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Posts Tagged ‘Swamp Milkweed’

This is the time of year when our roadsides begin to look like Monet paintings. Purple loosestrife and goldenrod dominated this one, but the pink of Joe Pye weed and the white of asters and boneset often help brighten scenes like these.

There are enough different goldenrods (over a hundred it is said) which look enough alike to convince me that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to identify them all, but some are quite easy to identify.  One of the easiest is gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis).  It’s one of the first to bloom and its flower heads always look like they have been in a strong wind that blew them over to one side of the stem. The heavy flower heads also bend the stem so the plant almost always leans at an angle like those shown.

I’ve included this shot of a field full of many kinds of goldenrod for those who haven’t ever seen one. Sights like this were common when I was a boy but are getting harder to find now, mostly because of invasion by purple loosestrife. The Native American Chippewa tribe called goldenrod “sun medicine” and used it to treat fevers, ulcers, and boils. Many other tribes also used it medicinally.

After years of trial and error Thomas Edison found goldenrod to be the best domestic source of natural rubber and bred a plant that grew to twelve feet tall and contained about twelve percent rubber in its leaves. Henry Ford and George Washington Carver developed a process to make rubber from goldenrod on an industrial scale during World War II and the USDA took over the project until synthetic rubber was discovered a short time later.

I’ve been surprised to find over the past couple of years how some of the flowers that I love to see, like the tiny little forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) above, have somehow found their way into my yard. Since I haven’t done anything to encourage it how they get here is a mystery, but the list gets longer each summer. It’s such a pleasure to be able to see them each day without having to go and look for them, and I hope the trend continues.

Eastern forked blue curls have beautiful flowers that might make a half inch across on a good day and the entire plant barely reaches ankle high, so it’s a challenging plant to photograph. One unusual thing about the flower other than its unique beauty, is its four long, arching stamens that dust bees with pollen when they land on its lower lip. This plant is an annual that grows new from seed each year. It seems to like sandy soil and I find it growing along river banks and sometimes roadsides, and now in my own yard.

I know of only one place to find field milkwort (Polygala sanguinea) and it is always worth the walk to see them.  The flowers are very beautiful and unusual enough to make you want to sit beside them for a while and study them, and that’s just what I often do. I find them growing in full sun in sandy loam.

On field milkwort flowers what look like petals arranged on a central stem are actually individual flowers packed into a raceme no bigger than the end of an average index finger. Each tiny overlapping flower has two large sepals, three small sepals, and three small petals that form a narrow tube. Several different kinds of bees help pollinate this plant. Its flowers can be white, purple, pink, or green and I’ve noticed that the color can vary considerably from plant to plant.

Tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis) can get very tall and often towers over my head. A cluster of small, pencil eraser sized, blue flowers sits at the tip of the long stem. This plant is very similar to the wild lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) which bears yellow flowers. Both plants were used medicinally by Native Americans but they should only be used by those who know them well, because it is said that they can cause death by cardiac paralysis.

The flowers of tall blue lettuce can be white, deep blue, or ice blue. The deep blue ones are always the hardest to find but also the most beautiful and worth the effort. I haven’t seen a single one this year though.

I have trouble seeing red against green due to colorblindness and that’s why you don’t see much red in these posts, but these bee balm blossoms stood high enough above the surrounding foliage to be clearly visible. The name bee balm comes from the way the juice from its crushed leaves will soothe a bee sting. 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 and butterflies love it too and will come from all over to sip its nectar.

There are 2 or 3 small lobelias with small blue / purple flowers that grow here, but though the flowers look alike the plants themselves have very different growth habits, and that makes them easy to identify. This lobelia is called Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata) and the small flowers are about 1/3 of an inch long. It is the only lobelia with calyxes that inflate after the flowers have fallen and to identify it I just look for the inflated seedpods.

Indian tobacco gets its name from the way its inflated seed pods resemble the smoking material pouches that Native Americans carried. The inflata part of its scientific name also comes from these inflated pods. The pods form so quickly that they can usually be found on the lower part of the stem while the upper part is still flowering. Though Native Americans used this and other lobelias to treat asthma and other breathing difficulties they knew how to use what we don’t, and today the plants are considered toxic. They can make you very sick and too much can kill.

Common burdock (Arctium minus) must have come to this country very early, probably tangled in a horse or cow’s tail, because it was noted as being widespread in 1663. In fact it was so common then that some who came later wrote that it was native. Its spread across the country from New England to the Pacific took about 270 years, because the Native Americans of western Washington State said it had been recently introduced there in the 1930s.  Burdock’s tubular purple flowers are densely packed into round prickly flower heads, but though many are familiar with the flower heads few seem to ever notice the flowers. The examples in the above photo had just opened. When fully open long white styles grow from the dark purple anthers. In this flower head only the lower blossom shows the styles.

Arrowleaf tearthumb (Polygonum sagittatum) is in the smartweed family, which gets its common name from the way your tongue will smart if you eat its peppery parts. Though the flower buds in this family of plants seem like they never open they do, sort of. They look like they only open about halfway though and I find the buds as pretty as the blossoms. This plant is a kind of rambler / sprawler that winds its way over nearby plants so it can get as much sunshine as possible.

It’s easy to see how the plant came by the arrowleaf part of its common name.

Tearthumb got that name because it will indeed tear your thumb or any other body part that comes into contact with it. Many a gardener has regretted trying to pull it up without gloves on, because when the small but sharp barbs (prickles, botanically) along its stems slip through your hand they act like a saw and make you sorry that you ever touched it. The plant uses these prickles for support when it climbs over other plants, and they work well. Sometimes the stems and prickles are red but in this example they were green. Tearthumb is considered a wetland indicator because it likes to grow in very moist to wet soil. I almost always find it near water, often blooming quite late in summer.

Steeple bush (Spirea tomentose) seems more herb than shrub to me but it’s in the spirea family of many shrubs. Sometimes it gets confused with meadowsweet (Spirea alba) but that plant is a very woody shrub with white flowers in flower heads that aren’t as long and pointed as these are. A dense coat of white wooly hairs covers the stem and the leaf undersides of steeple bush, and that’s where the tomentose part of the scientific name comes from. It means “covered with densely matted woolly hairs.” I almost always find this plant at the water’s edge.

Five petaled, pink steeplebush flowers are about 1/16 of an inch wide and loaded with 5 pistils and many stamens, which is what often gives flowers in the spirea family a fuzzy appearance. Many different butterflies love these flowers. Native Americans used the plant medicinally in much the same way that we would use aspirin.

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum) usually grows in ankle deep water at pond edges with the lower stem submerged so it’s hard to see the entire plant, but last year’s drought let me see that each plant had a tiny tuft of sword shaped leaves at the base of the stem. The stem has a twist to it and has 7 ridges, and because of that some call it seven angle pipewort.

The plants grow in the mud and send up a slender stalk that is topped by a quarter inch diameter flower head made up of very tiny white, cottony flowers. For the first time since I’ve been photographing the plant I was able to see what look like black stamens on this example. Eriocaulon, the first part of pipewort’s scientific name, comes from the Greek erion, meaning wool, and kaulos, meaning plant stem. The second part of the scientific name, aquaticum, is Latin for a plant that grows in water, so what you have is a wool-topped stem growing in water, which of course is exactly what pipewort looks like. Pipewort is wind pollinated. It is also called hat pins, for obvious reasons.

Last year swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) started blossoming at the end of June and this year it waited until the end of July, a full month’s difference. Of course I started checking the two plants I know of at the end of June and have been waiting impatiently ever since to see this, in my opinion the most beautiful of all the milkweeds. Certain flowers can absorb me, and this is one of them. It’s one that I can sit and look at without thinking or caring about much of anything else for a time.

Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock. ~Henry Ward Beecher

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1-ice-drop

The first time I did one of these looking back posts was last year and I thought I remembered it being fun, but I found this one a little harder than fun. Picking one photo from 80-100 of them for each of the 12 months isn’t easy, but in the end I decided on the ones that best spoke about the month they were from. Last winter we didn’t have a lot of snow but we always have cold in winter, and that’s why I chose this photo of a tear shaped icicle for the month of January. It is said that January is our coldest month but I’ve seen February earn that title a few times in recent years.

2-maple-dust-lichen-on-beech

Along with cold February can sometimes bring enough snow to cover nearly everything, and this is when tree trunks gain a certain appeal. There are almost always lichens and mosses found on them and last February this maple dust lichen answered a question that I had been asking for some time, which was “Do maple dust lichens only grow on maple trees?” This one growing on a beech tree put the question to rest, and I have since seen them on poplars and young oaks as well. This pretty little lichen averages about an inch in diameter I’d guess, and can be identified by the white fringe around its perimeter. Proof that even when there’s six feet of snow on the ground there is still plenty of beauty to be found.

3-skunk-cabbage

March is when things really begin to stir and one of the first plants I see coming up is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus.) As this photo shows, we didn’t have much snow last March but even if we had the skunk cabbages would have simply melted their way up through it. Through a process called thermogenesis, skunk cabbages raise their internal temperature so it’s above the surrounding air temperature, and this melts any ice or snow that might hinder its progress. The dark color of their blotchy spathes attracts sunlight and that means they are also heated by the sun. This makes a nice cozy warming room inside the spathe where early insects can come and hang out and warm up. While they’re inside if they happen to bump into the spadix full of flowers and get pollen all over themselves, so much the better.

4-spring-beauties

April is when flowers begin to appear in great numbers. Spring bulbs bloom, trees bloom, and the first of our wildflowers bloom, including wild ginger, purple trillium, trout lily and the beautiful spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) shown in this photo.  I’m always so excited when I see their first blooms I drop down to my knees and start taking photos, forgetting that there are often leafless poison ivy vines crawling under last year’s fallen leaves. But itchy knees are worth it when beautiful things like these can be seen. There are few sights as breathtaking as a woodland floor carpeted by thousands of them and I’m very anxious to see them again.

5-new-beech-leaves

In May the leaf buds on many of our trees start breaking and king among them is the beech, in my opinion. American beech (Fagus grandifolia) bud break begins when the normally straight buds start to curl. The curling is caused by the cells on the sunny side of the bud growing faster than those on the shaded side. This creates a tension that curls the bud and eventually causes the bud scales to pull apart so the leaves can emerge. Once the downy angel wing like leaves begin to show they unfurl quickly, so you have to watch carefully. I check them each day, and it’s always worth the effort to see something so beautiful. It’s too bad that so many people miss such a captivating event.

6-ladys-slippers

In June there are many beautiful wildflowers blooming and I had a very hard time choosing which one to include here. In the end I chose the pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule,) which is New Hampshire’s state wildflower. The wild part of the word is significant, because our official state flower is the lilac, which isn’t native to New Hampshire. In any case the lady’s slipper is a beautiful native orchid and we’re lucky enough to have several different examples of them. Pink are the most common in this area but I’ve heard that there are yellow ones tucked away here and there and I’m always looking out for them.

7-swamp-milkweed

July is when I finally get to see the swamp milkweeds again. In my opinion they are easily one of our most beautiful wildflowers, and one that I’ve lost myself in more than once. If only there were more of them. I know of only two or three smallish clumps and last year one of those was too sick and insect ridden to even blossom, so they’re something I have to search for here, but their rarity and beauty make them worth every minute of searching.

8-cedar-waxwing

August is when the silky dogwood berries ripen and the cedar waxwings appear out of nowhere to eat them up, and isn’t it amazing how nature will teach you such things if you just pay a little closer attention? I love seeing the beautiful blue and white berries that always remind me of Chinese porcelain, and I also love seeing the sleek beautiful birds that feast on them.

9-moldy-mushroom

The fungi and slime molds didn’t do too well this year because of our drought but I saw a few in September, including this bolete with a mycoparasite called Syzygites megalocarpus growing on its cap. A mycoparasite is essentially a fungus that feeds on other fungi. This one has been found on over 65 species of mushroom. It can appear overnight if heat and humidity levels are just right, and that’s exactly what this one did.

10-reflections

No matter how you slice it October has to be about the fall foliage colors because that’s usually when they’re at their peak in this area and that’s when people from all over the world come to see them. This spot at Howe Reservoir in Dublin is always worth a look because it’s a forest of mostly deciduous trees and it is always colorful in the fall. I love the muted, pastel shades that happened on this cloudy day.

11-frozen-pool

We don’t usually get much snow in November but it does get cold enough for ice to form on puddles and small brooks and streams. I found this frozen pool in the woods on a cool walk one November day and I liked the many colors in and around it. The ice was thin enough so one step would have probably shattered it.

12-split-gill-fungus

There are people who seem to think that once the leaves fall there is nothing left to see outside until spring, but nothing could be further from the truth. I chose this photo of a split gill mushroom (Schizophyllum commune) that I took in December to show that there is still a lot of beauty and interest out there. You just have to look a little more carefully, that’s all.  The “gills” on the split gill fungus are actually folds on its underside that split lengthwise when it dries out. The splits close over the fertile surfaces as the mushroom shrivels in dry weather. When rehydrated by rain the splits reopen, the spore-producing surfaces are exposed to the air, and spores are released.

13-purple-fringed-orchid-from-july

I thought I’d make the photo count in this post an even baker’s dozen so I could squeeze in what I thought was an amazing find in July. I walked down an unknown trail through a swamp and found a two foot tall orchid growing right beside it on a mossy hummock. It’s either a purple fringed orchid (Platanthera psycodes) or a greater purple fringed orchid (Platanthera grandiflora.) I’m not sure which but it is definitely one of the most beautiful wildflowers that I’ve seen. The chance of finding something like this is what keeps me wandering through these woods. There are beautiful things around every turn in the trail.

To be able to look back upon one’s life in satisfaction is to live twice. ~Khalil Gibran

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone has a safe, happy, nature filled New Year!

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1. Tall Meadow Rue

Here in the United States we celebrate our independence on this day and “bombs bursting in air” are part of that celebration. Right on schedule tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) blooms and add its own kind of fireworks to the festivities. This plant is also called king of the meadow, probably because it can reach 6 or 7 feet tall under perfect conditions. It likes wet feet and its head in the sun, and grows in places that never completely dry out. The example shown is a male plant which has petal-less, stamen only flowers that dangle in sparkly panicles.

2. Wood Sorrel

Years ago I found a small group of native wood sorrel (Oxalis montana) and have never seen any since until just recently. It’s a beautiful little thing which to me is like a spring beauty bonus that blooms in summer.  Unfortunately it’s very rare here, or at least I thought so. Now I’m not so sure; I found these plants growing in a spot that I have passed close to a hundred times, and that illustrates perfectly why I never hike a trail just once. You simply can’t see everything there is to see by hiking a trail once and since flowers bloom at different times, if you want to see them a trail should be hiked every couple of weeks. It’s the only way to see all of the plants that grow in a certain place.

3. Slender Nettle

Though slender nettle (Urtica gracilis) has fewer stinging hairs it is sometimes regarded as a variety of stinging nettle and is referred to as Urtica dioica gracilis. Its common name comes from the long, slender leaves. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has fatter, shorter, more heart shaped leaves. But grab ahold of either plant and you’ll find out why the Urtica part of the scientific name comes from the Latin uro, which means “I burn.” The hollow stinging hairs on the leaves and stems are called trichomes and act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that cause the stinging. If you’re lucky the nettle you run into will be growing next to some jewel weed (Impatiens capensis,) because the sap of that plant will stop the burning and stinging. People have been using nettles for food, medicine, fibers, and dyes since before recorded time.

4. Virginia Creeper

When I showed the Pathfinders around the old abandoned road near Beaver Brook we saw plenty of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Jim, their leader, mentioned that he had never seen its flowers. The flowers won’t win any blue ribbons at flower shows but they are another interesting part of nature that many people never see, so here they are.

5. Virginia Creeper

Each Virginia creeper flower is about 1/4 inch across and has 5 greenish, backward curving petals, 5 stamens with white filaments and large yellow anthers, and a conical pistil. If pollinated each flower becomes a bluish berry that many birds and animals love to eat. They are eaten by bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, and turkeys. Mice, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, and deer eat them too and deer also eat the leaves and stems. My favorite part of the plant is its leaves, which turn bright scarlet, orange and purple in the fall.

6. Staghorn Sumac Flowers

Staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta) is another flower that most of us, myself included, pass by without a glance. This time I decided to stop and see what I had been missing. It’s another of those flowers that won’t win any prizes but insects must love them, judging by how each flower head becomes a cluster of bright red, fuzzy berries. Each greenish yellow flower is about 1/4 inch across and has 5 curved petals, a 5 lobed calyx, 5 stamens, and a central pistil, all of which are so tiny I can’t even see them by eye alone.

7. Black Swallowwort

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 has a hard to describe their odor but on a hot summer day this plant is a real stinker that can be smelled from quite a distance. It’s a vining plant native to Europe that twines over native shrubs and plants at the edges of forests and shades them out. Colonies of this plant have been found that covered several acres of land. It is nearly impossible to eradicate from a garden; I can think of one or two gardens where I tried for years.

8. Black Swallowwort

It is thought that black swallowwort was intentionally introduced to North America around 1900 as an ornamental. I’m guessing that it was more of a garden conversation piece because of its “black” flowers. Plant breeders have been trying to create a truly black flower for a very long time and this one comes very close to fulfilling that dream on its own.

9. Dogbane

Native spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) has pretty little fragrant, pink bell shaped flowers with darker pink stripes inside. They remind me of lily of the valley in shape. Many insects visit these flowers but the plant has a toxic, sticky white latex sap that means animals leave it alone. The plant doesn’t mind a little shade; I often find it growing along trails through the woods. The tough bark from the stems of dogbanes produces fibers that Native Americans made a strong thread from. It was used to make nets for hunting rabbits, among other things.

10. Indian Cucumber Root

Natives had uses for Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana) as well, and one of them was as food. Like its common name implies, this plant’s small root looks and tastes a lot like a mini cucumber.  It’s easy to identify because of its tiers of whorled leaves and unusual flowers. It likes to grow under trees in dappled light, probably getting no more than an hour or two of direct sunlight each day.

11. Indian Cucumber Root

The flowers of Indian cucumber root have 6 yellowish green tepals, 6 reddish stamens topped by greenish anthers, and 3 reddish purple to brown styles. These large styles are sometimes bright red- brown but I think they darken as they age. These appeared to be black under the camera’s flash. Each flower will become a shiny, inedible dark purplish black berry.

12. Ground Cherry

I don’t see ground cherry plants (Physalis heterophylla) very often. In fact I know of only two places where they grow, but it’s always worth going to visit them in June to see their unusual flowers. There is a bit of work involved though, because the nodding yellow and black flowers can be shy at times and hard to see. You can just see a bit of yellow in this photo at the rear of the plant.

13. Ground Cherry

I had to prop this ground cherry blossom up on a leaf to get this photo so we could see what it looks like. They look like someone put a drop of ink on each petal and then blew through a straw to make a feathery design. If pollination is successful each flower will become a bright yellow berry. This plant is called clammy ground cherry and there is another which looks quite different called smooth ground cherry (Physalis subglabrata.) That plant isn’t hairy and has orange or red berries. All parts of this plant are poisonous except the fruit, which can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be found in all of the lower 48 states except Nevada and California.

14. Bee Balm

Though I’ve seen signs advertising it for sale as bee bomb its common name is actually bee balm, which comes from the way the juice from its crushed leaves will soothe a bee sting. The 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. No matter what you choose to call it, it’s a beautiful thing that I’m always happy to see. Hummingbirds love it too and will come from all over to sip its nectar.

15. Swamp Milkweed

If ever there was a flower that could stop me in my tracks and absorb me so fully that I lose all sense of time and place, it is swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata.) It is one of those flowers that take me out of myself, and I wait impatiently for its blossoms each summer. How can you not love life when you know there is beauty like this in your future?

16. Columbine

The back of a columbine flower resembled a flock of white swans, come together to discuss whatever it is that swans discuss. I never knew this until now but technically a group of swans is called a whiteness, which seems appropriate. Unless you happen to be a black swan, I suppose.

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. ~Christopher Morley

Thanks for stopping in. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th!

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1. Canada Lilies

Off in the distance in the underbrush I spotted yellow Canada lilies (Lilium canadense) poking up above the choking growth. To get to them I had to fight my way through a tangled mass of grape vines, Virginia creeper, oriental bittersweet, and virgin’s bower, and once I reached the lily plants I was in undergrowth up to my shoulders. I was surprised to see that the lily plants were at least seven feet tall-easily the tallest lilies I’ve ever seen.

2. Canada Lilly 2

After fighting my way through the closest thing to a jungle that you’ll ever find in New Hampshire I visited a local cemetery and found Canada lilies growing everywhere, just at the edges of the mown lawns. They’re beautiful enough to warrant having to work a little harder to get close to, I think. They were big, too-this single bloom must have been 5-6 inches across.

3. Swamp Milkweed

I visited the three places that I know of where swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) grows and the plants were either gone completely or weren’t flowering, but then I found a new colony that looked good and healthy. These are extremely beautiful flowers that seem to glow from within when the light is right. They are of the kind that you can lose yourself in and suddenly discover that you’ve been admiring their beauty for far longer than you had intended. Time might slip away but as the bees taste the nectar, so can you taste the place of deep peace from which flowers come.

4. Canada Thistle

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) is small flowered thistle native to Europe and Asia and has nothing to do with Canada except as an invasive, noxious weed. It is taken care of quickly by farmers because once it becomes established in a field it is almost impossible to get rid of. Its roots can spread 20 feet in a single season and pieces of broken root will produce new plants. As thistles go its flowers are small; less than a half inch across, even though the plant itself can reach 5 feet tall. The leaves are very prickly.

5. Chicory Blossom

One of my favorite blue flowers is chicory (Cichorium intybus,) but none of the plants that I’ve seen in the past grew this year. I found this one growing beside a road and it’s now the only chicory plant that I know of. I’m hoping that it will produce lots of seeds.

 6. Bee Balm Blossom

Red flowers can be tough to get a good photo of and this year I found that the background played an important part in the end result. Green seemed to work well for this bee balm (Monarda didyma,) but so did an old weathered gray board. The Native American Oswego tribe (Iroquois) showed early colonists how to make tea from bee balm leaves, and it has been called Oswego tea ever since. Its leaves are also used as an ingredient in other teas as well.

7. Purple Loosestrife

It really is too bad that purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is so invasive. It’s hard to deny its beauty, but I’ve found it on the banks of the Ashuelot River poised to turn them into a monoculture. It would be a terrible thing to lose the diversity that is found along that river, so my admiration of its beauty is tempered by concern for the native plants that have lived there for so long.

8. Creeping Bellflower

One way to tell that you have a creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) rather than another campanula is by noticing the curious way the flowers all grow on one side of the stem, and the way that the stem almost always leans in the direction of the flowers. This plant is originally from Europe and is considered an invasive weed. It can be very hard to eradicate.

 9. Queen Anne's Lace Center Flowers

Nobody really knows why, in the center of some Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) flower heads, a purple flower will appear. Botanists have been arguing over the reason for over a century and a half, but none have an answer. Some believe the purple flowers are there to fool any insects flying by into believing that there is another insect on the flower head. Since what is good for one is good for many, they land and help to pollinate the flowers. But that is just a theory. Some ancients believed that eating the purple flower would cure epilepsey.

10. Dewdrop

I had quite a time getting both the flower and leaf of this dewdrop (Rubus dalibarda) in focus. I thought it was important though, because someone once thought its leaves looked like violet leaves, and from that comes another common name: false violet. It likes to grow in moist coniferous woodlands and doesn’t need a lot of sunshine. This plant is quite rare in these parts. I know of only one small colony of plants in Fitzwilliam. It is considered extremely rare in Connecticut and “historical” in Rhode Island, meaning it is just a memory there. It is also threatened in many states, including Michigan and Ohio.

11. Dewdrop Blossom

The odd thing about the dewdrop plant is how most of the flowers that appear above the leaves are sterile and produce no seeds. The fertile flowers appear under the leaves and can’t be seen, and every year when I take its photo I forget to look for them.

 12. Cow Wheat

Humble little narrow-leaf cow wheat seems like a shy little thing but it is actually a thief that steals nutrients from surrounding plants. A plant that can photosynthesize and create its own food but is still a parasite on surrounding plants is known as a hemiparasite.  Its long white, tubular flowers tipped with yellow-green are very small, and usually form in pairs where the leaves meet the stem (axils). I find this plant growing in old, undisturbed forests.

 13. Monkey Flower Side

No matter how I look at an Allegheny monkey flower (Mimulus ringens) I don’t see a smiling monkey’s face. This is a side view. I can’t help but wonder; if I came upon a wildflower that I had never seen before, would I be thinking of monkeys? I don’t think so. I rarely think of monkeys and I don’t think I’ve ever thought of them while admiring wildflowers. The way that flowers find their common names is an endless source of fascination for me. This little monkey likes wet, sunny places and is also called square stemmed monkey flower.

14. Monkey Flower Front

Even a front view of Mimulus ringens doesn’t show me a monkey’s face, but someone once thought so. The mimulus part of the scientific name means “buffoon,” but I don’t see that either. All I see is a very pretty little wildflower that I wish I’d see more of.

If you wish your children to think deep thoughts, to know the holiest emotions, take them to the woods and hills, and give them the freedom of the meadows; the hills purify those who walk upon them.  ~Richard Jefferies

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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Here are just a few of the flowers that I’ve seen recently.

1. Bull Thistle aka Cirsium vulgare

The spiky basal leaf rosettes of bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) form the first year and the plant sends a flower stalk up the second year, so when you see its flower you are looking at two years of work. This means it is a biennial, rather than an annual or perennial. The introduced, invasive plant can spread only by seed and does not reproduce vegetatively.

2. Little Floating Bladderwort

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. These modified leaf stems do more than keep the plant afloat-each has small hairs on its end that trigger a trap door when touched by an insect. Once the insect has been sucked inside, the trapdoor closes and it is digested.

 3. Little Floating Bladderwort Blossom

The flowers of bladderworts are one of the hardest to photograph of any that I know of.

 4. Swamp Milkweed

Our native swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate) is such a beautiful color that I find myself just staring at it when I see it. I can’t think of another flower that can quite match the beautiful, deep pink color. My color finding software sees rose pink, orchid, plum, and hot pink. I find this plant growing near ponds but it is rare in this area. I know of only two small colonies.

 5. Purple Loosestrife

Purple loosestrife is a beautiful bot terribly invasive plant that can be found near just about any pond, lake, stream or river. According to the USDA, it grows in all but 7 states and seems bent on national domination. As is often the case, the plant was brought over from Europe. In New Hampshire it is illegal to produce, sell, or import it. Two species of beetle have been introduced to try and control the plant but what usually happens in such cases is, once the introduced plant has been brought under control by the introduced insect, the introduced insect becomes the problem that then needs controlling.

6. Meadow

No matter how invasive it may be I still have to say that when I see purple loosestrife blooming with yellow goldenrod, white boneset, and pink Joe Pye weed, I feel like I’m walking into a Monet painting.  There are few scenes more beautiful than a meadow full of wildflowers, in my opinion.

 7. Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium,) as one story goes, was named after a Native American herbalist named Joe Pye. Another version says that Joe was a doctor. Whatever the story of how the name came to be, Joe Pye Weed is known to have been used medicinally by Native Americans for centuries. There are several species of this plant including hollow Joe-Pye-weed (E. fistulosum) which has a purplish stem that is hollow. Sweet Joe-Pye-weed (E. purpureum) smells like vanilla. Three-nerved Joe-Pye-weed (E. dubium) has a purple-speckled stalk and smaller, deep purple flowers. Spotted Joe-Pye-weed (E. maculatum) has a flower cluster that is flatter than the others.

 8. Dewdrop

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens) is also called false violet because of its leaves, and I think that might be part of why I’ve missed it until recently. Its small white flowers dot the forest floor like so many other small white flowers, and that also makes it easy to pass by with just a glance. A closer look reveals something different though-this plant produces other flowers that don’t open but still produce seeds. They are called cleistogamous flowers and are hidden beneath the leaves. The showy flowers like the one in the photo are mostly sterile.

 9. Dewdrop Colony

Though I found a large colony, dewdrop is endangered or threatened in many states.

 10. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain aka Goodyera pubescens

I found this downy rattlesnake plantain orchid (Goodyera pubescens) about 6 weeks ago, but I wasn’t sure if it would blossom until, two weeks later, it started to send up a single flower stalk. Four weeks after that it finally bloomed. I like the evergreen, silvery leaves on this plant even more than the flowers because they’re so unusual. This is supposed to be the most common orchid in New England, but I’ve only seen it once in my life.

 11.Downy Rattlesnake Plantain aka Goodyera pubescens Flower

After waiting so long for them to appear I have to say that the tiny white flowers were kind of anti-climactic but still beautiful, as most orchids are. They are also very hard to photograph in the dim conditions they like to grow in. The pubescens part of the scientific name means downy or hairy, and the photo clearly shows how the plant got that name. The plantain part of the common name comes from the way the leaves resemble those of plantains, and the rattlesnake part of the name comes from the color and pattern of the leaves. Native Americans used this plant to treat snakebite.

12. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain aka Goodyera pubescens

With its flower stalk present downy rattlesnake plantain might stand 6-8 inches tall. Note the blue bead lily and bunchberry plants that grow alongside it. If you compare the size of its leaves to those of a well-known plant like bunchberry, (just above the orchid) you can get an idea of how small it really is.  This helps explain how I walked by without seeing it so many times last year-a single oak leaf could cover the entire plant.

13. Broad Leaved helleborine aka Epipactis helleborine

The second orchid I found wasn’t a surprise because I saw it here last year. This one is called broad leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) and it is an introduced species that originally hails from Europe. According to the USDA it was first found in North America near Syracuse, New York, in 1878 and has now spread to 31 states. The plants that I found stand about knee high, but they can get taller with more light. Its leaves, though smaller, closely resemble those found on false hellebore and the name helleborine in Latin means “like hellebore.” What I find odd is that neither false hellebore leaves nor the leaves of this orchid look at all like hellebore leaves to me.

14. Broad Leaved helleborine aka Epipactis helleborine Flower

These flowers, about as big as a pencil eraser, seemed huge after trying to photograph the tiny downy rattlesnake plantain flowers. Last year the flowers on these plants had much more purple in them, but color change among flowers is common on this plant. In fact, two plants growing side by side can have completely different colored flowers. Personally, I like the purple version more than the one pictured here.

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom.  They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.  ~Jim Carrey

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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When you travel east from Keene, New Hampshire on Route 101 towards the seacoast, before too long you see quite a large hill on your right. Between this hill and the highway is a strip of flat ground that is maybe 300 feet wide at its widest point and maybe a half mile long. I drive by this strip of land quite often and have seen cattails growing there in the past. I’ve also noticed that the area gets full sun, and full sun along with soil wet enough for cattails might mean orchids, so I had to stop and see.This tiny flower is very beautiful, in my opinion. It is called Blue vervain (Verbena hastate.) This native can grow to 5 feet tall and the ones I found were well on their way to reaching that height.  Such unusual height and a beautiful blue color make these flowers easy to spot. Wildflower books often say that these flowers are more purple than blue but since I’m color blind I go by their common name and believe that they are blue. This plant likes its feet wet and its head in the sun. It wasn’t growing in standing water but the soil was making squishing noises under my feet. As you might expect, this plant is an insect magnet. This one, on the other hand, was growing in low standing water and I got my feet wet getting this picture. This is native pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata,) which is an aquatic plant. You can spot this plant long before it blooms because of its large, heart shaped leaves that stand straight up out of the water. Books tell me that the flowers are violet-blue and I certainly won’t argue that point, though they look blue to me. Pickerel weed grows from and underground stem called a rhizome which can be as much as 2 feet underwater.  The plant’s strong stems keep the leaves and flowers above water. I think it’s a beauty but unfortunately you usually can’t get close to it without a boat or waders.Contrasting nicely with the blue vervain and pickerel weed were bright yellow swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris.) This plant is in the loosestrife family and each of the 5 yellow petals has two red dots at its base, which makes the flowers look a lot like those found on whorled loosestrife, but slightly smaller. This plant is easy to identify-I can’t think of another that has loose, yellow flower spikes (racemes) like this one unless it is broad leaved goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis,) but its leaves are very different. This is a native that grows to about 3 feet and likes boggy places. This is another plant called loosestrife-the much maligned purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria.) This plant is not a native but is originally from Europe and Asia and came over as a garden ornamental. It is not related to our native loosestrife, but shares its name. The problem with importing plants is that the foreign insects and diseases that keep the plant in check in its native land aren’t here in this country, so the plant has freedom to spread as much as it can. That is exactly what purple loosestrife has done. I’ve seen it growing so thick on stream banks that you couldn’t see a native plant anywhere, whereas 10 years earlier natives were all that were there.  Purple loosestrife will grow in standing water but is usually found on wet, solid ground. It is very tall and easily seen. It is also blooming more than a month early this year.This beautiful thing is the flower cluster of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate.) It is also called rose milkweed for obvious reasons.  The flower head was about the size of a baseball. This native isn’t common here at all, so I was very happy to find it. Hummingbirds and too many insects to list love this plant but its leaves are toxic so animals leave it alone. It is much taller than common milkweed and is the only milkweed that will grow in wet places. It doesn’t like standing water but mucky soil doesn’t bother it. The leaves are also much narrower and longer than those of other milkweeds.I was very surprised to find this Allegheny Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens) growing here. I can’t say that it is rare but I’ve never seen it and I had no idea what it was when I was taking pictures of it.  It wasn’t too hard to identify though, because there aren’t too many flowers that look like it. According to the USDA it grows in almost every state in the country and nearly every Canadian province, which also surprises me. Why haven’t I ever seen it (?)I ask myself. I have to admit that I haven’t spent a lot of time in swamps, but I will be doing so in the future. These plants were about 2 feet tall and growing in wet, sandy soil. Each plant had only 4 or 5 flowers strung along the stem, coming out of the leaf axils. Some say the flower looks like a monkey’s face, but I’m not seeing it. I’ve read that the flowers can occasionally be pink or white. This one looks very pink, and very beautiful to me. The native Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa ) were easy to miss, growing as they were down at shin height among all of the other towering plants. They were closing up for the evening just as I found them and were doing so because they are in the evening primrose family, and that’s what evening primroses do.  I was surprised at how small these plants were and at first didn’t think they were sundrops, but the X or cross shaped stigma in the center of the flower convinced me.  These plants were growing in wet, sandy soil in full sun but were somewhat shaded by the taller plants all around them, which might account for their smaller than usual size. Speaking of tall plants, this white sweet clover (Melilotus albus ) had to be at least 6 feet tall. It is also called tree clover, for good reason. This is another introduced plant now considered invasive. One feature of this plant that makes identification easier is the furrowed stem. It has three leaflets to a leaf stem (petiole) like all clovers and the slightly fragrant flowers have the shape of pea flowers.  White sweet clover attracts many insects and birds eat its seed. Rabbits and deer eat the leaves but they are said to be mildly toxic to livestock. It was introduced from Europe and Asia as a green manure and has escaped into the wild. This native meadow sweet (Spiraea latifolia) shrub looks much like a spirea because that is exactly what it is. This woody shrub grows to about 3 feet tall and usually has white flowers, but occasionally they are pale pink like those in the photo. This is an unusual shrub because it prefers wet ground. There aren’t many shrubs that do. There is a very similar plant called hardhack but its leaves are hairy and those on meadow sweet are smooth.Brown knapweed (Centaurea jacea) is another plant that prefers wet places but it also prefers cool temperatures, which was why I was a little surprised to find it growing beside the road in a wet, sunny meadow. It could be that the taller plants were shading it enough to keep it cool. Brown knapweed is originally from Europe and according to the U.S. Forest Service is a “highly invasive weed that is capable of forming large infestations under favorable conditions.”  Black knapweed, spotted knapweed and tyrol knapweed are others that I know will grow in New Hampshire. The color of the tips of the bracts under the flower is one aid to identification, but it’s a bit too involved to go into here.  A good field guide will help with this one.This pink and white spider with red racing stripes was crawling over a water hemlock blossom; a plant that is about as poisonous as they come. This is the female goldenrod spider, who is a member of the crab spider family. I didn’t know anything about crab spiders until I found one in a photo I had taken. It was strange because I didn’t see the spider when I took the photo, but fellow blogger jomegat explained that these spiders can change color. The goldenrod spider can change from white to yellow and back again. If it wasn’t for her red stripes, I probably wouldn’t have seen this one.  Something I find particularly interesting about these spiders is that they don’t build webs. Instead they just blend into the flower color and ambush their prey.  I’ll be a little more careful about where I put my nose from now on!

 If you love it enough, anything will talk with you ~ George Washington Carver

Well, I never did find an orchid but I hope you enjoyed seeing what I did discover in the boggy meadow. I’ll be watching to see what else might bloom here. Thanks for visiting.

 

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