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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbit Foot Clover’

I don’t get to do many flower posts in October but we’ve had such a warm September and October that it seems like anything might be possible this year. I recently stumbled into an area where quite a large colony of chickweed still bloomed. I think it was star chickweed (Stellaria pubera) but I’m never one hundred percent sure with chickweeds. I didn’t see them when I took the photo but this example was covered with tiny black insects. Pollen eaters, I’m guessing. That they’re still busy is as much of a surprise as seeing the flowers they’re on.

Cosmos is a garden annual that is grown new from seed each year. It self-seeds readily and usually the gardener finds a few cosmos volunteers the following spring, but I’ve never known it to escape gardens until now. I found this example growing at the edge of the forest. Cosmos can be large plants; I’ve seen them reach six feet tall, but this one wasn’t even knee high. It had a single white blossom that was also very small for a cosmos plant; probably only about an inch across. Cosmos were first introduced from Mexico somewhere near 1880. They were an instant hit and have been grown in summer gardens ever since.

Silver leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla anserina) still blooms along roadsides and in waste places but the plants aren’t as robust as they were in June, so instead of fifty blossoms on a plant you might see two or three. This plant is originally from Europe and is considered invasive in some areas, but I see it only occasionally here. Its leaves are deep green on top but bright silvery white underneath, and that’s how it comes by its common name.

Even in the rain the inner light shines from purple morning glory blossoms (Ipomoea purpurea.) This morning glory is an annual that grows new from seed each year unlike the bindweeds, which are perennial. I found this example on a fence at a local restaurant.

I’ve never paid attention before to what happens when a purple morning glory blossom is finished, but this is what they do. It’s an amazing color change. These plants were full of seed pods so I took a couple in the hopes that it might grow here at home. It might find it too shady here in the woods, but we’ll see.

Spiderwort blossoms (Tradescantia virginiana) usually close on rainy or cloudy days so I was surprised to find an open blossom just after a rain one day. Though the sprawling plants aren’t much to look at I love the blossoms, and have since I was a very young boy. They used to grow along the railroad tracks and since I just about lived on those tracks this plant goes deep into my earliest memories. I’m always happy to see them, even though I find it hard to recommend them for a garden.

Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) has been in this country for a very long time, having been brought over as a garden flower by a Welsh Quaker in the late 1600s. It was also used medicinally at least since the 1400s and modern science has shown the plant to have diuretic and fever reducing qualities. As if that weren’t enough it’s also used as a cut flower by florists because they are so long lasting when cut. I found these examples still blooming by a cornfield and I enjoyed seeing them.

Rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense) has formed pink ribbons along our dry, sandy roadsides as it does each year, but it’s starting to look a little ragged. This annual plant is said to be invasive but few plants want to grow where it does, so I don’t think it out competes any natives in this area.

Most goldenrods (Solidago) have given up the ghost for this year but I still see them blooming here and there. Any flower blossoming at this time of year will be covered with bees, just as this one was. All but one very determined one flew away though, as soon as I poked a camera at them.

New England asters are also turning in for their winter sleep. Once pollinated they have no need for flowers and are now putting all of their energy into seed production.

I know a place where thousands of wild thyme plants grow and here they were still blooming in October. I usually look for them in May but the bees don’t care when they bloom; they love at any time of year and they were all over these plants in large numbers.

If you feel the need to make yourself crazy, just try photographing a single thyme blossom. It’s among the smallest I’ve ever tried. I’m not going to tell you how many tries it took to get this photo because if I did you might think I really was crazy.

Nobody seems to know how shaggy soldier (Galinsoga quadriradiata) got from Mexico to New Hampshire but 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. The tiny flowers are about 3/8 of an inch across and have 5 white ray florets widely spaced around tiny yellow center disc florets. This one was every bit as challenging to photograph as the thyme blossom was.

Yellow sorrel flowers (Oxalis stricta) seemed as huge as garden lily blossoms after dealing with thyme and quickweed flowers. I’m still seeing a lot of these little beauties and I expect that they’ll probably go right up until a frost. Speaking of frost, our first one usually appears during the third week of September on average, but we haven’t seen one yet. In October we get freezes, and that finishes the growing season. This year, who knows?

I saw a zinnia at the local college that looked like it had frosted petals. It was very pretty I thought, but the butterflies were paying it no mind. Every time I see a butterfly or bee reject one flower in favor of another I wish I could see what they see, just once.

Friends of mine still have string beans blossoming in their garden. In October. If that doesn’t show how warm it’s been here then nothing will.

I found a small tick trefoil growing in an area that had been mowed. The plant was quite stunted and looked more like clover than anything else, but the flowers gave it away. Note how they resemble the bean blossom in the previous photo. That’s because both plants are in the legume family, which contains peas, beans, and a long list of other plants and trees. Because of the leaf shape I think this one might be a panicled tick trefoil (Desmodium paniculatum) that had been stunted so its flowers couldn’t grow in a long panicle as they usually would. It was growing beside a pond in moist soil.

Finding a forsythia in bloom was a real surprise and showed just how confused by the weather some plants are. Normally this garden shrub would bloom in early spring but a cool August followed by a hot September is all it took to coax this one into bloom. There are others blooming in the area too. I have to wonder what they’ll do next spring. Forsythia was first discovered by a European growing in a Japanese garden in 1784 by the Swedish botanist Carl Thunberg.

Yes those are blueberry blossoms, specifically lowbush blueberry blossoms (Vaccinium angustifolium,) but there isn’t really anything that odd about this native shrub re-blooming in October because they do occasionally re-bloom. The surprise comes from when I think of the super crop of blueberries we had this year; I wouldn’t think the plants would have strength left to re-bloom after being so berry laden. This plant had the smallest blueberries I’ve ever seen on it; they were no bigger than a BB that you would use in an air rifle. Native Americans called blueberries “star berries” and used the plants medicinally, spiritually, and as a food source.  They made a sort of pudding with dried berries and cornmeal which helped them survive the long winters.

All of the meadows full of flowers that I’ve been lucky enough to find and show here have passed now but I still find surprises, like this nice colony of whorled white wood asters. They really shouldn’t be blooming now but I was happy to see them. Most of their cousins have gone to brown and are finished for this year. I hate to see them go but it’s one of the things that makes spring seem so special.

When the goldenrod is yellow,
And leaves are turning brown –
Reluctantly the summer goes
In a cloud of thistledown.
~Beverly Ashour

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

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We’ve reached that point where you can’t walk through a field, drive down a road, or visit a forest without seeing flowers, because at this time of year they are everywhere. It is high summer and though I love spring I don’t see how any other season could be called more beautiful than this one.

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) blooms in the tall grass of unmown meadows. It isn’t covered with sharp spines like the larger bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) that most of us have tangled with, but it does have small spines along the leaf margins and stem. Despite its common name the plant is actually a native of Europe but has spread to virtually every country in the northern hemisphere. It has a deep and extensive creeping root system and is nearly impossible to eradicate once it gains a foothold. For that reason it is considered a noxious weed in many states.

Noxious weed or not I like the flowers of Canada thistle. In a way they remind me of knapweed, which is another noxious weed. The plant isn’t considered invasive here in New Hampshire but it is on the watch list. Where I find them growing they haven’t spread at all, and in fact this year there were fewer plants than last year.

Pretty little fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) is the last of the native yellow loosestrifes to bloom in this area. Great colonies of the knee high plant can be found along roadsides and wood edges, and along waterways. It might be confused with whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) if the two plants bloomed at the same time, but in this area fringed loosestrife blooms later. The flowers on fringed loosestrife are about the size of a quarter and nod to face the ground. On whorled loosestrife they face outward. The leaf arrangements on the two plants are also very different.

Fringed loosestrife gets its common name from the fringe of hairs on its leafstalks, but sometimes the flower petals are also fringed like they are on this example. It’s a cheery, pretty plant that often gets overlooked because there is just so much in bloom at this time of year. The flowers of fringed loosestrife are unusual because of the way they offer oils instead of nectar to insects. The oils are called elaiosomes and are fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds of many plant species. They are rich in lipids and proteins. Many plants have elaiosomes that attract ants, which take the seed to their nest and feed them to their larvae. Trout lily is another plant with elaiosomes.

Though many people think the flowers are where the name fringed loosestrife comes from it is actually from the fine hairs that line the leaf stalks (petioles.) The ciliata part of the scientific name means “fringed with hairs,” and so they are. Native Americans used all of our yellow loosestrifes medicinally for various ailments, usually in the form of tea.

No matter how many times I see the Allegheny monkey flower (Mimulus ringens) I don’t see a monkey, but whoever named it obviously did. This plant gets about knee high and likes to grow in wet, sunny places, and isn’t all that common. I usually have a hard time finding it.

Allegheny monkey flowers have square stems and are also called square stemmed monkey flowers. I didn’t know at the time I saw this flower that it had so much moisture on it. That’s odd because it was a warm sunny day and I wonder if it was sweating. The throat of this flower is partially closed and bumblebees are one of the few insects strong enough to pry it open to get at the nectar. Native Americans and early settlers sometimes used the leaves as an edible green.

Vervain (Verbena hastata) is described as having reddish blue or violet flowers but I see a beautiful blue color. Somebody else must have seen the same thing, because they named the plant blue vervain. Vervain can get quite tall and has erect, terminal flower clusters. The plant likes wet places but even though we’ve had many inches of rainfall this year, I had a hard time finding it.

Vervain flowers are quite small but there are usually so many blooming that they’re easy to spot. The bitter roots of this plant were used medicinally by Native Americans to relieve gastric irritation, as an expectorant, and to induce sweating. The seeds were roasted and ground into a flour or meal by some tribes, and the flowers were dried and used as snuff to treat nose bleeds. Natives introduced the plant to the European settlers and they used it in much the same ways.

I used to see quite a lot of floating bladderwort (Utricularia gibba,) but I haven’t seen any in the last two years. Instead I’m now finding common bladderwort (Utricularia macrorhiza.) This plant also floats but when it’s ready for dormancy its bladders fill with water and it sinks, and I find it in the mud at the edge of a pond. Its flowers are much larger than those of floating bladderwort and though this shot isn’t very good they’re easier to get a photo of when they aren’t floating.

Common bladderwort can be distinguished from other bladderworts by the spur on the flower. The name bladderwort comes from the small inflated sacs on the plant’s roots that open to trap aquatic organisms. There are tiny hairs on the bladder’s trap door which are very sensitive. When an aquatic organism touches these hairs the door opens, the organism is sucked inside and the door closes, trapping it. This all happens in about 5 milliseconds and is one of the fastest plant movements ever recorded.

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) grows in large colonies and is easy to find because of its shiny green leaves that shine winter and summer and last up to 4 years. Like other wintergreens it likes dry, sandy, undisturbed soil in pine forests. Pipsissewa was once used as a flavoring in candy and soft drinks, including root beer. Its name is fun to say. It’s a Native American Cree word meaning “It-breaks-into-small-pieces.” This is because it was used as a treatment for kidney stones and was thought to break them into pieces.

Pipsissewa flowers often show a blush of pink. Five petals and ten chubby anthers surrounding a plump center pistil make it prettier than most of our other native wintergreens. Pipsissewa and some other native wintergreens form a symbiotic relationship with the mycelium of certain fungi in the soil and are partially parasitic on them through a process called myco-heterotrophy. This means that, even though they photosynthesize, they supplement their diet with nutrients taken from fungi. That explains why they will only grow in certain places, much like native orchids.

Shasta daisies are blooming in gardens everywhere now. The Shasta daisy was developed by plant breeder Luther Burbank over 100 years ago and was named for the white snow of Mount Shasta. These plants are a hybrid cross of the common roadside ox-eye daisy and an English field daisy called Leucanthemum maximum. They are one of the easiest perennials to grow and, other than an occasional weeding, need virtually no care. Dwarf varieties are less apt to have their stems bent over by heavy rains.

My favorite part of the Shasta daisy flower is the spiral at its center, because it makes me wonder. Nature uses the spiral over and over; it’s in a snail’s shell, our galaxy is a spiral and spirals are even in our DNA. Horns, teeth, claws, and plants form spirals. Pine cones and pineapples have spiral scales and if you make a fist and look at it from above, it forms a spiral. Mathematically, the spiral in a nautilus shell is the same as that found in a spiral galaxy. The spiral also represents infinity, starting at a single point and revolving outwardly until the end of the universe. Because of this, the spiral is said by some to be a pathway to the afterlife. All of that is right here in a daisy, and that’s probably why Deepak Chopra said “If you really see a daisy, you see from here to infinity.”

Non-native rabbit’s foot clover (Trifolium arvense) is short enough to be forced to grow right at the edge of the road if it wants to get any sunshine, so the roads look like they have been festooned with fuzzy pink ribbons for a while each summer. It’s an annual plant that grows new from seed each year and the seedlings must be tough, because they don’t seem to mind being occasionally run over, or the poor dry soil found along the road side. In fact they seem to thrive in it; I see more plants each year. The plant is originally from Europe and Asia.

One of the things I like most about native pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) is the way a child’s face will light up and break into a smile when they crush it and smell it. Usually when I tell them that it smells like pineapple they don’t believe it, so it’s a surprise. The conical flower heads are easiest to describe by saying they’re like daisies without petals, or ray florets. The flowers are edible and can be used in salads, and the leaves are also scented and have been used to make tea. The plant was used by Native Americans in a tonic to relieve gastrointestinal upset and fevers. The Flathead tribe used the dried, powdered plants to preserve meats and berries. It is said to make a nice pineapple flavored tea.

Last year I showed the flower of a plant I had never seen before and couldn’t identify in the hope that someone would recognize it. Apparently nobody could recognize it by the flower so this year I’m showing the entire plant. The flowers are tiny; about the same size as those on red sandspurry, and blossom on the ends of wiry stems. Its leaves are also small and sword shaped and very hard to see in this photo. This entire plant shown would fit in a tea cup with room to spare.

Here is the pretty little flower of the unknown plant. I find them growing in the sand on roadsides in full sun, much like a sandspurry would. They don’t seem to mind dry soil but they must also like water because I’m seeing more of them in this rainy summer than I ever have. I’ve searched all my wildflower books and online off and on for over a year with no luck, so if you know its name I’d love to hear from you.

NOTE: With a little help from some friends Al Stoops has identified this plant as low baby’s breath (Gypsophila muralis.) It is an annual plant native to Europe and available commercially, sold as cushion baby’s breath. Thanks Al!

Beauty soaks reality as water fills a rag. ~Chet Raymo

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It wasn’t all that long ago that I was spending most of my wildflower hunting time deep in the woods, peeking around trees and under bushes. Now all of the sudden fields and roadsides are bursting with color. This certainly makes a plant hunter’s job easier and also means there are even more flowers to show you. If you, when you saw this picture, wondered if it wasn’t a little early for Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) to be blooming the answer is yes it is, but then everything is blooming early this year.  Still, I was surprised when I found what I usually don’t see until July. Black Eyed Susan is a native plant whose seeds are an important winter food source for birds. That’s why when they are grown in gardens they shouldn’t be cut back in the fall. The small, furry, light purple flowers of motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) are easy to miss. At a glance this plant might resemble one of the nettle family but the square stems show it to be in the mint family. The tiny flowers grow in a whorl around the stem in the leaf axils. This plant, originally from Asia, is considered an invasive weed.  It was brought to this country because of its long history of medicinal use in Europe and Asia. It is common along roads and in fields. This is another flower that it is easy to walk right by, because it grows at about ankle height. The small, white, tubular blossoms of the native narrow leaf cow wheat plant (Melampyrum lineare ) have a yellow lower lip which also helps make them a little more visible. The flowers always seem to grow in pairs and the plants usually form a colony, which also makes them a little easier to find. I found this plant growing alongside a shaded path in a forest of mostly pine and tamarack trees. It always grows close to shrubs and trees because it is partially root parasitic. There is another plant called Small Cow wheat (Melampyrum sylvaticum) with lemon yellow flowers, and another called common cow wheat (Melampyrum pretense) that doesn’t have the two sharply pointed lobes at the base of the leaf like those seen on the narrow leaf cow wheat.  A calyx (at the base of the flower) that curls upward like an eyelash is a good clue to the identity of this plant. This one is a real stinker, and I’m not exaggerating. This is the female blossom cluster of the smooth carrion flower (Smilax herbacea.) One of its pollinators (the fly) was kind enough to stop in for our photo session. These female pistillate flowers with their stubby, three-lobed stigmas are much shorter than the male staminate flowers, which are shown below.  The plants carry only male or female flowers, so they can usually be found growing quite close together. This is the male flower cluster of the smooth carrion flower (Smilax herbacea.) Male blossoms have six white stamens. Each of these flower clusters, both male and female, are the size of a golf ball. Personally, I thought that the male flowers were much more malodorous than the female flowers.  This plant is a vine that can reach 8 feet long. Later on the female blossoms become globular clusters of dark blue fruit that will appear like Christmas ornaments all along the vine’s length.  The fruit is said to be edible, but you won’t catch me eating it! Crown vetch (Securigera varia) is very different in both appearance and color than cow vetch (Vicia cracca L. ssp. tenuifolia ) or hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) but the three plants are continually mistaken for one another.  Another vetch is bird vetch (Vicia cracca L.,) which cow vetch is nearly identical to. Hairy vetch, crown vetch and bird vetch all grow in New Hampshire but according to the U.S.D.A., cow vetch does not. Crown vetch is in the pea family and was imported from Europe and Asia for soil erosion control. As is usually the case, it has escaped and the long, wiry vines can now be found along roadsides and in fields. This plant is toxic and has killed horses. I can’t say if our native striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) is rare but I can say that, other than on this one occasion I have never seen it, and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the woods. Unfortunately I missed its white, nodding blossoms and got there just after it had formed the seed pods seen in the photo. This was on June 4th and the plant isn’t supposed to bloom until late-July. This plant is also called spotted wintergreen, striped pipsissewa, and prince’s pine. According to the U.S.D.A. it is endangered in Canada, Illinois, and Maine, and is considered vulnerable in New York. It seems strange to me that there are so few of these plants found in an area that has huge colonies of its close relative, pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellate,) which is called umbellate wintergreen.I was being eaten alive by hoards of hungry mosquitoes when I took this picture so it isn’t the best one I’ve ever taken. This is the nodding, cup shaped flower of the shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica.) Unlike striped wintergreen, this plant is plentiful in pine woods and grows near trailing arbutus and pipsissewa.  The greenish white petals look waxy and sometimes will have greenish veins running through them. These plants were always thought to be closely related to the wintergreens because their leaves stay green all winter, but DNA testing now puts them in the heath (Ericaceae) family. Shinleaf foliage looks a lot like that of trailing arbutus, but the leaves are shorter.  A better photo of it can be seen by clicking here. The plant’s crushed leaves were applied to bruises in the form of a paste or salve and the aspirin-like compounds in the leaves would ease pain. Such pastes were called “shin plasters,” and that’s how the plant got its strange common name. The tiny flowers of Heal All (Prunella vulgaris) appear together on a club-like, squarish stem in enough numbers to make them noticeable. This plant is native to Europe but is found all over the world. Heal all  is also called self-heal and heart of the earth and has been used medicinally for centuries. It is edible and is one of those plants that most certainly would have appeared in medieval cottage gardens. Heal all tea was used by Native Americans, which makes me believe that it is native to North America as well as Europe.Even smaller than the flowers of heal all are those of Rabbit-foot Clover (Trifolium arvense.) If you look closely you can see 2 or 3 of the almost microscopic white flowers poking out of the feathery, grayish- pink sepals. These feathery sepals are much larger than the petals and make up most of the flower head. This plant is in the pea family and is used to improve soil quality. It is originally from Europe and Asia and is considered an invasive weed. It gets its name from the fuzzy flower heads, which are said to look like a rabbit’s foot.  I found a few plants growing on a river bank. This is another clover called golden clover (Trifolium aureum.) The 1/2 inch long yellow flower head is made up of tiny yellow flowers that resemble pea flowers. The flowers have 5 petals and are said to be decumbent, which means “lying along a surface, with the extremity curving upward.” As the photo shows, they overlap much like roof shingles.  These individual flowers turn brown as they age, and some think they look like hops when they are in that stage. This gives the plant one of its common names; large yellow hop clover. Like other clovers it has three leaves. These plants are common in waste areas and along roadsides. This one was growing near our local airport.Native Lance Leaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) is liable to be found in the garden or the meadow. Coreopsis is a large family of plants that includes many natives and hybrids that come in yellows, oranges, pinks and maroons. This plant was in a meadow with many others which were all being swarmed by bees. A common name for this plant is tickseed because the seeds are said to resemble ticks. They are one of the easiest plants to grow and will virtually grow in any soil that gets plenty of sunshine. I’ve even seen them thrive in almost pure sand.The native Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) blossoms have finally opened and are seen along almost every road at the edges of forests. If you aren’t colorblind the red stems make this plant easy to identify, otherwise counting the 4 petals (bracts) will be the clue to its being a dogwood. The flowers are fragrant and bees and butterflies love them.  By the end of summer the flowers will turn into clusters of light blue berries that birds and deer feed on. These shrubs get quite large, sometimes reaching 15 feet tall and twice that across. Red osier dogwood is an excellent choice for large shrub borders because their red branches stand out against the snow in winter. Growing right alongside the red osier dogwoods in many instances are native elderberry (Sambucus) shrubs.  Though they like the same growing conditions, elderberry leaves are quite different than those of dogwoods and the small flowers have 5 petals instead of 4 bracts. Elderberry flower clusters are usually much larger than those of dogwoods and the stamens aren’t as long.  Elderberry flowers become small, dark blue, almost black, berries. These berries are edible if they are cooked but can cause severe stomach distress if eaten raw. The leaves, stems and roots contain cyanide-causing gliconides and are toxic. When I was a boy we lived across the street from an Italian family who made elderberry wine from bushes that grew along the river but since I wasn’t old enough, I never got to taste it.

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

That’s some of what’s blooming right now here in New Hampshire. Thanks for visiting.

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