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Posts Tagged ‘Panicled Hawkweed’

Asters have been blooming for a couple of weeks now but this is the first purple one I’ve seen, blooming just two days ago at the height of the eclipse. I think it’s a purple stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) because of its smallish one inch flowers, reddish purple stems and long narrow leaves that clasp the stem. Purple stemmed asters like moist places and this one was growing at the edge of a pond. Native Americans had a word for asters which meant It-Brings-the-Fall. They used the plant to relieve coughs and treat breathing difficulties.

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.

Groundnut (Apias americana) flowers come in pink, purple or reddish brown and always remind me of the helmets worn by Spanish conquistadors. Indeed Spanish explorers most likely would have seen the plant, because its potato like tuberous roots were a very important food source for Native Americans from New England to Florida. It has been found in archeological digs of Native settlements dating back 9,000 years.  Not surprisingly another name for it is Indian potato.

Ground nut is a vine that will climb just about anything and I usually find it growing in the lower branches of trees and shrubs along the river. Native Americans used the roots of the plant in the same ways we use potatoes today, but groundnut “potatoes” contain about three times the protein. Natives taught the early colonials how to use the groundnut and the plant helped save the lives of the Pilgrims during their first few years as settlers. The roots became an important food source and they forbade Natives from digging the tubers on colonial lands. And we wonder why they were upset with the settlers.

Native wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is a late summer blooming vine that climbs on shrubs and trees like it’s doing in this photo. 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.

The spiny, 2 inch long fruits of wild cucumber have a watermelon shape and boys have been throwing them at each other for as long as I’ve been around. They look prickly but the spines are soft until the fruits dry out and drop their seeds. By then they’re so light and desiccated that they can’t be thrown at anybody. The fruit is not edible and doesn’t really resemble a cucumber.

When I see a rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) I always think of my time spent as a gardener in Florida. I worked in the gardens of a large hotel and the job included trimming what seemed like miles of tropical hibiscus hedges (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) and rose of Sharon is a kind of hardy hibiscus in the same family as the tropical hibiscus. The hardy version shown here has large trumpet shape blossoms in early fall.

There are many different tall yellow flowers blooming now and most are Helianthus species. I think this one is a Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus.) 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.

I probably see one orange hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca) plant for every thousand yellow hawkweed plants. Orange hawkweed is native to the alpine regions of Europe, so apparently it likes high places. Maybe that’s why I never see it. I’d like to see more of it; orange is a hard color to find among our wildflowers.

Panicled hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum) has wiry stems that curve in all directions and end in a small, yellow, daisy-like flower. I found this plant growing in a splash of sunshine near a pond. These native plants are sometimes confused with rough hawkweed (Hieracium scabrum) but that plant has a very different growth habit.

Panicled hawkweed has smooth, hairless leaves and prefers dry forests. This is one of very few hairless hawkweeds. Another common name is Allegheny hawkweed. It is in the aster family and just the kind of flower that we would expect to see on a member of the hawkweed family.

Turtleheads (Chelone glabra linifolia) are blooming early in some places. The plant gets the first part of it scientific name from Chelone of Greek mythology. She was a nymph who insulted the gods and was turned into a turtle for her trouble. I have a friend who said he immediately thought of a turtle when he saw these flowers but for some reason I never see a turtle when I look at them.

I don’t think this waspish visitor cared one way or another what the turtlehead flowers looked like. As I watched it crawled all the way into the blossom and then back out again several times. There will be turtlehead seeds this year.

Some of the most beautiful flower photos I’ve seen have been of huge fields of lavender, but those were on lavender plants while the lavender colored flowers in the above photo are on purple loosestrife. This is one of the most aggressive invasive plants I know of. This photo shows why the plant is so unpopular here; it grows in monocultures and chokes out all native plants. It originally came over from Europe in the ballast of a cargo ship in the 1800s. The beach sand ballast, loaded with purple loosestrife seeds, was dumped on Long Island, New York. The seeds grew, the plant spread and now it covers most of Canada and all but 5 of the lower Untied States. It likes wet, sunny meadows but will grow just about anywhere.

I can remember when the view in the previous photo looked much like this, but purple loosestrife took over the entire area. Now it’s the predominant flower in this photo as well.

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.

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 and many nurseries sell native asters grown from seed. Where I work they’re used as under plantings for lilacs, but the choice was theirs and they moved under the lilacs completely on their own.

It’s almost time to say goodbye to beautiful blue vervain (Verbena hastata.) Vervain can get quite tall and has erect, terminal flower spikes. The blossoms start at the base of each spike and work their way up to the top, so when they’ve reached the top you know they’re done for the season. I always find vervain growing near water in full sun. The bitter roots of this plant were used medicinally by Native Americans.

Nature is part of our humanity, and without some awareness and experience of that divine mystery, man ceases to be man. ~Henry Beston

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Since, as I said in my last post, I wasn’t having any luck finding orchids in swampy areas I thought I’d try a completely different place-dry forest. According to the book Wild Orchids of the Northeastern United States; a Field Guide, by Paul Martin Brown, there are orchids that prefer such places. But how dry? We’ve gone over a month now with no really beneficial rain and our forests are tinder dry. But anyway, off I went to dry places just like those pictured below.Being in the woods is strange right now because it is so dry that oaks are shedding their immature acorns instead of expending the energy it takes to let them ripen, and all you hear is the strange phhhhttt of acorns falling through the canopy, and then a muffled –tap- as they hit the forest litter. It is a sound that is nearly constant-like rain-and it bothers me to think of all the animals that rely on nice ripe acorns for food. I did finally find an orchid-in fact, many orchids, but they weren’t quite what I expected. This is the flower cluster of a non-native orchid called broad leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine.) These tiny but showy flowers had quite a lot of purple in them, but books say that green and white ones are much more common. This orchid came to us from Europe and is another garden escapee that has naturalized virtually everywhere. I have actually pulled it as a weed from commercial shrub beds. The leaves tell the story about where helleborine got its common name; its leaves look a lot like those of false hellebore (Veratrum viride.This plant was growing a few feet from the one with more purple in it, but its flowers were smaller and green and white instead of purple. It is still quite a showy flower, even without the purple. Indian tobacco is one of the native lobelias (Lobelia inflata.) It grows in deep, shady woods as well as in sunnier locations. The inflata part of its scientific name comes from the swollen calyx behind each flower. The calyx looks like it has been inflated and is useful in identifying this plant. The seed pods, which are said to resemble Native American tobacco pouches, give the plant its common name.Unlike the spiked lobelia (lobelia spicata,) which has flowers on a central spike, lobelia inflata has its flowers on racemes that stand out away from the central stem.The long flower spikes of native Virginia knotweed (Polygonum virginianum) can be found at the forest edges. The plant gets another of its common names, Jumpseed, from the way the seeds seem to jump from the stem when they are touched. The flowers on this plant were white but they can also be pink or greenish. Identification aids are the hairy nodes / bands where the leaf meets the main stem. The bands are darker than the stem and can be seen under each flower even from a distance.Native tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis ) grew near the Virginia knotweed. Tall blue lettuce is sometimes called woodland lettuce, because that is usually where it is found. Its flowers can be white to bluish. The flowers in the photo look whiter than blue to me, but they might have a blue tint. This plant looks very similar to Canada lettuce (Lactuca Canadensis) but Canada lettuce has yellow flowers. Another lettuce that has yellow flowers is prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola.) It also has prickles on the leaf margins. It would be difficult to confuse tall blue lettuce with either of those. These plants can reach 8 feet tall.Native tall white lettuce (Prenanthes altissima) isn’t very tall when compared to the tall blue lettuce shown above-this plant was barely 3 feet tall. That could be because white lettuce is in the Prenanthes genus and wild lettuce is in the Lactuca genus.  White lettuce is related to asters but its nodding flowers are whitish green and bell shaped. This plant is odd in that its leaves can vary so much from plant to plant that they are completely unreliable in identification. In a group of 5 or 6 plants, not one had the same leaf shape as its partners.  It would be a plant hunter’s nightmare if it wasn’t for the bracts behind each flower. On white lettuce there should always be 5 larger that are light green and smooth. There may also be several smaller bracts as well. I searched many books trying to identify this helianthus species with no luck except to be sure that it is a helianthus. I’m wondering if it isn’t a hybrid because it seems to have features common to several different helianthus species. It was about 4 feet tall and grew at the edge of the forest in a large colony. It is one of the few plants that weren’t wilted from lack of rain, which makes me think that is has a large, fleshy root like the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus.) But- it doesn’t have the hairy stems of that plant. Helianthus are natives.New England Asters are the first lavender ones I’ve seen dotting forest edges. These are much showier than the small white asters that usually bloom ahead ofthem. Asters can be tough to identify but the hairy stems and lance shaped, clasping leaves are a big help with this one. I like asters but I don’t like the fact that summer’s end is near when they bloom. Even though this one is blooming weeks early it has reminded me that, as usual, I’m not ready to see summer end. Panicled hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum) has wiry stems that curve in all directions and end in a small, yellow, daisy-like flower. I found this plant growing in a splash of sunshine along an old forgotten dirt road in the woods. These native plants are sometimes confused with rough hawkweed (Hieracium scabrum) but that plant has prickly flower buds and hairy leaves.Panicled hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum) has smooth, hairless leaves and prefers dry forests. This is one of very few hairless hawkweeds. Another common name is Allegheny hawkweed. It is in the aster family.

Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand ~ Neil Armstrong

This is a strange post-every plant is a native except the orchid! Thanks for stopping in.

 

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