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Posts Tagged ‘Tall White Lettuce’

Since, as I said in my last post, I wasn’t having any luck finding orchids in swampy areas I thought I’d try a completely different place-dry forest. According to the book Wild Orchids of the Northeastern United States; a Field Guide, by Paul Martin Brown, there are orchids that prefer such places. But how dry? We’ve gone over a month now with no really beneficial rain and our forests are tinder dry. But anyway, off I went to dry places just like those pictured below.Being in the woods is strange right now because it is so dry that oaks are shedding their immature acorns instead of expending the energy it takes to let them ripen, and all you hear is the strange phhhhttt of acorns falling through the canopy, and then a muffled –tap- as they hit the forest litter. It is a sound that is nearly constant-like rain-and it bothers me to think of all the animals that rely on nice ripe acorns for food. I did finally find an orchid-in fact, many orchids, but they weren’t quite what I expected. This is the flower cluster of a non-native orchid called broad leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine.) These tiny but showy flowers had quite a lot of purple in them, but books say that green and white ones are much more common. This orchid came to us from Europe and is another garden escapee that has naturalized virtually everywhere. I have actually pulled it as a weed from commercial shrub beds. The leaves tell the story about where helleborine got its common name; its leaves look a lot like those of false hellebore (Veratrum viride.This plant was growing a few feet from the one with more purple in it, but its flowers were smaller and green and white instead of purple. It is still quite a showy flower, even without the purple. Indian tobacco is one of the native lobelias (Lobelia inflata.) It grows in deep, shady woods as well as in sunnier locations. The inflata part of its scientific name comes from the swollen calyx behind each flower. The calyx looks like it has been inflated and is useful in identifying this plant. The seed pods, which are said to resemble Native American tobacco pouches, give the plant its common name.Unlike the spiked lobelia (lobelia spicata,) which has flowers on a central spike, lobelia inflata has its flowers on racemes that stand out away from the central stem.The long flower spikes of native Virginia knotweed (Polygonum virginianum) can be found at the forest edges. The plant gets another of its common names, Jumpseed, from the way the seeds seem to jump from the stem when they are touched. The flowers on this plant were white but they can also be pink or greenish. Identification aids are the hairy nodes / bands where the leaf meets the main stem. The bands are darker than the stem and can be seen under each flower even from a distance.Native tall blue lettuce (Lactuca biennis ) grew near the Virginia knotweed. Tall blue lettuce is sometimes called woodland lettuce, because that is usually where it is found. Its flowers can be white to bluish. The flowers in the photo look whiter than blue to me, but they might have a blue tint. This plant looks very similar to Canada lettuce (Lactuca Canadensis) but Canada lettuce has yellow flowers. Another lettuce that has yellow flowers is prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola.) It also has prickles on the leaf margins. It would be difficult to confuse tall blue lettuce with either of those. These plants can reach 8 feet tall.Native tall white lettuce (Prenanthes altissima) isn’t very tall when compared to the tall blue lettuce shown above-this plant was barely 3 feet tall. That could be because white lettuce is in the Prenanthes genus and wild lettuce is in the Lactuca genus.  White lettuce is related to asters but its nodding flowers are whitish green and bell shaped. This plant is odd in that its leaves can vary so much from plant to plant that they are completely unreliable in identification. In a group of 5 or 6 plants, not one had the same leaf shape as its partners.  It would be a plant hunter’s nightmare if it wasn’t for the bracts behind each flower. On white lettuce there should always be 5 larger that are light green and smooth. There may also be several smaller bracts as well. I searched many books trying to identify this helianthus species with no luck except to be sure that it is a helianthus. I’m wondering if it isn’t a hybrid because it seems to have features common to several different helianthus species. It was about 4 feet tall and grew at the edge of the forest in a large colony. It is one of the few plants that weren’t wilted from lack of rain, which makes me think that is has a large, fleshy root like the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus.) But- it doesn’t have the hairy stems of that plant. Helianthus are natives.New England Asters are the first lavender ones I’ve seen dotting forest edges. These are much showier than the small white asters that usually bloom ahead ofthem. Asters can be tough to identify but the hairy stems and lance shaped, clasping leaves are a big help with this one. I like asters but I don’t like the fact that summer’s end is near when they bloom. Even though this one is blooming weeks early it has reminded me that, as usual, I’m not ready to see summer end. Panicled hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum) has wiry stems that curve in all directions and end in a small, yellow, daisy-like flower. I found this plant growing in a splash of sunshine along an old forgotten dirt road in the woods. These native plants are sometimes confused with rough hawkweed (Hieracium scabrum) but that plant has prickly flower buds and hairy leaves.Panicled hawkweed (Hieracium paniculatum) has smooth, hairless leaves and prefers dry forests. This is one of very few hairless hawkweeds. Another common name is Allegheny hawkweed. It is in the aster family.

Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand ~ Neil Armstrong

This is a strange post-every plant is a native except the orchid! Thanks for stopping in.

 

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