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Posts Tagged ‘Privet’

Brown knapweed (Centaurea jacea) has just started to bloom and this is the first one I’ve seen, even though in the past they’ve bloomed in June. I’ve always thought that knapweed flowers were very beautiful but unfortunately this European plant according to the U.S. Forest Service is a “highly invasive weed that is capable of forming large infestations under favorable conditions.”  The large infestations crowd out native plants including those used for forage on pasture lands, so it is not well liked by ranchers. The brown bracts below the flower are what give the plant its common name.

Though I’ve seen sales signs that read “Bee bomb” the correct common name of this plant is Bee balm because of the way the juice from the crushed leaves is said to sooth a bee sting, but since that’s something I haven’t tried I can’t say if it works one way or the other. I have trouble seeing red against green due to colorblindness and that’s why you don’t see much red in these posts, but bee balm blossoms usually stand high enough above the surrounding foliage to be clearly visible. Our native scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma) is also called Oswego tea, because the leaves were used to make tea by the Native American Oswego tribe of New York. Early settlers also used the plant for tea when they ran out of the real thing. It’s a beautiful flower that I’m always happy to see. Hummingbirds love it too and will come from all over to sip its nectar.

Pale spike lobelia (Lobelia spicata) gets its common name from not surprisingly,  its small pale flowers. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for lobelia and one of them was as a treatment for asthma. The plant must have worked well because early explorers took it back across the Atlantic where it is still used medicinally today. It has to be used with great care by those who know how to use it though, because it can kill.

The small, pale blue or sometimes white flowers are less than a half inch long and not very showy. They have 5 sepals and the bases of the 5 petals are fused into a tube. The 2 shorter upper petals fold up. Every now and then you can find a plant with deeper blue flowers but I haven’t seen any yet this year. There is also a purple variant but I’ve never seen it.

Perennial pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is a beautiful little flower that I hadn’t seen until last year. Originally from Europe it has been grown in gardens here in the U.S. since the 1700s. Of course it has escaped gardens and now can be found along roadsides and in waste areas. I found these plants growing along a small stream and I was surprised that I had never seen them before. It is a vining plant that I’ve read can reach 9 feet, but these weren’t more than a foot tall, so maybe they’re young plants. It is also called wild sweet pea, everlasting pea, and hardy sweet pea. The pods and seeds are toxic though, and shouldn’t be eaten.

For sheer size I think Canada lilies are the biggest single blossoms of any plant you’ll find on this blog. Each blossom is 2 to 3 inches across and is about the same length. They can grow to eight feet tall and a stalk full of the nodding flowers towering over my head always reminds me of a chandelier. They are also called meadow lilies and that’s where I find them. They also come in red and orange, but all I ever see here are the yellow ones.

Their habit of nodding towards the ground can make getting a photo difficult, but I (very gently) tilt the stem back with one hand while I take the photos with the other. It’s not the ideal set up but it lets me show you the brownish purple spots on the inside throat of the trumpet and the huge red anthers, which darken with age. Speaking of anthers; many have found out the hard way that the pollen from those and other lily anthers will stain a white tablecloth permanently. The flower buds and roots were gathered and eaten by Native Americans; the scaly bulbs were cooked and eaten with other foods, such as venison and fish. They were also cooked and saved for winter use. They are said to have a very peppery flavor. I’ve always heard that lily bulbs were poisonous though, so I’d want to speak to an expert before I ate any.

Sumacs are blooming everywhere you look. I love their feathery, palm tree appearance. This was a drive by photo and I was too lazy to get out and see which sumac they were. We have 4 species here that I know of, smooth, staghorn, poison and shiny.

Black Swallowwort (Cynanchum louiseae) has purplish-brown to nearly black star shaped flowers that are about 1/4 inch across. They have five-petals and are fragrant, but not in a good way. It’s hard to describe their odor but I’ve seen it described as a rotting fruit odor, which I’m not sure I agree with. I think it’s worse than that; it’s a very sharp, almost acrid odor and on a hot summer day your nose will tell you that you’re near this plant long before you see it. Black swallowwort is a vining plant native to Europe that twines over native shrubs and plants at the edges of forests and shades or strangles them out. It is believed to have come to North America from Ukraine in the 1800s.  Colonies of this plant have been found that covered several acres of land and it is said to be able to completely replace a field of native goldenrod. It is nearly impossible to eradicate from a garden because its roots mingle with those of other plants and if you pull the stem it just breaks off at ground level. In Canada it is called the dog strangling vine and Canadians are testing the use of Hypena opulenta moth caterpillars as a means of biological control. So far they say, the results look promising. The caterpillars come from Ukraine and are a natural enemy of the plant. This plant illustrates the biggest danger of importing plants; the animals and insects that control them are left behind in their native lands, and once they arrive in their new home they are able to grow unchecked.

Seeing black eyed Susans reminds me that summer will end all too soon. This plant will always be a fall flower to me, probably because they have such a long blooming period and are seen everywhere in the fall. I’m always happy to see them but at the same time not so happy that another summer is flying by. At least this year they waited until July to bloom; I often see them in June.

The common orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) doesn’t have Lilium in its scientific name because daylilies aren’t a true lily. It’s a plant you’ll find growing near old stone cellar holes out in the middle of nowhere and along old New England roads. It is also found in cemeteries, often planted beside the oldest graves, and many of the graves on my father’s side have them growing near so it is one of the few flowers that make me think of him. It is one of those plants that were passed from neighbor to neighbor and spread quickly because of it. These days it is one of those plants that new homeowners go out and dig up when they can’t afford to buy plants for their gardens. It is both loved for being so easy to grow and hated for being so common.

This plant was introduced into the United States from Asia in the late 1800s as an ornamental and plant breeders have now registered over 40,000 cultivars, all of which have “ditch lily” genes and all of which have the potential to spread just like the original has. If you find yourself doing battle with a particularly weedy daylily, no matter the color, there’s a very good chance that the common orange is one of its parents.

Last year I saw a beautiful flower on the roadside. A closer look told me it was a campanula and after some research I thought that it might be a clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata,) which is a garden escapee. It is said to be a “vigorous rhizomatous perennial” originally from Europe and Japan. This year I found this example in the garden of friends, who said it did indeed want to spread everywhere. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be like the highly invasive creeping bellflower.

A glance at this Queen Anne’s lace flower head might not seem different than any other but the barely visible purple thing in the center is actually a tiny, infertile flower that’s less than half the size of a pea. Not all plants have these central florets that can be purple, pink, or sometimes blood red. From what I’ve seen in this area it seems that as many plants have it as those that do not.

I’ve seen insects including ants around the tiny floret in the center of the flowerhead. I’ve heard many theories of why this flower grows the way it does but the bottom line is that botanists don’t really know why.  It seems to serve no useful purpose, but it might have at one time. Plants don’t usually do things needlessly because it uses up precious energy, and I’d guess that would include evolving. Just because we haven’t discovered its purpose doesn’t mean it doesn’t have one.

Shaggy soldier (Galinsoga quadriradiata) still blooms prolifically. How this plant got from Mexico to New Hampshire is anyone’s guess, but it seems to love it here. People however, do not love seeing it; everyone agrees that it’s a weed, even in its native Mexico. The plant is also called common quick weed or Peruvian daisy and is common in gardens, where it can reduce crop yields by as much as half if left to its own devices. Shaggy soldier has tiny flowers that are about 3/8 of an inch across and have 5 white ray florets widely spaced around tiny yellow center disc florets. They are among the smallest flowers that I try to photograph.

Until recently I’ve always been too late or too busy to get a photo of white avens (Geum canadense.) I know of only one place where it grows and thimbleweed also grows there. With its bigger, showier flowers thimbleweed has always stolen the show and I’ve forgotten about white avens. Each flowers is about a half inch across with 5 white petals and many anthers. The anthers start out white and then turn brown and you usually find both on each flower. Each flower becomes a seed head with hooked seeds that will stick to hair or clothing.

You know high summer is near when our native purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) start blooming. 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. I grow it because butterflies and bees like its nectar, birds like the seeds, and I like to admire its beauty.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) starts blooming usually in June and then takes a rest in the heat of summer before re-blooming when it cools off again. It hasn’t beat the heat by much this year and I’ve already seen brown flowers. Humans have used this plant in various ways for thousands of years. It is mentioned in the Chinese I Ching, which is said to pre date recorded history, and it has been found in an excavation of a Neanderthal grave site. Yarrow was known as the soldier’s woundwort and herbe militaris for centuries, and was used to stop the flow of blood. It was a valuable healing herb, one of the nine “holy herbs,” and was traded throughout the world since before recorded time, and that is believed to be the reason for the plant being found in nearly every country on earth today. Native Americans used it for everything from snake bites to deodorant.

Garden yarrows come in different shades of pinks and yellows but I’ve never been able to decide what I think of the plant breeder’s work on this one. Every time I see one I feel like I’m fence sitting. What makes me happiest about them is how they don’t seem to care about spreading into the surrounding countryside or cross breeding with the native yarrow. I’d rather not see either one happen.

There was a time when nearly everyone I worked for as a gardener wanted yellow yarrow in their gardens but now I hardly see it. I found this one in a local park.

If you see a flat topped flower cluster on a native dogwood it’s either a silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) or red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea.) If the flower cluster is slightly mounded it is most likely a gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa,) as is the one in the above photo. All three shrubs bloom at about the same time and have similar leaves and individual white, four petaled flowers in a cluster and it’s very easy to mix them up. Sometimes silky dogwood will have red stems like red osier, which can make dogwood identification even more difficult. Both gray and red osier dogwoods have white berries. Silky Dogwood  has berries that start out blue and white and then turn fully blue. Native dogwoods are also sometimes confused with viburnums, but viburnum flowers have five petals and dogwoods have four. Most of our native dogwoods like soil that is constantly moist and they can be found along the edges of ponds, rivers, and streams.

I found privet (Ligustrum vulgare) growing by a local pond. It’s in the same family (Oleaceae) as lilacs and that should come as no surprise when you look closely at the small flower heads. Privet is a quick growing shrub commonly planted in rows and used as hedging because they respond so well to shearing. Originally from Europe and Asia it is considered invasive in some areas but I don’t see many in the wild. It has been used by mankind as a privacy screen for a very long time; Pliny the Elder knew it well. Its flexible twigs were once used for binding and the name Ligustrum comes from the Latin ligare, which means “to tie.”

This is how I saw the sun shine one recent showery day. We’re in a hot humid spell now with showers possible almost any day. This kind of weather could last into September when it usually cools down. Then the fall rains will begin (hopefully) and will ensure that the trees have nice moist soil going into winter. I can’t believe I just typed that word!

Flowers carry not only beauty but also the silent song of love. You just have to feel it. ~Debasish Mridha

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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