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Posts Tagged ‘Helianthus’

Though this pond side view looks like we still have plenty of flowers blooming here in New Hampshire, they are getting harder to find now that we’ve gone into fall. In this view the off white flowers are boneset, nearly gone by, so the only flowers truly blooming are purple asters and goldenrod. There are still other flowers still blooming out there but at this time of year you have to search to find them.

I found a huge mounded colony of this white aster in an old field. Asters can be very hard to identify but I think it might be the small white American aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum) because of the way its lance shaped leaves are sessile on the stem. In this case sessile means leaves without a stalk (petiole.)

At about a half inch across the flowers on the small white American aster aren’t as small as some of the other white asters. For an aster the petals are arranged very symmetrically. There is a similar aster called bushy American aster that has blue flowers.

Pretty little blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) must be one of the longest blooming wildflowers we have here. It usually starts blooming in May and I’m still seeing it in quite large numbers here in what is almost October. You can’t ask more from a flower than that. I love the shade of blue that it wears.

Another of my favorite shades of blue is found on bottle gentians (Gentiana linearis.) My color finding software sees both blue and purple in these blooms but colorblindness turns them all blue for me. I walked along the Ashuelot River to the spot where they grow and, though I thought they were finished for this year, there were one or two still holding onto their color. When they start to go by they turn very dark blue and then a kind of purple.

I took this photo of a bottle gentian so those of you who have never seen one would know what to look for. The flowers and growth habit look much like those on a narrow leaved gentian (Gentiana andrewsii) but that plant has narrower leaves.

Black eyed Susans are another flower with a long bloom time but they’re getting sparse now and you have to search to find them in this area. Though they start blooming in June I always think of them as a fall flower, so when I see them in June I always have to ask them do you have to remind me so soon? Summer just started! I forgive them for trying to make time pass so quickly though because they’re so cheery, even in June.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a European native that has been cultivated for centuries. The flat flower heads are made up of many button like disc flowers; almost like a daisy without the white ray flowers that we call petals. Tansy is a natural insect repellent and was used as such in colonial times. Dried tansy added to the straw in mattresses was said to keep bedbugs away. Most tansy plants are seen in gardens but it had naturalized itself in New England by 1785 and can still be occasionally found growing along roadsides. It’s a good plant to use in vegetable gardens for pest control. The ancient Greeks grew tansy for medicinal use but modern science has found it to be toxic.

Johnny jump up (Viola tricolor) is still blooming. It is plant that has been known for a very long time and goes by many common names. It’s said to have 60 names in English and 200 more in other languages. In medieval times it was called heartsease and was used in love potions. Viola tricolor is believed to be the original wild form of all the modern varieties of pansy. I’m lucky enough to have them popping up at the edge of my lawn. I always make sure I miss them with the lawn mower.

I saw this pretty bi-color phlox in a friend’s garden. Many phlox blossoms are very fragrant but I forgot to smell this one. What would a fall garden be without a phlox or two? They’re so beautiful, it’s hard not to love them.


I saw this view of deep purple New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and goldenrods along a roadside recently. In the past I’ve complained that there weren’t enough of these dark purple asters but this year I’m seeing them everywhere I go. I’ve noticed that bees seem to prefer the lighter colored ones but these still had hundreds of bees all over them. In fact every aster plant I’ve seen this year has been just swarming with bees of all kinds.

This is a close up of the same flowers that are in the previous photo, but the bright sunshine lightened their color.

I’ve never seen an aster with so many blooms on it. I don’t know its name but this is a cultivated aster that grows in a local park. It’s a very beautiful thing, and quite big.

At a glance this might look like an aster but it’s actually a chrysanthemum blossom. Mums are big business here and at this time of year nurseries sell them as fast as they get them. Though they are called “hardy mums” there are few that can really make it through a New Hampshire winter. I have a purple one that has come up for years and many of the white ones will survive. I used to work at a nursery that grew mums from cuttings; ten thousand of them each year, and I’ll never forget having to water them. It took all day, and I had to do it every day that it didn’t rain. I was very happy when they sold.

You might think I had found a blue lily but no, this is a hosta blossom. They’re very pretty things but hostas are grown more for their foliage than the flowers. This plant was in a local park and had hundreds of blossoms on it.

Sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) won’t be finished blooming until we have a freeze but it doesn’t start blooming as early as black eyed Susans and others do. If you crush a few blossoms and smell them they smell like maple syrup, and that helps identify the plant. Its common name comes from the way it lasts for years after being cut and dried. Usually the plant has many buds rather than open flowers, as this example shows. An odd name for it is rabbit tobacco, given to it by Native Americans because they noticed that rabbits liked to gather where these plants grew. Because of these gatherings they thought that rabbits must smoke the plant as a way to communicate with the Creator. They apparently decided to try smoking it too because it was and still is used in smoking mixtures by some Native people. I’ve never seen a rabbit near it.

It’s hard to tell when a sweet everlasting blossom is actually fully open, but this is what the seed pods look like after the seeds have been released. It’s as pretty as a flower.

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is originally from Europe and was brought to this country by English colonials, who used it medicinally and agriculturally. It is a very beautiful thing that often glows with its own inner light, and I have to stop and admire it every now and then. Had I been an early settler I surely would have had a few of its seeds in my pocket. There are a lot of clover plants by the Ashuelot River in Swanzey and in the evening the cottontails come out to eat them. I’ve noticed that when they’re done eating the non-native red clover they go and hide in a thicket of another non-native plant-barberry. Neither man nor beast will follow them into that thicket, and they know it.

There are something like 70 species of Helianthus and it’s hard to know which one you’re looking at sometimes. I know this one isn’t the woodland sunflower but that’s about all I know. I like seeing them just the same, whether I can name them or not.

Our native purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are still blooming but they’ve slowed down quite a lot and are busier making seeds than new flowers. This plant is well known for its medicinal qualities as well as its beauty. According to the USDA the plant was used by many Native American tribes throughout North America to treat a variety of ailments. It was used as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, as a treatment for toothaches, coughs, colds, and sore throats. It was also used as an antidote for various forms of poisonings, including snake bite. Portions of it were also used to dress wounds and treat infections. Modern medicine has found it useful to combat bacterial and viral infections and as an immune system booster. I grow it because butterflies and bees like its nectar, birds like the seeds, and I like to admire its beauty.

Imagine; a sunflower turning its back to the sun. But according to an article on National Public Radio this is normal; scientists have found that once sunflowers mature like the one shown they stop following the sun and face east. When young they greet the sunrise in the east and then as the day progresses they follow it to the west until it sets. During the night time they slowly turn back to the east to again to wait for the next sunrise. They do this through a process called heliotropism, which scientists say can be explained by circadian rhythms, a 24 hour internal clock that humans also have. The plant actually turns itself by having different sides of its stem elongate at different times. Growth rates on the east side of the stem are high during the day and low at night. On the west side of the stem the growth rate is high at night and low during the day, and the differing growth rates turn the plant.

Isn’t nature amazing?

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. ~Luther Burbank.

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 1. In the Woods

I found myself in a pocket of beech trees one day and took a few photos. Beech and oak and a few shrubs are all we have for colorful foliage now. 

2. Beech LeavesAmerican beeches (Fagus grandifolia) have great fall color that starts when maples, birches, and others are finishing.

 3. Beech Leaves Browning

Beech colors don’t last long though, and before you know it the leaves turn brown and curl. Like some oak leaves most beech leaves will stay on the younger trees through winter, rattling in the wind. Some believe that the beech hangs onto its dry leaves to hide its young buds from browsing animals.

 4. Burning Bushes

Some shrubs still have good color too, like these burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) that grow in great long swaths along the river. They’re beautiful, but also one of the most invasive shrubs in the state. They grow in such impenetrable thickets that native plants can’t get a start. Another name for this one is winged euonymus and you are not allowed to sell it, import it into, or plant it in New Hampshire.

5. Burning Bush Fruit

This is what makes the burning bush so invasive. Birds love its fruit and spread it far and wide. Introduced in the United States from Asia in 1860 as a garden ornamental, it is now present in 25 states and parts of Canada.

 6. Bittersweet Berries

Another invasive plant is Chinese Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus.), It is a vine so tough that it can strangle young trees and topple older ones by growing in and adding a lot of weight to their crowns. Burning bushes and Chinese bittersweet are in the same family and both are very invasive. The bittersweet was introduced in 1879 and has made it as far west as the Rocky Mountains, as far south as Louisiana, and north to Maine. There is an American species of bittersweet (Celastrus scandens ) and the two plants hybridize naturally, making eradication close to impossible.

 7. Dried Jack in the Pulpit Berries

Usually deer will come along and chomp the entire head of berries from a Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ) stem, but in this case it looks like both the deer and birds have shunned these examples. They look a little deformed so maybe the birds and animals know something about them that I don’t. A similar plant, also in the arum family, is called lords and ladies in the U.K.

8. Winterberry

Our native holly that is called winterberry (Ilex verticillata) looks nothing like the evergreen hollies we grow in our gardens. In fact for most of the year it is unremarkable and if you weren’t looking for it you wouldn’t pay any attention to it. Even its tiny flowers are hard to see, but in autumn after the leaves have fallen this plant announces its presence with a loud, red berried shout.  Birds don’t eat these berries until very late in winter because they have a low fat content, so many people cut the branches and bring them inside for the holidays. I like to see them against the snowy background.

 9. Frosty Windshield

We’ve had both frosts and freezes here now so I took my camera out one icy morning to gather the evidence.

10. Frost Bitten Fern

Actually, the evidence of frosts and freezes is everywhere you look, as this contorted fern frond shows.

11. Frosted Helianthus

This helianthus didn’t even have time to drop its petals before being flash frozen.

Frosty River

One frosty morning even though the Ashuelot River was steaming it still looked dark and cold. It won’t be long before ice forms along its shores and slowly creeps toward its middle.

If months were marked by colors, November in New England would be colored gray. ~Madeleine M. Kunin

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Since, as I said in my last post, I wasn’t having any luck finding orchids in swampy areas I thought I’d try a completely different place-dry forest. According to the book Wild Orchids of the Northeastern United States; a Field Guide, by Paul Martin Brown, there are orchids that prefer such places. But how dry? We’ve gone over a month now with no really beneficial rain and our forests are tinder dry. But anyway, off I went to dry places just like those pictured below.Being in the woods is strange right now because it is so dry that oaks are shedding their immature acorns instead of expending the energy it takes to let them ripen, and all you hear is the strange phhhhttt of acorns falling through the canopy, and then a muffled –tap- as they hit the forest litter. It is a sound that is nearly constant-like rain-and it bothers me to think of all the animals that rely on nice ripe acorns for food. I did finally find an orchid-in fact, many orchids, but they weren’t quite what I expected. This is the flower cluster of a non-native orchid called broad leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine.) These tiny but showy flowers had quite a lot of purple in them, but books say that green and white ones are much more common. This orchid came to us from Europe and is another garden escapee that has naturalized virtually everywhere. I have actually pulled it as a weed from commercial shrub beds. The leaves tell the story about where helleborine got its common name; its leaves look a lot like those of false hellebore (Veratrum viride.This plant was growing a few feet from the one with more purple in it, but its flowers were smaller and green and white instead of purple. It is still quite a showy flower, even without the purple. Indian tobacco is one of the native lobelias (Lobelia inflata.) It grows in deep, shady woods as well as in sunnier locations. The inflata part of its scientific name comes from the swollen calyx behind each flower. The calyx looks like it has been inflated and is useful in identifying this plant. The seed pods, which are said to resemble Native American tobacco pouches, give the plant its common name.Unlike the spiked lobelia (lobelia spicata,) which has flowers on a central spike, lobelia inflata has its flowers on racemes that stand out away from the central stem.The long flower spikes of native Virginia knotweed (Polygonum virginianum) can be found at the forest edges. The plant gets another of its common names, Jumpseed, from the way the seeds seem to jump from the stem when they are touched. The flowers on this plant were white but they can also be pink or greenish. Identification aids are the hairy nodes / bands where the leaf meets the main stem. The bands are darker than the stem and can be seen under each flower even from a distance.Native tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis ) grew near the Virginia knotweed. Tall blue lettuce is sometimes called woodland lettuce, because that is usually where it is found. Its flowers can be white to bluish. The flowers in the photo look whiter than blue to me, but they might have a blue tint. This plant looks very similar to Canada lettuce (Lactuca Canadensis) but Canada lettuce has yellow flowers. Another lettuce that has yellow flowers is prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola.) It also has prickles on the leaf margins. It would be difficult to confuse tall blue lettuce with either of those. These plants can reach 8 feet tall.Native tall white lettuce (Prenanthes altissima) isn’t very tall when compared to the tall blue lettuce shown above-this plant was barely 3 feet tall. That could be because white lettuce is in the Prenanthes genus and wild lettuce is in the Lactuca genus.  White lettuce is related to asters but its nodding flowers are whitish green and bell shaped. This plant is odd in that its leaves can vary so much from plant to plant that they are completely unreliable in identification. In a group of 5 or 6 plants, not one had the same leaf shape as its partners.  It would be a plant hunter’s nightmare if it wasn’t for the bracts behind each flower. On white lettuce there should always be 5 larger that are light green and smooth. There may also be several smaller bracts as well. I searched many books trying to identify this helianthus species with no luck except to be sure that it is a helianthus. I’m wondering if it isn’t a hybrid because it seems to have features common to several different helianthus species. It was about 4 feet tall and grew at the edge of the forest in a large colony. It is one of the few plants that weren’t wilted from lack of rain, which makes me think that is has a large, fleshy root like the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus.) But- it doesn’t have the hairy stems of that plant. Helianthus are natives.New England Asters are the first lavender ones I’ve seen dotting forest edges. These are much showier than the small white asters that usually bloom ahead ofthem. Asters can be tough to identify but the hairy stems and lance shaped, clasping leaves are a big help with this one. I like asters but I don’t like the fact that summer’s end is near when they bloom. Even though this one is blooming weeks early it has reminded me that, as usual, I’m not ready to see summer end. Panicled hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum) has wiry stems that curve in all directions and end in a small, yellow, daisy-like flower. I found this plant growing in a splash of sunshine along an old forgotten dirt road in the woods. These native plants are sometimes confused with rough hawkweed (Hieracium scabrum) but that plant has prickly flower buds and hairy leaves.Panicled hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum) has smooth, hairless leaves and prefers dry forests. This is one of very few hairless hawkweeds. Another common name is Allegheny hawkweed. It is in the aster family.

Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand ~ Neil Armstrong

This is a strange post-every plant is a native except the orchid! Thanks for stopping in.

 

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