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Posts Tagged ‘Wild Grape Flowers’

Like a tree full of orchids, that’s what the northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) looks like in full bloom. Of course the flowers are not orchids, but they’re very beautiful nevertheless. These big trees are blooming all over the area right now, about a week later than usual.

At 1-2 inches across catalpa flowers are large, and so are the heart shaped leaves. Each one is made up of petals that have fused to form one large, frilly petal. Yellow, orange and purple insect guides can be seen in the throat. The opening is quite big; easily big enough to put your finger in, with room to spare. These trees have long, bean like seed pods and when I was a boy we called them string bean trees. Luckily we were never foolish enough to eat any of the “beans” because they’re toxic. The word catalpa comes from the Native American Cherokee tribe. Other tribes called it Catawba.

From huge flowers to small flowers. I can’t call cow wheat blossoms tiny, but they are small. Narrow-leaf cow wheat (Melampyrum lineare) 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.

Cow wheat’s long white, tubular flowers tipped with yellow-green are very small, and usually form in pairs where the leaves meet the stem (axils) but this year I’m seeing more single blooms than pairs. I find this plant growing in old, undisturbed forests. It is quite common, but so small that few seem to notice it. The flowers bloom at about shoe top height. I thought I’d put one on a penny so you could see how small they really are.

Cow wheat blossoms seem big compared to the tiny blossoms of enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana canadensis.) This woodland plant is a shade lover and I notice it along trails only when it blooms in July. It gets its scientific name Circaea from Circe, an enchantress in Homer’s Odyssey with a fondness for turning men into swine. There are similar plants native to Europe and Asia.

Each tiny 1/8 inch wide enchanter’s nightshade flower consists of 2 white petals that are split deeply enough to look like 4, 2 green sepals, 2 stamens, and a tiny central style. At the base of each flower there is a 2 celled ovary that is green and covered with stiff hooked hairs, and this becomes the plant’s bur like seed pod, which sticks to just about anything. When a plant’s seed pods have evolved to be spread about by sticking to the feathers and fur of birds and animals the process is called epizoochory. The burs on burdock plants are probably the best known examples of epizoochory.

Here is a tiny enchanter’s nightshade blossom on a penny. They’re among the smallest flowers that I try to photograph for this blog.

Last year when I showed what I thought was bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia) a helper wrote in and asked if it could be sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) instead. Since I found the plant growing in standing water and since the flower clusters were terminal, appearing at the ends of the branches, I didn’t think so. But now I’m not so sure because sheep laurel also has terminal flower clusters and the new leaves come out below the flower clusters and grow up around them, and that’s exactly what this plant does. But names of things are becoming less and less important to me as I get older and I can live with knowing it’s one or the other. I hope you can too.

One thing I know for sure is that it is a laurel and you can tell that by the ten pockets in each flower, where the anthers reside under tension. When a heavy enough insect lands on the flower the spring loaded anthers release from their pockets and dust it with pollen.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) gets its common name from the way that it flowers near June 24th, which is St. Johns day, but it has been well known since ancient times. The Roman military doctor Proscurides used it to treat patients as early as the 1st century AD, and it was used by the ancient Greeks before that. The black dots on its yellow petals make this flower very easy to identify. Originally from Europe, it can be found in meadows and along roadside growing in full sun.

Dwarf St. John’s wort (Hypericum mutilum) is a small, bushy plant that gets about ankle high and has flowers that resemble those found on its larger cousin, St. John’s wort. A noticeable difference, apart from their small size, is how the flowers lack the brown spots often found on the petals of the larger version. These flowers are about the same diameter as a pencil eraser and, since the plants often grow right at the water’s edge, you usually have to get wet knees to get a good photo of them.

Beautiful ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) started blooming about a week ago. This is a plant that I’ve searched for many years for and could never find until I finally found some growing in an unmown lawn, and now I know of two places it grows in. It is said to prefer disturbed habitats like meadows and fields and I guess the fact that it grew in a lawn proves it. Though there are native plants called ragged robin in the U.S. this particular plant was introduced from Europe into New England.

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flowers are notorious for catching onto the legs of insects and not letting go so I thought that’s what had happened to this fly, especially since it let me take shot after shot without flying off, but I finally poked it with my finger and away it went. Apparently it was simply too involved with what it was doing to pay me any mind.

Cranberries are one of the native fruits that grow abundantly here in the northeast. I usually find them in wet, boggy areas but they will grow in drier areas near water. We have two kinds here, the common cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) and the small cranberry (Vaccinium microcarpum.) I think the plants pictured are the common cranberry.

Early European settlers thought cranberry flowers resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane so they called them crane berries and that has evolved into what we call them today. The flower petals do have an unusual habit of curving backwards, but I’m not seeing cranes when I look at them. Cranberries were an important ingredient of Native American pemmican, which was made of dried meat, berries, and fat. Pemmican saved the life of many an early settler.

Sometimes if you’re lucky you can catch a cranberry blossom before its petals have recurved, but on this day I only saw one or two out of many hundreds.

Our native whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) has just started blooming in the tall grass along roadsides. This plant’s leaves and flowers grow in a whorl around the stem. A whorl, in botanical terms for those who don’t know, is made up of at least three elements of a plant (leaves, flowers, etc.) that radiate from a single point and surround the stem. In this case both the leaves and flowers grow in a whorl, because where each leaf meets the stem a five petaled, star shaped yellow flower appears at the end of a long stalk. The leaves in each whorl can number from 3 to 7. According to Pliny the young leaves of whorled loosestrife will stop bleeding when they are tied to a wound.

Each yellow petal of the 1/2 inch flowers are red at the base and form a ring around the central red tipped yellow stamens. The petals also often have red streaks as those in the photo do. Whorled loosestrife is the only yellow loosestrife that has pitted leaves and long-stalked flowers in the leaf axils. It grows in dry soil at the edge of forests.

It’s hard to believe that something as tiny as a river grape blossom (Vitis riparia) could be fragrant but in places right now you can follow your nose right to the vines, so strong is the fragrance. And this isn’t the end of the joy they bring; in the fall the fermented fruit on a warm day will make the woods smell just like grape jelly.

I don’t see tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) in meadows unless the meadow is wet. I usually find it at the edge of streams or in ditches as the example in the above photo was. Meadow rue can grow 7-8 feet tall so getting above it can be next to impossible. Native Americans are said to have given lethargic horses ground meadow rue leaves and flowers to increase their vigor and to renew their spirit and endurance.

It wouldn’t be the fourth of July without fireworks and every year, right on time, tall meadow rue blossoms with fireworks of its own.  At least the male flowers do, with starbursts of petal-less dark yellow tipped stamens. Knowing when flowers bloom is a fun thing; they give you something beautiful to look forward to all summer long.

None can have a healthy love for flowers unless he loves the wild ones. ~Forbes Watson

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1. Lupine Hillside

I saw a hillside covered in lupines recently. They aren’t our native sundial lupines (Lupinus perennis) but they’re still very beautiful when massed like this.

2. Blue Flags

At the bottom of the hill that the lupines were growing on many native blue flag iris (Iris versicolor) grew in a wet area.  The lupines trickling down the hillside and the blue flags pooling at the bottom made a breathtakingly beautiful sight but unfortunately I couldn’t get in all in one photo.

3. Blue Flag

Gosh these are beautiful flowers; another one of those flowers that I can just sit beside and lose myself in. The name flag is from the Middle English flagge, which means rush or reed and which I assume applies to the cattail like leaves. Though Native Americans used this plant medicinally its roots are considered dangerously toxic. Natives showed early settlers how to use small amounts of dried root safely as a cathartic and diuretic.

4. Hawkweed

Each strap shaped, yellow “petal” on a yellow hawkweed flower head (Hieracium caespitosum) is actually a single, complete flower and each forms its own seed. The buds, stem, and leaves of the plant are all very hairy and the rosette of oval, overlapping leaves at the base of the stem often turn deep purple in winter. The Ancient Greeks believed that hawks drank the sap of this plant to keep their eyesight sharp and so they named it hierax, which means hawk. It is an introduced invasive and names like “yellow devil” and “devil’s paintbrush” show what ranchers think of it.

5. Maple Leaf Viburnum

Native maple leaf viburnum blossoms (Viburnum acerifolium) had just about gone by before I remembered to look for them.  Each flattish flower head is made up of many small, quarter inch, not very showy white flowers. If pollinated each flower will become a small deep purple berry (drupe) that birds love to eat. What I like most about this little shrub is how its leaves turn so many colors in fall. They can be pink, purple, red, yellow, and orange and combinations of two or three, and are really beautiful. The Native American Chippewa tribe used the inner bark of this plant to relieve stomach pains.

6. Bird's Foot Trefoil

The puffy little yellow blossoms of bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) are a common sight along roadsides and waste areas. It is in the pea family and grows about a foot tall. It gets its common name from its clusters of brown, 1 inch long seed pods which someone thought looked like a bird’s foot. The plant has 3 leaflets much like clover and was introduced from Europe as livestock feed but has escaped and is now considered invasive in many areas. It can form large mats that choke out natives. It does very well among the ox eye daisies and lupines growing along the banks of the Ashuelot River.

7. Blue Eyed Grass

I found a spot where more blue eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) grew than I’ve ever seen in one spot. They were growing in soil that was on the sandy side in full sun along the side of a road, and obviously were happy there. Wild turkeys love the seeds so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a flock of them here this fall.

8. Blue Eyed Grass

I’ve already featured blue eyed grass once this spring but something this beautiful deserves a second showing. This little flower is in the iris family and is said to have the same features. All of the iris family is usually thought of as very poisonous but Native Americans had many medicinal uses for this plant.

9. Red Clover

Red clover (Trifolium pretense) always seems to glow as if it had its own inner light, and maybe it does.  The rounded heads of tiny tubular flowers are beautiful things to see when you take the time to give them a closer look. Though it was brought to this country from Europe and is invasive, I can’t remember ever hearing anyone complain about it. It is a very old medicinal herb that has been used for centuries and now various published studies say that compounds found in the plant show some promise in fighting cancer. Just imagine all the healing power that might be in these plants that hardly get a second look.

10. Multiflora Rose

Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) has beautiful small white (rarely pink) flowers that are about an inch across but unfortunately it is very invasive and forms prickly thickets that nobody I know would dare to try and get through. It is from Japan and Korea and grows to huge proportions, arching up over shrubs and sometimes growing 20-30 feet up into trees. A large plant bearing hundreds of blossoms is a truly beautiful thing but its thorny thickets prevent all but the smallest animals from getting where they want to go. Its sale is banned in New Hampshire but since each plant can easily produce half a million seeds I think it’s here to stay.

11. Wild Radish

I always find wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) growing at the edges of corn fields at this time of year, not because it likes growing with corn but because it likes to grow in disturbed soil. Wild radish is in the mustard family and is sometimes confused with wild mustard (Brassica kaber,) but that plant doesn’t have hairy stems like wild radish. Everyone seems to agree that this is a non-native plant but nobody seems to know exactly where it came from or how it got here. The flowers can be pale yellow, pink, or white and honey bees seem to love them no matter what color they are.

12. Grape Flowers

I am always reminded each spring that one of the great delights of wandering in the New Hampshire woods is the amazing fragrance of wild grape flowers that wafts on the breeze. Their perfume can be detected from quite a distance so I usually let my nose lead me to them.

13. Grape Flowers

I’m always surprised that such a big scent comes from such tiny flowers, each no bigger than the head of a match. Each will become a grape when pollinated. We have a few varieties of wild grape here in New Hampshire including fox grapes (Vitis  fruitlabrusca), and frost or river grapes (Vitis riparia.) The fruit is an important food source for everything from birds to bears.

14. Smooth Arrowwood

Smooth arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) has yellowish white, mounded flower clusters and is blooming along stream banks and drainage ditches right now. Red twig dogwoods are also beginning to bloom, but they have four petals and the viburnums have five. Dogwood flower clusters also tend to be much flatter on top and seem to hover just above the branch. Smooth arrowwood viburnum has a much more rounded flowering habit. Later on the flowers will become dark blue drupes that birds love. It is said that this plant’s common name comes from Native Americans using the straight stems for arrow shafts. They also used the shrub medicinally and its fruit for food.

15. Star Chickweed

Star chickweed (Stellaria pubera) has 5 white petals so deeply notched they look like 10. At one half inch across they are bigger and showier than other chickweeds, but still quite small. Even so, other common names include giant chickweed and great chickweed. It is an introduced plant, most likely brought from Europe where it has been used medicinally since ancient times. Legend says that if its blossoms are open there will be at least 4 more hours without rain. If the blossoms close, rain is coming. I’m hoping to see open chickweed blossoms this morning.

Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of their character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning. ~ Lydia M. Child

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Happy first day of summer! Our local weather forecast calls for temperatures in the md 90s with high humidity, so I’ll be staying in the shadier parts of the forest. What follows are a few things that can be found there. This eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) looked as if something had been taking bites out of its trailing wing edges. It was resting in the shade on a false Solomon’s seal plant and didn’t bat a wing while I was taking pictures. Do birds chase butterflies and take bites out of their wings? I thought these common split gill (Schizophyllum commune) mushrooms were bracket fungi because, even though they are one of the most common mushrooms, I hadn’t ever seen them. They are found on every continent except Antarctica and don’t grow there only because there is no wood for them to live on. Though they look like a bracket fungus they are mushrooms with torn and serrated gill-like folds that are split lengthwise. These mushrooms dry out and re-hydrate many times throughout the season and this splits the gill-like folds, giving them their common name. These ones looked like fuzzy scallop shells. I did see bracket fungi though. These turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) were surrounded by moss. I had to wonder if the moss was winning the battle. This eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) was in the middle of the path I was on, quite far from water. He (she?) looked like he couldn’t decide whether to go into or come out of his shell.  After a few pictures I left him just the way I found him, thinking he would reach a decision quicker if I wasn’t there watching him. He was about the size of a soccer ball. I saw plenty of little brown mushrooms.  Even mushroom experts have trouble identifying these mushrooms and recommend that mushroom hunters stay away from any that are small to medium size and are brown, grayish brown or brownish yellow.  The deadly skullcap (Galerina autumnalis) is a little brown mushroom, and it wouldn’t be a good day if it were accidentally eaten. Many cherry trees have nipple or pouch gall on their leaves this year. These are small finger like nubs on the leaf surface caused by tiny eriophyid mites laying eggs on the leaf.  The mites secrete a chemical substance that causes the leaf to expand over their eggs. When the eggs hatch the baby mites feed inside the finger shaped gall. The galls caused by these mites don’t hurt the trees and are seen as a natural curiosity. Over time the galls turn from green to red and when the leaves drop in the fall the galls drop with them. Thorns on a native black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) tree. These are nowhere near as dangerous looking as the thorns on a honey locust tree, but I still wouldn’t want to accidentally run into them.  Farmers have used black locust for fence posts for hundreds of years because it is dense, hard, and rot resistant. It is said to last over 100 years in the soil. Black locust is in the pea family and is considered toxic. This tree was growing at the edge of the forest. Several together would make an impenetrable thicket. Native Deer Tongue Grass (Panicum clandestinum or Dichanthelium clandestinum) seems to be thriving this year.  I like the way the leaves look as if they have been pierced by the stem. When they do this it is called clasping the stem. Many plants-the common fleabane for example-do this. This grass prefers moist soil and plenty of sun. Deer Tongue Grass is just starting to flower. Native Porcupine sedge (Carex hystericina ) is another plant that likes moist soil and full sun and I usually find it growing near ponds and streams. It is also called bottlebrush sedge. The green prickly looking flowers are called spikelets. Both male and female flowers are on each plant. Waterfowl, game birds and songbirds feed on sedges seeds. The Sedge Wren builds its nest and hunts for insects in wetlands that are dominated by sedges. The color of these new maple leaves was beautiful enough to deserve a photo, I thought. It is amazing how many plants have new leaves that start out red or maroon before turning green. Since chlorophyll is what makes leave green, this tells me that the emerging foliage doesn’t have much of it. The pussytoes (Antennaria) in my yard have all gone to seed. The yellow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) is also going to seed. Each plant can produce as many as 500 seeds in a single flower head. This plant is native to Europe and is considered a noxious weed.Way down at the bottom of the spathe, or pulpit, at the base of the spadix called Jack, the fruits of Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum ) have been forming. Soon these immature green berries will begin to swell and will turn bright red. The seeds in the berries are more often than not infertile. Those in the photo are at a stage that most people never see because the wilted spadix is usually covering the immature fruit. I peeled parts of it away to get this picture. Doing so won’t harm the plant. These tiny green flowers of the wild grape (Vitis species) don’t look like much but they are very fragrant. I smelled these long before I saw them and followed their fragrance to the vine. The flowers are so small that I can’t imagine what insect pollinates them.

In the woods we return to reason and faith~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  

I hope you enjoyed seeing what the woods here in New Hampshire have to offer. Thanks for stopping in.

 

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