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Posts Tagged ‘Native Wild Ginger’

1. Horse Chestnut Bud Break

Leaf and flower buds can look very different when they first open compared to when they’re fully grown. The colors alone can make them quite beautiful but sometimes there are other surprises. For instance, when the leaves on this horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) unfurled they revealed the flower bud that they had been protecting. It was as big as my thumb.

2. Beech Buds Breaking

Bud break is defined as “when the green tip of a leaf can be seen emerging from the bud,” but there is often far more to it than that. These beech buds turned a beautiful orangey color and the tension brought on by some cells growing faster than others caused them to curl. Any time now the leaves will begin to unfurl completely and they will look like downy, silvery angel wings for just a very short time.

3. Horsetail

Technically not a bud break but interesting nonetheless, the fertile spore bearing stem of a common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) ends in a light brown, cone shaped structure called a strobilus. Since it doesn’t photosynthesize at this point in its development the plant has no need for chlorophyll, so most of it is a pale, whitish color. When it’s ready to release its spores the cone opens to reveal tiny, mushroom shaped sporangiophores. The whitish “ruffles” at the base of each brown sporangiophore are the spore producing sporangia. When the horsetail looks like the one in the photo it has released its spores and will soon die and be replaced by an infertile stem. Nature can seem very complicated at times but it always comes down to one simple thing: continuation of the species.

4. Bitternut Hickory Buds aka Carya cordiformis

I was walking along an old rail bed and spotted an unbelievable shade of yellow. The strange color belonged to the buds of a bitternut hickory tree (Carya cordiformis), which is something I’ve never seen before. When I see something like this I wonder what the tree gains from having buds this color. It’s possible that it has something to do with keeping animals from browsing on the new shoots, but I don’t know that for sure.  It is said that the nuts from this tree are so bitter that even squirrels won’t eat them, so maybe the buds are too.

5. Box Elder Bud Break

The female flowers of box elder (Acer negundo) have bright green, hairy pistils with sticky stigmas that split in two. The winged seeds that appear after the flowers hang in clusters and will stay on the tree throughout winter, sometimes into spring. Some trees flower before growing leaves and some grow their leaves first and then flower. Box elders fall somewhere in between, with both flowers and leaves on the tree at the same time.

6. Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is a hated plant because of its invasive qualities but in spring it can be very beautiful as it unravels itself from the bud. I’ve heard that these new shoots taste much like rhubarb. Maybe if we stopped fighting it and started eating it we could lick the problem of its being so invasive. Last spring we had a hard, late frost and Japanese knotweed shoots were killed to the ground, but within 3 weeks they had come right back and grew as if it had never happened.

7. New Ginger Leaves

Our native wild ginger (Asarum canadense) takes its time opening its new leaves. I’ve been watching these plants for close to three weeks now, since they first came up, and this photo shows the progress they’ve made in that time. I wonder if the small brown flowers will take as long to appear as the leaves take to unfold.

8. White Baneberry Buds

The opening buds of baneberry always remind me of a hand and it isn’t hard to imagine webbed fingers clawing their way out of the soil. Here they grasp the flower bud which will soon become a globular mass of tiny white flowers. The plant shown here is white baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), also called doll’s eyes, and by the end of summer its flowers will have become porcelain white berries with single black dots on their ends. These berries are beautiful and especially attractive to children, but are also very toxic. Fortunately their bitter taste keeps most children from being poisoned by them.

9. Sweetfern Catkins

Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) sometimes hangs onto its old leaves even as it is making mew ones. In this photo last year’s leaves wrap around this year’s male catkins. I always run my hands over the leaves to release the fragrance that it is named for. Some compare it to soap, others to spices or fresh mown hay. It is a very unusual scent that smells clean and a bit spicy to me. Though its leaves resemble fern leaves it is really a deciduous shrub. Crushing a few leaves and rubbing them over your skin will keep mosquitoes and other bugs away.

10. Sweet Fern Female Flower

Further down the stem of the sweet fern not only are new leaves breaking, but the tiny scarlet female flower is waiting for the wind to bring pollen from male catkins. You can just make it out on the left, beside where the new leaves are forming. I think it is even smaller than the female flower of American hazelnut (Corylus Americana,) which means that it’s too small for these aging eyes to see. Getting a photo of it was simple luck.

11. Skunk Cabbage

Some of the biggest buds I know of are those of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus.) As the leaves begin to unfurl they do look a bit like cabbage leaves but if you tried cooking them their odor would soon let you know that you weren’t dealing with cabbage! In this photo not only can you see the new leaves but the spathe and even the flower covered spadix in the broken spathe to the right of center. It’s the first time I’ve been able to get all of the different parts of a skunk cabbage plant in one photo.

 12. Sugar Maple Leaf Bud aka Acer saccharum

The late afternoon sun was doing some strange things to the veins on this emerging sugar maple leaf (Acer saccharum). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a new leave’s veins stand out from the body of the leaf in this way. I thought it was a beautiful sight but was surprised that a deer hadn’t eaten it.

When man gives his whole heart to Nature and has no cares outside, it is surprising how observant he becomes, and how curious he is to know the cause of things. ~William Davies

Happy mother’s day tomorrow to all of the moms out there. Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

 

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1. Coltsfoot

One colony of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) that I used to visit was washed away in a flood last year and another much larger colony was plowed up by a logging skidder, but I found more growing alongside a dirt road near here. The Tussilago part of the scientific name comes from the Latin tussis, meaning cough, and ago, meaning to cast or to act on. Coltsfoot was originally brought from Europe by early settlers, to be used to treat coughs. I remember being given Pertussin cough syrup as a boy, but I don’t know if it had coltsfoot in it. I hope not, because scientists have found that the plant can cause liver tumors.

2. Coltsfoot

If you aren’t sure if you have found coltsfoot or dandelions just look at the stems. Coltsfoot stems are scaly and dandelion stems are smooth. Another clue would be that coltsfoot doesn’t grow leaves until after the flowers fade.

3. Diurnal Lightning Beetle aka Ellychnia corrusca on a Beech Bud

I saw a bug on a beech bud and spent quite a while trying to identify him, with little luck. I was able to get as far as learning that he was a beetle before asking the folks at bugguide.net for help. In no time at all they told me that I had found a diurnal lightning beetle (Ellychnia corrusca), which is a winter firefly that doesn’t light up. What he does do is drink sweet tree sap and is known to be a bit of a pest to maple syrup makers.

4. Diurnal Lightning Beetle  aka Ellychnia corrusca on a Beech Twig

This beetle lives in the crevices of maple bark all winter, not leaving the tree until March. I’m not sure why he was on a beech. He crawled down the twig and turned to face me and there we were, eye to eye, each studying the other.

5. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid

I used to drive for 45 minutes to see the one little colony of downy rattlesnake plantain orchids (Goodyera pubescens) that I knew of. Of course, you never know when a plant will bloom so I made this pilgrimage once or twice a week until I saw the flowers. Then, late last summer, I found a large colony of these beautiful plants not 5 minutes from my house. Proof once again that what we have been trying so hard to find is often right in front of us.

6. Box Elder Flowers

Years ago my grandmother had a large box elder tree (Acer negundo) in her front yard. Box elders are considered a weed tree but they provide excellent shade and that’s what my grandmother was interested in. They are very prolific as you can see by the photo of the flowers, and each tree grows thousands of very viable seeds. The seeds used to fall beside the foundation walls of my grandmother’s house and grow into small trees, so every year she would pay me a quarter to go around the house and pull them all up. One year I pulled up what I thought was a particularly fine specimen and I took it home with me. By the time I got it home the roots had dried out but I dug a hole and planted it anyway. That tree grew faster than anything I had ever seen and, at about 7 or 8 years old, gave me my first hint that plants and I just might get along.

7. Bluets

Cheery little bluets (Houstonia caerulea) have suddenly popped up in lawns. These flowers can range from nearly white to dark blue and each year I try to find the ones with the darkest color. Those in the above photo were much darker than those on nearby plants, so I chose them. Bluets are also, in my opinion, one of the hardest flowers there are to photograph. Rarely do I get a good sharp photo of them and on this day, 40 mile per hour wind gusts didn’t help.

8. Native Ginger Leaf

I was poking around in a spot where I know that our native wild ginger (Asarum canadense) grows, looking for signs of life, when I found this single new, very downy leaf unfurling. Though it might have been only minutes old and was hardly bigger than a mouse’s ear, an insect had already eaten a hole through it.

9. Magnolia Blossoms

Magnolia blossoms showed a tiny bit of browning from frost damage but they were still very beautiful, and fragrant enough to linger in memory long after the flowers were out of sight.

10. Trout Lily Bud

In a colony of tens of thousands of yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) I stumbled onto one that had a bud. Why does this plant have a bud while none of the others do? Does it get more sunlight? Is it something in the soil? These are the kinds of questions that helped fuel my interest in plants at an early age. The answers have been few but I don’t mind. It’s the mystery that puts the magic in life.

11. Spring Beauty

Eastern spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) appeared overnight as they always seem to do. At this time of year I check the spot where they grow every couple of days and I’m always surprised to see them, because just a day or two earlier there was no sign of them. As I do with bluets, I always try to find the flower with the deepest color. I’ve read that it is the amount of sunlight that determines color in a spring beauty blossom. The deeper the shade, the more intense the color, so I look for them in more shaded areas. The same doesn’t appear to be true for bluets because I find dark colored ones in full sun.

12. Female American Hazelnut Flowers

I wanted to take another try at getting a shot of a female American hazelnut (Corylus Americana) blossom, the smallest flower I know of. I think this one came out better than the one I showed here two or three posts ago. I measure the bud on that last plant with Vernier calipers and found it to be only four thousandths of an inch in diameter (.004”), just about the same size as a single strand of spaghetti. You have to look up and down each stem very carefully to find these tiny things.

13. Blood Root Opening

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) had just unfurled its leafy cloak when I found it. The first open bloodroot flower of the season always tells me that May can’t be far away because bloodroot waits to be sure that it is really spring before it shows itself. Native Americans used the blood red sap of its root for war paint. I’ve always wanted to see it I’ve but I’ve never been able to convince myself that it would be okay to destroy one of these plants just to satisfy my curiosity.

14. Purple Trillium

Though last winter was the coldest in 10 years I saw my first purple trillium this week. It has bloomed earlier than the trilliums did both last year and in the spring of 2012, even though that spring was the 4th warmest ever. Whenever you start to think that you have plants all figured out they do something totally unexpected to remind you that you don’t.

There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is.
~Albert Einstein

Thanks for coming by.

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