hand size leaves.

Native hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata ) flowers are small and beautiful, but it’s a plant that comes with a lot of baggage. As the story goes author and forager Samuel Thayer calls them ground beans rather than hog peanut because he claims that the name “hog peanut” was a racial slur against Native Americans. He says that the Europeans came to a point where they refused to eat them because even though the small legumes saved many of their lives they insisted they were only fit for hogs (implying that Native Americans were hogs.) Personally I find this story hard to believe because anyone who has ever raised pigs knows that they root around in the soil looking for just the kinds of legumes that grow on these vines, and it isn’t hard to imagine colonials, who raised pigs, saying “look, the hogs have found some nuts.” I call it hog peanut here not to slander anyone but because nine out of ten people will use a plant’s common name when they look for it in field guides, and field guides call the plant hog peanut.

Like a true peanut, after pollination some of its flowers bury themselves in the soil and form a small, edible, bean like seeds that give the plant its common name. Mice collect these seeds and store them in large caches that Native Americans used to search for. They can be eaten raw or cooked. The plant also forms inch long, pea-like, above ground pods that contain three or four inedible seeds. Hog peanut is a strong, wiry vine that can cover large areas of forest floor and choke out other plants. It is also good at tripping up hikers.

Native clethra (Clethra alnifolia) is also called summer sweet because of its sweet, spicy fragrance. If you have low spots in your yard that get wet occasionally, this is a good shrub to plant in them because it likes moist soil and grows naturally along stream banks and in swampy ground. Bees love it too, and these plants are covered with them every time I visit them in bloom. If you’re trying to attract pollinators this shrub should be in your yard.

Each long upright clethra flower head is packed with small white flowers. Small yes, but also very fragrant; it has the name summer sweet for a reason. Some older nurserymen might also know it as sweet pepperbush and whoever gave it that name thought its fruits resembled pepper corns. Clethra was named wildflower of the year by the Virginia Wildflower Society in 2015. An odd fact about this native shrub is that it doesn’t seem to have any medicinal or culinary uses. I can’t find a single reference regarding its use by Native Americans but I feel certain that they must have used it in some way.

Field bindweeds (Convolvulus arvensis) are still blooming and aren’t they pretty? For me they are a time machine because they always propel me back to my boyhood.

When I see a rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) I always think of my time spent as a gardener in Florida. I worked in the gardens of a large hotel and the job included trimming what seemed like miles of tropical hibiscus hedges (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) and rose of Sharon is a kind of hardy hibiscus in the same family as the tropical hibiscus. Mallow, hollyhock, and many other species are in this family.

I have no idea what this plant is but I saw it in a local garden and felt compelled to get a photo of it because if you look closely at a single blossom you find that it looks like half a blossom. The following shot shows what I mean.

I’ve never seen flowers behave this way and I’d guess it must be a man made creation. If you happen to know its name I’d love to hear what it is.

Liatris (Liatris spicata) is a plant native to our prairies and you don’t find it outside of gardens that often here in New Hampshire. Every now and then you can find a stray plant in a meadow but it isn’t anywhere near as aggressive as black eyed Susan and some other prairie plants. It is also called blazing star and is grown commercially as a cut flower. I think that the closer you get to the tiny flowers, the more beautiful they become. It’s a very useful plant for attracting butterflies to the garden. Native Americans baked and ate the roots of some of the more than 43 varieties of Liatris. They are said to taste like carrots. Other parts of the plant were used medicinally to treat heart ailments.

Shasta daisies aren’t performing very well here this year and I think it must be the heat and dryness we’ve had. 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 an occasional weeding, need virtually no care. Dwarf varieties are less apt to have their stems bent over by heavy rains.

I always find northern water horehound (Lycopus uniflorus) growing near water. It’s an odd little plant that might get knee high on a good day, and often leans toward the water that it grows near. Its tiny flowers grow in round tufts at each leaf axil and remind me of motherwort, which has the same habit. It is in the mint family and has a square stem as so many of the plants in that family do. It is also closely related to American water horehound (Lycopus americanus) and the two plants are easily confused. Paying close attention to leaf shape helps tell them apart. The foliage is said to be very bitter and possibly toxic, but Native Americans used the tuberous roots for food.

The flowers of northern water horehound are pretty little bell shaped things, but they are small enough to need a hand lens (or macro lens) to really appreciate them. The tiny things are pollinated by bees, wasps and flies and each one will become 4 small nutlets.  I don’t know what birds or animals eat the seeds, but muskrats love the roots. Another name for the plant is northern bugleweed.

I was surprised to find a heavily shaded drainage ditch where pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) and arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) still bloomed beautifully. Both plants were important food sources for Native Americans.

Invasive rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense) is short enough to be forced to grow right at the edge of the road if it wants to get any sunshine, so the roads look like they have been festooned with fuzzy pink ribbons for a while each summer. It’s an annual that grows new from seed each year and the seedlings must be tough, because they don’t seem to mind being occasionally run over, or the poor dry soil found along the road side. When something is common that often means it is ignored, but as so often happens if you take a closer look you find that what you’ve been ignoring is actually quite beautiful.

Perennial pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is a beautiful little flower that is not at all common here. Originally from Europe it has been grown in gardens here in the U.S. since the 1700s. Of course it has escaped gardens and now can be found along roadsides and in waste areas. I found these plants growing along a small stream. It is a vining plant that I’ve read can reach 9 feet, but these weren’t more than a foot tall, so maybe they’re young plants.

Perennial pea is also called wild sweet pea, everlasting pea, and hardy sweet pea. The pods and seeds are toxic though, and shouldn’t be eaten.

Native wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is a late summer blooming vine that climbs on shrubs and trees. It likes to grow in sandy soil and prefers partial shade over full sun. The flower spikes (Racemes) grow to 6 inches or more all along the main stem. These plants are annuals and grow from seed each year.

The greenish white, star shaped male flowers of wild cucumber have 6 petals that are twisted slightly. The female flowers are yellowish green and not at all showy. They grow at the base of the male flower stems. There is usually only one female flower for every 5 or 6 male flowers, which is why there are so few fruits seen on each vine. The spiny, 2 inch long fruits of wild cucumber have a watermelon shape and look prickly but the spines are soft until the fruits dry out and drop their seeds. The fruit is not edible and doesn’t really resemble a cucumber.

We’re just coming into the time of year that I think of as the Monet period, when along the roadsides you see views that sometimes resemble a Monet painting. This view shows mostly goldenrod and purple loosestrife but soon there will be asters in many colors as well, and when all of it comes together it will be exceedingly beautiful. I hope all of you see similar scenes at this time of year.

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment. ~Georgia O’Keefe

Thanks for coming by.

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