Posts Tagged ‘Sessile Bellwort’

This post is of more of what I find wandering through forests, swamps and fields. I was happy the day I went to a bog in a town called Fitzwilliam and saw Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense) blooming. These flowers appear on short (3 feet or less) upright shrubs that like to live in wet places. The ones I saw this day were growing in standing water in full sun. Rhodora, which is in the rhododendron family, is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada and both Its western and southern limits are reached in Pennsylvania. The flowers appear before the leaves and light up the edges of swamps and bogs for a short time in spring. By mid-June they will be only a memory here.  On May 17, 1854 Henry David Thoreau wrote “The splendid Rhodora now sets the swamps on fire with its masses of rich color,” and indeed, that is exactly what it does. Ralph Waldo Emerson loved the flower so much he wrote a poem about it, titled “The Rhodora.”

 When I left the bogs I went to one of my favorite places alongside a small stream where the conditions are just right for many ferns, wildflowers and flowering shrubs. Many of the wildflowers seen in this blog are found along the banks of this stream. The soil is very rich, cool, and moist and there is a game trail that follows the stream.  Twice now I have startled a very large bird that suddenly flies up off the forest floor on the opposite side. Each time I’ve only seen the blur of big, dark wings.

 Like the Rhodora, foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia) will soon be just a memory, but right now they are so thick in places on the forest floor that it’s hard to walk without crushing them. Foamflowers are also called false miterwort. This plant is native to the eastern U.S and likes moist, shaded forests with dappled sunlight.Part of a large foamflower colony. They like to grow on gentle slopes. White campion (Silene latifolia) can shade towards pink, which is what drew me to this one. The light pink color doesn’t show as well in the photo as it did in the field but you can see the deep cleft or split in the petals, which is a good way to identify it-it has 5 petals that at first glance look like 10. This plant is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on different plants. One way to tell if a flower is male or female is by counting the veins on the bladder (calyx) behind it. Male plants have 10 veins on their calyx and females have 20. The plant in the above photo is a male. Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is very similar to campion with its bladder like calyx, but the petals aren’t cleft. This plant was introduced from Europe and prefers fields and waste places with soil on the dry side. Another plant that I was also most happy to (finally) see was gaywings (Polygala paucifolia.) Fellow New Hampshire blogger Jomegat has shown this plant several times on his blog and I commented that I couldn’t understand how I had walked through these New Hampshire woods for 50 years without seeing it. Now, once I found it I think I know why; to someone who is as color blind as I am, from a distance this flower easily passes as a violet.  Since I see thousands of violets each day, it is unlikely that I’d go out of my way to see another. In fact, I found a large patch of violets growing less than 10 feet from the gaywings. Now that I know what to look for, I’ll be paying much closer attention.  This plant is native to Canada and the U.S., but its range is limited to Minnesota to the west and Georgia to the south. Gaywings are supposed to grow in dry pine forests so I went to one. Unfortunately I found everything but gaywings here-they were growing alongside an old dirt road. This is an odd place-on this side of the trail the woods are open as you can see in the photo, but on the other side of the trail there is underbrush that is quite thick at times. There is a network of paths all through the brush because a lot of wildflowers like to hide there. A large swamp is nearby as well.I have found a lot of immature, foliage only may apples (Podophyllum peltatum) this year and had seen no flowers until I found this one nodding sleepily under its umbrella-like leaves.  This plant is also called American mandrake, which is legendary among herbalists for the root that supposedly resembles a man.  Though Native Americans used this plant medicinally, all parts of it are considered toxic except the “apple” which ripens in late summer.  If large amounts of those are eaten, even they can be poisonous. Native starflowers (Trientalis borealis) are everywhere in the woods right now in dry or moist soil. I always like to see how many flowers I can find on one plant. So far this year my record is three, but I’ve read of people finding four.  Starflowers are a plant based on sevens; seven leaves, seven petals, and seven sepals. At least, most of the time-if nature was to have a rule it would be that no rule in nature is hard and fast and the flower with 8 petals in the photo proves that.  Starflower leaves turn yellow and fade away in mid-summer, leaving behind a leafless stalk bearing a tiny seed capsule. Bellworts are also still blooming near the stream. I’ve been hoping to find the showy large flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora.) I think the one in the photo is a sessile leaved bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia,) which is commonly called wild oats. Dandelions are still blooming too, and this bumblebee seems very happy that they are. Scott over at the Little Crum Creek blog did a post on the red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) migration. Just as I finished telling him I had never seen one I stepped out the door and there one was, right in front of me. Unfortunately I was on the phone and had no camera, but Saturday I saw a large autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) shrub on the edge of the forest that must have had hundreds of red admiral butterflies and bumblebees on it. These creatures don’t sit still for long, so this is the best shot I was able to get. If you want to see much better pictures of this beautiful butterfly you should click on the link to the Little Crum Creek blog. When I finished shooting pictures of the red admiral butterflies I looked down and discovered that I was standing in a good size patch of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans.) Good grief-you’d think someone who grew up in the woods would know better. There was nothing to be done except to ignore the imaginary itch and head back into the forest. And I was glad I did, because I got to see one of my favorite woodland flowers-the painted trillium (Trillium undulatum .) This year I was late in finding them though, so all I have to show for it is this one that is almost gone by. I wanted to still show it so people could see the beautiful “painted” throat of the flower. According to the USDA, painted trilliums grow as far west as western Tennessee and south to Georgia. This photo from Wikipedia shows what a newly opened painted trillium looks like. When you find a large colony of these in the forest you understand the true meaning of the word “breathtaking.” Tiny Persian speedwell (Veronica persica) is suddenly everywhere you look. I put a quarter on the plant to give an idea of the size of the flowers that I had convinced myself I had no hope of getting a picture of. I had to use a magnifying glass to find a flower that was fully open and then after taking about 20 pictures, I found one that was in focus. This native of Europe and Asia is considered a noxious lawn weed, but I love the sky blue color of the petals.  One way to identify this plant is by looking for flowers that have one smaller petal out of four. If you can see them. This is also one of the speedwells-thyme leaved speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia.) The blossoms on this one, at about 1/8th of an inch across, are slightly larger than those on the Persian speedwell. They weren’t any easier to get a picture of though, and took several attempts. Thyme leaved speedwell is also considered a noxious lawn weed, but I like it. Note the one smaller petal of four again. I believe that all species of speedwell have one smaller petal- every one I’ve seen certainly has. I’ll leave you with a taste of things to come; this tiny cluster of what look like grapes are actually grape flower buds, so they are future grapes.  These were on a vine that I found growing in the woods.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  ~Albert Einstein

Thanks for stopping in. Be safe in the woods.

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In my last post were a lot of big, showy flowers. In this post are just the opposite; the tiny natives on the forest floor that are often hard to see. We need to keep our eyes to the ground and watch where we step. The nodding flowers of the native sessile bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) hide under the leaves with their opening towards the ground. Since these plants were only 6 inches tall I couldn’t get under the straw colored, one inch long flower to look into it.So I propped one up in the fork of a twig. Sessile bellwort flowers have three sepals and three petals, but it takes a botanist to tell them apart. They also have six stamens, which can be seen crowded into the flower opening. The word sessile relates to how the long, undulating, stalkless leaves look like they are sitting on the stem but don’t completely surround it. I found a colony of these growing in a moist forest where trillium, anemone, foamflower and meadow rue also grew. A common name of this plant is wild oats. I keep finding large drifts of flowers. Here bluets (Houstonia caerulea) carpet part of a field. Gardeners could learn a lot by paying attention to nature-flowers always look much more natural when they are planted in drifts.I saw both the bluest and whitest bluets I’ve ever seen growing less than five feet apart. I wish I knew what caused such color variations. A book by Maggie Nelson called Bluets begins “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” When you look at these flowers it’s easy to understand how she could write such a thing.Though I can’t say what causes the color variations in bluets, I read recently that the color variation in spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) is caused in part by the sun. In the study the lighter colored flowers were those that received the most sunlight. This is the darkest one I’ve seen, but it wasn’t in deep shade.This photo hasn’t been edited in any way-that’s exactly what the flower looked like, and it was a beauty. After it flowers the entire plant disappears until the following spring after having made a brief, 2 to 3 week appearance. Growing right alongside the spring beauties were yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum.) I’ve watched this large colony of plants for weeks, waiting for them to bloom. The “trout” part of the name comes from the slightly out of focus speckled leaves. Someone once thought they resembled the fish. The flower has 3 petals and 3 sepals which in full, warm sun, curve backwards to expose the long stamens and anthers. Petals and sepals are known as tepals on plants like these whose sepals and petals are indistinguishable. Trout lilies take from 4 to 7 years to bloom from seed. Before a trout lily’s tepals curl completely you can glimpse the darker bronze or maroon color on their outside surfaces. Each mature plant has two leaves and a single flower which is pollinated by ants and closes each night. This plant is also called the dogtooth violet because its white root is said to resemble a dog’s tooth. An old folk tale says that if a child swallowed one of its milk teeth you had to make him eat a dog violet petal, or his adult tooth would be long, like a dog’s tooth. The plant isn’t related to violets but it is easy to see why it is in the lily family. A spring beauty sat quietly watching nearby while I snapped pictures of the trout lily. The flower of the small flowered crowfoot (Ranunculus abortivus) was so small that I wasn’t sure if I could even get a picture of it. It is a member of the buttercup family and is also called kidney leaved buttercup, named for the round leaves at the base of the stem. Leaf shape changes on this plant so that the leaves further up the stem look nothing like those at the base. The flower has five petals, five sepals that usually bend downward, and many stamens surrounding a berry like center. This is all packed into a flower that is smaller than a pencil eraser. This unusual native, also called the kidney leaf buttercup, likes wet places and is considered poisonous. Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is another tiny flower that you have to sprawl on the ground to get a picture of. What look like white petals on this flower are actually sepals; the petals are the club-like tiny yellow balls at the end of short stalks. The inset in the upper right shows the bright yellow root that gives the plant its name. The shiny, 3 lobed leaves make this one easy to spot. Native Americans chewed the roots of goldthread to treat canker sores, which is why the plant is also called canker root. The natives shared the plant with the English settlers and it became such a popular medicine that by 1785 shakers were paying 37 cents per pound for it dried, which meant people dug up all they could find. After a couple of centuries the plant has recovered enough to be relatively common once again. I played peek-a-boo with this wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) for over a week, visiting each day to see if the flower would be open. All I saw were pink buds like that on the right. Wood anemones refuse to open up if the temperature and light aren’t to their liking, and as soon as the sun moves enough to give them the signal they begin to retreat back into their buds.  I kept missing the open flowers until one day when I found one in the act of closing, but still open enough to get a glimpse of the hidden wonders. This is another native wildflower that doesn’t have petals but has 4 to 9 sepals that look like petals. These plants grew in very damp soil and were about 3 inches tall, with tiny flowers. This plant is considered poisonous. The Chinese call it the “Flower of Death,” and in some European countries it is thought to be a bad omen, though nobody seems to remember why. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen as many wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) plants as I have this spring. They must prefer mild winters. Later on if the bees do their job, each of these flowers will become a small but delicious strawberry. In the garden strawberries easily reproduce vegetatively by runners (stolons,) but the fruit was so plentiful in the wild that colonials in North America didn’t bother cultivating them until the early 1800s. The first documented botanical illustration of a strawberry plant appeared in 1454. After taking pictures of such very small flowers this red (or purple) flowered trillium seemed like a giant. It was only five inches tall but stood on a bit of a rise, so at least I was able to get my chin off the ground to photograph it. Those who read the last post will remember that this is a real stinker whose common name is stinking Benjamin. This trillium likes moist soil and all the sun it can get. Though it might seem that a flower like this one would be easy to see, that isn’t always the case. I’ve walked right by them many times and have even stepped on one or two over the years, unfortunately. Here in New Hampshire the trilliums I’ve seen grow singly or in groups of 3 to 5, but under the right conditions they can form huge colonies. If you would like to see an excellent example of that take a look at the photo of white trilliums by Jerry over at his quietsolopursuits blog. It’s an amazing sight to behold.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these tiny forest dwellers and hope you will find some too. Thanks for coming by.

Perchance we may meet on woodland trails where drifts of trilliums and singing robins still greet the spring.” ~Don Jacobs


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