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Posts Tagged ‘Purple Stemmed Aster’

We still have plenty of flowers blooming as this view of a local pond side shows, but from this point on we’ll have very few new ones coming along. There will be a few more asters and a goldenrod or gentian or two but for the most part what you see here is the season finale for wildflowers.

Garden flowers on the other hand, will steal the show until the foliage begins to show color. Many will bloom right up until a hard frost but chances are this sunflower that I saw in the garden of some friends won’t make it quite that long. Sunflowers are a very pretty flower and I wish I’d see more of them but not many people seem to grow them.

If I said “St. John’s wort” chances are good that most people would think of a yellow flower with a lot of stamens, but marsh St. John’s wort (Hypericum virginicum) is very pink. As its name implies this plant likes saturated soil and will even grow in standing water at the shoreline of ponds. The flowers are quite small; about 3/4 of an inch across on a good day, but usually more like 1/2 an inch. This little shin high plant grows south to Florida and crosses the Mississippi River only in Texas and Oklahoma.

The bright red flower buds of marsh St. John’s wort are as pretty as the flowers.

This crooked stem aster (Symphyotrichum prenanthoides) is the first blue aster I’ve seen this year. I found this plant growing in a very wet, sunny meadow. I don’t usually try to identify asters but the one inch diameter light blue flowers and zigzagging stems make this one easier than most.

In my last flower post I showed the purple stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) which, if I was going by color and flower size alone would look identical to me, but my color finding software says that the flower on that one is purple and this one is blue. That and the zig zag stems lead me to the crooked stemmed aster. The Native American Iroquois tribe used this plant medicinally to treat fevers and other ailments.

It’s already time to say goodbye to my beautiful little friends the eastern forked blue curls, which surprised me by following me home and growing in my own yard. I spend a lot of my free time searching for flowers and trying to remember where each one of them grows, so any that choose to grow here are very welcome indeed,  especially when they’re as beautiful as this one.

It’s also time to say goodbye to brown knapweed (Centaurea jacea.) Since the plant is so invasive in certain places I suppose I should be glad that it hasn’t followed me home, but I do like its flowers. They’re colorful and unusual and I enjoy seeing large colonies of them all blooming at once. They really don’t seem very invasive here.

Nodding smartweed (Polygonum lapathifolium) 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. The plant 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.

Another name for nodding smartweed and some other Polygonum species is lady’s thumb, and they get that name from the dark spot that appears on each leaf. Legend has it that a lady with a dirty thumb (apparently) left the smudge like mark on a leaf and it has been there ever since. There are over 200 species of Polygonum.

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. This plant gets its common name from the belief that it was useful in the treatment of piles (hemorrhoids,) because the buds are the size and shape of suppositories. 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.

Even after they open pilewort flowers still look like they are in the bud stage, so you have to look at them closely. This photo shows about all we can see of them. The flower is made up of many tiny florets which are pollinated primarily by wasps and hornets. In some areas it is called burn weed because of the way it moves quickly into burned areas. I usually find it along river and stream banks.

Once they go to seed potential pileworts will float away on the wind much like dandelion seeds.

I find spearmint (Mentha spicata) growing in the sunshine at the edge of the woods. Like wild mint (Mentha arvensis) spearmint has been used since before recorded time both medicinally and as a flavoring. Pliny wrote of it and the ancient Romans cultivated it to scent their bath water. Spearmint is originally from Europe but the Pilgrims brought it on their first trip to America, so valuable was the plant to them.

Instead of growing in the leaf axils as they do on wild mint, spearmint flowers appear at the top of the stem. They are said to be pink or white but these were white, blue, pink and lavender. Their scent is very refreshing on a hot summer day and always reminds me of spearmint gum. Imagine; you are seeing flowers that people admired 2000 years ago.

Native common yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) is unusual because it grows in woods or meadows and I see it in both. It’s considered a weed by many and is largely ignored by most, but it’s a very interesting plant. Its raw leaves can be chewed as a thirst quencher if you forgot to bring water on your hike. The Native American Kiowa tribe called it “salt weed” and used it that way for long walks. Its seed capsules can also be chewed but they can also explode when mature and can fling seeds up to 13 feet away. They are said to be tart with a flavor similar to rhubarb. The plant is high in vitamin C and it can be pressed to make a passable vinegar substitute.

August is when many of our asters begin to blossom here in New Hampshire and one of the first is the whorled wood aster (Oclemena acuminata.) It gets its common name from the way its leaves appear to grow in whorls around the stem from above. In botany, a whorl is an arrangement of at least three sepals, petals, leaves, stipules or branches that radiate from a single point around the stem, and the leaf arrangement of this aster really doesn’t fit the definition.

Looking at them from the side the tiers of whorled leaves would appear flat like the edge of a dinner plate but these leaves appear randomly scattered up and down the stem’s length, and that means they aren’t in a whorl. Indian cucumbers have tiers of whorled leaves as do some loosestrifes. This plant is also called sharp leaved aster and grows to about a foot and a half tall. Something I didn’t know about the plant is how its leaves have a faint smell of spearmint when they’re crushed. Many thanks to blogging friend Kenneth Posner for that interesting bit of information.

Whorled wood aster is one of the easiest asters to identify because of its early bloom time and because the narrow white ray florets look like they were glued on by chubby fingered toddlers. The plant can take quite a lot of shade and I usually find it growing alongside the edges of woodland paths. I love the beauty of asters but I don’t like their message of summer’s passing, so when I stop and admire them I always feel a bit of wistfulness and wonderment that a season could pass so quickly.

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.

Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of their character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning. ~Lydia M. Child

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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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1. Tansy

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is a European native that has been cultivated for centuries. The ancient Greeks knew it well and it was grown in the herb gardens of Charlemagne. It was brought from England by early colonists and by 1785 it had naturalized in New England. The flat flower heads are made up of many button-like disc flowers that have a peculiar, medicine like fragrance that some compare to camphor. The plant has a long history of use as an insect repellant and colonials added it to the straw in mattresses to keep bedbugs away.

 2. Possible Purple Stemmed  Aster-

Asters can be difficult to identify but I know a few of them well enough to feel comfortable making an identification. This one is one of the difficult ones. Its flowers look like New England asters but where those flowers are quarter size, these are barely nickel size. I think it might be the purple stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum,) which is also called the swamp aster or glossy leaved aster, and I think that because it was growing near water and has a somewhat crooked, dark purple stem.

3. Purple Stemmed Beggar Ticks

I often find purple stemmed beggar ticks (Bidens connata) growing in the wet soil at the edges of ponds and rivers. It has curious little yellow orange ray-less disc flowers that never seem to fully open and dark, purple-black stems. It is closely related to bur marigold (Bidens tripartita), which is also called water hemp because of the leaf shape. The name beggar ticks comes from its barbed seeds that stick to fur and clothing like ticks. It is an annual that grows new from seed each year.

 4. Nodding Bur Marigold aka Bidens cernua

Nodding bur marigold likes full sun and wet feet and can often be found growing right beside its cousin the purple stemmed beggar tick that we saw in the previous photo. Its flower is much showier though, and looks something like a miniature sunflower. As they age the flower heads nod towards the ground and that’s how it comes by its common name. Another common name is nodding beggar tick, because its seeds are also barbed and also stick to just about anything that happens by. In this part of New Hampshire this plant grows about knee high, sometimes in standing water.

 5. Rose of Sharon

Though rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) isn’t a wildflower in New Hampshire but I thought I’d add it to this post because there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding it each year at this time. People don’t know if it’s a hibiscus or a mallow or a hollyhock, and that’s because all of those plants are in the mallow family (Malvaceae) and have similar flowers. The easiest way to identify a rose of Sharon is by looking at the plant the flowers are on. If the flower is on an upright, often tall woody shrub it is a rose of Sharon. Mallow and hollyhocks are perennials and / or biennials and will usually die back to the ground each year. Hibiscus resembles rose of Sharon but you’ll only find it growing outside year round in the southern states because it is very tender. I think of rose of Sharon as a hardy hibiscus.

6. False Dandelion

At a glance you might think you were seeing a hawkweed flower when you look at a false dandelion (Hypochaeris radicata) flower because they’re close to the same size. One look at the leaves however, will show you that you’re seeing something entirely different because they resemble those of the dandelion more than hawkweed foliage. Hawkweed and false dandelion also bloom at different times, which helps when trying to identify them. The flowers are much smaller than those of true dandelions and they sit at the top of long, wiry stems, much like hawkweed.

7. False Dandelion Foliage

False dandelion’s other common names include cat’s ear and flat weed; cat’s ear because of the hairs usually found on the upper and lower leaf surfaces and flat weed because the leaves usually lie flat on the ground. As seen in the photo above this plant wanted to be different and its smooth leaves are standing up. If it weren’t for the two wiry flower stems seen on the left you might wonder if I hadn’t taken a photo of a dandelion by mistake. This plant is originally from Europe and is considered a noxious weed in many areas.

8. White Heath Aster

I have misidentified this aster in the past as the small flowered white aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum) but after taking a closer look I think it is the white heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides). There are many asters that look alike, and to complicate matters they cross breed and create natural hybrids. This one has 1/4 to 1/2 inch white flowers, and nearly every inch of free stem has a blossom on it all on one side of the stem. The shrubby little plants are about knee high and I find them growing in unmown fields and pastures.

9. White Heath Aster

This photo shows how all of the flowers grow on one side of the white heath aster’s stem. This habit makes the plant appear very bushy.

 10. Bladder Wort Plant

The swollen, air filled, modified leaf stems of the native little floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiata) radiate out from a point on the stem like the spokes of a wheel and keep the flower above the water while currents carry it over the surface of ponds. The parts of the plant that trail under the water look like roots and are where the bladders are located. Each bladder has small hairs on it which, when touched by an insect, trigger a trapdoor that opens quickly and sucks the insect inside. Once trapped inside there is no escape, and the insect is slowly digested.

11. Northern Water Horehound

I can’t think of a single time that I have found northern water horehound (Lycopus uniflorus) growing away from water. It’s an odd little plant that might get knee high on a good day, and often leans toward the water that it grows near. Its tiny flowers grow in round tufts at each leaf axil and remind me of motherwort, which has the same habit. It is in the mint family and has a square stem as so many of the plants in that family do. It is also closely related to American water horehound (Lycopus americanus) and the two plants are easily confused. Paying close attention to leaf shape helps tell them apart. The foliage is said to be very bitter and possibly toxic, but Native Americans used the tuberous roots for food.

 12. Northern Water Horehound Flowers

The flowers of northern water horehound are pretty little bell shaped things, but they are small enough to need a hand lens (or macro lens) to really appreciate them. They are pollinated by bees, wasps and flies and each one will become 4 small nutlets.  I don’t know what birds or animals eat the seeds, but muskrats love the roots.

13. Chicory

I’m happy to see that chicory (Cichorium intybus) is still going strong. I love its cheery, bright blue color. Our average first frost happens in mid-September, so this might be the last photo of it this year.

14. Tall White Rattlesnake Root aka Prenanthes trifoliate

White rattlesnake root (Prenanthes alba) can be tough to identify because even plants growing side by side can have differently shaped leaves, but once they bloom identification becomes much easier. I can’t think of another plant that has small, drooping white, lily like blossoms at this time of year. The half inch flowers appear in clusters at the end of branched stems that can reach 5 or 6 feet in some cases, and have forked stamens that are longer than the petals. The plant gets its common name from the Native American belief that it could cure rattlesnake bites.

15. White Snakeroot

Though its flowers resemble those of boneset, which flowers at the same time, white snakeroot’s large heart shaped, toothed leaves look nothing like boneset leaves. This plant is very toxic and in the early 19th century it killed thousands of settlers in the Midwest. A compound called trematol is passed from the plant to cows that graze on it and when humans drank the milk before too long they started to show signs of what was called “milk sickness.” In a week or less most would die of 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 and most likely saving thousands of lives.

Stop every now and then.  Just stop and enjoy.  Take a deep breath.  Relax and take in the abundance of life. ~Anonymous

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Here are a few more of those things I’ve seen on the trail that didn’t make it into other posts.

1. Chubby Chipmunk

This chipmunk saw me but just sat on his rock, not making a sound. After I got home and saw the photo I wondered if maybe he was too chubby to be able to run away.

2. Acorn

It’s been a good year for all kinds of fruits and nuts, including acorns. Maybe that’s why the chipmunk is so chubby.

 3. Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar aka Sphinx kalmiae

This caterpillar was happily eating all the leaves from my lilac. The helpful folks over at bugguide.net  tell me that it is a laurel sphinx caterpillar (Sphinx kalmiae). It was as big as my index finger and had a wild looking horn. In this stage the caterpillar is nearly ready to stop feeding and start looking for soil to pupate in. The laurel sphinx moth is gray brown with brownish yellow wings-not nearly as colorful as the caterpillar.

4. Turkey Tails

I’m seeing many more turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) this year than I did last. They are very colorful this year. Polysaccharide-K, a compound found in these fungi, has shown to be beneficial in the treatment of gastric, esophageal, colorectal, breast and lung cancers.

 5. Toothed Fungus

Lion’s mane, bear’s head, monkey head, icicle mushroom-call it what you will, Hericium americanum is a toothed fungus that is always fun to find in the woods. This mushroom is edible but unless you can be 100% sure of your identification you should never eat a wild mushroom. Bruce Ruck, director of drug information and professional education for New Jersey Poison Control at Rutgers, says it better than I: “Eating even a few bites of certain mushrooms can cause severe illness. Unless you are a mycologist, it is difficult to tell the difference between a toxic and non-toxic mushroom”

6. Pigskin Puffball

Speaking of toxic mushrooms, here’s one now. This is the toxic pigskin puffball (Scleroderma citrinum), which isn’t really a puffball at all but an earth ball. Earth balls are always hard to the touch and never “squishy” like puffballs. If you eat them they won’t kill you, but they can make you quite sick. In the book A Northwoods Companion author John Bates says that “a single large puffball contains so many spores that if every spore germinated to an adult for two generations, the resultant mass would be 800 times the volume of the earth.” But what is considered large? The largest puffball ever found was nearly 5 feet across.

 7. Forked Blue Curl Seeds

Forked bluecurl seeds (Trichostema dichotomum) are so small that the only way I can see them is in a photo. This plant has beautiful blue flowers with long, curving, blue stamens. It is an annual, so it has to grow new from seed each year. Two or three seeds nestle in a basket shaped, open pod and sometimes I take a few seed pods home, hoping that I can get the plant to grow in my yard. So far I have had limited success, even though I’ve provided the same growing conditions.

8. New York  Fern Sori

Many of the woodland ferns have lost their chlorophyll and have gone pale now. I recently turned one of these pale fronds over and found all these tiny sori. These are clusters of even tinier sporangia which are the spore masses where the fern’s spores are produced. I think this one might be a New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), but to be honest I didn’t pay close enough attention to its identifying characteristics to be certain.

9. Poison Ivy

Even poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) has to get in on the fall show. Poison ivy can grow in the form of a shrub or a vine and in this case it had twined its way up a birch tree. Beautiful to look at but you don’t want to touch it. The oils in the plant form a complex with skin proteins and interrupt the chemical signals that the skin sends to the rest of the body. The area of exposed skin is then viewed as foreign and the body attacks it, which results in a very itchy rash that can becomes sore and bleed. And if that isn’t bad enough it is also systemic, meaning you can touch the plant with your hand and end up with a rash on your leg or any other part of your body. Some internal cases of poison ivy- that can come from eating the leaves –have been fatal.

10. Poison Ivy Berries

I found another poison ivy on another tree that had lost all its leaves and had just its berries showing. Over sixty species of birds have been documented as eating these berries.  Apparently birds are immune to its toxic effects.

 11. Cranberry

The native cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) have ripened, but you’ll sure get your feet wet harvesting them. I find them growing in a bog in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. The pilgrims named this fruit “crane berry” because they thought the flowers looked like sandhill cranes. They were taught how to use the berries by Native Americans, who used them as a food, as a medicine, and as a dye.

12. Bumblebee on Purple Stemmed Aster

One cool day I found this bumblebee curled into a ball in an aster blossom and I thought it had died there but, as I watched I could see it moving very slowly. I’ve read that bumblebee queens hibernate in winter, but I can’t find out what happens to the rest of the hive.

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. ~Aristotle

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My calendar says autumn begins today, but I’m not ready for it yet. We’ve had freeze warnings for the upper third of the state and two or three frost warnings for the central third but it hasn’t dropped much below 40 degrees here in the southwest corner. For now the late summer flowers are still blooming. Asters are still everywhere even though they started blooming early. The goldenrod blossoms are waning now though.This is a sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata) that I grow on my shed in the back yard. It’s covered with very fragrant, quarter size flowers from now until frost. This is often confused with our native virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana,) but it’s not the same plant. Sweet autumn clematis grows so fast that this one reached the roof of my shed the first year. Blue vervain (Verbena hastate) is such a perfect blue that I can’t pass it by without taking a picture. This plant loves wet places and is also called swamp verbena.Bouncing bet (Saponaria officinalis) is still hanging on but the dryness over the summer did some damage to these plants. You can see how the plant in the photo died back and then came back to life when the rains returned. This plant is also called soapwort because its leaves contain a natural soap and will produce a lather.The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea ) have also had a hard time because of the dryness and stopped blooming for a while, but then became loaded with blossoms again once the rains returned. The native pink turtlehead  (Chelone obliqua )in my garden bloomed very early this year. It is usually the last plant to bloom but this year it has had to share the stage with phlox, coneflowers and sweet autumn clematis.The blue of Hairy Vetch (Vicia vilosa) is easily seen among the fall colors overtaking the fields.  Hairy vetch is a native of Europe and Asia that has escaped and is now found in just about every meadow in New Hampshire. It was originally imported to be used as a cover crop and for livestock forage.Purple stemmed aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum) flowers are smaller than those of the New England aster and the ray petals often look as if they were glued to the central disk by a kindergartener-sort of but not quite right. If a New England aster was quarter size, these would be nickel size, but identical in color. They have zig aged stems that may or may not always be purple. These plants are also called swamp asters because they like to grow in wet areas. I’m not sure why this sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) is blooming in September, but I imagine it knows what it’s doing. The question of its being a sarsaparilla is an educated guess because this plant had only naked flower stalks and no leaves, just like it does in May, June, or July when it usually blooms.I had visions of a dry, desert like hillside-where only crabgrass will grow-transformed into an Eden by one of the toughest plants that I know-Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia.) Unfortunately, the Russian sage had other plans and refused to grow where I planted it. I saw a beautiful 4 foot high, gray leaved, shrub like perennial covered with arm loads of scented blue flowers in my mind, but I ended up with a spindly little twig that struggled all summer to produce a couple of sad looking flower spikes, one of which is seen here. It’s clearly time to move it to a more acceptable location and let the crabgrass have the hillside. I hope this puts to rest the rumor that professional gardeners don’t see failures in the garden. Beggar’s Ticks (Bidens) is a plant that teaches patience because it suddenly appears in late July and grows for several weeks before it flowers. There are nearly 200 species in the genus and many of them look nearly identical. In this part of the state this plant grows side by side with the nodding burr marigold (Bidens Cernua,) which is also called smooth beggar’s ticks and looks very similar. The plant gets its common name from the way its barbed seeds cling to clothing. Books say that it reaches 3 1/2 feet tall but I’ve seen some get close to six feet. The one in the photo is more typical of its often sprawling habit. I’ve also seen these plants growing in water at the edge of ponds.All summer long I’ve been trying to get a decent shot of a floating bladderwort flower (Utricularia inflata.) Most of the time they were floating too far off shore, but some of the problem was my over exposures when they were close enough to shoot. Finally everything came together and I was able to get this picture-probably the only decent picture of a floating bladderwort that you’ll see here this year. The inset shows how the plant floats on “pontoons” which are actually swollen, air filled leaf stems.

The love of flowers is really the best teacher of how to grow and understand them ~Max Schling

As always, I appreciate your taking time to stop and see what nature is up to in New Hampshire.

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