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Posts Tagged ‘Obedient plant’

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

Thanks for coming by.

 

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We had a light frost here yesterday morning, so there probably won’t be too many more wildflower posts for this year. I’m going to miss them!

1. Field Milkwort

I found a few of these native field milkwort (Polygala sanguinea) flowers in an old pasture, growing in very sandy soil. One way to identify this plant is by its taproot, which smells like wintergreen. Another way is by its leaves, which should be alternate as the photo shows, and not whorled. The sepals on this flower shade from purple at the top to white at the base in this case, but its flowers can also be white or green. The “poly” part of the scientific name means much in Greek and “gala” means milk. It was once thought that cows eating this plant would produce more milk, and that’s how the plant got its common name.

2. Beech Drop Plant

Beech drops (Epifagus virginiana) are parasitic plants that insert a root-like structure called a haustorium into a beech tree’s root, taking what they need from the tree to stay alive. Since they are parasitic they don’t need chlorophyll and aren’t green. Instead the leafless stems are pale, yellowish green and the flowers can be wine red to pink to yellowish in color, sometimes with brownish purple stripes. This plant is also called cancer root because of the false belief that it cured cancer. It is related to Indian pipes and pinesap plants. Native Americans made a bitter tea from it.

3. Beech Drop Flowers

A closer look at the small flowers of beech drops. The plant is self-fertilizing but is also visited by insects.

4. Dodder

Dodder (Cuscuta) is another parasitic plant, but it isn’t limited to one kind of host like the beech drops. It can live off many different kinds of plants. Dodder is an annual and grows from seed in the spring. It wraps itself around the stem of another plant and pushes growths called haustoria into the stem of the host plant. If you look just to the upper left of the white flower in the photo you can see how the orange dodder stem has burrowed into the goldenrod stem. Once it is feeding on its host it loses all connection to the soil. This plant has no chlorophyll and its stems are bright orange. The round growths are seed pods.

 5. Flowering Raspberry

I was surprised to see this purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus) in September-it usually starts blooming in June and might bloom into July in a good year. This shrub is in the rose family and might be mistaken for a rose if it wasn’t for its large, maple-like leaves. Its stems are hairy but not prickly like a rose. The native shrub will reach 3-6 feet tall and twice as wide under the right conditions.

6. Silverrod Flowers

Silverrod (Solidago bicolor) is in the goldenrod family and is also called white goldenrod. It is the only white flowered goldenrod found in the northeast and is a native. Seeing these flowers always reminds me that the growing season is nearly over. I usually find it in dry, gravelly places at the edge of the woods. As the flowers age they fade and change color slightly, and that’s where the bicolor part of the scientific name comes from.

 7. Obedient Plant Flowers

Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) is native to central and southern U.S. but in my experience, will grow just about anywhere.  I planted some in my yard several years ago to try to attract hummingbirds and it has been trying to take over ever since. Each year I weed it out, thinking that I’ve finally gotten rid of it only to find it growing in a different spot the following year. Its small snapdragon like flowers can be white or pink and are quite beautiful.

8. Slender Gerardia

The small, hairy flowers of slender gerardia (Agalinis tenuifolia ) are small and grow close to the ground, so they are easily missed. This plant is also called slender foxglove because its tube shaped flowers are similar in appearance to those of foxglove. The narrow leaves and wiry stems remind me of toadflax. An odd fact about this plant is that it turns black when it is dried, so it is not a good plant to press for herbarium specimens. It grows in fields and gravelly waste areas-often next to forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum).

9. Slender Gerardia

Slender gerardia flowers last only for a single day, opening in the morning and closing at night. By midafternoon they begin to take on a wilted look, so photographing them is best done at mid-day. Bees pollinate these flowers, and I see plenty of them when I visit these plants.

10. Sand Jointweed

I find sand jointweed (Polygonella articulata) growing in sand, just as its common name suggests. These plants grow to about a foot tall with thin, wiry stems and small white or pink flowers. The leaves are very small and lie against the stem so the plant appears leafless. The plant gets its name from the curious way the stems are jointed. I’m not sure why, but this is one of the hardest plants to photograph that I’ve ever met.

 11. Large Leaved Aster

Big leaved asters (Eurybia macrophylla) grow quite deep in the woods, so they have large leaves with enough surface area to collect what dim light is available. There is no hard and fast rule, but plants with larger leaves can often take more shade. It seems odd to see aster flowers topping a plant with such large, 8 inch long by 6 inch wide leaves. These plants grow in large colonies and I’ve seen entire hillsides covered with them. The flowers can be white, pale violet, or purple. Some Native American tribes used the plant’s roots in soup and its young spring leaves as food or medicine.

12. White Snakeroot

White snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum ) is very toxic and in the early 19th century killed thousands of people-especially settlers in places like Indiana and Kentucky. In just one Indiana County half the deaths were said to be caused by this plant. A compound called trematol is passed from the plant to cows that graze on it, and their milk becomes toxic. When humans drank the milk before too long they started to show signs of what was called “milk sickness” and in a week or less would be dead from heart or liver failure. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from milk sickness when he was just 9 years old. All parts of the plant are toxic to cattle, horses, sheep, and humans. Today’s farmers eradicate the plant from their pastures and mix the milk from many cows together, so milk sickness is almost unheard of. A Native American woman from the Shawnee tribe is credited with finally warning settlers about this plant.

Can we conceive what humanity would be if it did not know the flowers? ~ Maurice Maeterlinck

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When I was a professional gardener I always assumed that we would have a frost between September 15th and September 30th. More years than not, that assumption was accurate. Then last year happened and all of that went out the window. We still hadn’t had a frost when we got about sixteen inches of snow on Halloween. This year-here we go again-still no frost here. In fact just yesterday it reached the mid-70s.  The heat I can handle, but I’m hoping there won’t be another Halloween storm like the last. In any case, the flowers love it and many are still blooming.

This nodding burr marigold (Bidens) found a home with a roof, so it won’t have to worry about a frost.

 On a recent rainy day I found a clump of native beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) growing near the road. The Epifagus part of the scientific name means “upon the beech” and that is where these parasitic plants grow. They don’t produce chlorophyll to make their own food so instead they insert a root like structure called a haustorium into a beech root and take what nutrition they need to survive. Native Americans made a tea from this plant that was used to treat mouth sores.

Purple-brownish beechdrop flowers are very small and hard to photograph. Each flower is tubular and has two lip-like “petals.” They produce nectar and attract insects. Tiny, scale like leaves press flat against the stem and are very hard to see. These plants are found from Canada to Florida and west as far as Louisianna. 

Native Blue toadflax (Linaria Canadensis) is another tiny flower, but easier to get a picture of than beechdrops. I found this one growing in full sun on a riverbank recently. It had just about finished blooming. This plant resembles Kalm’s Lobelia (Lobelia kalmia) but the lobelia lacks the nectar spurs found in blue toadflax blossoms. Toadflax boiled in milk is said to make an excellent fly poison.

 Native small flowered water plantain (Alisma subcordatum) was also blooming along the river a couple of weeks ago. The blossoms have now faded but the plants still thrive. These small white flowers have only tree petals so they are hard to confuse with other plants. The egg shaped, thick, fleshy leaves are also unusual. There is also a large water plantain (Alisma triviale) with flowers that are about twice the size as those shown. These plants often grow in the water at the edges of ponds and rivers. Native Americans used to eat the dried root. 

It’s easy, especially at this time of year, to be fooled into thinking that this plant is an aster, but it is actually a chrysanthemum-another popular fall garden plant. I found this one growing in a local park. Its leaves give away its identity.

This is an aster that I found growing on the side of the road. I turned around and went back to get a picture because it was such a deep, dark and beautiful purple-much different than the lighter purple varieties seen.

 This jimson weed (Datura stramonium) is another roadside plant, but it was growing in a pasture along with hundreds of others. Jimson weed is considered poisonous to both humans and livestock so I was surprised to see it in a cow pasture.  This hallucinogenic plant in the nightshade family is also called loco weed and was used by Native Americans on spiritual quests. The original common name was “Jamestown weed” which was given to it after English soldiers in the Jamestown colony began to behave oddly after eating leaves of the plant. It is said that they “behaved like animals for several days.”  This plant is considered exceedingly dangerous due to poisonings and deaths by people trying to get high.

 I have a white flowered native obedient (Physostegia virginiana) plant trying to overtake my gardens and not too long ago someone posted a picture of a beautiful pinkish purplish one like the one in this photo. I told the blogger that I hadn’t ever seen that color obedient plant flower and then, that very day, I found this one. It seems like if I can’t find a plant all I need to do is say that I can’t find it on this blog and before you know it, I’ve found one. That has happened several times.

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is looking a little bedraggled, but still blooms just about everywhere I go. Native Americans made a tea from the plant for use as, among other things, a cough syrup. Today scientists are researching its value as a cancer treatment and for respiratory ailments.

 I wasn’t surprised to find sand jointweed (Polygonella articulata) growing in pure sand along an old road but I was surprised to see it at all, because I had been watching for it for 2 or 3 weeks without any luck. These plants grow to about a foot tall but the thin, wiry stems and small white flowers easily blend into the sand and make them hard to see.  The leaves are small and lie against the stem so the plant appears leafless. The plant gets its name from the way the stems are jointed.

These sand jointweed (Polygonella articulata) flowers looked like they had a bit of pink in them. These plants seem very hard to photograph-I had to make 2 or 3 attempts before I got something I could live with.

 

It’s easy to see why sedum is such a hit in the fall. This pink one I found in a local park is probably a cultivar called “Autumn Joy, “which is an old favorite. I think it would be even more beautiful planted with some dark purple asters.

 When I took its picture I thought this was the last rose of summer that I’d see on my rose bushes. They had a hard time this year with the extreme heat and dryness, but once the rains started in they bloomed more and more until now they are loaded with blossoms. Last year it was still blooming in December.

Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,

We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves ~ Humbert Wolfe

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I hate to say it but the days of back to back posts with each containing 12-15 previously unseen wildflowers might be coming to an end. Drought and the usual late summer doldrums mean that there aren’t many flowers blooming right now, either in or out of the garden.  Not to worry though, because there are a lot of exciting things happening in the woods and I still have plenty of fascinating things to show you, even though there may not be petals involved.Our native white turtleheads (Chelone glabra) are flowering much earlier than the pink one in my garden. As you can see in the photo, some hungry insect had eaten all of the leaves off this plant but hadn’t touched the flowers. These plants like sunshine and constantly moist soil. I found this one growing about 50 feet from a pond in wet soil.Someone thought the flowers of Chelone glabra looked like turtle heads but I’m not really seeing it. I have to admit though, that I don’t see many turtles. In any case they don’t look like any other flower that blooms at this time and are very easy to identify. Bumblebees pollinate these flowers. They are an excellent choice for a woodland garden because deer and other herbivores don’t usually eat the bitter foliage. The bright colors on this blister beetle (Coleoptera) warn potential predators of its poisonous nature. The bug secretes a poisonous substance called cantharidin that, it is said, can blister skin. This one was happily munching on this red clover (Trifolium pretense) blossom. I wasn’t in ready to find out if it really could blister skin so I left it alone.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. I was about to pull these when I noticed these two Goldenrod Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) being friendly on a blossom.  I decided to leave the plants alone even though they are among the most invasive native plants that I have seen. Obedient plants get their common name from the way the flowers  stay where they are moved-they are “obedient.” I like the flowers, but don’t like having to weed the plants out of just about everywhere.The beetles weren’t happy with my watching them so they crawled into a blossom to be alone. I took that as my cue to leave.The flower spikes are so packed with blossoms that you don’t often get to see a single Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) flower. They are beautiful flowers but unfortunately this is another extremely invasive plant from Europe. I’ve seen stream banks recently that originally lost their native plant populations to Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) several years ago. Now, purple loosestrife has choked out even the knotweed, and huge swaths of it follow long stretches of stream banks. Though these scenes can be breathtakingly beautiful, there are generations of people who will have never seen a native stream bank.A few posts ago I showed photos of garden tall phlox plants with yellowing leaves which were suffering from drought. I noticed that our native Purple phlox weren’t having the same problems. In fact, they’re looking very healthy because they are tougher plants. There are so many varieties of phlox that it’s easy to get confused. Even Native Americans used over 40 species of the plan! I believe the one shown here is Phlox paniculata, which is native to the eastern U.S.Silverrod (Solidago bicolor) is sometimes called white goldenrod but at a glance the only thing it seems to have in common with goldenrod is its leaves. The way the flowers are scattered along the stem doesn’t resemble any goldenrod that I know of but the single blossoms do look like those of yellow goldenrods. The plant pictured grows beside my driveway under an old hemlock tree. If you look at the flower clusters of goldenrod (Solidago) closely you can see the often bypassed beauty of each individual blossom.Bittersweet nightshadei (Solanum dulcamara) is in all stages of growth; flowering, setting seed, and some plants already have ripe, bright red berries that resemble tiny tomatoes. This plant was just forming one green fruit. All parts of this plant are toxic and the berries are known to kill humans.Small white flowered asters (Aster vimineus) are named well. They are very small-smaller in diameter than a pencil eraser, but each flower cluster has enough white blossoms to stand apart from the darker forest growth that always seems to be behind them. One thing that always surprises me about asters is how some of them look as if a small child had glued the petals (rays) on to the center disk. They can appear very irregular and asymmetrically placed.

To identify this one look for the smallest white aster blossom you can find and take note of how most of the numerous flowers and flower buds seem to align themselves to one side of the purplish stem.  Also, the upper leaves on the branches will be smaller than those lower down on the main stem. These plants can reach 5 feet and branch heavily over the top one third of their height. They like soil on the dry side. Wild senna (Cassia hebecarpa) is a native plant that is rarely seen in the wild here in the Northeast and is listed as threatened or endangered. They say this is primarily due to loss of habitat. The leaves and seed pods of wild senna contain compounds called anthraquinones, which are powerful laxatives, so deer leave it alone. I have this plant in my yard to attract butterflies and bees and also because I like the yellow flowers with their hairy pistils and dark brown anthers. Almost all of the other water lilies in this pond had flowers that sat right on the water, but this one was apparently an over achiever. Or a different species than all of the others in the pond.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.  ~
Henri Matisse

Thanks again for visiting.  Be sure to tune in next time for a post full of color, but without a single flower in it.

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