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Posts Tagged ‘Lady’s Thumb’

I saw this view of purple New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) and goldenrods along a roadside recently. In my last flower post I showed the very dark purple New England asters that are my favorite but I’ve noticed that bees seem to prefer the lighter colored ones.

There’s little that’s more cheery at the end of summer than a New England aster.

I didn’t see the crab spider on this white campion (Silene latifolia) blossom until I saw it on the computer, and that happens more than I would have ever guessed. Crab spiders change color to match the color of the flower they live on and they can be hard to see. White campion flowers have 5 deeply notched petals that have an easily seen fringe at their base. This example is a female flower.

I’ve seen exactly two white turtleheads (Chelone glabra linifolia) flowers this year and this is one of them. They seem to be having a tough year. I’ve seen plants with the tops eaten off and I assume deer did that, and I’ve also seen some type of caterpillar eating the flower buds. The plant gets the first part of its scientific name from Chelone of Greek mythology. She was a nymph who insulted the gods and was turned into a turtle for her trouble. I have a friend who said he immediately thought of a turtle when he saw these flowers but for some reason I never see a turtle when I look at them.

Here is one of the caterpillars that I’ve seen eating the turtlehead blossoms. There are two different species of sawfly larvae that feed on the plant but I don’t know if this is one of those.

This nodding bur marigold plant (Bidens tripartita) grew in the wet mud at the water’s edge at a local pond. This is another flower I’ve had trouble finding this year. That seems odd because I usually see them everywhere. I’ve even seen islands in the river covered with them. As they age the flowers of the nodding bur marigold nod towards the ground and that’s how the plant comes by its common name. The flowers look something like a miniature sunflower and are supposed to be good for honey production. I like their deeply pleated petals. The plants grow to about knee high, often in standing water at the edges of rivers and ponds.

Lady’s thumb (Polygonum Persicaria or Persicaria maculosa) is also blooming near water just about everywhere I go. The plant is one of the smartweeds, so called because your tongue will smart if you bite into it. This plant is originally from Europe and Asia and is considered a noxious weed. It was first seen near the Great Lakes in 1843 is now found in nearly all of the lower 48 states. It likes to grow near water and is usually found along pond and stream banks.

Lady’s thumb gets its common name from the dark spot that appears on each leaf. Legend has it that a lady with a dirty thumb (apparently) left the smudge like mark on a leaf and it has been there ever since.

The tiny flowers are packed into a long raceme and can be white, red, pink, or a combination of all three. In my experience it is rare to find one as open as this one was.

Blue stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesia) appears early on in summer but waits until September to bloom. Its stems grow vertically until the flowers begin to open and then they fall over into a more horizontal position, as if to show off the yellow blooms that grow in tufts all along the stem. This plant isn’t considered rare but I know of only one or two places where it grows. It is also called wreath goldenrod.

The stems of blue stemmed goldenrod get their blue color from the same natural wax coating that is found on grapes, plums, blueberries and other plants. The coating is called a bloom and plants use it as a form of protection against moisture loss. It’s made up of tiny powdery, whitish crystals which reflect and scatter light in ways that can make the surface that they cover appear very blue. The wax crystals can be washed off by rain or melted by the sun but though we’ve had some very hot and wet weather this summer many stems were still blue.

This nice colony of white wood asters (Aster divaricatus) blooms by an old stone wall every year where I work. They last for quite a while and I’m always happy to see them. Most of their cousins will have gone to brown and finished for the year but they’ll often still be blooming.

I always find silverrod in dry, gravelly places at the edge of the woods near the end of August. It’s hard to get a photo of because it’s usually surrounded by other plants and rarely grows alone. It grows about knee high and isn’t seen anywhere near as often as the yellow goldenrods.

I think almost everyone knows what goldenrod looks like but not everyone has seen silverrod. Silverrod (Solidago bicolor) is in the goldenrod family and is also called white goldenrod. It is the only native white flowered goldenrod found in the northeast. The small flowers almost always have at least one ant on them.

I think it’s just about time to say goodbye to beautiful little forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum,) because I’m seeing more seedpods than flowers. This plant is an annual so it will have to grow again from seed next year. These little beauties are usually barely ankle tall and like to grow in sandy soil in full sun.

Sand jointweed (Polygonum articulatum) is a curious little plant that gets its common name from the way it that grows in pure sand, and from its many jointed stems. I know of only one place where it grows but each year there are many new plants there. It is an annual so each year’s plants have to produce plenty of seed. They grow to about knee high and this year there are plenty of tiny white blooms, so hopefully strong seed production will continue.

Some of sand jointweed’s flowers have plum colored anthers and some have white anthers. Why that is I don’t know, unless they color with age. The flowers bloom from the bottom of the stem upwards, so I suppose it’s possible.

Sand jointweed’s flowers are about 1/8 of an inch across, or about the same size as Abraham Lincoln’s ear on a penny, as this photo I took earlier shows. They’re darn near impossible to get a good shot of.

This photo shows the curious jointed stem that gives sand jointweed its common name.

Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium) starts blooming in late July and is usually finished by now, but you can still see the odd flower head here and there. That’s a good thing because monarch butterflies love these flowers.

I was surprised to find a Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria) blossom because this plant usually blooms in July. I think this is the latest I’ve ever seen one but I was happy to see it because they’re beautiful little things. They don’t have the bold, jagged red ring around their center like their cousin the maiden pink (Dianthus deltoids) and bloom later than maiden pinks. The flowers are also smaller and the plant, rather than growing in large clumps of 40-50 flowers out in the open like the maiden pink, blooms shyly in threes and fours at the edges of meadows. Though it originally came from Europe it can hardly be called invasive.

One of the hardest lessons we have to learn in this life, and one that many persons never learn, is to see the divine, the celestial, the pure, in the common, the near at hand – to see that heaven lies about us here in this world. ~John Burroughs

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There is a place that I go to now and then just to see what the plants that live there are doing, and to see if any new ones have moved in. When I was a boy the land was part of a huge cornfield, then it became an industrial park with roads and businesses sprouting up where the corn once grew. Slowly all the lots in the industrial park filled except for one, which has been vacant for years. As I visited the place I realized that every city and town in America must have a place like this; empty, forgotten places that nobody seems to care about. They are wastelands by definition, but this particular wasteland is where many flowers have chosen to grow, so I haven’t forgotten it.

I thought I’d do an inventory of sorts and list the plants that grow here with the thought that if you visited that vacant lot that you might know of, you might find many of the same plants there. In this view there are white ox eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare,) yellow silver leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea,) and purple maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids.)  The maiden pinks especially seem to love this place. There are so many of them it was hard to take a photo without them in it.

Daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) also does well here. This plant is in the aster family and looks like an aster but it blooms much earlier and the flowers are much smaller; about the size of a dime. Plants reach about 3 feet tall and sway in the breeze. They can also be pink but I see very few pink ones. They do best in fields, along roadsides, and around waste areas ; anywhere with dry soil. Its common name fleabane comes from the dried plants being used to rid a house of fleas. It is native to the U.S. and Canada and has escaped cultivation in Europe. Native Americans made a tea from the leaves that was used for digestive ailments.

Lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea) bloomed among the tall grasses. This plant is originally from Europe and is also called common or grass leaved stitchwort. It like disturbed soil and does well on roadsides, old fields, and meadows. The Stellaria, part of its scientific name means star like, and the common name Stitchwort refers to the plant being used in herbal remedies to cure the pain in the side that we call a stitch.

Keene sits in a kind of bowl surrounded by hills and all of the runoff from the hills can make this a very wet place, especially in a rainy year like this one. Farmers solved the problem many years ago by digging deep, wide drainage ditches around the perimeters of their fields and they are still here today. All manner of water loving plants grow in and along them. There was a lot of pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) growing in this one but they weren’t blooming yet.

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) grew along the top of the drainage ditch and were heavily budded. This shrub reaches 10 feet but always seems to lean, which makes it seem shorter. It typically grows in fields, abandoned farmland, clearings and along roadsides. It is very similar to staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) but the young stems of staghorn sumac are very hairy and those of smooth sumac are smooth, and that’s where its common name comes from. The glabra part of the scientific name means “without hairs.” Native Americans used the berries of smooth and staghorn sumac to make a tart lemonade like drink which they sweetened with maple syrup. The roots and shoots were also eaten peeled and raw in spring.

Native arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) also grows along the drainage ditches. This native shrub has a rounded habit and grows to 10 feet high. It’s quite showy and dense, and many people who grow native plants use it for hedges. It attracts butterflies and birds love its showy blueish black berries. In the fall its foliage can be yellow, orange or red. Native Americans used the straight stems of the shrub for arrow shafts, and that’s how it comes by its common name.

When it comes to small yellow flowers in my opinion one lifetime isn’t enough time to identify them all.
I usually admire them and leave them alone but it was hard to not want to know more about this little beauty. I knew its silvery leaves would make it easy to identify so I started with them and found silver leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla anserina.) It comes from Europe and is considered invasive but, though there were quite a few plants here they weren’t choking out other plants and I was happy to see them.

Maybe another reason I stay away from small yellow flowers is because they’re so hard to photograph. Or at least this one was; I had to try 4 different times to get a useable photo. I didn’t say a good photo because this one isn’t, but it does give you a good look at what silver leaved cinquefoil flowers look like.

It’s obvious how silver leaved cinquefoil gets its common name. The undersides of the leaves and the stems are a bright silvery white but they can fool you if you only give them a glance, because they’re deep green on top.

Five heart shaped pale yellow petals on a two foot tall stem mean sulfur cinquefoil. Close to the center packed with 30 stamens and many pistils each petal looks like it was daubed with a bit of deeper yellow. This is a very rough looking, hairy plant that was originally introduced from Europe. It grows in unused pastures and along roadsides and in waste places and it is considered a noxious weed in some areas because it out competes grasses. I think it’s very pretty.

Pollen grains that cause hay fever symptoms are very small and dust like and carried by the wind, and common ragweed pollen (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) fits the bill perfectly. It wasn’t blooming here yet; it will bloom as soon as goldenrod does and will then release its dust like, wind borne, allergy inducing pollen grains. For that it will get a free pass because for centuries people have blamed what they see, goldenrod, for their allergies. But goldenrod couldn’t make us sneeze even if it wanted to; the pollen grains of goldenrod are very large, sticky, and comparatively heavy and can only be carried by insects. Even if you put your nose directly into a goldenrod blossom, it is doubtful that you would inhale any pollen.

Golden clover (Trifolium campestre) is another imported clover originally from Europe and Asia. It is also known as large trefoil and large hop clover. The plant was imported through Philadelphia in 1800 to be used as a pasture crop and now appears in most states on the east and west coasts and much of Canada, but it is not generally considered aggressively invasive. Each pretty yellow flower head is packed with golden yellow pea-like flowers. I see the plant growing along roadsides and in sandy waste areas like this one.

Milkweed does well in waste areas and I saw a few plants here. The buds were just starting to show color so I’d guess another week or two before we see many blossoms. I’m hoping we see a lot of monarch butterflies visiting them; for the last two or three years I’ve been able to count the numbers I’ve seen on one hand.

I knew that I’d run into a plant or two that I hadn’t paid attention to in the past and sure enough here was an unknown sedge. It was a pretty little thing (with the emphasis on little) and I think it might be little green sedge (Carex viridula.) Sedges can be difficult to identify though, so don’t bet the farm on my results. I didn’t find it in the book Grasses: An Identification Guide, by Lauren Brown, but I’ve seen many similar examples online. This sedge grows to about a foot and a half tall. Sedges are often found near water and this one grew near a drainage ditch. Many different birds eat the seeds of sedges, including ducks and Canada geese.

I always find native blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis) growing in hot sandy waste areas and along roadsides so I wasn’t surprised to see it here. Toadflax has a long blooming period and I often see it later on in fall. The wind was blowing ferociously on this day and each tiny blossom shows it; not a single one was still.

I thought I’d find yarrow in this sandy, sunny place and I wasn’t disappointed. As I said in my last post, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was considered a valuable healing herb for thousands of years; one of the nine “holy herbs,” and was traded throughout the world since before recorded time. I always feel like I’m seeing far into the past when I look at its tiny flowers. Neanderthals were buried with it. I can’t think of another living thing that I can say that about, and it just boggles my mind to think that they saw what I’m seeing..

English plantain (Plantago lanceolata) blooms in rings around the flower stalk, starting at the bottom and working spirally towards the top. Though an invasive from Europe and Asia English plantain prefers growing in soil that has been disturbed, so it isn’t often seen in natural areas where there is little activity. I see it in lawns more than anywhere else. English plantain is wind pollinated so it hangs its stamens out where the wind can blow the pollen off the anthers. Each stamen is made up of a white bag like anther sitting at the end of a thin filament. If pollinated each flower will bear two tiny seeds in a small seed capsule.

Lady’s thumb (Persicaria maculosa) looks a lot like its cousin nodding smartweed, but instead of growing near water this one will be found growing at forest edges, roadsides and waste places. The plant gets its common name from the dark spot that appears on each leaf. Legend has it that a lady with a dirty thumb (apparently) left the smudge-like mark on a leaf and it has been there ever since. Lady’s thumb is originally from Europe and has spread to nearly every state since 1843.

You’ve seen many of the flowers shown here in recent posts and I hope you don’t feel cheated, but I wanted to show once again how easy it is to immerse yourself in nature. Something I’ve pointed out almost since I started this blog is how you don’t need to drive anywhere and you don’t need any fancy equipment. All you really need to do is walk outside and look, that’s all. Even in forgotten wastelands like this one nature is very busy. Something I couldn’t show is all the bees and other insects that were buzzing around what really is a huge amount of flowers, or all the birds that were singing in the trees and shrubs. Though we’ve forgotten these places nature most certainly has not, so I hope you’ll visit your local vacant lot or other wasteland soon. Don’t let beauty like this go to waste.

The place to observe nature is where you are. ~John Burroughs

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1-blaxk-eyed-susans

From this point on there will be fewer and fewer flowers appearing but for now a nice drift of black eyed Susans peeked out from under a stand of Japanese knotweed. They add a bit of cheer in the fall and that’s why I always think of them as fall flowers, and it’s for that reason that I’m not always so happy to see them in June. It always seems to me like they’re rushing summer along when they bloom so early.

2-nodding-bur-marigold-plant

This nodding bur marigold plant (Bidens tripartita) grew along the river’s edge where there would normally have been water but this year because of our extended dryness it miscalculated by about a foot and a half. For a plant that likes wet feet it was obviously having a tough time of it, but it was still blooming.

3-nodding-bur-marigold

As they age the flowers of the nodding bur marigold nod towards the ground and that’s how the plant comes by its common name. The flowers look something like a miniature sunflower and are supposed to be good for honey production. I like their deeply pleated petals. The plants grow to about knee high, often in standing water at the edges of rivers and ponds.

4-bluestem-goldenrod

Blue stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesia) appears early on in summer but waits until September to bloom. Its stems grow vertically until the flowers begin to open and then they fall over into a more horizontal position, as if to show off the yellow blooms that grow in tufts all along the stem. This plant isn’t considered rare but I know of only one or two places where it grows. It is also called wreath goldenrod.

5-blue-stemmed-goldenrod

The stems of blue stemmed goldenrod get their blue color from the same natural wax coating that is found on grapes, plums, blueberries and other plants. The coating is called a bloom and plants use it as a form of protection against moisture loss. It’s made up of tiny powdery, whitish crystals which reflect and scatter light in ways that can make the surface that they cover appear very blue. I couldn’t find a stem that was blue this year because the wax crystals can be washed off by rain or melted by the sun, and we’ve had some very hot weather this summer. All of the stems were green this time, so I used this photo from last year to show you what the stems would normally look like. .

6-ladys-thumb-leaf

Lady’s thumb (Polygonum Persicaria or Persicaria maculosa) gets its common name from the dark spot that appears on each leaf. Legend has it that a lady with a dirty thumb (apparently) left the smudge like mark on a leaf and it has been there ever since.

7-ladys-thumb

The tiny flowers are packed into a long raceme and can be white, red, pink, or a combination of all three. This plant is originally from Europe and Asia and is considered a noxious weed. It was first seen near the Great Lakes in 1843 is now found in nearly all of the lower 48 states. It likes to grow near water and is usually found along pond and stream banks.

8-jewelweed

I came upon a large stand of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) recently and it was so dry that every plant had wilted badly. There were just a few flowers left and this was one of them. The drought is ongoing and most of the state has now been declared a natural disaster area, mostly so farmers can receive financial aid.

9-cow-wheat

Narrow-leaf cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare) is having a banner year; I’ve never seen so many plants and they’re all blooming heavily, so I’m guessing that it likes dry weather. The plant is a thief that steals nutrients from surrounding plants, even though it can produce its own. A plant that can photosynthesize and create its own food but is still a parasite on surrounding plants is known as a hemiparasite.  Its long white, tubular flowers tipped with yellow-green are very small, and usually form in pairs where the leaves meet the stem (axils). I find this plant growing in old, undisturbed forests.

10-cow-wheat

Cow wheat’s long white, tubular flowers tipped with yellow-green are very small, and usually form in pairs where the leaves meet the stem (axils), but on this example I saw only single blossoms. I find this plant growing in old, undisturbed forests in sandy soil.

11-snakeroot

Though its flowers resemble those of boneset, which flowers at the same time, white snakeroot’s (Ageratina altissima) large heart shaped, toothed leaves look nothing like boneset leaves. This plant is very toxic and in the early 19th century it killed thousands of settlers in the Midwest. A compound called trematol is passed from the plant to cows that graze on it and when humans drank the milk or ate the meat before too long they started to show signs of what was called “milk sickness.” In a week or less most would die of heart or liver failure. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from what is believed to have been milk sickness when he was just 9 years old. All parts of the plant are toxic to cattle, horses, sheep, and humans. Today’s farmers eradicate the plant from their pastures and mix the milk from many cows together, so milk sickness is almost unheard of. A Native American woman from the Shawnee tribe is credited with finally warning settlers about this plant and most likely saving thousands of lives.

12-snakeroot

Individual white snakeroot flowers are small, bright white, and fuzzy. The plant seems to prefer moist, shaded locations and doesn’t mind disturbed ground. It can often be found quite deep in forests and blooms from August to September. If you should happen to have farm animals you should know it well.

13-orange-hawkweed

Though I have two examples of orange flowers in this post in the form of the jewelweed we saw earlier and this orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum,) orange is a hard color to find among wildflowers in this part of the world.  Other than orange daylilies, which really aren’t wildflowers, I can’t think of another orange wildflower.

14-sand-jointweed

Sand jointweed (Polygonum articulatum) is a curious little plant that gets its common name from the way it that grows in pure sand, and from its many jointed stems. I know of only one place where it grows but each year there are many new plants there. It is an annual so each year’s plants have to produce plenty of seed. They grow to about knee high and this year there are plenty of tiny white blooms, so hopefully strong seed production will continue.

15-sand-jointweed

The flowers are tiny enough to always convince me that I have no hope of getting a good photo of them but each year I try again. One of these times I’ll get it right.

16-sand-jointweed

How small are they? About 1/8 of an inch across, or about the same size as Abraham Lincoln’s ear on a penny.

17-bottle-gentian

About 2 years ago I got excited when I found what I thought were bottle or closed gentians along a dirt road up in Nelson, but they turned out to be narrow leaf gentians (Gentiana linearis.) They were still very beautiful and I wasn’t disappointed, but I recently found bottle gentians (Gentiana andrewsii) growing along a trail in Keene that I’ve hiked probably a hundred times or more. My only answer for having never seen them is I must have always been there at the wrong time of year. In any event these examples had just started turning and were a beautiful cornflower blue. Their usual color when mature is a very beautiful deep violet purple. The flowers never open beyond what is seen here so it takes a strong insect like a bumblebee to pry them open and get at the pollen.

Nature holds all the answers – go outside and ask some questions – open your heart and listen to the response! ~Anonymous

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1. Meadow Flowers

Goldenrod and purple loosestrife dominate this meadow view but we still have a lot of other flowers blooming.

2. Aster

I’m seeing more and more native asters each day, blooming to usher in fall. I think this one might be a crooked stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum prenanthoide) but there are so many asters that look alike it’s hard to be sure. At about a half inch diameter the flowers are too small to be a New England Aster. I found it growing in a wet area at the edge of the forest.

3. Black Eyed Susans

Surely black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) must be one of the longest blooming flowers. They’ve been blooming since June and should go well into October. Native Americans cured earaches with the juice of its root, but early colonists gave it its common name after an old English poem by John Gay about a woman called Black Eyed Susan.

4. Nodding Smartweed

Nodding smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia) gets its common name from its drooping flower heads and the very sharp, peppery taste of the stems, which makes the tongue smart. It doesn’t seem to bother ducks, geese, and all of the other animals that eat it, though. This is also called curly top smartweed; obviously because of the way the long flower spikes droop. It is originally from Europe.

5. Nodding Smartweed

Each nodding smartweed flower spike is made up of many pink to white, very small flowers. The flowers never fully open, which can make it hard to count any of their reproductive parts, but each one has 5 sepals and no petals. There are also six stamens, two partially fused carpels and two styles.

6. Lady's Thumb

Lady’s thumb is another Persicaria; (Persicaria maculosa.) It looks a lot like its cousin nodding smartweed but instead of growing near water this one will be found growing at forest edges. It is originally from Europe and has spread to nearly every state since 1843.

7. Lady's Thumb Laef

Lady’s thumb gets its common name from the dark spot that appears on each leaf. Legend has it that a lady with a dirty thumb (apparently) left the smudge-like mark on a leaf and it has been there ever since.

8. Bee on Thistle

A bee on a spear thistle flower head (Cirsium vulgare) isn’t unusual but I never knew that the pollen from this plant was orange. According to the little pollen baskets on this bumblebee’s legs, it is.

9. Blue Vervain

It was getting dark when I took this photo of blue vervain on the banks of the Ashuelot River. It came out looking kind of moody but the vervain flowers still held their beautiful blue color and that’s what I was after. These plants are nearly done for the season now. I’ll miss seeing my favorite color flowers.

10. Orange Hawkweed

I see thousands of examples of yellow hawkweed for every one orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) and I’m not sure why that is. The plant might be from Europe but it’s far from invasive. Maybe their scarcity is due to the color orange being virtually invisible to bees. They do reflect ultraviolet light though, so that means that some insects must find them.

11. Spear Mint aka Mentha spicata

The last time I did a flower post I had found some wild mint (Mentha arvensis.) This time I found some spearmint (Mentha spicata) growing at the edge of the woods. Like wild mint spearmint has been used since recorded time both medicinally and as a flavoring. Pliny wrote of it and the ancient Romans cultivated it to scent their bath water. Spearmint is originally from Europe but the pilgrims brought it on their first trip to America, so valuable was the plant to them.

12. Spear Mint aka Mentha spicata

Instead of growing in the leaf axils as they do on wild mint, spearmint flowers appear at the top of the stem. They are said to be pink or white but these were white, blue, pink and lavender. I wish I could send you their scent because it was refreshing on a hot summer day. I’m not sure what the hair or web on the flower was. I didn’t see it until I looked at the photo.

13. Slender Gerardia

Slender gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia) reaches ankle height here but I’ve heard that it can reach 2 feet. The tiny purple flowers would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the large numbers of them on each willow leaved plant. It has the odd habit of dropping all its flowers each afternoon and opening a new crop the next morning, so you have to catch it before noon if you want to see unblemished blooms. This plant is also called false foxglove and slender leaved foxglove but I see little resemblance to foxgloves, either in flowers or foliage.

14. Mallow

I don’t see too many mallow plants in or out of gardens so I was surprised recently to find this musk mallow (Malva moschata) growing on a roadside. Since it’s another plant that is originally from Europe it was proabably a garden escapee, but you could hardly call mallows invasive. I see them once in a blue moon. I thought this one was pink but my color finding software sees lavender.

15.Tansy

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is another European native that most likely came over on the earliest British ships because it was an important medicinal plant that was considered to be “necessary for a garden” in sixteenth century Britain, according to a list of plants compiled by John H. Harvey called Garden Plants of Around 1525: The Fromond List. Though considered toxic it was used to treat parasitic worm infestations. The insect repellant qualities of tansy were well known and it was used to discourage flies and other pests indoors, and as a companion plant in the garden where it repelled cucumber beetles and other common garden insects. It is still used as an insect repellant today.

16. Wild Cucumber

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

The greenish white, star shaped male flowers of wild cucumber have 6 petals that are twisted slightly. The female flowers are yellowish green and not at all showy. They grow at the base of the male flower stems. There is usually only one female flower for every 5 or 6 male flowers, which is why there are so few fruits seen on each vine.

17. Wild Cucumber Fruit

I like the spiny fruit of the wild cucumber, which had formed just days before I took this photo. I also like its spiraling tendrils that curl even when they have nothing to curl around.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

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1. New England Aster

It wouldn’t be fall in New England without New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae,) but this one seems to be rushing things just a bit. I didn’t see its little hoverfly friend until I looked at the photo.

2. Turtlehead (2)

White turtlehead (Chelone glabra) is another plant that says fall but it isn’t as noticeable as New England asters. It likes wet feet and doesn’t mind shade and the example in this photo was growing in dark, swampy woods that had been flooded not too long before the photo was taken.

On the other hand, many years ago a friend gave me a piece of her pink turtlehead plant (Chelone oblique) and it grows in a shady spot in my garden that stays moist, but isn’t particularly wet. In my opinion you couldn’t ask for a plant that required less maintenance. I haven’t touched it since I planted it.

3. Summersweet Shrub

Native clethra (Clethra alnifolia) is also called summersweet because of its sweet fragrance. If you have low spots in your yard that get wet occasionally, this is a good shrub to plant in them because it likes moist soil and grows naturally along stream banks and in swampy ground.  Bees love it too, and this one was covered with them.

 4. lady's Thumb

Lady’s thumb (Polygonum Persicaria  or Persicaria maculosa) gets its common name from the dark spot that appears on each leaf. Legend has it that a lady with a dirty thumb (apparently) left the smudge like mark on a leaf and it has been there ever since. The tiny flowers are packed into a long raceme and can be white, red, pink, or a combination of all three. This plant is originally from Europe and Asia and is considered a noxious weed. It likes to grow near water and is usually found along pond and stream banks.

5. Boneset

At a glance boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) looks like white Joe Pye weed. That’s because the two plants are closely related. In fact they can often be found growing side by side, but boneset blossoms a little later than Joe Pye weed here.

6. Dewdrop

I was happy to find another spot much closer to home where dewdrops (Rubus dalibarda) grow. I used to have to drive for 45 minutes to see them but now it’s down to about 20. This plant likes to grow in shady woods and seems to need undisturbed soil to thrive. Each spot I have found it in hasn’t been touched by man for a very long time, if at all. It is also called false violet because of the leaf shape.

7. Wild Mint

If the square stems and tufts of tiny pink / purple flowers in the leaf axils don’t ring a bell, then one sniff of a crushed leaf will tell you immediately that this plant is wild mint (Mentha arvensis.) Mint has been used by man since the dawn of time and Pliny, Hippocrates, Aristotle and Charlemagne each wrote of its virtues. Each time we see it we are seeing one of mankind’s earliest memories.

8. Slender Gerardia

Slender gerardia (Agalinis tenuifoliais) a shy acting little plant that grows in the tall grass at the edge of meadows. It has the unusual habit of dropping all of its flowers each afternoon. It opens fresh buds at the start of each day, which means that its flowers don’t even last for a full day, so insects (and photographers) have to be quick. The plants that I find are always 6-8 inches tall but I’ve read that they can reach 2 feet.

 9. Slender Gerardia

Slender Gerardia is also called false foxglove. There might be a faint resemblance but I think it would be hard to confuse the two, especially after a good look at the leaves. The blossom in this photo was just about ready to call it a day and fall off the plant, so it isn’t in its prime.

 10. Silverrod

Silverrod (Solidago bicolor) is in the goldenrod family and is also called white goldenrod. It is the only native white flowered goldenrod found in the northeast. I always find it in dry, gravelly places at the edge of the woods at the end of August. Silverrod isn’t seen anywhere near as often as the yellow goldenrods.

 11. Partridge Pea

To me the most interesting thing about partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculate) is how its leaves fold together when they are touched, much like the tropical mimosa, called “sensitive plant.” Its yellow flowers have a splash of red and both bees and butterflies visit them. The common name comes from the way game birds like partridges like to eat its seeds.

 12. Pilewort aka Erechtites hieracifolia

Pilewort (Erechtites hieracifolia) is an odd plant with clusters of flowers that seem reluctant to open. Even after they do open they still look like they are in the bud stage, so you have to look at them closely.  This plant gets its common name from the belief that it was useful in the treatment of piles. In some areas it is also called fireweed because of the way it moves quickly into burned areas. I usually find it along river and stream banks.

13. Pilewort aka Erechtites hieracifolia Open Flower

This is all we see of a pilewort flower when it opens. It is made up of many disc florets which are pollinated primarily by wasps and hornets. Once they go to seed they will float away on the wind much like dandelion seeds.

 14. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid

Last year each little rosette of downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens) leaves sent up a flower spike but this year I’ve seen only one. It doesn’t matter though, because plants often rest after a bountiful year and its leaves are my favorite part of this native orchid. They are evergreen and each one will last about four years. You can tell that each plant is very small by comparing their size to the curled beech leaf on the right.

15. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid

Each white flower on the downy rattlesnake plantain is no bigger than a pea. The pubescens part of the scientific name means downy or hairy, and all parts of the plant above the leaves fit that description. Even the flowers are hairy. It is thought that a small bee called Augochlorella striata might pollinate them. Though it might not win any prizes at flower shows this little orchid is always a real pleasure to find in the woods.

Who would have thought it possible that a tiny little flower could preoccupy a person so completely that there simply wasn’t room for any other thought? –  Sophie Scholl

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The temperature fell to 40 degrees one night this week. Soon the leaves will begin to turn and the scent of wood smoke will fill the morning air. This means that the season for photographing flowers is coming to an end and soon we’ll all be wondering what else to use as subjects. For now though, there are still a few here and there. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve seen lately.

 1. Pickeral Weed

Native aquatic pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) has had a long bloom period this year, but I’ve never paid enough attention to it to know if this is an unusual year for it. I like its fuzzy flowers.  Pickerelweed’s common name comes from the pickerel fish. They were once thought to breed only under this plant’s leaves. Once the flowers are pollinated and seeds form the flower stalk will bend over and drop the seeds into the water. They will have to go through at least two months of cold weather before being able to germinate.

 2. Turtlehead

Turtle head (Chelone glabra) is another native that likes water, but not enough to be considered aquatic. It will often grow right at the water’s edge along ponds and streams, so even the slightest rise in water level will put the plant’s roots under water. These flowers had almost gone by but the photo is a good representation of what they look like. The flowers are said to look like turtle heads, but I’m still not seeing it. The blossom in the upper left corner comes closest to the turtle look for me. Native Americans made medicinal tea from this plant and early colonials used it in the same way.

 3. Japanese Knotweed

All of the Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) plants in this immediate area came up too early last spring and were blackened by a hard frost. As the photo above shows, it didn’t even slow them down. This, along with purple loosestrife is one of the worst invasives, because it spreads so fast and so thickly that it chokes out all other plants. A viable plant can grow from as little as .7 grams of rootstock.

 4. Japanese Knotweed

The flowers are why Japanese knotweed was imported from England back in the late 1800s.

5. Lady's Thumb

Lady’s thumb (Persicaria vulgaris) gets its common name from a black / brown smudge on its leaves, supposedly left there by a mysterious lady we’ll never know. Small pink flowers crowd the flower stalks (Racemes) on this plant in the knotweed family. Each flower has 5 sepals but no petals. Flowers can be pink, red, greenish white, or purple. All of these colors sometimes appear on the same raceme. This plant is native to Europe and Asia.

6. Lady's Thumb

The “lady’s thumb print” on Persicaria vulgaris leaves.

7. Smartweed

Smartweed (Polygonum hydropiperoides) flowers look a lot like those of its cousin lady’s thumb, but the flower spikes are longer and usually droop like the one in the photo. They also usually grow in the water of rivers and streams and have narrower leaves that don’t have the “thumbprint” that lady’s thumb leaves do. This plant is also called water pepper for good reason-the name “smartweed” comes from the very sharp, peppery taste of the stems, which makes the tongue smart. Many ducks, birds and animals eat the seeds.

 8. Pale Jewelweed

 Pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) looks a lot like spotted jewelweed, but has larger, pale yellow flowers instead of orange.  This plant is rarely seen here, but I found several large plants growing beside a stream one day. Native Americans used the crushed leaves of jewelweed to stop the itching caused by poison ivy. I’ve used the plant’s juice for the same thing and it works well, and it also works on bug bites.

 9. Pale Jewelweed

The sides of this flower were spotted much like those of spotted jewelweed, but quite often this plant’s flowers will have no spots at all. The nectar spur is shorter and less curved on pale jewelweed flowers as well. I think if I had to choose between the two plants I’d prefer the deep orange spotted jewelweed flowers.

10. Sweet everlasting aka Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium

Native sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) looks a lot like pearly everlasting ( Anapahlis margaritacea) but its flower heads are narrower. The two plants are in the aster family, but aren’t closely related. These flowers are made up of a densely packed outer rim of overlapping bracts with many yellow disc florets in the center. The ‘everlasting” part of the common name comes from the way it lasts after it is dried. This plant is also called rabbit tobacco, but I’ve never seen one smoking it. Native Americans had many uses for it.

 11. Joe pye Weed

Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) had a good year and this is just one of many large displays that I saw. Research into exactly who Joe Pye was has been ongoing for many years. The latest evidence says that Joseph Pye was a Mohegan sachem (chief) who lived in western Massachusetts and saved early European settlers from typhus by brewing a tea made from this plant. Joseph Pye was educated by Samson Occam, himself a Mohegan herbalist and Christian convert who kept an extensive diary. Those interested can read more about Joe Pye by clicking here.

12. Goldenrod

I usually stay away from goldenrod identification because even experts have trouble with them, but when I see one that looks like it’s been in a strong wind, with all of the flowers on one side of the stem I know it is gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis.) Native Americans used many goldenrods medicinally in the form of salves, syrups and teas.

 13. Purple Aster

The purple asters are beginning to peek out here and there among the whites, which are almost done blooming. I think this one is a bog aster (Aster nemoralus,) but there are so many different ones that it’s hard to identify most of them with any real certainty unless you want to spend half a day doing so. All I know for sure is that it isn’t a New England Aster, which has a much larger flower. These were about the size of nickels.

Flowers whisper “Beauty!” to the world, even as they fade, wilt, and fall. ~Dr. SunWolf

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The plants in this post were all found growing in or near water. Almost everywhere else has been too dry to support many blooming plants.  Lately though, passing thunderstorms have helped. Every few days the storm clouds gather. Sometimes they drop rain and sometimes just make a lot of noise.   Blue vervain (Verbena hastate) has appeared here before, but it has been blooming all summer and it’s hard to beat such a beautiful color. The only thing this plant is missing is a scent. Blue vervain provides a virtual nectar bar for many species of bees including the verbena bee (Calliopsis verbenae.) Butterflies also love it. This plant likes wet soil and full sun and can reach 5 feet when it has both. I’ve also seen it growing out of sidewalk cracks, but it was barely a foot tall.Blue Vervain, Yellow goldenrod and pink clover. Could any of us plan anything more beautiful for our gardens?Native boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is another plant that likes its feet wet and its head in the sun. It is usually seen with Joe Pye weed and some call it white Joe Pye weed. There is another boneset called late boneset (Eupatorium serotinum.) Bonest is sometimes used medicinally in teas and tonics even though it has toxic qualities. The greatest danger in using this plant medicinally is that it can be easily confused with our native, extremely toxic white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima,) which has similar flower clusters. All parts of white snakeroot are so poisonous that thousands died in the 19th century by using beef and milk from cattle that had eaten the plant. Its poison can even enter the body through cuts. White snakeroot is also sometimes called tall boneset.The “perfoliatum” part of boneset’s scientific name means “through the leaf,” and that’s what boneset leaves look like-as if they had been perforated by the stem. The leaves look crinkly and have saw- toothed margins and the stem is very hairy. If these four identification points aren’t present then the plant isn’t boneset. The leaves joining around the stem as they do looked like bones knitting together as they healed to ancient herbalists, and that’s how the plant got its common name.As flowers go Canada horseweed (Conyza canadensis) isn’t much to look at. In fact, if it wasn’t for the many small, dandelion-like seed heads I would have passed it right by. The flowers are tiny and seem to stay closed more than they do open. This plant can be easily seen from a distance because it starts branching at about a foot down from the tip of the tall, 3 foot stem and always looks top heavy. This plant is a North American native but is considered a noxious weed over much of the world. Legend has it that dried horseweed stem is one of the best materials for a drill when making fire with friction. Its stems are weak, so rubbing it between your hands rather than using a bow is recommended. It is said to produce a glowing coal with very little effort.There are 12 to 15 species of Gerardia in New England and unless you look closely at the plant while you have a field guide in your hands, you can easily mix them up. This one, I’m fairly certain, is Slender Gerardia (Gerardia tenuifolia.) The wiry stems, long flower stalks, sharply pointed calyx, long, narrow leaves, branching habit and dark spots with yellow pollinator guide lines inside the flower all go a long way towards identifying it. Gerardia is related to both foxgloves and snap dragons, and some call this slender leaved foxglove, even though the flowers are much smaller than those of foxglove. This plant is said to prefer dry areas but we had a thunderstorm the night before I found it and it was growing in very wet sand.  It is native to the eastern U.S. and doesn’t grow west of Missouri.I ran into this native dwarf St. John’s Wort (Hypericum mutilum) on a morning after we had thunder storms the night before. There was quite a large colony of it growing very close to the water near a pond and the plants were so tangled together that you couldn’t tell one from another. The flowers are quite small but they covered the short, bushy plants, making them easy to see. This plant looks like a lot like a small version of common St. John’s Wort, but is more sprawling than tall. I’ve had a hard time getting close to this floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiate) but finally, after 2 months, I got close enough to get a decent photo and its flower was closed! Oh well-you’ll have to trust me when I say that the small yellow, snapdragon-like flower is unusual and beautiful. What I really wanted to point out about the plant are the unusual leaf stalks (petioles) that have evolved into floats. In the fall the plant forms what are called winter buds on its underwater stems. These buds and bits of stem are all that survive the winter on the pond bottom. In spring when the water warms they inflate and float to the surface where they start to grow into new plants. These plants float in ponds and slow moving streams and trap insects in underwater bladders.I found this forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) growing on a river bank. Books tell me that the plant grows naturally on the banks of streams and rivers, but this is the only time I’ve ever seen one there in spite of spending over 50 years exploring such places. There are over 50 species of forget-me-nots; some are native to North America and some are European natives.Heal all (Prunella vulgaris ) just goes on and on. It’s been blossoming all summer and it seems that whenever I find a plant I’d like a photograph of there is heal all, waiting patiently to have its picture taken, too. This time I decided to oblige and snapped a few shots of the shy but very beautiful little thing. Like the forget-me-not that we just saw, heal all can be both a native or European plant, depending on which species you happen to see.As the story goes, once upon a time a lady (with a dirty thumb?) made an impression on this plant  and it has been called lady’s thumb (Polygonum persicaria) ever since. Though it doesn’t show very well in this photo, the base of each leaf forms a clasping sheath where it joins the central stem. Clasping leaves and the spots on each leaf are helpful identifiers. The small whitish-pink flowers are hard to find fully open and most often appear as they do in the photo. This is a small, unobtrusive plant that might reach 2 feet tall on a good day. Lady’s thumb is very similar to other knotweeds and smartweeds, but is the only one with the brownish black “thumb print.” I found the plant pictured growing in the rocky, sandy soil of a river bank, very close to the water line.When you get up close and personal pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) turns out to be quite hairy. This is one feature which, at even a short distance, usually isn’t seen. Pickerelweed, unless it hasn’t rained for a month, is an aquatic plant always found growing in shallow water just off shore of ponds and rivers. This year though, with the lack of rain, this one grew in mud at the edge of a pond and I was able to walk right up to it.  Pickerelweed will bloom right up to a good frost. While the tops die back in the fall, the starchy, fleshy roots will live on under water until the following spring. Deer, muskrat and geese think this plant is a delicacy. At first I thought this plant was northern bugleweed (Lycopus uniflorus) but I can’t find any reference to reddish leaves and dark purple stems for that plant. Instead, it must be the very similar looking taper leaf water horehound (Lycopus rubellus.) Its description includes both reddish leaves and stems which can be more purple than green, especially when it grows in bright light. Both plants love wet soil and are good wetland indicators. I found this one growing in full sun on a riverbank in a place that is often covered by water. I’ve seen it countless times but have really never paid it any attention.Spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is a wet soil loving native plant and I see it on river and stream banks regularly. One story says that water droplets sparkle on the dull green leaves after a rain, and that’s why the plant is called jewelweed. Another says it’s because the flowers sparkle in the sun. Several species of bees and ruby throated hummingbirds visit jewelweeds regularly. The forward bending nectar spur on each flower plus their orange color makes this plant easy to identify.  Another name for the plant is spotted touch me not because of the way the seed pods explode at the slightest touch. I’m sure most of us experienced that surprising event as children. This plant is extremely useful for soothing skin that has come into contact with poison ivy. Just pick a few stems and squeeze the sap onto the itch and rub it in. The itch will be gone in no time.  A similar but less common plant is yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida,) which has pale yellow flowers.This wet meadow has been seen here before. It is a fine place to find all kinds of sun loving wildflowers and some of those in this post live there. It also reminds me of an impressionist’s painting. Monet, maybe?

Be like the sun and meadow, which are not in the least concerned about the coming winter ~George Bernard Shaw

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