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Posts Tagged ‘Nodding Smartweed’

Our meadows and roadsides are starting to take on that “Monet painting” look now, with purple loosestrife and goldenrods still predominating. Soon asters will take over, along with later goldenrods as the loosestrife blooms itself out.

You can’t tell from the previous photo but a lot of the Canada goldenrods (Solidago canadensis) I’m seeing have bunch galls at the very tip of the stem like the one seen in the above photo. A gall midge (Rhopalomyla solidaginis) lays its egg in a leaf bud and when the larva hatches the plant stops growing taller but continues to produce leaves in a “bunch” like that seen here. Since the midge only lays its eggs on Canada goldenrod it makes this plant easy to identify.

Nodding smartweed (Polygonum lapathifolium) 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. The plant is also called curly top smartweed; obviously because of the way the long flower spikes droop. It is originally from Europe.

Each nodding smartweed flower spike is made up of many pink to white, very small flowers. The flowers never seem to fully open, but I got lucky on this day and found two blossoms sort of open. Each flower has 5 sepals and no petals. There are also six stamens, two partially fused carpels and two styles.

Japanese beetles, I’ve discovered, love smartweeds. Better smartweeds than garden plants. They can do a lot of damage to a garden.

Tall white asters (Doellingeria umbellata) are very tall with large flower heads (panicles) and weak stems, so when all the flowers bloom the stems often bend and the flowers end up at ankle level. This is one of the earlier, more showy asters that spreads by underground rhizomes and usually grows in large colonies of plants. I see them on forest edges and meadow edges, sometimes by the hundreds.

Pilewort (Erechtites hieracifolia) is a strange plant with inch long flower buds that never seem to fully open. This plant gets its common name from the belief that it was useful in the treatment of piles (hemorrhoids,) because the buds are the size and shape of suppositories. The Native American Algonquin people used the plant to treat poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) rashes. It has also been used as a source of a blue dye for cotton and wool.

Even after they open pilewort flowers still look like they are in the bud stage, so you have to look at them closely. This photo shows about all we can see of them. The flower is made up of many tiny florets which are pollinated primarily by wasps and hornets. In some areas it is called burn weed because of the way it moves quickly into burned areas. I usually find it along river and stream banks.

The little lobelia called Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) is one of our smallest lobelias. Its small flowers are about 1/3 of an inch long and pale lavender to almost white. It is the only lobelia with calyxes that inflate after the flowers have fallen and to identify it I just look for the inflated seedpods. The inflated seed pods resemble the smoking material pouches that Native Americans carried. The inflata part of its scientific name also comes from these inflated pods. The pods form so quickly that they can usually be found on the stem while flowers are still blooming, as this photo shows.

I’ve been neglecting pretty little red clover blossoms this year, but not intentionally. I’ve told the story of how this lowly weed helped me see things differently but I’ll tell it again, because the same thing could happen to you. There was a time when all red clover (Trifolium pretense) plants meant to me was more hard work. I didn’t like having to weed it out of lawns and garden beds but it was so unsightly with its long, weak flower stems and sprawling, weedy habit. And then one evening a single ray of sunshine came through the clouds and fell directly on a red clover plant at the edge of a meadow, and when I knelt in front of it to take its photo for the first time I saw how beautiful it really was. I saw that it had an inner light; what I think of as the light of creation, shining brightly out at me. I’ve loved it ever since, and since that day I don’t think I’ve ever truly thought of another flower, no matter how lowly, as a weed.

I was surprised to find common arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) still blooming. It grows just off shore and is also called broadleaf arrowhead and duck potato, because ducks eat its small, potato like roots and seeds.

All arrowheads that I’ve seen always have three pure white petals, but I’ve heard that some can be tinged with pink. The pretty flowers are about an inch across. In late fall or early spring, disturbing the mud in which they grow will cause arrowhead’s small tuberous roots to float to the surface. They are said to have the texture of potatoes but taste more like chestnuts. They were an important food for Native Americans, who sliced the roots thinly and dried them and then ground them into a powder that was used much like flour. Ducks, beavers, muskrats and other birds and animals eat the seeds, roots, and leaves.

Most people would think of a yellow flower with a lot of stamens when they thought of St. John’s wort, but marsh St. John’s wort (Hypericum virginicum) is very pink. As its name implies this plant likes saturated soil and will even grow in standing water at the shoreline of ponds. The beautiful flowers are quite small; about 3/4 of an inch across on a good day, but usually more like 1/2 an inch. This little shin high plant grows south to Florida and crosses the Mississippi River only in Texas and Oklahoma. It is on the rare side in this area and I know of only two places where it grows.

I can’t think of a single time that I have found northern water horehound (Lycopus uniflorus) growing away from water. It’s an odd little plant that might get knee high on a good day, and often leans toward the water that it grows near. Its tiny flowers grow in round tufts at each leaf axil and remind me of motherwort, which has the same habit. It is in the mint family and has a square stem as so many of the plants in that family do. It is also closely related to American water horehound (Lycopus americanus) and the two plants are easily confused. Paying close attention to leaf shape helps tell them apart. The foliage is said to be very bitter and possibly toxic, but Native Americans used the tuberous roots for food.

The flowers of northern water horehound are pretty little bell shaped things, but they are small enough to need a hand lens (or macro lens) to really appreciate them. They are pollinated by bees, wasps and flies and each one will become 4 small nutlets.  I don’t know what birds or animals eat the seeds, but muskrats love the roots.

Nodding bur marigold (Bidens tripartita) likes full sun and wet feet and can often be found growing right beside the water horehound that we saw in the previous photo. Its flower is much showier though, and looks something like a miniature sunflower. As they age the flower heads nod towards the ground and that’s how it comes by its common name. Another common name is nodding beggar’s tick, because its seeds are barbed and stick to just about anything that happens by. In this part of New Hampshire this plant grows about knee high, sometimes in standing water. The flowers look something like a miniature sunflower and are supposed to be good for honey production. I like their deeply pleated petals. 

I saw this stand of balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus) in a local park.

Balloon flowers get their common names from their buds, which look like small, air filled balloons. It’s an Asian native that apparently doesn’t escape gardens, at least in this area. It is also called the Chinese bellflower and is in the campanula family. I love its blue color. This one had beautiful blue veins.

Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are still blooming strong. This plant is well known for its medicinal qualities as well as its beauty. According to the USDA the plant was used by many Native American tribes throughout North America to treat a variety of ailments. It was used as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, as a treatment for toothaches, coughs, colds, and sore throats. It was also used as an antidote for various forms of poisonings, including snake bite. Portions of it were also used to dress wounds and treat infections. Modern medicine has found it useful to combat bacterial and viral infections and as an immune system booster. As I’ve said before, I grow it because butterflies and bees like its nectar, birds like the seeds, and I like to admire its beauty.

An ox-eye daisy wanted me to remember June. I thanked it for the memory and moved on, wishing it  really was June again.

What a desolate place would be a world without a flower!  It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome.  Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not our stars the flowers of the heavens? ~ A.J. Balfour

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Lush is the word to use here right now because there has been an explosion of growth due to all the hot weather and rain. Some lawns have to be mown twice each week and both flowers and fungi are competing for my attention.

As you can probably tell from the previous photo, we don’t have much sunshine available right now. But we do have sunflowers.

Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium) is having a good year, probably because of all the rain. I learned last year that monarch butterflies love these flowers but, though I’ve seen a few monarchs, I haven’t seen one on this or any other flower. I’ve only seen them near damp spots in the sand of gravel roads. Joe Pye is thought to have been a Native American healer who used this plant to treat early Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers suffering from typhoid fever, but the discussion over the origin of the name goes back and forth. For instance I’ve read that a Native word for the plant was “jopi,” which meant typhoid, and it is thought by some that jopi the plant name became Joe Pye the person’s name.

Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa) is shorter and more branched than some other knapweeds, and is generally short lived. It looks like spotted knapweed but there are differences.

The way to identify knapweeds is by their basket like bracts, which are hidden by the flower unless you look from the side. Diffuse knapweed bracts end in a sharp terminal spine which is about a quarter inch long and from what I’ve read spotted knapweed does not have this spine. Below that are 4 or 5 pairs of lateral spines to each side of the top part of the bract. These curve slightly, and give the overall look of a crab or tick. All of the spines are sharp enough to puncture skin. The brownish black tip of the bract is common to both diffuse and spotted knapweed, so at a glance they look the same. Flowers can be white, purple or a combination of both. Knapweeds are invasive and can quickly overtake pasture land. If I’ve identified this plant correctly it has crossed the Massachusetts / New Hampshire border, which is supposed to be the northern part of its range in New England.

Pilewort (Erechtites hieracifolia) is a strange plant with inch long flower buds that never seem to open beyond what you see in the above photo. Even after they open they still look like they are in the bud stage, so you have to look at them closely.  The Native American Algonquin people used the plant to treat poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) rashes. It has also been used as a source of a blue dye for cotton and wool.

This is just about all you get when you look at a pilewort blossom. The common name comes from the way they resemble suppositories. At one time that fact made people believe that they would be a good cure for hemorrhoids (piles.)

These wasps (?) must love pilewort because they were swarming all over it.

Native clethra (Clethra alnifolia) is also called summer sweet because of its sweet, spicy 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 these plants are covered with them every time I visit them in bloom. If you’re trying to attract pollinators this shrub should be in your yard.

Each long upright clethra flower head is packed with small white flowers. Small yes, but also very fragrant; it has the name summer sweet for a reason. Some older nurserymen might also know it as sweet pepperbush. Whoever gave it that name thought its fruits resembled pepper corns. Clethra was named wildflower of the year by the Virginia Wildflower Society in 2015. An odd fact about this native shrub is that it doesn’t seem to have any medicinal or culinary uses. I can’t find a single reference regarding its use by Native Americans but I feel certain that they must have used it in some way.

Creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) is a pretty flowered plant that was introduced as an ornamental from Europe and has escaped gardens to live in dry places that get full sun. It is a late bloomer but is usually finished by the time goldenrods have their biggest flush of bloom, so I was surprised to see it. It is an invasive plant that is hard to get rid of once it has become established. It will choke out weaker native plants and seems to love colonizing gardens when it is left alone. I usually find it on forest edges, rarely in large colonies.

Sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium) just started blooming and won’t be finished until we have a freeze. I try to remember to crush a few blossoms and smell them, because they smell like maple syrup. The plant’s common name comes from the way it lasts for years after being cut and dried. Usually the plant has many buds rather than open flowers, as these examples show. An odd name for it is rabbit tobacco, given to it by Native Americans because they noticed that rabbits liked to gather where these plants grew. Because of these gatherings they thought that rabbits must smoke the plant as a way to communicate with the Creator. They apparently decided to try smoking it too because it was and still is used in smoking mixtures by some Native people. I’ve never seen a rabbit near it.

It’s hard to tell when a sweet everlasting blossom is actually open but you can see a hint of yellow on a couple of these.

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.

Each nodding smartweed flower spike is made up of many pink to white, very small flowers. The flowers never seem to 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.

I saw these pink turtleheads (Chelone lyonii) blooming in a local garden and that’s all I’ve seen of turtleheads this year. Both the native white flowered plant and the pink flowered plant in my garden don’t seem to want to bloom and I’m not sure why. I don’t know the origin of the garden variety pink turtlehead and have never known if it was a native or a cultivar, but it does very well and asks for nothing. Pink turtleheads are native to the southeastern U.S. and don’t seem to mind dryness in spite of naturally growing near water.

I saw this cosmos in another roadside garden and thought it was quite pretty. I’ve never seen another like it but I suppose they’ve probably changed a lot since I used to grow them. Cosmos is the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe. Spanish priests in Mexico named the plants cosmos because of their (usually) evenly spaced, orderly petals. This one opted for chaos, apparently.

I thought these daylilies (Hemerocallis) seen in a friend’s garden were very beautiful.

I’ve been trying to rid my gardens of obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) for several years and, though there are no large colonies of it left, small groups of two or three plants will still appear. They are among the most invasive native plants that I have seen. Obedient plants get their common name from the way the flower stalks stay where they are if they are bent; they are “obedient.” I like the flowers, but don’t like having to weed the plants out of just about everywhere.

Many flowers have a visible inner light but few shine it out as brightly as this purple morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) that grows on the fence at the local post office. Unlike the wild bindweeds morning glory is an annual, so it grows new from seed each year. Postal workers must love it because I’ve seen the bed it grows in weeded down to bare ground, but the morning glories are always left to grow. Maybe the postal workers stand in awe of its amazing ethereal light, just as I do.

In my travels I found no answers, only wonders. ~Marty Rubin

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We still have plenty of flowers blooming as this view of a local pond side shows, but from this point on we’ll have very few new ones coming along. There will be a few more asters and a goldenrod or gentian or two but for the most part what you see here is the season finale for wildflowers.

Garden flowers on the other hand, will steal the show until the foliage begins to show color. Many will bloom right up until a hard frost but chances are this sunflower that I saw in the garden of some friends won’t make it quite that long. Sunflowers are a very pretty flower and I wish I’d see more of them but not many people seem to grow them.

If I said “St. John’s wort” chances are good that most people would think of a yellow flower with a lot of stamens, but marsh St. John’s wort (Hypericum virginicum) is very pink. As its name implies this plant likes saturated soil and will even grow in standing water at the shoreline of ponds. The flowers are quite small; about 3/4 of an inch across on a good day, but usually more like 1/2 an inch. This little shin high plant grows south to Florida and crosses the Mississippi River only in Texas and Oklahoma.

The bright red flower buds of marsh St. John’s wort are as pretty as the flowers.

This crooked stem aster (Symphyotrichum prenanthoides) is the first blue aster I’ve seen this year. I found this plant growing in a very wet, sunny meadow. I don’t usually try to identify asters but the one inch diameter light blue flowers and zigzagging stems make this one easier than most.

In my last flower post I showed the purple stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) which, if I was going by color and flower size alone would look identical to me, but my color finding software says that the flower on that one is purple and this one is blue. That and the zig zag stems lead me to the crooked stemmed aster. The Native American Iroquois tribe used this plant medicinally to treat fevers and other ailments.

It’s already time to say goodbye to my beautiful little friends the eastern forked blue curls, which surprised me by following me home and growing in my own yard. I spend a lot of my free time searching for flowers and trying to remember where each one of them grows, so any that choose to grow here are very welcome indeed,  especially when they’re as beautiful as this one.

It’s also time to say goodbye to brown knapweed (Centaurea jacea.) Since the plant is so invasive in certain places I suppose I should be glad that it hasn’t followed me home, but I do like its flowers. They’re colorful and unusual and I enjoy seeing large colonies of them all blooming at once. They really don’t seem very invasive here.

Nodding smartweed (Polygonum lapathifolium) 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. The plant is also called curly top smartweed; obviously because of the way the long flower spikes droop. It is originally from Europe.

Each nodding smartweed flower spike is made up of many pink to white, very small flowers. The flowers never seem to 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.

Another name for nodding smartweed and some other Polygonum species is lady’s thumb, and they get that 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. There are over 200 species of Polygonum.

Pilewort (Erechtites hieracifolia) is a strange plant with inch long flower buds that never seem to open beyond what you see in the above photo. This plant gets its common name from the belief that it was useful in the treatment of piles (hemorrhoids,) because the buds are the size and shape of suppositories. The Native American Algonquin people used the plant to treat poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) rashes. It has also been used as a source of a blue dye for cotton and wool.

Even after they open pilewort flowers still look like they are in the bud stage, so you have to look at them closely. This photo shows about all we can see of them. The flower is made up of many tiny florets which are pollinated primarily by wasps and hornets. In some areas it is called burn weed because of the way it moves quickly into burned areas. I usually find it along river and stream banks.

Once they go to seed potential pileworts will float away on the wind much like dandelion seeds.

I find spearmint (Mentha spicata) growing in the sunshine at the edge of the woods. Like wild mint (Mentha arvensis) spearmint has been used since before 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.

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. Their scent is very refreshing on a hot summer day and always reminds me of spearmint gum. Imagine; you are seeing flowers that people admired 2000 years ago.

Native common yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) is unusual because it grows in woods or meadows and I see it in both. It’s considered a weed by many and is largely ignored by most, but it’s a very interesting plant. Its raw leaves can be chewed as a thirst quencher if you forgot to bring water on your hike. The Native American Kiowa tribe called it “salt weed” and used it that way for long walks. Its seed capsules can also be chewed but they can also explode when mature and can fling seeds up to 13 feet away. They are said to be tart with a flavor similar to rhubarb. The plant is high in vitamin C and it can be pressed to make a passable vinegar substitute.

August is when many of our asters begin to blossom here in New Hampshire and one of the first is the whorled wood aster (Oclemena acuminata.) It gets its common name from the way its leaves appear to grow in whorls around the stem from above. In botany, a whorl is an arrangement of at least three sepals, petals, leaves, stipules or branches that radiate from a single point around the stem, and the leaf arrangement of this aster really doesn’t fit the definition.

Looking at them from the side the tiers of whorled leaves would appear flat like the edge of a dinner plate but these leaves appear randomly scattered up and down the stem’s length, and that means they aren’t in a whorl. Indian cucumbers have tiers of whorled leaves as do some loosestrifes. This plant is also called sharp leaved aster and grows to about a foot and a half tall. Something I didn’t know about the plant is how its leaves have a faint smell of spearmint when they’re crushed. Many thanks to blogging friend Kenneth Posner for that interesting bit of information.

Whorled wood aster is one of the easiest asters to identify because of its early bloom time and because the narrow white ray florets look like they were glued on by chubby fingered toddlers. The plant can take quite a lot of shade and I usually find it growing alongside the edges of woodland paths. I love the beauty of asters but I don’t like their message of summer’s passing, so when I stop and admire them I always feel a bit of wistfulness and wonderment that a season could pass so quickly.

Many flowers have a visible inner light but few shine it out as brightly as this purple morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) that grows on the fence at the local post office. Unlike the wild bindweeds morning glory is an annual, so it grows new from seed each year. Postal workers must love it because I’ve seen the bed it grows in weeded down to bare ground, but the morning glories are always left to grow. Maybe the postal workers stand in awe of its amazing ethereal light, just as I do.

Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of their character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning. ~Lydia M. Child

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1. Tall Goldenrod aka Solidago altissima 2

Tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima) lived up to its name near the Ashuelot River. It was a full head and shoulders taller than me. This is the time of year that goldenrods get blamed for everyone’s allergies, but pollen grains that cause hay fever symptoms are very small and dust like and carried by the wind. 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.

Ragweed and many grasses on the other hand, are wind pollinated and release their pollen at about the same time that goldenrod blooms. These plants aren’t as showy as goldenrod however, so they escape notice. People focus their anger on what they see rather than the facts, and some refuse to accept the truth even when it’s right in front of them.

3. Silverrod

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. Every single small flower in this photo has at least one ant on it.

2. Silverrod

I always find silverrod in dry, gravelly places at the edge of the woods at 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.

4. False Dandelion

The flowers of false dandelion (Hypochaeris radicata) look much the same as those of true dandelions in a photo, but in the field they are much smaller and stand on 6-8 inch long, wiry stems. The plant is also called cat’s ear, possibly because of the bracts along its stem that look like tiny cat’s ears. I see them almost everywhere I go at this time of year. This one had a friend visiting.

5. False Dandelion

Both dandelions and false dandelions have a rosette of edible leaves and a central taproot, bur the flower stems of false dandelion are solid, tall and wiry while those of true dandelions are hollow and much shorter. False dandelion leaves are also much smaller and narrower than the dandelion’s leaves. The plant is a native of Europe.

6. Purple Gerardia

Though smooth gerardia (Agalinis purpurea) is also called false foxglove, I don’t see it. The flowers are tubular like foxglove but that’s where the similarities end. The flowers are much smaller than foxglove blossoms and point upwards instead of downwards like foxglove. I find gerardia every year on the flanks of Mount Caesar growing in hot, dry sand but these 1 inch long examples that grew along the Ashuelot River were twice as big.

7. Purple Gerardia

I’ve never seen a foxglove blossom that looked like this. Two upper lobes, two side lobes, and a lower lobe spread from the mouth of a smooth gerardia blossom. The inside of each blossom is very hairy and has two yellow patches with dark purple spots that serve as nectar guides.

8. Nodding smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia)

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.

9. Nodding smartweed (Persicaria lapathifolia)

Each nodding smartweed flower spike is made up of many pink to white, very small flowers. The flowers never seem to 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.

10. White Wood Asters

It isn’t uncommon to see a carpet of knee high, white blooms in the woods at this time of year. White wood aster (Aster divaricatus) is known for its drought tolerance and will grow under a heavy leaf canopy. The stalked, coarsely toothed, heart shaped leaves help with identifying this plant.

11. White Wood Aster

The small, one inch flowers of white wood asters can have red or yellow centers. This aster is very easy to grow and makes an excellent choice for a dry shaded woodland garden. It is best used in mass plantings as the natural grouping in the previous photo shows. Many nurseries sell native plants grown from seed. Where I work they’re used as under plantings for lilacs, but the choice was theirs and the native plants moved under the lilacs completely on their own.

12. Pokeweed

Pokeweed is just starting to set fruit. The name pokeweed comes from the Native American word for blood and refers to the red dye that can be made from the purple / black berries. The juice was used as a dye by the early colonists and they also used it to improve the color of cheap wine. All parts of the plant are considered toxic and should never be eaten unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

13. Pokeweed

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) flowers are about 1/4 inch wide and have 5 petal-like, rounded sepals. In the center of the flower are green carpels that come together and will form the berry. It happens quickly and you can find both flowers and fruit in all stages of growth on a single flower head (Raceme.)

14. Jerusalem Artichoke

A few posts ago blogging friend Rich asked if I knew an easy way to tell a Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) from a woodland sunflower. I told him that I didn’t and in fact had put all 70 species of Helianthus into my too hard basket, because many are so much alike that only an expert can tell them apart. But as it turns out that isn’t entirely true, because the Jerusalem artichoke is different than all the others and that makes identifying relatively easy.

15. Jerusalem Artichole

Jerusalem artichoke grows in large numbers where the conditions are right. This large colony and several others as large grew along the edge of a forest. The Jerusalem artichoke isn’t an artichoke and has nothing to do with Jerusalem, and nobody seems to know how it came by the name.  One theory says that the Puritans, when they came to the New World, named the native plant after the “New Jerusalem” they believed they were creating in the wilderness, but that’s just a theory.

16. Jerusalem Artichoke Leaves

Anyhow, it turns out that Jerusalem artichoke is the only Helianthus that has leaf stems (petioles) longer than a half inch and has wider leaves than other species. It also has a hairy stem, and those three things make it different from nearly all of the other Helianthus species.

17. Jerusalem Artichole Leaf

I put this photo of a Jerusalem artichoke leaf here so we could see the difference between it and the leaves on the plant that follows.

18. Woodland Sunflower

I found this photo of a woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) on Wikipedia and was surprised to see that it was taken by our old blogging friend Jomegat. I hope he doesn’t mind my using it, but I wanted to show the short leaf stems and smooth leaf edges on this plant. If you scroll up and down between this photo and the previous two the differences are easily seen.

Jerusalem artichokes were cultivated by Native Americans for thousands of years for their tuberous roots, which they cooked and ate much like we do potatoes. They are said to be starchy with a nutty flavor and they were immediately adopted by the early settlers. The tubers have fewer calories than potatoes and the plant’s carbohydrates and sugars can be assimilated by the digestive tract without insulin. This makes them an excellent choice for diabetics.

19. Yellow Toadflax

Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) is considered an invasive species but I don’t see it that often and when I do it’s in fairly small colonies of up to maybe a hundred plants.  When the plant is grown under cultivation its flowers are often used as cut flowers and are said to be long lasting in a vase. It has been used medicinally in Europe and Asia. It always reminds me of snapdragons.

20. Water Lily

Fragrant white water lilies have bloomed in huge numbers this year; more than I’ve ever seen, and they still continue to bloom. Somehow they’ve moved into a pond where I’ve never seen them before and that’s where this one was. They’re beautiful things and I wouldn’t mind if they moved into all of our ponds.

We are beings who seek the infinity of beauty over the finitude of time. ~J.M. Campos

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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. Ashuelot North

The leaves are starting to turn in this part of New Hampshire so I thought I’d take a walk or two (or three) along my favorite river, the Ashuelot. I grew up on its banks and have been walking them since I was a small boy because there is so much to see.

The word Ashuelot is pronounced either ash-wee-lot or ash-will-ot, and is supposed to mean “place between” in Native American language. Between what, I don’t know; possibly between the hills that surround the Connecticut River valley that it flows through.

2. Ferns

In some places ferns are just starting to take on their fall color and in others they’ve all but gone by.

3. Goose Feather

Canada geese seem to use the river as a navigation aid and can often be seen following it in the spring and fall. They also have a few favorite places where they stop and rest.

 4. Cocklebur

Plants grow along the Ashuelot that I’ve never found growing anywhere else. This cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium) is a good example. The small oval burs aren’t quite as sticky as burdock burs but they will catch on clothing. Cocklebur leaves require long nights to trigger production of the chemicals needed to produce flowers, so they are considered “short day” plants. Their leaves are so sensitive that any light shining on them at night can keep the plant from flowering.

5. Virginia Creeper

Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) climb high in the trees along the river bank to reach as much sunshine as they can. They aren’t noticed for most of the year but when their leaves start to turn they can’t be ignored.

6. Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia creeper berries are poisonous to humans but many birds and small animals eat them.

7. Ashuelot on 9-24..jpg

This is one of my favorite views found along this particular stretch of river.

8. Heron on a Log

One late afternoon the wind was blowing hard enough to make the trees creek and groan, and this great blue heron decided to wait it out on a log rather than be blown out of the sky. It was too cloudy for anything but a soft shot of him across the river.

 9. Heron

A few days later he was in the shade so I took another soft shot. We haven’t had much rain throughout September and this photo shows how much riverbank has been exposed due to the dryness. The water level is a good three feet lower than it was at the end of August. It’s amazing how fast it can drop, but even more amazing to think that it can gain back what it lost with one good rain storm. .

 10. Water

At the spot where I often take photos of curling waves the flow has been reduced to little more than a trickle.

11. Mallards

The mallards don’t seem to mind the low water. I think it makes their finding food a little easier.

 12. Bee on Aster

Bumblebees have felt the cooler weather and their flights from aster to aster have slowed enough to make it seem like they will simply drop to the ground in mid flight.

13. Smartweed aka Polygonum hydropiperoides

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.

14. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is the last native shrub to flower in our forests and it has just started blooming along the Ashuelot. The flowers are below the leaves so you have to look closely to find them if you are searching before the leaves fall.  There isn’t another flower that I can think of that is quite like them, so searching is worth the effort.

 15. River View

I love to come to this spot in the late afternoon at this time of year to just sit and watch what the setting sun does to the trees. They burn with a blaze of color that becomes more intense as the sun slowly sets, and it is an amazingly beautiful thing to see.

The first act of awe, when man was struck with the beauty or wonder of nature, was the first spiritual experience. ~Henryk Skolimowski

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I spend a lot of my plant hunting time near ponds, streams and rivers because that’s where the wildflowers like to grow. This post is about the flowers I found on 2 or 3 recent visits to the Ashuelot (pronounced Ash-will-lot or Ash-wee-lot) river in both Keene and further south in Swanzey, New Hampshire. Because of a long stretch of dry weather the river is about as low as I’ve ever seen it.You can see by the dark areas on the stones how much lower the river is than is normal. You can also see that it isn’t taking long for plants to start colonizing those parts of the bank that are normally under water. False pimpernel (Lindernia dubia) was growing in the wet mud nearly at the water’s edge in a spot that would have normally been under water.  These flowers are quite small and I had to re-shoot them three or four times before I had pictures I could live with. This plant sheds all its flowers each evening so all you see is blue / purple flowers all over the ground around it, then the following morning more flower buds open with that day’s flowers. What is strange is that I can’t find any reference to this habit either in books or online, even though I witnessed it on several evenings.  False pimpernel is listed as endangered in New Hampshire. A side view of false pimpernel (Lindernia dubia.) Looking down the throat of a false pimpernel (Lindernia dubia.)  This flower has 4 stamens, 2 fertile and 2 infertile. Under its hood, 2 of its stamens curve down like cobra fangs, but no matter how many pictures I took from any angle in any light, I couldn’t really capture the curved stamens. I sure was covered with river mud from trying though! I wasn’t the only one who got muddy. The mud was so soft that even the raccoons were sinking into it. You have to be careful where you step because there are some spots on this river-mostly in still backwaters- that contain quicksand. I don’t know if there are any areas of quicksand near this backwater, but there sure was plenty of algae. It’s clear that the river hasn’t stirred here for a while. Dwarf St. John’s Wort (Hypericum mutilum) is another tiny flowered native plant that likes to grow at the water’s edge in sandy soil. Dwarf St. John’s Wort’s foliage usually looks untouched by insects or animals because it is slightly toxic. Each flower has 5 petals and 5 light green sepals and is maybe half the size of a pencil eraser. Be careful when identifying those bedstraws! Most have 4 petals but two of them, three petaled bedstraw (Galium trifidum) and stiff marsh bedstraw (Galium tinctorium) pictured here, have three petals. The flowers are very small-even smaller than those of the dwarf St. John’s wort described previously. Its whorled leaves usually appear in groups of 5 or 6. The odd fruits are pairs of tiny black spheres that each contains 1 tiny seed. This native stiff marsh bedstraw plant grew in moist sand very close to the water’s edge. Another common name for the plant is Clayton’s bedstraw.You don’t have to get much closer than this to our native nodding smartweed (Polygonum lapathifolium) to know what it is. This is also called curly top smartweed-obviously because of the way the long flower spikes droop. Each 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. These plants are big-the picture shows just a small part of a colony that must have been 7-8 feet across and 3-4 feet tall and there were several colonies just like it dotting the river bank a foot or two from the water. There are other smartweeds that droop but their flower spikes aren’t as densely packed as these. Silky dogwood (Cornus amomum ) thickets grow along the top of the river bank and the weight of the berry clusters pulls the long branches down to hang out over the water. These bushes are big-most are 10 feet across-and are loaded with fruit. This plant has blue berries that start out white and because of that it might be confused with red osier dogwood, which has white berries that sometimes have a bluish blush. The easiest way to identify them is to remember that silky dogwood is named for the soft, downy hairs that cover the branches and red osier dogwoods have red branches. In fact, red osier dogwood is also called red twigged dogwood. Native Americans used dogwood branches to make fish traps and twisted the bark into rope. Forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum ) weren’t growing at the water’s edge but grew close enough so the spot will be under water in the spring. There was quite a large colony of 15-20 plants growing here. It’s interesting that Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide says that this is a “plant of dry soil, often found along railroad tracks.” I’ve never seen them along railroad tracks but they seem real happy here in this damp river sand. No matter where they grow I’m always happy to see them-I love the blue color and the crazily bent stamens. Fellow New Hampshire blogger jomegat took the best picture of this flower that I’ve seen. It can be seen by clicking hereNative panicled tick trefoil (Desmodium paniculatum) also grows midway up the river bank. As wildflowers go, this one is quite easy to identify with its pinkish, pea like blossoms, hairy stems, flattish flower buds and flat, segmented seed pods. I chose this picture more for the flower buds than the flowers because tick trefoil buds don’t look quite like any other wildflower that I can think of, and the flattish buds are a help with identification. One day I walked through a colony of these plants without realizing it and got absolutely covered with its sticky seed pods. No amount of brushing will get them off-they have to be picked off, one by one.  Panicled tick trefoil starts blooming quite late in summer when other tick trefoils have just about finished. Another trefoil, bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) grows on the side of the river that gets the most sun. Lupines and chicory also grow here-it seems to be quite a fertile patch of ground, for legumes especially. This plant was imported from Europe for use as a forage plant, but it has escaped cultivation and is now found just about everywhere. Its common name came about because someone thought its seedpods looked like a bird’s foot.Partridge pea (Chamaechrista fasciculate) grows further up the river bank, above the normal water line where it is drier. The nickel size golden yellow flowers come right off the stem in the leaf axils. Every time I see one of these flowers it seems like it’s only three quarters of the way open-apparently that is just one of its habits. The many small leaflets that make up each leaf are a good way to identify this plant. Partridge pea is an annual and grows new from seeds each year. They are native plants that stand about a foot tall. Downy willow herb (Epilobium strictum) has at least 3 cousins that look much like it, so it can be hard to identify. I think downy willow herb is the only one that doesn’t have a stigma (sticky tip of the center pistil) that is 4 lobed. The hairy stems and knob shaped pistil also help identify this one. This plant is a native and can be found on river banks and other moist areas. It is related to fireweed and has lavender petals and anther filaments that are slightly darker than the petals. Chicory (Cichorium intybus) grows away from the water, but still on the river bank. This is one of my favorite wildflowers and I’m glad that it grows here where it is so easy to get to. I love it mostly because of its sky blue color. One thing I didn’t know about this plant is that the large, half dollar sized flowers shrink up to a small, dried out looking bud in the evening. In fact, the first time I looked at these recently I thought they were done blooming for this year, but then the following morning they were covered with flowers. This plant hails from Europe. It’s easy to see why it was brought to the U.S. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae,) goldenrod, evening primrose, pilewort and wild lettuce grow at the tree line, just before the bottomland becomes forest. This land farthest from the river might get to taste of its water once in a century, when the river floods badly. It is home to plants that can take the driest soil and it supports some of the largest, showiest wildflowers.  New England asters have large flowers that are bigger than a quarter and are densely packed with purple ray florets surrounding the central yellow disc. At this time of year they are everywhere you look. I like asters but I don’t like that they signal the end of summer.Common dodder (Cuscuta gronovii ) is a parasitic vine that starts life growing from a seed but then, once it attaches itself to a host plant loses all contact with the soil and gets everything it needs from its host. I found quite a large tangle of dodder growing on a stand of goldenrod at the forest edge and the dodder had killed nearly every goldenrod plant. Since it has no leaves and couldn’t photosynthesize, the dodder literally sucked the life out of them. When its host plant dies the dodder simply twines its way around another host. It is considered a noxious weed, and you don’t want this one in your garden. The vine pictured is growing on oriental bittersweet, which is also a noxious weed. The easiest way to identify the plant is by the bright orange-yellow, twining stems and the tiny white flowers.

I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river thoughts, before joining the night and the stars ~ Edward Abbey

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