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Posts Tagged ‘Jack in the pulpit’

1. Jack in the Pulpit Fruit

Regular readers might be tired of hearing about my colorblindness but since new friends are always stopping in I’ll tell the story again as briefly as I can. In a nutshell, I have a very hard time seeing red in nature and it’s bad enough so a male cardinal disappears when he lands in a green tree. In spring when the trees are leafless and at this time of year when they’re falling I have an easier time of it, and right now I’m seeing red everywhere.

The above shot is of the ripe fruit of a Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum,) a native plant in the arum family similar to the Lords and Ladies plant found in the U.K. Deer often come by and chomp off the top of the plant so I was happy to find this one. Each berry starts out green and contains 3-5 seeds.

2. Reddish Slime Mold

It’s hard to describe the size of things that I find and I’m sure people must have a hard time visualizing the tiny size of slime molds. As the photo shows, each tiny reddish dot on the log would fit into a space about a third of the size of the oak leaf. I think this slime mold is Trichia decipiens, which starts out white and then turns red or pink, yellow, green and finally brown.

3. Reddish Slime Mold Closeup

Each red-orange sphere stands on a tiny stalk (unseen.) When this slime mold is in its plasmodial stage as shown all of the fruiting bodies move together as one to a food source. Food for them means spores, protozoa, or decaying plants.

 4. Sumac

My color finding software sees brick red, Indian red, firebrick, crimson, tomato, pale violet, plum, and even hot pink in these staghorn sumac leaves (Rhus typhina.) Staghorn sumacs can be seen along the edges of many fields right now.

 5. Red Pouch Gall on Staghorn Sumac

Interestingly, the same colors are found on this pouch gall that grew under the leaves of a staghorn sumac. These galls start life looking like a peeled potato but turn red as they age. They are created by a wooly aphid called the sumac gall aphid (Melaphis rhois.) Female aphids lay an egg on a sumac leaf and the leaf forms the gall around the egg, and winged females leave the gall in late summer to complete the cycle. Science has found that this relationship between aphid and sumac has been going on for at least 48 million years, with no signs of stopping.

6. Sumac Berries

Staghorn sumac berries are also very red and very fuzzy. A drink that tastes just like lemonade can be made from these berries. It was a favorite of Native Americans.

7. Blueberry Leaves

Native highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) leaves turn very red in the fall. Blueberries line the shores of many of our lakes and ponds and also grow on many of our treeless mountain and hill tops.

8. Virginia Creeper

A young Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) crept over a lichen garden and I couldn’t resist taking its photo.

 9. Boston Ivy

Boston ivy growing on the rear wall of a Keene building built in 1893 has turned very red. Generally vines grown on brick or stone don’t cause much damage, but the mortar used in buildings built before the 1930s might not contain Portland cement and may have weakened over the years. Boston ivy attaches itself using tiny circular pads that form at the ends of its tendrils and secretes calcium carbonate to “glue” the pads to the surface it wants to climb. The glue can to hold up to 260 times its own weight and if pulled off brick walls could pull the mortar along with it. Boston ivy has nothing to do with Boston; it’s really from eastern Asia, and it isn’t a true ivy.

 10. Red Stone

Stones with a high hematite content can be very red due to oxidation. Hematite is iron ore and it will rust, as this photo shows. It has even stained the surrounding stones. Red hematite powder was found scattered around the remains at a grave site in a Zhoukoudian cave complex, near Beijing, China. The site has evidence of habitation from as early as 700,000 years ago, so humanity has valued the color red for a long, long time.

11. Rose Hips

Rose hips always remind me of tomatoes for some reason. They contain higher amounts of vitamin C than oranges and are very nutritious, but their tiny seeds have silky hairs on them which have to be removed before they are used. The hairy seeds are used in itching powder, so you can imagine how irritating they’d be if you ate them.

12. Winterberry

Winterberry shrubs, a native holly (Ilex verticillata,) are outdoing themselves this year and are loaded with fruit. I almost wish it would snow so I could see the red and white together because they are especially beautiful after a snow storm. I think I can wait a month or two to see it, though.

13. Cranberry

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon,) along with the Concord grape and blueberry are one of three fruits native to North America that are commercially grown. Because they float commercial growers flood their fields to make harvesting easier. This makes people think that cranberries grow in water, but they actually grow in very sandy and peaty, acidic soil. Commercial cultivation of cranberries began in 1816, and growers found that a well-tended plant can live for 150 years or more.

 14. British Soldier Lichen

British soldier lichens (Cladonia cristatella) are very small and are usually hard for me to see but in this case the light background made it easier. I found them growing on an old white pine stump. The bright red “caps” are where this lichen produces its spores.

 14. Spangled Fritilarry

I wanted to end this post with a red cardinal or a robin but I didn’t see either one, so the reddish splotch on the lower wing of this spangled fritillary will have to do. I found it getting everything it could out of this nearly gone-by zinnia one recent sunny afternoon.

I hope this excursion into the color red wasn’t too boring. Since I rarely see it in nature it’s always exciting when I find it. Maybe next time I do a post on colors it will be on blue and purple. I get those two confused all the time.

If one says ‘Red’ – the name of the color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.” ~Josef Albers

Thanks for coming by.

 

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1. Trail

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with my travels along the deep cut rail trail in Westmoreland, New Hampshire where I go to see liverworts. For a change I decided to follow the trail in the other direction, just to see what was out there. This post is made up of photos that were taken on four different trips to this place.

2. Cliff Face

After walking for a while you come upon soaring ledges. The minute I saw this stone I knew there was something different about this place because the stone is light colored. There is obviously a lot of feldspar here. If you see light colored, pinkish stone in this part of the state it is usually the mineral feldspar that you’re seeing. Feldspars can be found in sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rock. Here we often find pure feldspar seams in granite but rarely entire hillsides of it.

3. Trillium Colony

The purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) along the canyon floor were a good sign that I’d probably find other wildflowers here.

4. Possible Rattlesnake Fern

I’ve been trying to identify this fern for over a year and I think I’ve finally settled on rattlesnake fern (Botrypus viginianus), but that may change as I watch it grow. Rattlesnake fern’s common name, like other plants with rattlesnake in their names, comes from the belief that it grew where there were rattlesnakes. It’s supposed to be very common and appears in every state in the continental U.S. and most of Canada, but I’ve never seen it.

5. Mineral Deposits on Stone

I thought this streak of bright white on the stone was some type of lichen but it was caused by mineral deposits that easily wiped away like chalk dust. The bedrock in this part of the state is said to be calcium rich and I’m assuming calcium deposits were what I was seeing.

6. Jack in the Pulpit Closed

Jack in the pulpit plants (Arisaema triphyllum) were everywhere, including on the cliff faces. I’ve never seen them growing on stone and it seems odd, because the root is a bulb-like corm. You wouldn’t think it would have enough room to grow to any size on stone, but since these ledges were cut the mid-1800s there is probably plenty of organic matter built up on the horizontal surfaces. Mosses also grew as thick as I’ve ever seen them.

7. Jack in the Pulpit Open

I always like to lift the top of the spathe to see how Jack the spadix is doing. Down inside the spathe is where the fruit forms on the spadix.  I think a similar plant in the U.K. is called “Lords and ladies.”

8. Birch Bark Lottery Ticket

I started to get perturbed about this until I realized that Native Americans probably wrote hieroglyphs on birch bark with charcoal.

If you’re the one who wrote this note and happen to be reading this, I’d appreciate nothing larger than 50 dollar bills. 200 of them will be fine.

9. Native Columbine

Actually, I’m far more interested in these than I am money. I’ve been searching for many years for our native wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and here an entire colony of plants was growing the whole time. The rich alkaline soil is very unusual in this part of New Hampshire and many rare plants are known to grow in this area. The trick is in finding them. Since it has only taken me since boyhood to find native columbine, maybe now I’ll move on to the showy orchis, which is also said to grow in the area.

 10. Native Columbine Blossom

Seeing something so rare and beautiful in its native habitat for the first time made all the years of searching well worth the effort. I probably spent five or six hours total in this spot enjoying and photographing them, and searching for other rarely seen plants.

According to Wikipedia the genus name Aquilegia is derived from the Latin word for eagle (aquila), because the shape of the flower petals are said to resemble an eagle’s claw. The common name “columbine” comes from the Latin for “dove”, due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.

11. Trail

These woods were alive with birdsong and seemed to shout spring. Walking here reminded me why this is my favorite time of year.

Perchance we may meet on woodland trails where drifts of trilliums and singing robins still greet the spring.” ~Don Jacobs

Thanks for stopping in.

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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

Thanks for coming by.

 

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Here are just a few of the wildflowers I’ve seen recently.

1. Bulbous Buttercup aka Ranunculus bulbosus

I try hard to not misidentify the plants that appear here and all of the little yellow, 5 petaled flowers growing in lawns increase the chances of that happening, so I usually leave them alone. This bulbous buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) was relatively easy to identify though, so here it is. This plant gets its common name from its bulbous root, which is a corm.

2. Red Trillium

Most of the red trillium (Trillium erectum) blossoms have faded or have been eaten, but I still see them here and there. They lighten from deep red to a pale purple color before finally turning brown.  The fading of red trilliums means it’s time to start looking for pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) and painted trilliums (Trillium undulatum.)

 3. Hawthorn Blossoms

I love the plum colored anthers on these hawthorn (Crataegus) blossoms. They are very beautiful, in my opinion.

 4. Mayapple Blossom

I’ve decided that mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum ) are hard to photograph, and that’s because I’ve never been happy with a single one that I’ve taken.  The flowers are very close to the ground but even if I lie out flat they never seem to be fully in focus.

 5. Sessile Leaved Bellwort

Our native sessile leaved bellworts (Uvularia sessilifolia) have put on a good show this year. I’ve seen more than I ever have. Botanically speaking the word sessile means sitting, as in the leaves are sitting on the main stem, which means that the leaves themselves don’t have a stem (petiole.)

 6. Red Baneberry Blossoms

Red baneberry (Actaea rubra) is blooming early this year-probably because of the early warmth we had. Soon each tiny blossom will become a poisonous red berry. Native Americans dipped their arrowheads in concentrated baneberry juice to use as a poison.

7. Dwarf Ginseng Blossoms

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) will set a cluster of yellowish fruit if the tiny white flowers are pollinated.  If it doesn’t set berries this plant often disappears without a trace shortly after flowering. The trifolius part of the scientific name refers to the three compound leaves that always appear in a whorl around the stem. Each leave has three to five leaflets that are nearly sessile on the stem.

 8. Jack in the Pulpit

I wasn’t sure if I’d see a Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) this year. I visited all of their growing places that I know of and found only two plants. That could be because last year was a banner year and I saw them everywhere. Many plants-even oak trees-“rest” after a bountiful year. This plant is in the arum family, along with skunk cabbage and many others.

 9. Jack in the Pulpit

I always pop the hood on jack in the pulpits to see what ‘Jack” is up to. I also like to see the purple stripes on the inside of the spathe, which is the hood that overhangs Jack. Jack is a club shaped spadix which in this photo appears black, but is actually purple. At the bottom of the cup shaped spathe male or female flowers will form at the base of this spadix. The spadix smells like mushrooms and if its female flowers are pollinated by tiny fungus flies, they will become bright red berries that deer love to eat.

 10. Blue Bead Lily

I found quite a large patch of blue bead lilies (Clintonia borealis) recently. If you gave this plant a quick, passing glance you might mistake its leaves for those of pink lady’s slipper, but blue bead lily leaves don’t have deep pleats like lady’s slipper leaves do.

 11. Blue Bead Lily

Blue bead lily is in the lily (Liliaceae) family and it’s not hard to see why when you take a good look at one of the small flowers-they look just like a Canada lily. If pollinated each flower will become a single berry that will turn from green to white and finally to an almost fluorescent, bright blue. I had a hard time finding any berries last year so I’m hoping there will be many to see this year.

 12. Bluets

Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) are still blooming in great drifts across mowed places.  This plant is considered an ephemeral, but given enough moisture it will bloom well into summer. Their range of color goes from almost white to dark blue and I always try to find those with the darkest color. These ones looked fairly dark.

 13. Cypress Spurge aka Cemetary Weed aka Euphorbia cyparissias

Cypress Spurge ( Euphorbia cyparissias) is also called cemetery weed because it’s often found there.This plant was introduced from Europe in the mid-1800s as an ornamental. Of course, it immediately escaped the gardens of the day and is now seen in just about any vacant lot or other area with poor, dry soil. This plant forms explosive seed pods that can fling its seeds several feet.

14. Gaywings

One of my very favorite woodland flowers is fringed polygala (Polygala paucifolia,) also called gaywings. This plant is a low growing creeper which at a glance is easily mistaken for a violet. I know that from experience because last year was the first time I ever really paid any attention to it. I think that I have passed it off as just another violet for most of my life, which is too bad. The flowers are made up of five sepals and two petals. Two of the petals form a tube and two of the sepals form the “wings.” The little fringe like structure at the end of the tube is part of the third petal which is mostly hidden. When an insect lands on the fringed part, the third petal drops down to create an opening so the insect can enter the tube. There are 3 or 4 flowers in this photo, and they all seem to be growing on top of each other.

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat. ~ Beverley Nichols

Thanks for stopping in.

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The most notable thing about this week has been the incredible fragrances of autumn olive and honeysuckle on the breeze. Both are invasive species but their fragrances can’t be matched by any native shrubs that I’m aware of blooming right now. There is no way to pass these fragrances on, but I can show you the flowers. The second most notable thing is that the lady’s slippers are blooming, and that’s always a harbinger of summer. I’ve been waiting for the pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) to turn pink. When the “slipper” first begins to open it is a washed out, very pale yellow or off white color-enough to fool someone into thinking they’ve found a much rarer yellow lady’s slipper-then after 2 or 3 days it turns pink. These can be deep red to white, but not yellow. Pink lady’s slippers are the only slipper orchids that don’t have stem leaves, so they are easy to identify even when the flower hasn’t opened. If you look closely at any other lady’s slipper you will see slightly smaller leaves growing on the flower stalk. A pink lady’s slipper after opening, but before it turned pink. Note the leafless flower stalk. Lady’s slippers are about 2 weeks early; they usually bloom in June here, and they always tell me that summer is about to begin.Jack in the pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) have finally unfurled their leaves. This plant can bloom as much as 2 weeks before its leaves unfurl. All of the “baby” plants around this older one don’t necessarily mean it will produce seeds because the plants also reproduce vegetatively.  Jack in the pulpit has a corm for a root and plants with this type of root often produce new corms each year. They are creating quite a large colony near a stream that I visit often. I like taking a peek under the hood of a Jack in the pulpit. The striping on this one is well defined. I don’t see any flowers forming at the base of the spadix (Jack) yet.Common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus.) Daisy fleabane looks much the same as common fleabane, but the leaves don’t clasp the stem like they do on common fleabane. Fleabane flowers are actually flower heads, made up of tiny yellow trumpet shaped flowers in the center disc and larger ray flowers around the outside. The ray flowers can be white or pale pink and the whole thing closes up at night. The word “bane” is a very old English word that means poison when it is part of a plant name, so fleabane is flea poison. Henbane wouldn’t be good for hens and baneberry means a poisonous berry. I found this plant on the roadside.Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) gone to seed. There was a plant blooming right next to this one and I have a picture of the flower, but I thought this seed head was far more interesting.Mouse ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum.) It is plants like this that keep the big herbicide companies making billions because they’ve convinced people that “fuzzy green patches don’t belong in their lawn.” They tell us that this “pesky plant loves to wreak havoc on the open spaces in our lawns and gardens,” but what they don’t tell us is how the plant was here long before lawns were even thought of.  A few hundred years ago in cottage gardens turf grasses were pulled as weeds so useful or edible plants like dandelion and chickweed could flourish. How times have changed! Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) is another common lawn weed, but I like it even if it grows in my lawn. This plant is a native with leaves that resemble clover, but it isn’t a clover at all. The leaves fold up at night and when the plant is stressed. The setting sun fell hot on the plant in the photo which I think is why it folded its leaves. This plant prefers partial shade.  Creeping wood sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) is very similar but has deep, reddish purple leaves. Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) is still blooming and I see it in a large range of environments, so it isn’t fussy about where it grows. This is a beautiful flower but is also extremely toxic and should never be eaten.This colony of wood anemones was lighting up a shaded slope near a river. Many anemones can be found in garden centers and they make excellent groundcovers. They are usually found with the flowering bulbs and are sometimes called wind flowers. Colors are blues, pinks, and yellows as well as white. Dwarf or Early Cinquefoil (Potentilla Canadensis) is often mistaken for a buttercup. This common native grows in fields, woods, and along roadsides. It grows low to the ground and isn’t often affected by mowing. The leaves resemble those of the strawberry and the plant spreads by runners like a strawberry, but this plant doesn’t bear fruit and its flower is yellow rather than white. It also has 5 leaflets instead of three. This one had bluets, which are still blooming, for neighbors. Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is an old fashioned favorite that some make the mistake of planting in their garden. Lily of the valley spreads quickly and is hard to control, so it’s better planted away from garden beds at forest edges or along woodland paths. It is also very poisonous and the red berries that follow the flowers are attractive to kids, so they should be made aware of its dangers.Bush honeysuckle is an invasive plant, but I like the pink flowered species which is called Tartian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica.) Other invasive honeysuckle species have white flowers that turn yellow as they age, and they are the most fragrant. The red berries that ripen in midsummer are a favorite of birds, which explains why these plants are so widespread and nearly impossible to control. Soft, hairy leaves, 2 lower petals bearded, two upper petals more plain than the lower 3, and no notch at the base of the leaves all point to this plant being the Northern Downy Violet (Viola fimbriatula,) but to be honest there are so many different violets and their differences are so subtle that I never feel good about positively identifying any of them.  Let’s just call it a pretty little flower. A long time favorite wildflower of mine is blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium augustifolium,) which isn’t 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. These plants are hard to spot because they grow in full sun with tall grasses and other plants at the edges of mown fields and waste places. They are hard enough to find when blooming but when the small flowers close in late afternoon they can be almost impossible to find, so If you want to look for this plant get out into the meadows in the morning. Slender Blue Eyed grass (Sisyrinchium mucronatum) can also be found in New Hampshire.

I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. ~Alan watts

I Hope you continue to enjoy seeing what’s blooming here in New Hampshire. Thanks for dropping in.

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There are flowers blooming everywhere here right now. I’m not sure how I’ll ever show them all to you, but I’ll do my best. Pussytoes (Antennaria) are popping up everywhere. One day I saw a large circular colony of them and noticed that half of them were a darker shade of gray than the other half. I went home and did some reading and found that there are close to 45 species of pussytoes! Ugh-a plant hunter’s worst nightmare comes true!  Pussytoes are a favorite of many butterfly species. Another common name for the plant is everlasting.  This is Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata); an invasive plant once used as an edible pot herb. This plant forms large colonies and chokes out natives. It grows from 1-4 feet tall and has a strong but pleasant garlic / onion odor when the leaves are crushed. Garlic Mustard flower. Garlic Mustard spreads quickly and prefers growing in shaded forests. It isn’t uncommon to find areas where no growing thing can be seen on the forest floor but this plant. It is considered one of the worst invasive species because of its ability to spread rapidly and is found in all but 14 U.S. states, including Alaska and large parts of Canada. This plant is also in the mustard family and is called winter cress or yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris.) It is very easy to confuse with our native common field mustard (Brassica rapa or Brassica campestris.)  This plant is native to Africa, Asia and Europe and is found throughout the U.S. In some states it is considered a noxious weed. In the south it is called creasy greens. It is also known as scurvy grass due to its ability to prevent scurvy because of its high vitamin C content. A winter cress colony. Winter cress is about knee-high when it blooms in spring and stays green under the snow all winter. This habit is what gives it its common name.Foam flowers (Tiarella) are carpeting parts of the forest floor now and just coming into bloom. They are easy to spot because of their hairy, maple-like leaves and foot high flower stalks. The leaves are bright green at first and then turn a darker green sometimes mottled with brown. Many hybrids have been created and foam flowers are now popular in garden centers.  Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis) is not native to New Hampshire and I have only seen two of the trees growing in this area. Both are on private property but this one had branches overhanging a sidewalk so I was able to get close to it. The hardiness of this tree can be questionable here unless trees started from northern grown seed are planted. Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus ) takes quite a long time to bloom after it makes its first appearance in early spring. I think I saw my first plant in early March and this is the first blossom I’ve seen since. This plant originally comes from Europe and Asia and is considered invasive. The yellow / orange colored sap that I think we all remember from childhood has been used medicinally for thousands of years, even though it is considered toxic and can irritate the skin and eyes. It is said that it can also cause liver damage if used incorrectly. This phlox was growing in a local park. I don’t know if it is our native Wild Blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) or not. Since there was an identical plant with pink flowers there I’m wondering if it isn’t Meadow phlox (Phlox maculata.) The two species look very much alike and unfortunately, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to make a positive identification. Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) are common in moist areas. These were growing in a sunny spot beside a stream.  They are native and are thought to be a good wetland indicator. They are also very beneficial to many insects and often used in butterfly gardens.  Golden Alexanders are in the carrot family (Apiaceae) along with many extremely toxic plants like water hemlock, which is deadly. Great care should be taken when using any wild plant from this family, especially if it has white flowers. Solomon’s seal (polygonatum biflorum) is also very early this year. I’m surprised that our recent cold nights didn’t harm it. This plant has been used medicinally for centuries. Each year the above ground stem leaves a scar, or “seal” on the underground stem, which is called a rhizome. Counting these scars will reveal the age of the plant. Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) is also called bog onion or Indian turnip. What is seen here is not the flower; the striped outer “pulpit” is a spathe, which is essentially a sheath that protects the flowers.  “Jack,” who lives under the pulpit just like an old time New England preacher, is a spadix, which is a fleshy stem that bears the flowers. Few actually see the small flowers of a Jack in the Pulpit because they form down inside the spathe. I usually open the pulpit for a moment just to see what Jack is up to. This early in the year Jack has just come up and is waiting for fungus flies who think they smell mushrooms to come and fertilize his flowers. If they do the spathe will die back and a cluster of green berry-like fruit will form where the flowers were. These will turn bright red after a time and a deer might come along and eat them, helping to spread the seeds.  Since this one is growing right next to a game trail by a stream, there is a good chance of that happening. The root, which is a corm, may be eaten if it is cooked thoroughly but is extremely toxic when uncooked. Johnny jump ups (Viola cornuta ) are doing just that in my lawn, which already needs mowing, so I’d better get it done. I’ll mow around the violets, bluets, pussy toes, wood sorrel, strawberries, and anything else that looks more interesting than grass.

Most of the flowers shown here are wildflowers but we shouldn’t forget that there are many beautiful cultivated flowers that also bloom in the spring. Next time I’ll show you some of those.  I hope you enjoy seeing what’s blooming here in New Hampshire. Thanks for stopping in.

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