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Posts Tagged ‘Japanese Iris’

Tall meadow rue flowers (Thalictrum pubescens) always bloom close to the 4th of July and always remind me of “bombs bursting in air.” These are the plant’s male flowers; starbursts of petal-less dark yellow tipped stamens.

I don’t see tall meadow rue in meadows unless the meadow is very wet. I usually find it growing at the edge of streams or in ditches as the example in the above photo was. In fact this one sat just where a ditch met a stream. It was down an embankment, which was a good thing because it often grows 7-8 feet tall and towers over me. Getting above it is usually next to impossible without a ladder. Native Americans are said to have given lethargic horses ground meadow rue leaves and flowers to increase their vigor and to renew their spirit and endurance. In spring the plant’s young leaves fool many into thinking they’ve found wild columbine.

Goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus) also reminds me of fireworks. This one grows in my garden and also reminds me of the friend who gave it to me several years ago. Hers grew to towering heights but this one usually stays at about three feet.

This beautiful hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) blossomed after the rain we finally got last Thursday. It wasn’t enough but it helped. Though for many years all I ever saw were white flowered hedge bindweeds it has gotten to the point where all I see now are these bicolor ones. Bindweeds are perennial and morning glories are annuals and one good way to tell them apart is by their leaves; morning glory (Ipomoea) has heart shaped leaves and bindweed has narrower arrowhead shaped, triangular leaves.

As I was admiring the hedge bindweed blossoms I happened to glance over to where one of our most beautiful wildflowers bloomed. Canada lilies (Lilium canadense) are blooming about two weeks early this year. These plants are sometimes very tall and can tower over a person of average height but this one came only to my chin, and I’m not tall.

The flowers of Canada lilies are as big and as beautiful as the garden lilies I think we’re all familiar with and they come in red and orange as well as yellow. Their habit of nodding towards the ground can make getting a photo difficult, but I (very gently) tilt the stem back with one hand while I take the photos with the other. It’s not the ideal set up but it lets me show you the brownish purple spots on the inside throat of the trumpet and the huge red anthers. Speaking of anthers; many have found out the hard way that the pollen from those and other lily anthers will stain a white tablecloth permanently. The flower buds and roots were gathered and eaten by Native Americans. The scaly bulbs were cooked and eaten with other foods, such as venison and fish. They were also cooked and saved for winter use. They are said to have a very peppery flavor.

The common orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) doesn’t have Lilium in its scientific name because daylilies aren’t a true lily. It’s a plant you’ll find growing near old stone cellar holes out in the middle of nowhere and along old New England roads. It is often called the ditch lily, because that’s where it grows. It is also found in cemeteries, often planted beside the oldest graves. It is one of those plants that were passed from neighbor to neighbor and spread quickly because of it. These days it is one of those plants that new homeowners go out and dig up when they can’t afford to buy plants for their gardens. It is both loved for being so easy to grow and hated for being so common.

This plant was introduced into the United States from Asia in the late 1800s as an ornamental and plant breeders have now registered over 40,000 cultivars, all of which have “ditch lily” genes and all of which have the potential to spread just like the original has. If you find yourself doing battle with a particularly weedy daylily, no matter the color, there’s a very good chance that the common orange is one of its parents.

Our native common elderberry bushes (Sambucus nigra canadensis) have just come into bloom and can be seen dotted around the landscape, especially near brooks and streams. Its mounded shape and flattish, off white flower heads make it very easy to identify, even from a distance.

Common elderberry flower clusters look similar to Queen Anne’s lace. Each flower is tiny at only 1/4 inch across, and has 5 white petals or lobes, 5 yellow tipped stamens and 3 very small styles that fall off early after blooming. Each flower will be replaced by a single black (dark purple) drupe. A drupe is a fleshy fruit with a single seed like a peach or cherry. Native Americans dried the fruit for winter use and soaked the berry stems in water to make a black dye for basketry.

If you see a flat topped flower cluster on a native dogwood it’s either a silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) or red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea.) If the flower cluster is slightly mounded it is most likely a gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa,) as is the one in the above photo. All three shrubs bloom at about the same time and have similar leaves and individual white, four petaled flowers in a cluster and it’s very easy to mix them up. Sometimes silky dogwood will have red stems like red osier, which can make dogwood identification even more difficult. Both gray and red osier dogwoods have white berries. Silky Dogwood  has berries that start out blue and white and then turn fully blue.

Native dogwoods are also sometimes confused with viburnums, but viburnum flowers have five petals and dogwoods have four. Most of our native dogwoods like soil that is constantly moist and they can be found along the edges of ponds, rivers, and streams.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) has just started blooming here but I haven’t seen any monarch butterflies in the area yet. I keep hoping they’ll make a comeback and we’ll once again see them in the numbers we did when I was a boy. I’ve only seen a handful each year for the past several years but last year they seemed a little more plentiful.

Several times over the years I’ve meant to write about how complicated milkweed flowers are to pollinate but the process is so complicated the task always ends up in my too hard basket. Instead I’ll just ask that you trust me when I say that it’s nearly a miracle that these flowers get pollinated at all. I’ll enjoy their beauty and their wonderful scent while trusting that nature will see to it that they’re pollinated, just as they have been for millennia.

Native swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris) are another yellow loosestrife that blooms at about the same time as the whorled loosestrife. Not surprisingly, they like to have their feet wet most of the time and are common along the edges of ponds and wetlands at this time of year. I’ve even seen them growing in standing water. These plants stand about 1-2 feet tall and have a club shaped flower head (raceme) made up of 5 petaled yellow flowers. With darker vegetation behind them swamp candles really live up to their name.

Each yellow petal of a swamp candle flower has two red dots at its base that help form a ring of ten red dots around the five long stamens in the center of the flower. The petals are streaked with red and the flowers are about half the size as those of whorled loosestrife. The red dots on these petals seem to have run a bit and blended together. This is the first time I’ve seen this.

Pretty fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) is the last of the native yellow loosestrifes to bloom in this area. It’s also the tallest and biggest flowered of the three yellow loosestrifes we have. Great colonies of the knee high plant can be found along roadsides and wood edges, and along waterways. It might be confused with whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) if the two plants bloomed at the same time, but in this area fringed loosestrife usually blooms later. Like the lilies, this year it’s about two weeks early. The flowers on fringed loosestrife are about the size of a quarter and nod to face the ground. On whorled loosestrife they face outward. The leaf arrangements on the two plants are also very different.

Fringed loosestrife gets its common name from the fringe of hairs on its leafstalks, but sometimes the flower petals are also fringed. It’s a cheery, pretty plant that often gets overlooked because there is just so much in bloom at this time of year. The flowers of fringed loosestrife are unusual because of the way they offer oils instead of nectar to insects. The oils are called elaiosomes and are fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds of many plant species. They are rich in lipids and proteins. Many plants have elaiosomes that attract ants, which take the seed to their nest and feed them to their larvae. Trout lily is another plant with elaiosomes.

Many years ago a friend gave me a piece of her Japanese iris. I don’t know its name but it’s a beautiful thing that is blooming now. It has very big flowers; they must be 2 or 3 times as big as a bearded iris blossom.

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 I’ve seen it described as a rotting fruit odor, which I’m not sure I agree with. I think it’s worse than that; it’s a very sharp, almost acrid odor and on a hot summer day your nose will tell you that you’re near this plant long before you see it.

Black swallowwort is a vining plant native to Europe that twines over native shrubs and plants at the edges of forests and shades or strangles them out. It is believed to have come to North America from Ukraine in the 1800s.  Colonies of this plant have been found that covered several acres of land and it is said to be able to completely replace a field of native goldenrod. It is nearly impossible to eradicate from a garden because its roots mingle with those of other plants and if you pull the stem it just breaks off at ground level. In Canada it is called the dog strangling vine and Canadians are testing the use of Hypena opulenta moth caterpillars as a means of biological control. So far they say, the results look promising. The caterpillars come from Ukraine and are a natural enemy of the plant. This plant illustrates the biggest danger of importing plants; the animals and insects that control them are left behind in their native lands, and once they arrive in their new home they are able to grow unchecked.

Two years ago I followed a trail through a swamp and was astonished to see a two foot tall greater purple fringed bog orchid (Platanthera grandiflora) growing right there beside the trail. This year once again I’ve been following its progress off and on for months, watching it grow and produce buds, hoping all the while that nobody would pick it or a deer wouldn’t eat it. Finally it bloomed at exactly the same time it had last year and the year before.

This is easily one of the most beautiful flowers that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of flowers.  It is something I’d happily walk many miles to see because such a sight is so very rare; truly a once in a lifetime find in these parts. It grows in black, very wet swamp mud where for part of the spring there is standing water, so it obviously likes wet feet. I’ve read that the flowers are pollinated by large butterflies and moths, but I’ve never seen an insect near them. I do hope they get pollinated and produce plenty of seeds. The Native American Iroquois tribe actually dug this orchid up for its roots and  made tea from them to protect them from ghosts. Ghosts or not, I’d have a very hard time digging up something so beautiful.

My relationship to plants becomes closer and closer. They make me quiet; I like to be in their company. ~Peter Zumthor

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1. Fragrant White Water Lily

Our native white water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) have just started blooming here. The flowers are quite small and at first I thought I might be seeing a smaller variety like floating hearts which are also white, but the sharp V shaped notch in the leaf confirms that they are white lilies. I might have been able to tell by their fragrance too, but I couldn’t get quite close enough to smell them.

 2. Beauty Bush

I like the webbing on insides of beauty bush flowers (Kolkwitzia amabilis.) This shrub hails from China and is popular as an ornamental, but I found an escapee growing at the edge of a forest in dry, sandy soil. It gets quite tall-sometimes 8 feet or more-and can get as wide, so it needs a lot of room.

3. Deptford Pink Flower

Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria) flowers are smaller than their cousins maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids.) They also don’t have the same bold, jagged, deep maroon ring near their center. These plants will get quite tall and don’t seem to have the clumping habit of maiden pinks. Both plants are originally from Europe and have escaped cultivation.

4. St. Johnswort

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) gets its common name from the way that it flowers near June 24th, which is St. Johns day, but it has been well known since ancient times. The Roman military doctor Proscurides used it to treat patients as early as the 1st century AD, and it was used by the ancient Greeks before that. The black dots on its yellow petals make this flower very easy to identify. Originally from Europe, it can be found in meadows and along roadside growing in full sun.

 5. Gray Dogwood Blossoms aka Cornus racemosa

Our native dogwoods are blooming now. This example is a gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), which is a large shrub that can get 12-15 feet tall and at least as wide. Its flowers become white, single seeded berries (drupes) on red stems (pedicels) that are much loved by many different birds. Most of our native dogwoods like soil that is constantly moist and can be found along the edges of ponds, rivers, and streams. They can be difficult to identify at times but gray dogwood flowers clusters tend to mound up in the center enough to appear triangular and other dogwoods have flower clusters that are much flatter. Both gray and red osier dogwoods (Cornus sericea) have white berries. Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum) has berries that are blue and white.

6. Japanese Iris

Many years ago a friend gave me a piece of her Japanese iris. I don’t know its name but it’s a beautiful thing. And it also has very big flowers; they must be 2 or 3 times as big as a bearded iris blossom.

 7. Vervain Mallow Flower

I found some mallow (Malvaceae) plants growing in an abandoned lot near the river but I think they were escapees from someone’s garden. The flowers look a lot like those of vervain mallow (Malva alcea), which is a European import. Like all plants in the mallow family its flowers were large and beautiful. Other well-known plants in this family include hibiscus, hollyhocks, and rose of Sharon.

8. Indian Cucumber Root

I’m late posting this photo of Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) flowers; they actually start blooming in mid-June through the first week of July. I wanted to show them because they are unusual and, because they usually nod under the leaves, many never see them. The flowers have 6 yellowish green tepals, 6 stamens and 3 reddish purple to brown stigmata. These large stigmata are sometimes bright red but I didn’t see any like that this year. I kept searching for bright red ones to show here and that’s why the photo is late. The plant gets its common name from the way the root looks (and tastes) like a tiny cucumber.

9. Native Rhododendron Blossom

Our native rhododendrons (Rhododendron maxima) are blooming but the blooms are very sparse this year. I think it is probably because they out did themselves last year. They were loaded with flowers and plants often need a rest after a season like that.  New Hampshire is the northernmost range of these rhododendrons and people from all over the world come to see them growing in their natural setting in Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. I did a post about the park last year which you can read by clicking here.

Do you see the tiny crab spider with the pink body and white legs in the center of this photo? It’s remarkable how they change to the same color as the flowers that they live on. Scientists haven’t been able to figure out how they do it.

10. Bristly Sarsaparilla Flower Head

I didn’t see any crab spiders on these bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) blossoms but I saw plenty of black ants. Bristly sarsaparilla isn’t common but I know of two places where it grows in dry, sandy soil. Its stems are covered in short, sharp, bristly hairs and that’s where its common name comes from. Technically it is considered a shrub because the lower part of its stem is woody and persists throughout winter. Each small flower will become a round black berry if the ants do their job. The USDA lists this native plant as endangered in Indiana, Ohio and Maryland.

11. Tall Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata)

Tall milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) is also called poke milkweed because its leaves resemble those of pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). In spite of its common name the plants that I’ve seen have never been as tall as common milkweed. Its bi-colored, white and light green flowers are very droopy. Unless it is flowering it’s hard to tell it from swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata.) One unusual thing about it is how it seems to prefer growing in shade at the edge of forests. It is said to be the most shade tolerant of all milkweeds.

12. White Campion

I’m colorblind but even I could tell that these campion flowers weren’t white like those commonly seen in this area. They had just the slightest blush of pink, but I still think that they are white campion (Silene latifolia,) which can also be pink. Just to confuse the issue red campion (Silene dioica) flowers can also be pink or white and it takes a botanist to tell them apart. Both are natives of Europe, Asia and Africa.

13 Meadow Sweet

White meadowsweet (Spiraea alba) is another plant that likes moist ground and I usually find it near water. Its flowers have long stamens that always make them look kind of fuzzy. Some people confuse this plant, which is a shrub, with steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa), which is also a shrub, but steeplebush has pink flowers and the undersides of its leaves are silvery-white, while the undersides of meadowsweet leaves are green.

14. Vervain

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata) is also called swamp vervain because it likes water, and I find it either in wet meadows or along river and pond banks. It is also called simpler’s joy and I don’t know if I’m simple or not but these flowers always bring me great joy when I see them. That’s probably because blue is my favorite color.

Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.  ~Franz Kafka

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I thought it was time to visit some flower gardens again before they got too far ahead of me. There are some beautiful things happening in them.A few years ago a woman I worked for gave me a piece of this Japanese iris (Iris ensata.) I think it’s one of the most beautiful flowers in my yard and this year has 7 or 8 buds on it for the first time since I planted it. The only problem (if there is one) with Japanese iris is they like constantly moist soil, so I’ve planted other shorter perennials in front of it to keep the soil shaded so it doesn’t dry out so fast. In its native Japan it is a wetland plant much like our native blue flag iris, so it needs plenty of water. I had trouble deciding if this red bee balm (Monarda) should go into a garden flower post or a wildflower post, because it is a native plant that is seen more in gardens than in the wild. This one I planted years ago and it is one of the oldest plants in my gardens.  Bee Balm is also called horsemint, oswego tea, and bergamot. Many Native American tribes used this plant medicinally and a tea made from it can still be found in many stores. Bee balm will stand afternoon shade and is a no fuss plant that prefers to be left alone. When summers are humid it will occasionally get a case of powdery mildew.  I saw this garden lily at a local school and was surprised that it looked so untouched. We have an infestation of Asian lily beetles here and unless we spray they eat first the leaves and then the flowers. Some people have stopped growing lilies because of this plague. Lilies are among the most beautiful garden flowers and like full sun and sandy, well-drained soil. They will absolutely not survive in heavy soil that stays wet.I’d guess that most people grow hosta for the variegated leaves but I like the flowers too. Hostas are in the lily family and come from mountain slopes in Korea, China and Japan. The more water they have, the better they will grow. Their flowers are white or lavender. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium ) is a plant that has been used medicinally for centuries. The “parthenium” part of the scientific name comes from the ancient Greeks who, as legend has it, used the plant to heal someone who had fallen from the Parthenon. Feverfew is a plant that has appeared in herbals from the earliest texts up to the present. It has been used to relieve everything from migraine headaches to fevers. In fact, the name Feverfew comes from the Old English pronunciation of the Latin “febrifugia,” or fever-flee.  Feverfew flowers look like small ox-eye daisies and its leaves smell of citrus when crushed. Each flower is about the size of a nickel but might sometimes be as large as a quarter on robust plants. It is originally from Europe and Asia and spreads quickly. It would probably be called an invasive weed if it wasn’t loved by so many. Evening primrose (Oenothera ) is another native plant that can be found in both gardens and the wild. The 4 petals and X or cross shaped stigma are excellent identifiers for plants in this family. In the evening the flowers close so that by nightfall the plant looks like it is filled with flower buds that haven’t opened yet. The flowers take about a minute to re-open the next day. In the wild evening primroses can be found in waste areas, riverbanks and roadsides. Our native northern Catalpa (Catalpa) trees are large, growing up to 90 feet tall with a crown that can be 50 feet wide, so it isn’t usually seen in small yards.  In the south the southern catalpa is sometimes called “cigar tree” but as a boy in second grade I called it the string bean tree because of its long seed pods that look like string beans. Catalpas are fast growing, somewhat messy trees; in summer their falling orchid like blossoms make it look like it is snowing and later their curled seed pods and large, heart shaped leaves make fall cleanup a chore. The tree that the flower pictured was on stands near a local river.Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is another native plant that can be found in gardens or in the wild. They are useful in gardens because the strong stems don’t need staking to withstand rain and wind.  Ancient Greeks thought the center of the flower looked like a sea urchin, so they called it echino.  Echinacea was used medicinally for hundreds of years by Native Americans, who used it to treat coughs, sore throats, and many other ailments. It is still used medicinally today by some. I planted one about 15 years ago and now have them in flower beds throughout the yard.Pliny the Elder thought the hairy purple stamens on these flowers looked like the antennae found on moths, so he called them “blattaria,” which means moth-like. Forever more the plant would be known as Verbascum blattaria; what we now call moth mullein. This plant is originally from Europe and has become naturalized, but it isn’t what I would call invasive because it isn’t seen that often. I see it in gardens more than I do in the wild. The plant pictured was in a representation of an 18th century herb garden. The plant’s only resemblance to the common wooly mullein is the tall flower spike; both leaves and flowers look quite different. Each flower lasts only one day and can be white or yellow. I found this purple Chinese astilbe (Astilbe chinensis ) growing in a local park. I like the feathery plumes of astilbe but I’ve never seen this color before. There is a purple cultivar called “Tanquetii,”but I’m not sure if it is the one pictured. Astilbes are good plants for shady areas that do well even with virtually no care. I might have to get this one to go with the red, white and pink ones that I already have. In previous posts I’ve shown common white yarrow ( Achillea millefolium) and yellow garden yarrow. Here is a pink-lavender garden yarrow. I haven’t seen any red or gold ones yet. Yarrow is one of the easiest plants there are to grow in hot, sunny places with soil on the poor side. Soil that is too rich will make the flower stems weak so they fall over rather than stand straight. This is the second earliest daylily (Hemerocallis) to bloom in my garden. The earliest is a yellow fragrant variety that blooms in very early spring. I’ve had the plant pictured for so long that its name has long since been forgotten, but red daylilies with yellow throats are common and easy to find. I have another with yellow flowers and a red throat that blooms right after this one. Daylilies are easy to grow and will grow virtually anywhere there is sunshine.

Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise ~ Henry Mitchell

I hope you enjoyed seeing what is blooming on the cultivated side of things. Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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