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Posts Tagged ‘Poke Weed’

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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