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Posts Tagged ‘Mouse Eared Chickweed’

When I think of blue bead lilies (Clintonia borealis) I think of another spring ephemeral, but they don’t really fit that definition because they blossom after the leaves come out on the trees. They get away with that because their big strap shaped leaves can take in plenty of light even under trees, and they prefer shade. But this is a time of transition, because the forest flowers are finishing up and the sun loving meadow flowers are just beginning. It’s an exciting time for flower lovers because we know that the best is yet to come.

Blue bead lily looks like a miniature Canada lily because it’s a member of the lily family. Each blossom is slightly bigger than a trout lily blossom and there are usually two or three per stalk. Flower parts appear in multiples of three in the lily family and to prove it this blossom has three petals, three sepals, and six stamens.  Its name comes from the beautiful electric blue berries that will appear later on in summer. The berries are said to be toxic but birds and chipmunks snap them right up. Some Native American tribes rubbed the root of this plant on their bear traps because its fragrance attracted bears.

Our native azaleas have just started to bloom. I was worried about the one pictured because a tree fell on it three summers ago. It seemed to be hanging on by a thread for a while but it is getting stronger over time and looks like it will hang on to bloom beautifully again each year. It grows in a shaded part of the forest and is called early azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum,) even though the Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense) is earlier. It’s also called roseshell azalea and I often find them by their fragrance, which is a bit spicy and a bit sweet.

The flowers of the early azalea aren’t quite as showy as some other azaleas but I wish you could smell their heavenly scent. It isn’t overpowering but when the temperature and breeze are just right you can follow your nose right to them. Another common name for the early azalea is wooly azalea, and it comes from the many hairs on the outside of the flowers, which you can just see on the bud over on the right. It is these hairs that emit the fragrance, which is said to induce creative imagination.

Starflowers (Trientalis borealis) are supposed to be a plant based on sevens; seven leaves, seven petals, seven sepals and seven stamens, but I’ve seen eight and nine petals on flowers, and I’ve seen many with six petals. These flowers don’t produce nectar so they are pollinated by pollen eating insects like halictid and andrenid bees. There can be one or several flowers on each plant and I always try to find the one with the most flowers. My record is 4 but I’m always watching out for 5.

This blossom lived up to the 7 theory and had 7 petals. It also has 7 anthers. I have to wonder how many starflowers the person who said it is a plant based on sevens actually looked at though, because many I’ve seen have more or fewer and 7 flower parts seem as random as any other number.

Mayapple flowers (Podophyllum peltatum) are hard to get a decent photo of because they nod toward the ground under the plant’s leaves, and this shot took several tries. I’ve read that once a mayapple produces flowers and fruit it reduces its chances of doing so in following years, but I’ve seen these plants bloom well for a few years now. This plant is also called American mandrake, which is legendary among herbalists for the root that supposedly resembles a man. Native Americans boiled the root and used the water to cure stomach aches but this plant is toxic and should never be eaten. Two anti-cancer treatment drugs, etoposide and teniposide, are made from the Mayapple plant.

I’m lucky enough to know where there are two or three sizeable colonies of Pink lady’s slipper orchids (Cypripedium acaule) and this year I found another with 12-14 plants in it. There was a time when these plants were collected nearly into oblivion by people who didn’t know any better. The plant interacts with a Rhizoctonia fungus in the soil and this fungus must be present for it to reproduce.  If the plants are dug up and placed in private gardens they will eventually die out if the fungus isn’t present so please, look at them, take a couple of photos, and let them be.

For those who haven’t seen one, a pink lady’s slipper blossom is essentially a pouch called a labellum, which is a modified petal. The pouch has a slit down the middle. Veins on the pouch attract bumblebees, which enter the flower through the slit and then find that to get out they have to leave by one of two openings at the top of the pouch that have pollen masses above them. When they leave they are dusted with pollen and will hopefully carry it to another flower. It takes pink lady’s slippers five years or more from seed to bloom, but they can live for twenty years or more.

When pink lady’s slippers first set their buds they are a kind of off white, almost yellow color and some think they have found a white or yellow one, but they quickly turn pink. The pink Lady’s slipper is New Hampshire’s state wildflower.

When we move out of the forest to their edges we find sun loving plants like hawthorn, which was in full bloom on this day. There are over 100 species of native and cultivated hawthorns in the U.S. and they can be hard to identify. Native Americans used the plant’s long sharp thorns for fish hooks and for sewing. The wood is very hard and was used for tools and weapons.

Hawthorn (Crataegus) blossoms aren’t much in the way of fragrance because of a compound called trimethylamine, which gives the plant a slightly fishy odor, but they’re big on beauty with their plum colored anthers. They are also important when used medicinally. Hawthorn has been used to treat heart disease since the 1st century and the leaves and flowers are still used for that purpose today.  There are antioxidant flavonoids in the plant that may help dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow, and protect blood vessels from damage.

Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is an introduced plant that came from Europe in the 1600s but it doesn’t seem very invasive; the few colonies that I know of hardly seem to spread at all, and that’s possibly because they are biennials. This plant is in the mustard family, Brassicaceae. The young leaves of dame’s rocket are rich in vitamin C and oil pressed from its seed is used in perfumes.

Dame’s rocket flowers are sometimes mistaken for phlox, but phlox has 5 petals rather than the 4 petals seen on dame’s rocket. Phlox also has opposite leaves and those on dame’s rocket are alternate. The flowers are very fragrant in the evening and are said to smell like a mixture of cloves and violets.

There just happened to be a phlox plant or two growing among the dame’s rocket and I thought it was ggod chance to show how phlox blossoms have 5 petals. I’m not sure if these plants were wild phlox or garden escapees but I’m guessing they probably came from a nearby garden.

Mouse ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum) is one of those plants 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 medicinal or edible plants like dandelion and chickweed could flourish. How times have changed.

One flower that will always say June to me is the Ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare,) even though I found this one in May. This is a much loved flower so it is easy to forget that it was originally introduced from Europe as an ornamental in the 1800s. It quickly escaped cultivation and has now spread to each of the lower 48 states and most of Canada. Since cattle won’t eat it, it can spread at will through pastures and that means that it is not well loved by ranchers. A vigorous daisy can produce 26,000 seeds per plant and tests have shown that 82% of the buried seeds remained viable after six years underground. Soon our roadsides will be carpeted by them. I like their spiraled centers.

Sweet little blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) has always been one of my favorite wildflowers. It’s in the iris family and isn’t a grass at all, but might have come by the name because of the way its light green leaves resemble grass leaves.  The flowers are often not much bigger than a common aspirin but their color and clumping habit makes them fairly easy to find. Native Americans had several medicinal uses for this plant.

This blue eyed grass had two blossoms on one stem, which is rare in my experience.

Robin’s plantain (Erigeron pulchellus) is the earliest of the fleabanes to bloom in this area. Its inch and a half diameter flowers are larger than many fleabane blossoms but its foot high stalks are shorter. One way to identify this plant is by its basal rosette of very hairy, oval leaves. The stem and stem leaves (cauline) are also hairy. The flowers can be white to pink to lavender and are made up of ray florets surrounding yellow disk florets in the center. These plants almost always grow in large colonies and often come up in lawns. They’re a good indicator of where the flower lovers among us live because at this time of year you can see many neatly mown lawns with islands of unmown, blossoming fleabanes.

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment. ~Georgia O’Keefe

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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