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Posts Tagged ‘Musk Mallow’

We’re coming into high summer now and though we still haven’t had any really beneficial rain, flowers continue to bloom. This shy little Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria) peeked out of the tall grass at the edge of the forest. They don’t always grow in the same large clumps as their cousins the maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) do, and this was the only one I saw. They also don’t have the same bold, jagged, deep maroon ring near their center as maiden pinks do, and that’s a good means of identification. Both plants are originally from Europe and have escaped cultivation. Maiden pinks seem to prefer open lawns and meadows while Deptford pinks hide their beautiful faces at the sunny edges of the forest.

I have trouble seeing red against green due to colorblindness and that’s why you don’t see much red in these posts, but these bee balm blossoms stood high enough above the surrounding foliage to be clearly visible. The name bee balm comes from the way the juice from its crushed leaves will soothe a bee sting. Our native scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma) is also called Oswego tea, because the leaves were used to make tea by the Native American Oswego tribe of New York. Early settlers also used the plant for tea when they ran out of the real thing. It’s a beautiful flower that I’m always happy to see. Hummingbirds love it too and will come from all over to sip its nectar.

3. Mallow

Driving home from work one evening I saw a flash of what looked like blue on the side of the road out of the corner of my eye so I turned around, hoping that I’d found another stand of chicory plants. Once I’d driven back to where I saw the plants I found that not only hadn’t I seen blue flowers, I hadn’t seen chicory either. But I wasn’t disappointed, because the mallow plants I found there were beautiful. I think they might have been musk mallow (Malva moschata.) Since it’s another plant that is originally from Europe it was probably a garden escapee, but you could hardly call it invasive. I see them once in a blue moon, even less than the elusive chicory that I’m always hoping to see.

4. Mallow

I thought the mallow flowers were pink but my color finding software sees lavender. I love looking at such beautiful flowers, especially those that I rarely see. I’m sure there were many people who drove by that day wondering why I was kneeling on the side of the road, but it wasn’t the first time for that.

I had to stop working on this post and go out for a while and when I did, just after writing that I rarely see chicory (Cichorium intybus,) there was a large stand of it beside the road. Actually the road was a very busy highway and I wasn’t sure about stopping but in the end I did and was glad that I had. Chicory is a large, inch and a half diameter flower that is a beautiful shade of blue. Unfortunately it’s rare in this area and I’m lucky if I see it at all. I always hope the plants that I do see produce plenty of seeds but its habit of growing so close to roads means it gets mowed down a lot.

Many plants that can tolerate a lot of shade have large, light gathering leaves and the shade tolerant purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is one of those. This plant is in the rose family and the 2 inch wide flowers might look like a rose at first glance, but one look at its large, maple like leaves will show that it isn’t. Flowering raspberry has no thorns like roses or raspberries but Japanese beetles love it just as much as roses and it’s common to see the large leaves looking like they’ve been shot full of holes. The fruit looks like a large raspberry but is on the tart, dry side. Native Americans had over 100 uses for this plant, both as food and medicine.

I thought I’d show a rose blossom so those who have never seen a flowering raspberry flower could compare the two of them. The flowering raspberry really doesn’t look anything like a rose except maybe in size of bloom, but they do get confused occasionally. This rose grew at the edge of the woods so I don’t know anything about it except that it was beautiful and fragrant enough so I wished it grew in my own yard. There was a sun shining radiantly at its center.

8. Enchanter's Nightshade

When I get a new camera like I did recently one of the first things I do is look for the smallest flowers that are blooming at the time so I can try out its macro ability, and they don’t come much smaller than enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana canadensis.) This woodland plant is a shade lover and I notice it along trails only when it blooms in July. It gets its scientific name Circaea from Circe, an enchantress in Homer’s Odyssey with a fondness for turning men into swine. There are similar plants native to Europe and Asia.

Each tiny 1/8 inch wide enchanter’s nightshade flower consists of 2 white petals that are split deeply enough to look like 4, 2 green sepals, 2 stamens, and a tiny central style. The new camera surprised me on this day; I’ve never gotten such clear shots of this little flower.

At the base of each flower there is a 2 celled ovary that is green and covered with stiff hooked hairs, and this becomes the plant’s bur like seed pod, which sticks to just about anything. When a plant’s seed pods have evolved to be spread about by sticking to the feathers and fur of birds and animals the process is called epizoochory. The burs on burdock plants are probably the best known examples of epizoochory.

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) isn’t covered with sharp spines like the larger bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) that most of us have tangled with. Though it does have spines along the leaf margins and stem, they are quite small. Despite its common name the plant is actually a native of Europe but has spread to virtually every country in the northern hemisphere. It has a deep and extensive creeping root system and is nearly impossible to eradicate once it gains a foothold. For that reason it is considered a noxious weed in many states.

I’ve grown a lot of beans but I’ve really never paid that much attention to the flowers. They’re unusual and quite pretty I thought, when I saw them in a friend’s garden.

13. Vervain

Vervain (Verbena hastata) is described as having reddish blue or violet flowers but I see the same beautiful blue color that I saw in the chicory flower. Somebody else must have seen the same thing, because they named the plant blue vervain. Vervain flowers are considerably smaller than chicory, but there are usually so many blooming that they’re as easy to spot as chicory is. Vervain can get quite tall and has erect, terminal flower clusters. The bitter roots of this plant were used medicinally by Native Americans.

14. Swamp Milkweed

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is one of those flowers that take me out of myself. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful of all the milkweeds and is one of those flowers that I most look forward to seeing each summer.

How could you not look forward to seeing something so beautiful? I could look at it all day.

16. Purple Fringed Orchid

I walked down a trail through a swamp that I didn’t know well one day and there growing beside it was a two foot tall purple fringed orchid (Platanthera psycodes.) It was one I’ve never seen; it looked like a flock of beautiful purple butterflies had landed right beside me.

17. Purple Fringed Orchid

Once I came to my senses I moved closer and knelt beside the plant. Struck dumb by its beauty, all I could do was gaze and admire, so very grateful that I had found such a wondrous thing.

18. Purple Fringed Orchid

Later, after I left the swamp I thought of John Muir, who wrote of finding the beautiful calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa) after being nearly lost in a swamp all day:

I found beautiful Calypso on the mossy bank of a stream… The flower was white and made the impression of the utmost simple purity like a snowflower. It seemed the most spiritual of all the flower people I had ever met. I sat down beside it and fairly cried for joy… How long I sat beside Calypso I don’t know. Hunger and weariness vanished, and only after the sun was low in the west I plashed on through the swamp, strong and exhilarated as if never more to feel any mortal care.

John Muir was completely lost in the beauty of nature; totally absorbed by the flower before him. It’s a wonderful experience and anyone it has ever happened to longs for it to happen again, and it does. I hope everyone has the chance to experience it, at least once.

Maybe, beauty, true beauty, is so overwhelming it goes straight to our hearts. Maybe it makes us feel emotions that are locked away inside. ~James Patterson

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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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