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Posts Tagged ‘Ground Cherry’

1. Tall Meadow Rue

Here in the United States we celebrate our independence on this day and “bombs bursting in air” are part of that celebration. Right on schedule tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) blooms and add its own kind of fireworks to the festivities. This plant is also called king of the meadow, probably because it can reach 6 or 7 feet tall under perfect conditions. It likes wet feet and its head in the sun, and grows in places that never completely dry out. The example shown is a male plant which has petal-less, stamen only flowers that dangle in sparkly panicles.

2. Wood Sorrel

Years ago I found a small group of native wood sorrel (Oxalis montana) and have never seen any since until just recently. It’s a beautiful little thing which to me is like a spring beauty bonus that blooms in summer.  Unfortunately it’s very rare here, or at least I thought so. Now I’m not so sure; I found these plants growing in a spot that I have passed close to a hundred times, and that illustrates perfectly why I never hike a trail just once. You simply can’t see everything there is to see by hiking a trail once and since flowers bloom at different times, if you want to see them a trail should be hiked every couple of weeks. It’s the only way to see all of the plants that grow in a certain place.

3. Slender Nettle

Though slender nettle (Urtica gracilis) has fewer stinging hairs it is sometimes regarded as a variety of stinging nettle and is referred to as Urtica dioica gracilis. Its common name comes from the long, slender leaves. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has fatter, shorter, more heart shaped leaves. But grab ahold of either plant and you’ll find out why the Urtica part of the scientific name comes from the Latin uro, which means “I burn.” The hollow stinging hairs on the leaves and stems are called trichomes and act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that cause the stinging. If you’re lucky the nettle you run into will be growing next to some jewel weed (Impatiens capensis,) because the sap of that plant will stop the burning and stinging. People have been using nettles for food, medicine, fibers, and dyes since before recorded time.

4. Virginia Creeper

When I showed the Pathfinders around the old abandoned road near Beaver Brook we saw plenty of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Jim, their leader, mentioned that he had never seen its flowers. The flowers won’t win any blue ribbons at flower shows but they are another interesting part of nature that many people never see, so here they are.

5. Virginia Creeper

Each Virginia creeper flower is about 1/4 inch across and has 5 greenish, backward curving petals, 5 stamens with white filaments and large yellow anthers, and a conical pistil. If pollinated each flower becomes a bluish berry that many birds and animals love to eat. They are eaten by bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, and turkeys. Mice, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, and deer eat them too and deer also eat the leaves and stems. My favorite part of the plant is its leaves, which turn bright scarlet, orange and purple in the fall.

6. Staghorn Sumac Flowers

Staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta) is another flower that most of us, myself included, pass by without a glance. This time I decided to stop and see what I had been missing. It’s another of those flowers that won’t win any prizes but insects must love them, judging by how each flower head becomes a cluster of bright red, fuzzy berries. Each greenish yellow flower is about 1/4 inch across and has 5 curved petals, a 5 lobed calyx, 5 stamens, and a central pistil, all of which are so tiny I can’t even see them by eye alone.

7. Black Swallowwort

Black Swallowwort (Cynanchum louiseae) has purplish-brown to nearly black star shaped flowers that are about 1/4 inch across. They have five-petals and are fragrant, but not in a good way. It has a hard to describe their odor but on a hot summer day this plant is a real stinker that can be smelled from quite a distance. It’s a vining plant native to Europe that twines over native shrubs and plants at the edges of forests and shades them out. Colonies of this plant have been found that covered several acres of land. It is nearly impossible to eradicate from a garden; I can think of one or two gardens where I tried for years.

8. Black Swallowwort

It is thought that black swallowwort was intentionally introduced to North America around 1900 as an ornamental. I’m guessing that it was more of a garden conversation piece because of its “black” flowers. Plant breeders have been trying to create a truly black flower for a very long time and this one comes very close to fulfilling that dream on its own.

9. Dogbane

Native spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) has pretty little fragrant, pink bell shaped flowers with darker pink stripes inside. They remind me of lily of the valley in shape. Many insects visit these flowers but the plant has a toxic, sticky white latex sap that means animals leave it alone. The plant doesn’t mind a little shade; I often find it growing along trails through the woods. The tough bark from the stems of dogbanes produces fibers that Native Americans made a strong thread from. It was used to make nets for hunting rabbits, among other things.

10. Indian Cucumber Root

Natives had uses for Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) as well, and one of them was as food. Like its common name implies, this plant’s small root looks and tastes a lot like a mini cucumber.  It’s easy to identify because of its tiers of whorled leaves and unusual flowers. It likes to grow under trees in dappled light, probably getting no more than an hour or two of direct sunlight each day.

11. Indian Cucumber Root

The flowers of Indian cucumber root have 6 yellowish green tepals, 6 reddish stamens topped by greenish anthers, and 3 reddish purple to brown styles. These large styles are sometimes bright red- brown but I think they darken as they age. These appeared to be black under the camera’s flash. Each flower will become a shiny, inedible dark purplish black berry.

12. Ground Cherry

I don’t see ground cherry plants (Physalis heterophylla) very often. In fact I know of only two places where they grow, but it’s always worth going to visit them in June to see their unusual flowers. There is a bit of work involved though, because the nodding yellow and black flowers can be shy at times and hard to see. You can just see a bit of yellow in this photo at the rear of the plant.

13. Ground Cherry

I had to prop this ground cherry blossom up on a leaf to get this photo so we could see what it looks like. They look like someone put a drop of ink on each petal and then blew through a straw to make a feathery design. If pollination is successful each flower will become a bright yellow berry. This plant is called clammy ground cherry and there is another which looks quite different called smooth ground cherry (Physalis subglabrata.) That plant isn’t hairy and has orange or red berries. All parts of this plant are poisonous except the fruit, which can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be found in all of the lower 48 states except Nevada and California.

14. Bee Balm

Though I’ve seen signs advertising it for sale as bee bomb its common name is actually bee balm, which comes from the way the juice from its crushed leaves will soothe a bee sting. The native scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma) is also called Oswego tea, because the leaves were used to make tea by the Native American Oswego tribe of New York. Early settlers also used the plant for tea when they ran out of the real thing. No matter what you choose to call it, it’s a beautiful thing that I’m always happy to see. Hummingbirds love it too and will come from all over to sip its nectar.

15. Swamp Milkweed

If ever there was a flower that could stop me in my tracks and absorb me so fully that I lose all sense of time and place, it is swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata.) It is one of those flowers that take me out of myself, and I wait impatiently for its blossoms each summer. How can you not love life when you know there is beauty like this in your future?

16. Columbine

The back of a columbine flower resembled a flock of white swans, come together to discuss whatever it is that swans discuss. I never knew this until now but technically a group of swans is called a whiteness, which seems appropriate. Unless you happen to be a black swan, I suppose.

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

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th!

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As I said in my last post we’re out of the woods and into the fields! The sun loving meadow flowers are blooming in such abundance that it’s hard to record them all, but here are a few more that I’ve seen recently.The thistles have started blooming and the bees seem happy about that. This is a bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) which is originally from Europe and Asia and is considered a noxious weed. This is one plant that you don’t want to fall on because it is prickly from the tip of its head all the way to its toes. Even the leaf tips are armed with sharp spines. This plant has clearly evolved plenty of protection so it isn’t eaten.  Thistles are troublesome in pastures and hay fields but for all its armor this one is relatively easy to control just by digging deep enough to break the root off 2 or 3 inches below the soil line. While wearing good thick gloves, of course. I’ve always liked purple and yellow together so here’s a buttercup to go with the thistle. This one is the common meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris,) also called tall buttercup. This is another introduced species from Europe and Asia, but it is thought that it might be native to Alaska. This is another plant that farmers don’t like to see in pastures because livestock avoid it due to its foul tasting sap. The “acris” part of the plant’s scientific name means bitter. This plant is toxic if eaten and crushed leaves can blister skin. In fact, one of its common names is blister plant.I found quite a few ground cherry plants growing on a sunny embankment next to a road recently. I think this one is a clammy ground cherry (Physalis heterophylla.) I haven’t seen the edible berries yet, but if this is the clammy ground cherry they will be yellow. Smooth ground cherry (Physalis subglabrata) fruits are orange, red, or purple and that plant doesn’t have hairs on its stem, leaves, and flowers like this one does. The fruit of ground cherries is enclosed in a papery husk that looks like a Chinese lantern. This native plant is in the nightshade family along with its relatives; tomatoes and potatoes. I don’t see as many wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) as I’d like to and I’m not sure why they aren’t more numerous here. This is also called spotted or wood geranium, though I usually find it at the edge of the woods. Some call it cranesbill as well, but other plants also have that name. The fine light colored lines on the petals are nectar guides that guide pollinators to the flower’s center. After about a month of flowering the plants produce seed and go dormant. The butter yellow blooms of Sulphur Cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) can be seen along the roadsides now. These flowers are sometimes white with a yellow center and can also be a deeper, buttercup yellow, but the easiest ones to spot have the buttery color shown in the photo. Quite often the petals will have a bit of deeper yellow at the base. The 5 petals are notched and heart shaped. This is another plant that was introduced from Europe and Asia and can now be found in nearly every state in the country. It is considered a noxious weed in many areas. Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia ) is a low growing, vining plant. It is also called wandering Jenny, creeping Jenny, running Jenny, wandering sailor, wandering tailor, creeping Charlie, creeping Joan, herb two pence, and two penny grass . This plant was imported from Europe for use as a groundcover in gardens but has escaped and is now often found in wet areas. The common name moneywort comes from the round leaves resembling coins. Moneywort is quite noticeable because its yellow flowers are quite large for such a ground hugging plant. One story about moneywort says that when snakes get bruised or wounded they turn to moneywort for healing. This gave the plant yet another common name: Serpentaria.Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) isn’t rare or uncommon but neither is it well known because it often grows in among tall grasses, which makes it hard to spot. Books say that this plant will reach 3 feet in height but I’ve never seen it over 18 inches tall. The flowers are unusual but pretty, with a splash of red in the center of 5 yellow petals. They hang from long, weak pedicels (stems) and rest on the leaves or sometimes under them. The quadrifolia part of the scientific name means 4 leaves but the plant is known to sometimes have more than 4 in each whorl.  Whorled loosestrife is a native. The star shaped, 4 petaled flowers of smooth bedstraw (Galium mollugo) are tiny, but there are so many of them that the plant is easy to find. This one was growing in a vacant lot, which seems to be one of their favorite places. I’ve also found them mixed in with tall grass at forest edges and on hillsides. This plant is also called false baby’s breath, and that is the plant it reminds me of when it is blooming. When it isn’t in flower the small whorled leaves remind me of sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum,) which is a sweet scented, much shorter relative of smooth bedstraw. Another name for this plant is wild madder. Smooth bedstraw was introduced from Europe. It wouldn’t feel like summer to me without Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) blooming in the fields. This plant is also called bird’s nest because of the way the flowers curl up into a concave “nest” when they start to go to seed. Queen Anne’s lace is also called wild carrot but I would never eat the root or any other part of any plant that looked like this one because the deadly Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum ) looks a lot like it. I know their differences and can tell the two apart but I’d rather not risk being wrong that one day when I’m half asleep and not paying attention, because when you lose that game, you really lose. Queen Anne’s lace is originally from Europe. The strange fuzzy, joined flowers of partridge berry (Mitchella repens ) are lighting up the darker parts of the forest right now. I’ve never seen them bloom like they are this year, so they must like mild winters.  This native vine makes one bright red berry from two flowers that are joined at their bases. Each berry will have two indentations in its skin to show where the flowers were. Birds eat the berries through the winter and this winter they will have a bountiful harvest. Partridgeberry is a native plant. Wild Maiden pinks (Dianthus deltiodes) can be seen in meadows everywhere right now. Dianthus are in the carnation family and this plant is also called wild carnation. The name “pinks” comes from the petals looking like they have been edged with pinking shears. These plants are native to Europe and Asia and are tougher than they look-not only can these plants stand being mowed but doing so makes them bushier. A very similar plant is the Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) but its flowers have much narrower petals. Blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.) is still blooming.  There are several species of this plant that grow from coast to coast and they are all beautiful. This is an old time favorite of mine because it was one of the first plants I learned to identify. Blue eyed grass isn’t really a grass at all but is a plant in the Iris family. The flower has 3 petals and 3 sepals, all of which are the same color. The small flowers close in late afternoon so this one needs to be found early in the day.

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life ~ Author unknown

Next time I might have some more garden flowers to show you. Thanks for stopping in.

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