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Posts Tagged ‘Vinca Minor’

I thought I’d illustrate our weather by showing these grape hyacinths, which should be done blooming by now. I saw the first ones blooming just a little over a month ago. Other bulbs like tulips and daffodils are also still blooming so they must be enjoying the cool, damp weather.

Trees with white flowers are everywhere and this one happens to be an apple tree. I think many people are surprised to learn that apple trees are not native to the United States. They have all come from old world stock brought over in the 1600s. Apples from Europe were grown in the Jamestown colony and the first non-native apple orchard was planted in Boston in 1625. Only the crab apple is native to this country and they were once called “common” apples. The Native American Abenaki tribe called them “apleziz” and used them for food as well as medicinally.

But it doesn’t matter where apples come from, because the fragrance is wonderful. Apple blossoms were one of my grandmother’s favorites and I remember bringing her arm loads of flowering branches when I was a boy. They were all you could smell in her house for days after.

Few of us think of creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) as a wildflower but it is actually native to the forests of North America. It is sometimes called moss phlox or moss pinks and April’s “pink moon” got that name from the way the “moss pinks” bloom in that month. It’s a plant that loves growing in lawns and luckily it doesn’t seem to mind being mowed. Even so many people wait until it’s done blooming to do their first spring mowing.

Individual creeping phlox flowers are quite pretty but I doubt many people bother to look at them. They see the mass display but not the individuals responsible for it.

Pin cherry flowers (Prunus pensylvanica) are quite pretty and are pollinated by several kinds of insects. They become small, quarter inch bright red berries (drupes) with a single seed which are also called bird cherries. The berries are said to be very sour but edible and are used in jams and jellies, presumably with a lot of sugar. Native Americans used the berries in breads and cakes and also preserved them and ate them fresh. The bark of the tree was used medicinally for a large variety of illnesses including coughs, stomach pains and as a burn salve.

I can remember picking lilacs for my grandmother on Mother’s day but not this year. I’d guess that they’re close to two weeks late. So far this small flower head is the only one I’ve seen but that’s probably because of the cool wet weather. We had a dusting of snow yesterday morning so if it’s cold enough to snow it’s cold enough to keep those buds closed. This one was small in size but not in fragrance. It’s great to smell lilacs again.

Johnny jump ups (Viola tricolor) have jumped up almost over night. This beautiful dark one was the first I’ve seen. This wild form of the modern pansy has been known and loved for a very long time. It is said to have 60 names in English and 200 more in other languages. In medieval times it was called heart’s ease and was used in love potions. Stranger names include “three faces in a hood.” Whatever it’s called I like seeing it appear at the edge of my lawn in spring. I always try to encourage it by letting it go to seed but it never seems to spread.

Just after many other magnolias lose their flowers this one with tulip shaped flowers starts blooming. Its name is “Jane” and though I’m not crazy about the flower shape I love its color. It’s later bloom time means less chance of damage by frost.

Vinca (Vinca minor) has come into full bloom now. The word vinca means “to bind” in Latin, and that’s what the plant’s wiry stems do. They grow quickly into an impenetrable wiry mat that other plants can’t grow through and I’ve seen large areas of nothing but vinca in the woods, still blooming beautifully 200 years after it was first planted. You can often find huge colonies of it near old cellar holes. Still, it is nowhere near as aggressive as many other invasive plants and people enjoy seeing its beautiful violet flowers in spring. Another name for it is Myrtle.

Sessile leaved bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) is also called wild oats and the plants have just come into bloom. They are a spring ephemeral and won’t last but they do put on a show when they carpet a forest floor. They are a buttery yellow color which in my experience is always difficult to capture with a camera. The spring shoots remind me of Solomon’s seal but the plant is actually in the lily of the valley family.

The word “sessile” in the name describes how the leaves of a sessile leaved bellwort lie flat against the stem, with no leaf stalk. The leaves are also elliptic and are wider in the middle than they are on either end.

A forest floor carpeted with sessile leaved bellworts makes an unforgettable sight. Many tens of thousands of them grow along the Ashuelot River in Keene.

Dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) plants have three leaflets on each compound leaf and together form a whorl of three compound leaves around the stem. The plants are very small; each one would fit in a teacup with plenty of room to spare. Dwarf ginseng is very choosy about where it grows and will only grow in undisturbed ground in old hardwood forests. It is not the ginseng used in herbal medicine but it is quite rare in my experience, so it should never be picked.

Each dwarf ginseng flower head is about the size of a malted milk ball, or about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Individual flowers are about 1/8 inch across and have 5 bright white petals, a short white calyx, and 5 white stamens. In a good year the flowers might last 3 weeks, and if pollinated will be followed by tiny yellow fruits.

Pulmonaria usually has green leaves splotched with silver but this one I saw in a local park must be a new hybrid. Pulmonaria (Pulmonaria officinalis) is an old fashioned but pretty evergreen garden plant that originally hails from Europe and Asia. The silver mottled leaves were once thought to resemble a diseased lung and so its common name became lungwort. People thought it would cure respiratory ailments like bronchitis and the leaves were and still are used medicinally in tinctures and infusions.

The leaves and flowers are edible, and if you’ve ever had vermouth you’ve had a splash of pulmonaria because it is one of the ingredients. The plant does well in shade and has flowers of blue, pink, white, purple and red.

I finally saw the wild columbines (Aquilegia canadensis) blooming and thankfully Ii was a nice uneventful hike out to see them. I’ve found that my bear encounter of a couple of weeks ago has taken a lot of the shine off this hike. It’s hard to relax when you know you need to be on your guard.

But as always the columbines were beautiful and I lost myself in them for a while. I took shot after shot, trying to get the best view I could. Much like people flowers have a best side, and your job as a nature photographer is to find it. If you want to really see nature like you’ve never seen it before, look at it through a camera lens.

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. ~Dorothea Lange

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Our white flowered trees are in full bloom along the roadsides. Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis) is almost always first to flower, followed by cherries, apples, crabapples, and plums.

Naturalists and botanists have been arguing for years over the many native shadbush species and hybrids. The 5 white flower petals can appear quite different in each, but none of the several variations that I’ve seen have had blossoms bigger than a nickel. All of them seem to have multiple large stamens. Shadbushes bloom earlier than the other shrubs and trees but are often still in bloom when the others bloom. The flowers appear before the leaves, unlike apples. Small, reddish purple to purple, apple shaped fruits follow in June. The fruit is a berry similar in size to a blueberry and has from 5-10 seeds. They taste best when they are more purple than red. Shadbush flowers are pretty but their fragrance isn’t very appealing.

If you have dandelions and violets in your lawn, there’s a good chance that you also have wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana). If the pollinators do their job each of these flowers will become a small but delicious strawberry. The month of June was known to many Native American tribes as the “Strawberry Moon” because that was when most strawberries began to ripen. The berries were picked, dried and stored for winter use, or added to pemmican, soups, and breads. 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.

They’re called broadleaf weeds and some people are less than happy when they find them in their lawn, but I welcome violets in mine and I’m always happy to see them.  In fact one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen was a large field of dandelions and violets blooming together and I’d love to have a “lawn” that looked like it did. Violets can be difficult to identify and, like the many small yellow flowers I see, I’ve given up trying. I just enjoy their beauty and notice that they have the same features as many other flowers. The deep purple lines on the petals guide insects into the flower’s throat while brushy bits above dust its back with pollen.

Some of my lawn violets are white, and shyer than the purple.  Native Americans had many uses for violets. They made blue dye from them to dye their arrows with and also soaked corn seed in an infusion made from the roots before it was planted to keep insect pests from eating the seeds. The Inuktitut Eskimo people placed stems and flowers among their clothes to give them a sweet fragrance, and almost all tribes ate the leaves and flowers. How many chubby little toddler fists have proudly held out a bouquet of wilted violets in the spring? I can remember doing so as a small boy. My grandmother always pretended to love them more than all of the other flowers combined.

In a ground ivy blossom (Glechoma hederacea) five petals are fused together to form a tube. The lowest and largest petal, which is actually two petals fused together, serves as a landing area for insects, complete with tiny hairs for them to hang onto. The darker spots are nectar guides for them to follow into the tube. The pistil’s forked style pokes out at the top under one of the three separate petals. It’s in a perfect position to brush the back of a hungry bee. This flower is all about continuation of the species, and judging by the many thousands that I see its method is perfection. It’s another invader, introduced into North America as an ornamental or medicinal plant as early as the 1800s, when it immediately began taking over the continent. But nobody seems to mind.

Vinca (Vinca minor) is a trailing plant and is also a slightly invasive one from Europe. It has been here long enough to have erased any memories of them having once crossed the Atlantic on the deck of a wooden ship though. In the 1800s Vinca was a plant given by one neighbor to another along with lilacs and peonies, and I’ve seen all three still blooming beautifully near old cellar holes off in the middle of nowhere. But the word vinca means “to bind” in Latin, and that’s what the wiry stems do. They grow thickly together and form an impenetrable mat that other plants can’t grow through, and I know of large areas with nothing but vinca growing in them. But all in all it is nowhere near as aggressive as many non-natives so we enjoy its beautiful violet purple flowers and coexist. Another name for it is Myrtle.

I’ve known that coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) likes damp soil but this is the first time I’ve seen them growing directly in the water of a stream. There used to be a colony of plants growing on the bank of this stream but in 2014 the stream flooded and washed them all away. Or so I thought; it looks like those plants left plenty of seeds behind.

I’m having a hard time with bloodroot plants this year. The flowers won’t open on cloudy days and close for the night in early evening. Since they’ve been blooming it seems like cloudy days and late evenings have been the only times I’ve had to look for them. My favorite colony was buried inside the tangled limbs of a fallen tree so I found the two plants pictured in a new smaller colony, but they were closing up shop for the night, even though the sun was still shining. I wanted to show you this photo though, because of the oak leaf on the left. It’s a good comparison for those of you who’ve never seen a bloodroot blossom before.

Bloodroot flowers are beautiful little things but they’re are hard to enjoy sometimes because at the slightest hint of darkness they close up their petals to resemble small, unopened white tulips.

Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) can grow in huge drifts like this one. Though this tiny wildflower is thought to be a spring ephemeral I’ve seen it bloom all summer long. I think it got the reputation for being an ephemeral because it often grows in lawns and once the lawn is mowed you don’t see the flowers any longer. They like sunny spots and appear in early spring.

Bluets are cheery, beautiful little things but individual flowers are small; only about 3/8 of an inch in diameter. Luckily they always grow in tufts of many blossoms and are easily found. Each year I always try to find the flowers that best live up to their name. So far the examples in the above photo are the winners. Another name for the plant is innocence. The Native American Cherokee tribe used bluet plants to cure bedwetting.

Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) grows and blossoms very quickly. Just days before I took this photo these plants were showing nothing but stems (Rhizomes) running along the soil surface under a collection of last year’s leaves. Scientists thought for years that wild ginger flowers were pollinated by flies or fungus gnats, but several studies have shown that they are self-pollinated.

I thought I’d take you inside a hairy wild ginger blossom, at least as far as I could. A wild ginger flower has no petals; it is made up of 3 triangular shaped calyx lobes that are fused into a cup and curl backwards. You might think, because of its meat-like color, that flies would happily visit this flower and they do occasionally, but they have little to nothing to do with the plant’s pollination. It is thought they crawl into the flower simply to get warm.

The long rhizomes of wild ginger were used by Native Americans as a seasoning. It has similar aromatic properties as true ginger but the plant has been found to contain aristolochic acid, which is a carcinogenic compound that can cause kidney damage. Native Americans also used the plant medicinally for a large variety of ailments.

Wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) is very similar to false rue anemone (Enemion biternatum.) Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) which is also similar, also grows in New Hampshire, which complicates being able to identify these plants. While false rue anemone is native to the eastern U.S., the USDA and other sources say that it doesn’t grow in New England, so that leaves wood anemone and rue anemone. False rue anemone always has 5 white sepals, while wood anemone and true rue anemone can have more.

The small fertile flowers in the center of hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) flower heads haven’t opened yet but the larger, sterile flowers around the outer edges have. Technically a hobblebush flower head is a corymb, which is just a fancy word for a flat topped, usually disc shaped flower head. It comes from the Latin corymbus, which means a cluster of fruit or flowers.  All flowers in a hobblebush cluster, both fertile and infertile, have 5 petals.

A close look at the large sterile flowers of hobblebush shows no reproductive parts. They are there for only one reason, and that is to attract insects to the flower head. Many viburnums have this kind of arrangement and it seems to work well, because I see plenty of fruit on them later in the summer. Hobblebush is easily one of our most beautiful native shrubs.

Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) could pass as a blueberry at a glance, but its leaves are evergreen and it likes very wet, even boggy ground. Blueberry is not evergreen and usually grows naturally in dry sandy soil. Leatherleaf also blooms earlier than blueberry. This is its first appearance on this blog.

Leatherleaf obviously gets its common name from its tough, evergreen, leathery leaves. They are lighter colored on their undersides and are scaly with tiny scales. Florists use sprays of leatherleaf leaves as filler in bouquets. This type of flower must be very successful. It is used by blueberries, lily of the valley, dogbane, bearberry, Japanese andromeda, white heather, and many other plants. Native Americans used the plant to reduce inflammation and to treat fevers, headaches, and sprains.

Our purple trilliums (Trillium erectum) have started to bloom and I’m seeing quite a few this year. Purple trillium is also called wake robin, because its bloom time heralded the return of the robins. The flowers have no nectar and are thought to be pollinated by flies and beetles. Their petals have an unpleasant odor that is said to be similar to spoiled meat, and this entices the flies and beetles to land and pollinate them. I can attest to the unpleasant odor but they’re very beautiful and will be at their peak of bloom soon.  As they age each petal will turn a deeper purple. Their stay is all too brief but when they fade they’ll be followed by nodding trilliums (Trillium cernuum) and then painted trilliums (Trillium undulatum,) both of which are also very beautiful.

My relationship to plants becomes closer and closer. They make me quiet; I like to be in their company. ~Peter Zumthor

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1. Fly Honeysuckle

The unusual joined flowers of the American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) usually starts blooming during the last week of April, so it’s a little early this year. Its unusual paired flowers branch off from a single stem and if pollinated will become joined pairs of reddish orange fruit shaped much like a football, with pointed ends. Many songbirds love its fruit so this is a good shrub to plant when trying to attract them. I see it growing along the edges of the woods but it can be hard to find, especially when it isn’t blooming. This photo shows the buds, which were just opening.

2. Fly  Honeysuckle

The trumpet shaped blossoms of the fly honeysuckle usually dangle downward like bells but this plant had a single open flower that was parallel to the ground and so I was able to get my first photo looking into one.

3. Red Maple

Many maples missed the recent cold snap and are still flowering now. It’s impossible to know how many were hurt by the cold but at least the weather has improved since.

4. Hazel

I was surprised to see the hazelnuts (Corylus americana) still blooming. The fine strands of the female flowers looked a little darker than their normal bright crimson though, so I wondered if they had been frost bitten.

5. Dandelions

At the edge of the forest dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) bloomed profusely. After a two year near absence it’s good to see them again. Their disappearance coincided with two of the snowiest and coldest winters we’ve had in quite some time, but that could simply be a coincidence.

6. Mayflowers

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) have just started blooming. This shot is for those of you who have never seen it so you can see its oval, leathery, evergreen leaves in relation to its waxy flowers, which are small and are white or pink. The plant can form large ground hugging mats. Another common name for it is mayflower and that comes by way of its supposedly being the first flower the Pilgrims saw upon landing on the shores of the new world.

“God be praised!” the Pilgrim said,
Who saw the blossoms peer
Above the brown leaves, dry and dead
“Behold our Mayflower here!”

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote that but I have to wonder if he ever saw the plant. I’ve never seen one with “brown leaves, dry and dead” because they usually stay green year round. And since the Pilgrims landed in September it’s doubtful that trailing arbutus would have been blooming. Several Native American tribes used the plant medicinally. It was thought to be particularly useful for breaking up kidney stones and was considered so valuable it was said to have divine origins.

7. Mayflowers

I’ll have to agree that the spicy fragrance of trailing arbutus is divine, but you have to be willing to get your chin on the ground to experience it, so low do they grow.  The fragrant blossoms were once so popular that the plant was collected nearly to the point of extinction in New England, and in many states it is protected by law thanks to the efforts of what is now the New England Wildflower Society.

8. Vinca

Vinca (Vinca minor) is another trailing plant and is also a slightly invasive one from Europe. It has been here long enough to have erased any memories of them having once crossed the Atlantic on the deck of a wooden ship though. In the 1800s Vinca was a plant given by one neighbor to another, along with lilacs and peonies, and I’ve seen all three still blooming beautifully near old cellar holes off in the middle of nowhere. But the word vinca means “to bind” in Latin, and that’s what the wiry stems do. They grow thickly together and form an impenetrable mat that other plants can’t grow through, and I know of large areas with nothing but vinca growing in them. But all in all it is nowhere near as aggressive as many non-natives so we enjoy its beautiful violet purple flowers and coexist.

9. Bloodroots

I was happy to see bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) just coming into bloom about the same time as last year.  I think it’s probably tender enough to have suffered in the cold, so I’m glad it waited. Bloodroot’s common name comes from the toxic blood red juice found in its roots. Native Americans once used this juice for war paint. I’d love to show it to you but I can never bear to dig one up.

10. Bloodroot

I always challenge my own camera skills by seeing if I can take a photo of bloodroot with the very faint veins in the petals visible. It isn’t easy unless the light is just right. On this day sunlight fell brightly on them but by shading them with my body I was able to get the petal’s veins in the shot.

11. Violet

They’re called broadleaf weeds and some people are less than happy when they find them in their lawn, but I welcome violets in mine and I’m always happy to see them.  In fact one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen was a large field of dandelions and violets blooming together and I’d love to have a “lawn” that looked like it did. Violets can be difficult to identify and, like the many small yellow flowers I see, I’ve given up trying. I just enjoy their beauty and notice that they have the same features as many other flowers. The deep purple lines on the petals guide insects into the flower’s throat while brushy bits above dust its back with pollen.

12. Violet

Some of my lawn violets are white, and shyer than the purple.  Native Americans had many medicinal and other uses for violets. They made blue dye from them to dye their arrows with and also soaked corn seed in an infusion made from the roots before it was planted to keep insect pests from eating the seeds. The Inuktitut Eskimo people placed stems and flowers among their clothes to give them a sweet fragrance, and almost all tribes ate the leaves and flowers.

13. Spring Beauty

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) are so beautiful and seem like such perfect flowers that I just can’t think of anything else to wish for when I’m sitting with them. It’s very easy to sit with them for a very long time too, if you should happen to lose yourself in them. I’ve read that those that grow in the shade are the most colorful but I’ve also noticed that the new, partially opened flowers are also more colorful than those that are fully opened, so age must also play a part.

14. Spring Beauty

This spring beauty blossom was much less colorful than the one we saw previously, but it didn’t seem to be growing in a spot that was sunnier. I think there is also a lot of natural color variation among them just as there is with most flowers. They’re very small; a single blossom could easily hide behind a penny. This one had a visitor. A leaf hopper, I think.

15. Trout Lilies

The trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) have just opened in the huge colony of them that grow in a narrow strip of woodland in Keene. I’ve read that some large colonies can be as much as 300 years old. Each plant grows from a single bulb and can take 7-10 years to produce a flower, so if you see a large colony of flowering plants you know it has been there for a while. Young plants start with a single leaf and then grow a second when they are ready to bloom, so you see many more leaves than flowers. Out of the many thousands of plants in this colony I saw not even a quarter of them in bloom, so I think most of them in this section are relatively young.

16. Trout Lilies

Trout lilies are in the lily family and it’s easy to see why; they look just like a miniature Canada lily. The six stamens in the blossom start out bright yellow like these but quickly turn brown and start shedding pollen. Three erect stigmata will catch any pollen that visiting insects might bring. Nectar is produced at the base of the petals and sepals (tepals) as it is in all members of the lily family, and it attracts several kinds of bees. The plant will produce a light green, oval, three part seed capsule 6-8 weeks after blooming if pollination has been successful. The seeds of trout lilies are dispersed by ants, which eat their rich, fatty appendages and leave the seeds to grow into bulbs. On this day I saw bumblebees visiting them.

Flowers construct the most charming geometries: circles like the sun, ovals, cones, curlicues and a variety of triangular eccentricities, which when viewed with the eye of a magnifying glass seem a Lilliputian frieze of psychedelic silhouettes. ~Duane Michals

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1. Female Box Elder FlowersThe lime green, sticky pistils of female box elder flowers (Acer negundo) appear along with the tree’s leaves, but a few days after the male flowers have fully opened, I’ve noticed. Box elders have male flowers on one tree and female flowers on another, unlike red maples which can have both on one tree. Several Native American tribes made sugar from this tree’s sap and the earliest known example of a Native American flute, dating from 620-670 AD, was made from its wood.

2. Bluets

One day I went walking near mown areas looking for bluets (Houstonia caerulea) but found none. Two days later they were everywhere. I always look for the darkest shade of blue for a photo but the flowers can be almost white to dark blue, and I’ve read that they open white and darken to various shades of blue as they age. No matter what shade of blue they are, they always have a yellow center. They are tiny things; each flower isn’t much bigger than a pea. Another name for the plant is “Quaker ladies” but nobody seems to know exactly why. Other names include innocence, blue-eyed babies, Venus’ pride, Quaker bonnets, and bright eyes. They’re cheery little things and I’m always happy to see them. 3. Dandelion

I can just imagine the conversation that must have gone on:
Her: Sweetie, there’s a strange man lying on the sidewalk out front, taking pictures of our stone wall.
Him: He’s not taking pictures of the wall; he’s taking pictures of the dandelion growing in it.
Her:  But why would he be doing that?
Him: How should I know? He’s obviously some kind of a nut. Just ignore him and maybe he’ll go away.

4. Dandelion 2-2

Sure, we’ve all seen dandelions, but have we ever stopped to really look at one?

5. Bloodroot

We finally had a day sunny enough to coax the bloodroot blossoms (Sanguinaria canadensis) into opening fully, but by the time I remembered to visit them it had clouded over enough to make them want to close up again. I got there in time to see them start wrapping their leaves around themselves, preparing to close.

6. Bloodroot 2

But one flower remained fully opened and the lighting was perfect to show the veining in its petals. I’ve learned by trial and error that too much sunlight or the use of a flash will make such subtle details disappear, and you’ll be left with flat white petals. That might not seem like a big deal but if someone who wants to publish a wildflower guide looks at your photo it will be a big deal to them and your photo won’t be chosen.

7. Magnolia

The magnolias have been stunning this year and I wish I could offer up their fragrance as well as a photo. For a very short time each spring magnolia and lilac fragrances overlap and I always think that, if heaven has a fragrance, it will come from the blending of those two flowers.

8. Red Tulip

I like a challenge and there isn’t much that’s more challenging to a nature photographer than a red flower. They are very hard to get a good photo of for reasons I don’t fully understand, so I was surprised when I saw that this one of a red tulip came out good enough to show here. I won’t bother to tell you how many weren’t good enough.

9. Willow

Willows (Salix) are done flowering for the most part, but you can still find a bloom or two if you’re willing to search a bit. Willows are one of those early spring flowers that don’t get a lot of fanfare but I love the promise of spring that they show.

The inner bark and leaves of some willows contain salicylic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). Native Americans chewed or made tea from the willow’s leaves and inner bark to relieve fever or toothaches, headaches, or arthritis, and that is why the willow is often called “toothache tree.” It was a very important medicine that no healer would have been without.

10. Plantain Leaved Sedge aka Carex plantaginea

Almost immediately after I told Sara in my last flower post that Pennsylvania sedge was the only sedge that bloomed before the leaves came out on the trees I stumbled upon this clump of plantain leaved sedge (Carex plantaginea), growing in an old stone wall. “When will I ever learn? was the question I asked myself. There is no such thing as always or never when it comes to nature and every time I use one of those words on this blog nature almost immediately shows me how wrong I am. In this case I was happy to be proven wrong though, because I’ve never seen this beautiful sedge.

11. Plantain Leaved Sedge aka Carex plantaginea

The prominent midrib, two lateral veins, maroon bases, and puckered look of the leaves are all used as identifying features for plantain leaved sedge. The leaves can be up to a foot long and an inch wide and I can’t think of another sedge that has leaves that look quite like these. The flowers stalks (culms) were about 4 inches tall and had wispy, white female (pistillate) flowers below the terminal male (staminate) flowers. Sedge flowers are actually called spikelets and the stems that bear them are triangular, hence the old saying “sedges have edges.” I can’t speak for the rarity of this plant but this is the only one I’ve ever seen and it isn’t listed in the book Grasses: An Identification Guide, by Lauren Brown. I’ve read that it likes cool shady places where the humidity is relatively high. There is a stream just a few feet from where this one grows.

12. Vinca

Vinca (Vinca minor) is one of those invasive plants from Europe that have been here long enough to have erased any memories of them having once crossed the Atlantic on the deck of a wooden ship. Vinca was a plant that was given by one neighbor to another along with lilacs and peonies, and I’ve seen all three blooming beautifully near old cellar holes off in the middle of nowhere. But the word vinca means “to bind” in Latin, and that’s what the wiry stems do. They grow thickly together and form an impenetrable mat that other plants can’t grow through, and I know of large areas with nothing but vinca growing in them. But all in all it is nowhere near as aggressive as Oriental bittersweet or winged euonymus, so we enjoy it’s beautiful violet purple flowers and coexist.

13. Trout Lilies

The trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) have just opened and seeing a forest floor carpeted with them is something you don’t soon forget. I’ve read that some large colonies can be as much as 300 years old. Each plant grows from a single bulb and can take 7-10 years to produce a flower, so if you see a large colony of flowering plants you know it has been there for a while. Young plants have a single leaf and then grow a second when they are ready to bloom, so you see many more leaves than flowers.

14. Trout Lily

Trout lilies are in the lily family and it’s easy to see why; they look just like a miniature Canada lily. The six stamens in the blossom start out bright yellow but quickly turn brown and start shedding pollen. Three erect stigmata will catch any pollen that visiting insects might bring. Nectar is produced at the base of the petals and sepals (tepals) as it is in all members of the lily family, and attracts several kinds of bees. The plant will produce a light green, oval, three part seed capsule 6-8 weeks after blooming if pollination has been successful. The seeds of trout lilies are dispersed by ants which eat their rich, fatty appendages and leave the seeds to grow into bulbs.

15. Trout Lily

Trout lily flowers have three petals and three sepals. All are yellow on the inside but the sepals on many flowers are a brown-bronze color on the outside. No matter how you look at it it’s a beautiful little thing, but I think it’s even more so from the back side.

16. Lilac Buds

This is a little hint of what will come in the next flower post.

We do not want merely to see beauty… we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. ~C.S. Lewis

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1. Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar

The folks over at Bug gide.net tell me that this is a brown hooded owlet moth caterpillar (Cucullia convexipennis.) They feed on asters and goldenrod and this one was perched on a slender fragrant goldenrod leaf (Euthamia tenuifolia.) I thought he was a real snappy dresser.

2. Broad Winged Wasp Moth Caterpillar-

This is another one I needed help with. I’m told that this little caterpillar will become the largest and most broad winged wasp moth (Ctenucha virginica) in North America. That’s surprising, since the small caterpillar was less than an inch long. They feed on grass, which is just what this one was doing when I found it. The bluish hairs on each end are supposed to be white and I’m not really sure why they look blue unless it was the low light. Or maybe it’s a new kind of Ctenucha virginica.

3. Cabbage White

What I think was a cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) was on the damp sand at the edge of a river. There aren’t many plants in the cabbage family there, so I’m not sure what it was looking for. Moisture maybe?

4. Golden Pholiota Mushrooms

Golden pholiota (Pholiota limonella) mushrooms grow in clusters on living or dead wood, in this case a dead but still standing birch. The caps are yellow to orange yellow and slimy and always look wet. The stems are often covered with yellow to reddish brown scales like those in the photo. These examples were small but they can get quite large. They are said to be inedible.

5. October Indian Pipes

I was really surprised to see these Indian pipes blooming in October. They were just turning their nodding flowers to the sky, which means they’ve been pollinated and are ready to set seed.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them growing this late in the year.

6. Aspen Bolete aka Leccinum insigne

Aspen boletes (Leccinum insigne) are very similar to birch boletes (Leccinum scabrum) but the aspen bolete has an orange cap and the birch bolete’s cap is reddish brown. Both have rough looking stems which are caused by dark brown, wooly scales. Boletes have pores on the underside of their cap so if you look there it’s impossible to confuse them with any gilled mushroom. It is however easy to mistake one bolete for another and since some of them are toxic, it’s always wise to know your mushrooms well before taking even one bite. Even experts have been poisoned by them.

7. Pear Shaped Puffballs

It’s the time of year when puffballs appear and I’m starting to see quite a few. These examples are pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme). Inhaling certain puffball spores can lead to a respiratory disease known as Lycoperdonosis, where yeast like structures actually grow in lung tissue, so it shouldn’t ever be done. There are several recorded instances of children, usually teens, inhaling large amounts of spores under the false belief that they could get high, only to get very sick and end up in hospitals instead. It’s fine for children to “puff” a puffball as we all have, but they should never inhale the spores.

8. Solomon's Seal Berries

The small blue berries of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) look a lot like blueberries, with the same powdery bloom. Native Americans used the dried potato-like roots of this plant to grind into flour for breads and soups. Young shoots are also edible, but the berries are not. The plant also has many medicinal uses.

9. Green Stink Bug

The folks at bug guide.net might be getting tired of hearing from me, because I had to ask their help in identifying this insect too. They say that it’s a green stink bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris.) He looked very platy and had a dragon’s face, complete with fangs, on his back.

 10. Green Stink Bug

After I watched him for a while and took a couple of photos he turned and started doing what looked like push-ups. Of course, he could have been gearing up to release his stink from the stink glands on the underside of his thorax, I don’t know. I’ve read that it is a very foul odor so I’m glad that I didn’t have to smell it. These bugs can cause a lot of damage in gardens and orchards.

11. Grasshopper

This grasshopper appeared to have gotten himself stuck in a crack between two pieces of railing. I tried to get him out using a key but he wanted none of it and fought my help, so I let him be.  He didn’t seem to mind having his picture taken.

 12. Oak Apple Gall

I was surprised to find a fresh oak apple gall this late in the season because they usually develop in the spring. Theses galls are caused by a gall wasp known as Biorhiza pallida laying an egg inside a leaf bud. Tissue swells around the egg and a gall is formed. You can see the gall wasp larva in the center of the gall section on the right. Once they develop into an adult wasp they make a hole through the side of the gall and fly (or crawl) off to begin the cycle again. I’ve read that some gall wasps can hatch in winter but I’m not sure how that would work.

 13. Leaves on Water

The leaves are falling fast now but I might get in another foliage post or two before they’re all down.

 14. Vinca Blossom

I found a large patch of vinca (Vinca minor) in the woods and one plant seemed to think that spring was here already. I’m hoping that it knows something I don’t.  Quite often when you find this plant growing in the woods it’s a sure sign that there is an old cellar hole nearby because this was a plant that was often passed from neighbor to neighbor, even though it isn’t native. Lilacs and peonies are other plants that were shared in the same way and when found in the woods they also signal a cellar hole. I’ve found remarkable examples of all three blooming beautifully out in the middle of nowhere, as they must have been for 100 years or more.

A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life. ~Lewis Mumford

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1. Dandelion

I’m not sure why but for the last couple of years I’ve had a hard time finding dandelions blooming in early spring. There was a time when they were the first flowers to bloom in my yard, but no more.  I miss their cheery blooms heralding the arrival of spring and I miss being able to easily get photos of them. A close up photo of a dandelion blossom reveals how they seem to just glow with the enjoyment of life. Of course you can also see this in person if you don’t mind people wondering why you have your nose in their lawn. This one grew right at the edge of a street and I had to kneel in it to get its photo.

2. Common Blue Violet aka Viola sororia

As if nature wanted to give a lesson in complimentary colors, as soon as dandelions appear so do the violets, and how many chubby little toddler fists have proudly held out a bouquet of both in the spring? Even though its common name is common blue violet (Viola sororia) this plant often bears a purple flower. Since I’m colorblind I see blue no matter what, so its name doesn’t confuse me.

3. Wild Strawberry

And if you have dandelions and violets in your lawn, there’s a good chance that you also have wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana). Millions of people would have so much more peace in their lives if, instead of waging war on these beautiful little plants, they simple enjoyed them. I once knew a lady who spent virtually all summer every year on her knees pulling dandelions, violets, and strawberries out of her lawn and I thought then that hers was just about the saddest life one could live. Now I wonder if it wasn’t a form of meditation for her.  I’m sure that it must have given her a sense of accomplishment.

 4. Norway Maple Flowers

Norway maples (Acer platanoides) are supposed to be a very invasive species but I know of only one in this area. It’s a very big, old tree that lives at a ball bearing plant. Its branches are too high for me to reach so each spring I pull my truck up under it and climb in the truck bed so I can reach the flowers. Then I hold a branch with one hand and my camera in the other and have a go at capturing its beauty. It’s worth the extra effort, I think.

5. Trout Lily Flower

The trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) have started opening. These are with us for just a short time so I check the spot where they grow every couple of days. There are literally tens of thousands of plants in this spot but most of them have only a single leaf and only mature plants with two leaves will bear flowers. This plant gets its common name from the way its speckled leaves resemble to body of a trout. Some blossoms have a maroon / bronze color on the outsides of the three sepals. The three petals are usually entirely yellow.

6. Trout Lily Flower

I always try to get a shot looking into a trout lily blossom so we can see how lily like they really are. Since these flowers only stand about six inches tall and nod towards the ground this is easier said than done and I usually have to try several times. They can afford to nod the way that they do because they are pollinated by ants and don’t have to show off to attract bees. Like many spring flowers they close each night and open again in the morning.

7. Spring Beauty

Luckily spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) grow alongside the trout lilies. Whoever named this little flower knew what they were talking about. I like its five stamens tipped with pink. This is another flower that closes up at night and on cloudy days, so you have to take its photo in full sun or at least very bright light. To get around that problem I often shade it with my body while I’m taking its photo, but sometimes that creates too much shade and I have to use a flash. That’s what happened here, and that’s why its petals seem so shiny in this photo.

8. Bloodroot

Just a little sunlight or even undiffused light from a flash can bleach out the delicate tracery of the veins in the petals of a bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blossom, so I wait for overcast days to take their photo. Since this is another flower that closes at night and on cloudy days it can’t be too cloudy when you go to take its photo. Everything has to come together just right to get decent photos of many of the spring ephemerals, and it can be a tricky business.

9. Bloodroot

We’ve had cool, cloudy days here for the past few days and this photo shows what I found many times when I went to visit the bloodroots. They just refuse to open when the clouds make it too dark. Someone in their blog (I don’t remember who) pointed out how bloodroot blossoms resembled tulips when they were closed and that’s something I never thought of before. I didn’t notice it when I was visiting them but the photo shows that at least two of these flowers have lost their petals already. And I’ve only seen one blossom fully opened.

 10. Vinca

As I mentioned when I was talking about the common blue violet, I’m color blind and have a very hard time telling blue from purple. For some reason though, I can always tell that a myrtle (Vinca minor) blossom is purple. It must have just enough red in it to push it over the “almost blue” line, or something. If only this were true with all flowers. I’ve brought home so many plants because they had beautiful blue flowers, only to have someone later tell me that they were purple.

11. Trailing Arbutus

Trailing arbutus plants (Epigaea repens) have borne flowers overnight, it seems. Just last week I couldn’t find any that were even budded and now here they are blooming. My grandmother always called them mayflowers and when I see them they always remind me of her. It is said that these were the first flowers that the Pilgrims saw after their first winter in Massachusetts. If that winter was anything like our last, I’d guess that they were real happy to see them.

 12. Fly Honeysuckle

The strange, joined flowers of the American fly honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) are very hard to get a good photo of, but these at least shows their pale yellow color and the unusual way that the pairs branch off from a single stem. There are few shrubs that bloom as early as this one, which usually starts blooming during the last week of April. If pollinated its flowers become pairs of reddish orange fruit shaped much like a football, with pointed ends. Many songbirds love its fruit so this is a good shrub to plant when trying to attract them. I see it growing along the edges of woods but it can be hard to find, especially when it isn’t blooming.

13. Beech Bud Break

It isn’t a flower but in my opinion an unfolding beech leaf is one of the most beautiful things in the forest. They hang from the branches like the wings of tiny angels but appear this way for only a very short time. Tomorrow this will be just another leaf in the forest but for now it’s a miracle.

In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and sullenness against Nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth.  ~John Milton

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