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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Maleberry’

There wasn’t room in my last post on aquatics to include them all, but there are many other pond side plants blooming at this time of year. One of the prettiest is meadow sweet (Spirea alba.) This plant likes moist ground and I have found it near water more often than not but I’ve seen it in drier spots as well.

Meadowsweet flowers have long stamens that always make them look kind of fuzzy. Some people confuse this plant, which is a shrub, with steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa), which is also a shrub, but steeplebush has pink flowers and the undersides of its leaves are silvery-white, while the undersides of meadowsweet leaves are green.

Meadowsweet is in the spirea family so I thought I’d show you this pink spirea I found in a local garden so you could see the resemblance. It also looks fuzzy because of the many stamens.  

Our native common elderberry bushes (Sambucus nigra canadensis) are blooming and can be seen dotted around the landscape, especially near brooks and streams, or swamps as this one was. Its mounded shape and flattish, off white flower heads make it very easy to identify, even from a distance.

Common elderberry flower clusters look similar to Queen Anne’s lace. Each flower is tiny at only 1/4 inch across, and has 5 white petals or lobes, 5 yellow tipped stamens and 3 very small styles that fall off early after blooming. Each flower will be replaced by a single black (dark purple) drupe. A drupe is a fleshy fruit with a single seed like a peach or cherry. Native Americans dried the fruit for winter use and soaked the berry stems in water to make a black dye for basketry.

Blue, bell shaped flowers all on one side of the stem can mean only one thing; creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides.) The pretty flowered plant was introduced as an ornamental from Europe and has escaped gardens to usually live in dry, shaded places but it will also grow in full sun. It is a late bloomer but is usually finished by the time the goldenrods have their biggest flush of bloom. It is considered an invasive plant in some places because it is hard to get rid of once it has become established. It can choke out weaker native plants if it is left alone. It isn’t considered invasive here in New Hampshire though, and in fact I usually have to look for quite a while to find it. When I do it is usually growing on forest edges.

Purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) is in the rose family and it isn’t hard to tell by the flowers, but the big light gathering leaves look more like a maple than a rose. The big leaves give it a certain tolerance for low light, and that’s how it can grow in the shade so well. The fruit looks like a giant raspberry, about the size of the tip of your thumb. I’ve heard that it is close to tasteless but some say if you put a berry on the very tip of your tongue it will be delicious. I keep forgetting to try it.

A couple of years ago I found a small colony of long leaf speedwell (Veronica longifolia.) I’m happy to say there are more blossoms this year. I’ve never seen it growing in the wild until I found it here. It’s a pretty plant that is native to Europe and China and grows on steppes, grassy mountain slopes, meadows at forest edges and birch forests. Here in the U.S. it is commonly found in gardens but it has obviously escaped. It certainly doesn’t seem to be aggressive or invasive. I love its showy blue flower spikes.

Each tiny long leaf speedwell blossom is purple–blue or occasionally white, about a quarter inch across and 4 lobed with quite a long tube. Each has 2 stamens and a single pistil. Another very similar plant is Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) but culver’s root doesn’t grow naturally in New Hampshire.

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) blooms in the tall grass of unmown meadows, usually in large colonies. This plant isn’t covered with sharp spines like the larger bull thistle but it does have small spines along the leaf margins and stem. 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 found this Deptford pink (Dianthus armeria) in the tall grass from under a tree and was surprised to see it at two feet tall. They don’t always grow in the same large clumps as their cousins the maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoids) do, but I saw a few this day. 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 little faces in the sunny edges of the forest.

An irrigation system was put in a local park last year and a bed where Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis) grew was completely dug up. Since that is the only place I’ve ever seen it I doubted I would see it again, but this year there must have been a dozen plants where before there were two. That tells me it must grow from root cuttings, much like phlox does. I was happy to see so many because it is rare here. When I saw photos of the flower I thought it would be as big as a tradescantia blossom but it is only half that size. It is an introduced plant from China and Japan but it could hardly be called invasive because I’ve seen maybe 10 blossoms in 60+ years. I’d like to see more of them; I love that shade of blue.

Arrowleaf tearthumb (Polygonum sagittatum) is in the smartweed family, which gets its common name from the way your tongue will smart if you eat its peppery parts. Though the flower buds in this family of plants seem like they never open they do, sort of. They look like they only open about halfway though and I find the buds as pretty as the blossoms. This plant is a kind of rambler / sprawler that winds its way over nearby plants so it can get as much sunshine as possible. It often grows in deep shade but it will also grow in full sun, so it has covered all the bases.

Tearthumb got that name because it will indeed tear your thumb or any other body part that comes into contact with it. Many a gardener has regretted trying to pull it up without gloves on, because when the small but sharp barbs (prickles, botanically) along its stems slip through your hand they act like a saw and make you sorry that you ever touched it. They point down toward the soil so when you pull up on it you get a nasty surprise. The plant uses these prickles for support when it climbs over other plants, and they work well. Sometimes the stems and prickles are red but in this example they were green. Tearthumb is considered a wetland indicator because it likes to grow in very moist to wet soil. I almost always find it near water, often blooming quite late into summer.

Last year I found a place where quite a lot of Carolina horse nettle (Solanum carolinense) grew and I was surprised because it’s a plant that I’ve never seen anywhere before.  From what I’ve read it is not a true nettle, but instead is a member of the nightshade family. The flowers have five petals and are usually white or purple with yellow centers. There is a blue variant that resembles the tomato flower, which makes sense since tomatoes are also in the nightshade family. The flowers have no scent but the foliage has a certain odor that I find disagreeable.

Horse nettle’s stem and undersides of larger leaf veins are covered with spines and I can attest to their sharpness. It’s hard to grab it anywhere and I’ve been pricked by it several times just trying to turn a leaf over. This plant is native to our southern states, so why it is growing here is a mystery. It seems to like where it grows; there must be 30-40 plants growing there. I can see its spreading becoming a real problem.

You wouldn’t think that you’d get pricked by something that looks as soft and furry as motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) but the seedpods are actually quite sharp and prickly. The small furry white to light purple flowers are easy to miss. At a glance this plant might resemble one of the nettle family but the square stems show it to be in the mint family. The tiny flowers grow in a whorl around the stem in the leaf axils. This plant, originally from Asia, is considered an invasive weed but I don’t see it that often and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 2 or 3 plants growing together.  It was brought to this country because of its long history of medicinal use in Europe and Asia. The ancient Greeks and Romans used motherwort medicinally and it is still used today to decrease nervous irritability and quiet the nervous system. There is supposed to be no better herb for strengthening and gladdening the heart, and it is sold in powdered and liquid form. I find it along roads and in fields.

Maleberry shrubs (Lyonia ligustrina) line the shores of the ponds and rivers along with blueberries, and sometimes it can be hard to tell the two apart. The flowers of maleberrry, though nearly the same shape and color, are about half the size of a blueberry flower and the shrub blooms about a month later. There are often berries on the blueberries before maleberrry blossoms.

Maleberry blossoms become small, hard brown 5 part seed capsules that persist on the plant, often for over a year. They make maleberrry very easy to identify, especially in spring; just look for the seed capsules and you’ll know it isn’t a blueberry. This is one of a very few plants which I can’t find a Native American use for, but I’d bet they had one.

Spreading dogbane’s (Apocynum androsaemifolium) bell shaped flowers are very fragrant and I love to smell then when I can find one without an insect in it. They’re also very pretty, with faint pink stripes on the inside. They remind me of lily of the valley flowers but are quite a lot larger.

Spreading dogbane is toxic to both dogs and humans, but insects love it. It’s closely related to milkweeds and has milky sap like they do. Monarch butterflies drink the nectar but I rarely see one on them. Though it is an herbaceous perennial its growth habit makes it look like a 3 foot tall shrub. The Apocynum part of its scientific name means “away from dog.” Not only dogs but most other animals avoid it because of its toxic sap.

I really do hate to say it but goldenrod is blooming already. Is it happening earlier each year or is it my imagination? In any event for me no other flowers except maybe asters whisper so loudly of the coming fall. Actually I love fall, it’s what comes after that I’m not looking forward to. When I was a boy summer seemed to stretch on almost without end but now it seems to pass almost in the wink of an eye.

Summer has always been good to me, even the bittersweet end, with the slanted yellow light.
~Paul Monette

Thanks for stopping in.

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It has been hot and dry here and we really haven’t had a beneficial rain for a while now. Plants are still blooming but the flowers aren’t lasting long on many of them. I’ve seen some bloom and fade in less than a week but luck has been with me so I have a few pictures to show you.Pipsissewa (Chimaphilla corymbosa or Pyrola umbellata) has just finishing blooming. This plant is related to the shinleaf and striped wintergreen that have appeared on this blog recently. It likes things on the dry side and I find it in sandy soil that gets dappled sunlight. It is a low growing native evergreen that can be easily missed when there are only one or two plants, but pipsissewa usually forms quite large colonies and that makes them easier to find. The leaves are also very shiny, which also helps.  The white or pink flowers are almost always found nodding downwards, as the picture shows. These tiny flowers are on the black swallowwort (Cynanchum louiseae ) plant. Though they are described as dark purple they look black to me. If I had a dime for every time I’ve tried to weed this very invasive plant out of a garden, I’d be a wealthy man. It is a vine that seems to like to grow in the center of shrubs and will twine around the shrub’s branches, climbing up to the top where it can get more sun. The plant is in the milkweed family and like other milkweeds its flowers become small green pods that will eventually turn brown and split open to release their seeds to the wind. This plant also has a sharp, hard to describe odor that is noticed when any part of it is bruised. It originally came from Europe sometime around 1900 as a garden specimen and has escaped. We seem to have two varieties of shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) here; one that blooms in late May and another that blooms about a month later. We have a shinleaf growing in our area called round leaf shinleaf but I haven’t paid close enough attention to tell which is which. Next year I’ll have to be far more observant when it comes to the wintergreen family. I’m quite sure the plant in the picture isn’t round leaf shinleaf because the leaves on that plant are much shinier and more round, but that doesn’t answer the question of why this one is blooming so much later than others I’ve seen.  I find this plant in dry, sandy pine woods. When I was young I used to have a transistor radio that I listened to at night (when I was supposed to be sleeping) and a song called “Poke Salad Annie” played quite regularly. For years I wondered what poke salad was until I finally found a pokeweed plant (Phytolacca Americana.) I think of pokeweed as a southern plant but it does grow here. In the south it is eaten mostly by the poor despite warnings that it is extremely toxic. Not surprisingly, the very young shoots are boiled as greens or used in salad-hence the song title Poke Salad Annie.  The song came out in 1968 and was sung by Tony Joe White. If you’re interested you can still hear it on YouTube. Pokeweed is native to the eastern U.S. A hover fly was visiting this plant when I took its picture. One rainy day I was walking through the woods near a local reservoir and came upon a large colony of white wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella.) Though this plant is supposed to be common this is the only time I’ve seen it, so I don’t think it is very common in this part of New Hampshire.  It is also supposed to, according to books, bloom quite early in the spring but I took this picture on June 24th. This plant was introduced from Europe and has escaped. The flowers were about the same size as those on our common yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta.) I like the blue/purple veins that each of the petals have. Because it has three leaves on each leaf stalk some people call wood sorrel a shamrock, but a true shamrock is a clover (Trifolium) and wood sorrel isn’t. I visited a bog recently in an area known for its native laurel and rhododendrons and found the last blossom on a bog laurel plant (Kalmia polifolia.) This plant is also called swamp laurel and is a very small evergreen shrub that grows in acidic bogs. This one was growing in standing water, so I had to get my knees wet to get a picture of it. This flower was smaller than a dime but there was no question that it was a laurel. On laurel flowers the petals are fused into a bowl that has ten pocket-like indentations on its surface. As the flower grows larger the stamens expand and their anthers fit into these pockets. When the flower is fully open the anthers are held under tension like a spring until an insect triggers them and gets a pollen bath.  If you look closely at the photo you can see each stamen inside its pocket. Growing next to the bog laurel was the native large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon.) There is also a small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) but it is the large ones that are grown commercially. These plants were small, growing only about 5 inches tall, but had many small white flowers that made them easy to see. The flowers have petals that curve sharply backwards like those of a shooting star. I’m going to try to remember to revisit this bog and get some pictures of the ripe cranberries. If you look closely you can see the recently formed green berries here and there.A close up of a large cranberry flower (Vaccinium macrocarpon.)Another plant growing at the edge of the bog in standing water was the northern male berry (Lyonia ligustrina.) This native shrub was about 3 feet tall but can get as tall as 12 feet. With all of its white, urn shaped flowers you would think that this plant would be covered with fruit, but instead each flower becomes a hard, dry, reddish brown capsule. Male berry shrubs will also grow in dry forests. Their roots can withstand forest fires and will send up new shoots soon after a fire. I think that the pink/purple flower buds of Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium ) are more colorful than the flowers. This plant is a magnet for butterflies and bumblebees. There are at least 4 native species. Spotted Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) has flat topped flower clusters and eastern Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium dubium) has rounded flower clusters. Eastern Joe Pye weed is sometimes called pale Joe Pye weed or trumpet flower. Hollow Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum) is the most common species seen in ditches along roadsides and other wet places.  Sweet Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) is probably the tallest of the species, sometimes reaching 8 feet. I bought one of these for my garden last year and it is reaching for the sky. Its flowers smell like vanilla. These plants are useful in the garden because they will tolerate quite a lot of shade and attract bees. There is also a white Joe Pye Weed but that isn’t often seen. Joe Pye, according to legend, was a colonial herbalist, possibly native American, who used this plant to treat a variety of ailments. The pale yellow blossoms of wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) are seen mostly on the edges of corn fields in this area but can also be found on roadsides.  The flowers on this plant aren’t as mustard yellow as those on wild mustard and this plant has hairy leaves where wild mustard does not. Flowers of Wild Radish can be yellow, light orange, white, pink, and sometimes lavender while wild mustard flowers are always yellow. Wild radish has a taproot much like a cultivated radish, but they are much smaller.Native Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ) has just started flowering. Before long these flower clusters will be bright red berries from which a good substitute for lemonade can be made. This plant is much more common in this area than smooth sumac (Rhus glabra.) Smooth sumac has very shiny, smooth leaves and does not have hairy stems. Bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida ) is in the ginseng family but its flowers are hard to mistake for those of ginseng. In fact the entire plant isn’t easily confused with any other natives because of its bristly lower stems and foul odor. The plant can reach 3 feet tall but its weak stems give it a sprawling habit in the shade.  I found this plant growing in dry gravel under pine trees along a road. Medicinally, the dried bark can be used in place of sarsaparilla. This plant is also called dwarf elder, wild elder, or angelica tree. Its leaves look nothing like those of wild sarsaparilla. Its fruit changes from green to dark blue and finally to black. Close up of bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida ) flowers and fruit. The fruit on bristly sarsaparilla has a dull, matte finish and the fruit of native wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) is very shiny.

Come forth into the light of things. Let Nature be your teacher ~ William Wordsworth

Thanks once again for stopping in to see what is blooming here in New Hampshire

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