Posts Tagged ‘Speedwell’

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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