Friday, December 6, 2013
Asclepias ovalifolia is a milkweed of prairies, barrens, savannas, and open woodlands in the Upper Midwest.
See my recent post at Through Handlens and Binoculars for more information on this and other milkweeds.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
...by Charles Osgood, CBS newsman, 1977. From “Nothing Could Be Finer Than a Crisis that is Minor in the Morning” by Charles Osgood, 1979.
Quoted in Robert Mohlenbrock’s book, “Where Have All the Wildflowers Gone,” 1983.
Kate Furbish was a woman who a century ago
Discovered something growing, and she classified it so
That botanists thereafter, in their reference volumes state,
That the plant’s a Furbish lousewort. See, they named it after Kate.
There were other kinds of louseworts, but the Furbish one was rare.
It was very near extinction, when they found out it was there.
And as the years went by, it seemed with ravages of weather,
The poor old Furbish louseworts simply vanished altogether.
But then in 1976, our bicentennial year,
Furbish lousewort fanciers had some good news they could cheer.
For along the
, guess what somebody found? St. John’s River
Two hundred fifty Furbish louseworts growing in the ground.
Now, the place where they were growing, by the
banks, St. John’s
Is not a place where you or I would want to live, no thanks.
For in that very area, there was a mighty plan,
An engineering project for the benefit of man.
The Dickey-Lincoln Dam it’s called, hydroelectric power.
Energy, in other words, the issue of the hour.
Make way, make way for progress now, man’s ever constant urge.
And where those Furbish louseworts were, the dam would just submerge.
The plants can’t be transplanted; they simply wouldn’t grow.
Conditions for the Furbish louseworts have to be just so.
And for reasons far too deep for me to know or explain,
The only place they can survive is in that part of
So, obviously it was clear, that something had to give,
And giant dams do not make way so that a plant can live.
But hold the phone, for yes they do. Indeed they must, in fact.
There is a law, the Federal Endangered Species Act,
And any project such as this, though mighty and exalted,
If it wipes out threatened animals or plants, it must be halted.
And since the Furbish lousewort is endangered as can be,
They had to call the dam off; couldn’t build it, don’t you see.
For to flood that lousewort haven, where the Furbishes were at,
Would be to take away their only extant habitat.
And the only way to save the day, to end this awful stall
Would be to find some other louseworts, anywhere at all.
And sure enough, as luck would have it, strange though it may seem,
They found some other Furbish louseworts growing just downstream.
Four tiny little colonies, one with just a single plant.
So now they’ll flood that major zone, no one can say they can’t.
And construction is proceeding, and the dynamite goes bam.
And most folks just don’t seem to give a Dickey-Lincoln Dam.
The newfound stands of Furbish louseworts aren’t much, but then
They were thought to be extinct before, and may well be again.
Because the Furbish lousewort has a funny-sounding name,
It was ripe for making ridicule, and that’s a sort of shame.
For there is a disappearing world, and man has played his role
In taking little parts away from what was once the whole.
We can get along without them; we may not feel their lack.
But extinction means that something’s gone, and never coming back.
So, here’s to you, little lousewort, and here’s to your rebirth.
And may you somehow multiply, refurbishing the earth.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Time to start catching up on photos from this growing season.
Back in late July, Lindsay and I joined a group from Save the Dunes on a quick trip to Pinhook Bog in LaPorte County, Indiana. Led by staff from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the walk down the boardwalk and back was very brief and only touched on the unique bog flora, but I used a free second to take a couple of photographs of a plant that I admire but don't see very often, Triadenum virginicum (Virginia Marsh St. John's Wort).
|Triadenum virginicum in Pinhook Bog.|
|Note the pointed sepals and "long" styles of Triadenum virginicum.|
Plants in the genus Triadenum were formerly treated as part of the genus Hypericum, but they are now distinguished from Hypericum due to petal and stamen characteristics. The petals of Triadenum are pink or flesh-colored (versus yellow in Hypericum). The stamens of Triadenum are in three groups of three and alternate with three large orange glands (versus being of various number and lacking glands in the flowers of Hypericum). This unique characteristic of the flowers of plants in the genus Triadenum is the origin of their Latin name, as Triadenum means "three glands."
Monday, October 28, 2013
I recently posted the following plant quiz...
Been a while... how about a cropped photo plant quiz?
Ben and DenPro both correctly responded that this is a close-up of Clematis virginiana, Virgin's Bower. Here's the original photo, prior to being cropped...
|Note the plumose styles of Clematis virginiana in fruit.|
|The dense inflorescence of Clematis virginiana in fruit.|
|Clematis virginiana in flower.|
Nice job, Ben and DenPro!
Thursday, October 3, 2013
One of my favorite trees is Sassafras albidum. It’s a native of dry sand country and adds a lot of color and character to black oak savannas. The leaves occur in three different types: one lobe, two lobes, and three lobes. The crushed leaves and twigs have an unusual but pleasant smell. The cut wood is beautiful and has a pungent chemical smell that is also very good. And of course, the roots have that wonderful root beer smell and flavor, long cherished for sassafras tea. Experts now say the tea can cause stomach cancer, but I’m starting to think so does breathing the air and drinking the water.
Of this remarkable and very attractive tree, Thoreau wrote the following: "The odoriferous sassafras, with its delicate green stem, its three-lobed leaf, tempting the travelers to bruise it, it sheds so rare a perfume on him, equal to all the spices of the East. Then its rare-tasting root bark, like nothing else, which I used to dig. The first navigators freighted their ships with it and deemed it worth its weight in gold." Henry David Thoreau - journal entry, August 31, 1850.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
This picture of Gentiana andrewsii is posted for comparison to the Soapwort Gentian posted earlier. This attractive plant often grows in aspen thickets on damp, sandy soil. Compared to Soapwort Gentian, this plant has darker blue flowers that are more tapering into the summit, and this plant tends to grow 2 or 3 times taller. I'm sure that someone who never leaves their lab (and has never gotten their feet muddy or received a mosquito bite) has renamed it, but it is Gentiana andrewsii and always will be. I have a very large botanical library that says it is G. andrewsii.
Friday, September 27, 2013
The foredunes along Lake Michigan are home to an interesting early successional plant community, but one that is not terribly diverse. This ecological zone was part of the renowned studies on primary succession conducted by Henry Chandler Cowles at the end of the 19th Century. Marram Grass (Ammophila breviligulata), a colonizer that both serves to help stabilize the sand dunes and that requires the moving sand for its own survival, is by far the dominant plant species on these first dunes back from the lake, and other colonizers such as Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), American Searocket (Cakile edentula), and Seaside Sandmat (Chamaesyce polygonifolia) take advantage of the stabilization work done by the rhizomes of Marram Grass. Just a handful of additonal species are commonly found in the pure beach sand of these foredune communities.
Marram Grass is native in counties surrounding the Great Lakes, as well as along the Atlantic coast of the United States. It also has been introduced in a few counties along the Pacific coast. Ammophila means "sand lover," a reference to its propensity to grow in pure sand.
The inflorescence of Marram Grass consists of a dense spikelike panicle. Within that panicle are numerous one-flowered spikelets that are each between 8 and 15 mm long. These spikelets are so tightly packed into the inflorescence that they are barely visible without very close inspection.
The leaf blades of Marram Grass are green on the dorsal side and somewhat glaucous and scabrous on the ventral side. They range from 4 to 8 mm wide when flat, but they are soon involute, making them appear much narrower. The basal sheaths are often pinkish in color.
So what is the deal with the blue-green leaves on the foredune pictured below? Unfortunately, this photograph is showing Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius, formerly called Elymus arenarius), a recently introduced European grass that is quickly invading the foredunes along the Great Lakes. In the Chicago region, Lyme Grass was first collected in the 1940s invading dunes in Berrien County, Michigan. Since that time, it has been documented in nearly all of the Chicago region counties bordering Lake Michigan.
The distribution of Lyme Grass in North America is currently dominated by counties bordering Lake Michigan, with records from a few scattered counties bordering other Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. The genus name is an anagram created from the genus name "Elymus." Superficially, Lyme Grass can resemble Marram Grass, and it is possible that it has been overlooked by those unfamiliar with the species. That said, there are some distinct differences between the two species.
The inflorescence of Lyme Grass consists of a dense spike with usually two spikelets per node. Within that spike are two- to five-flowered spikelets that are each between 12 and 30 mm long. These spikelets are much more conspicuous within the inflorescence than are those of Marram Grass.
The flat leaf blades of Lyme Grass are approximately 1 cm wide. They are distinctly and conspicously glaucous on both the ventral and dorsal sides. The sheaths are not pinkish, but rather are glabrous and glaucous.
Unlike Marram Grass, which spreads by horizontal rhizomes, Lyme Grass has a more cespitose growth form that is not as efficient at stabilizing moving sand. It is possible that as Lyme Grass becomes more abundant the structure of the foredunes and their characteristic vegetation communities could change as a result. Unfortunately, Lyme Grass is still planted as a landscaping plant in sandy areas, increasing the likelihood of its continued spread along lakeshores and coastal areas outside of its native range.
|Foredune vegetation along Lake Michigan consists maily of Marram Grass and Eastern Cottonwood, but take note of the glaucous-leaved grass on the left side of the photograph.|
|Marram Grass inflorescence with foliage in background.|
|Close-up of the dense panicle of Marram Grass.|
|Base of Marram Grass stems.|
|The glaucous foliage and wider leaves of Lyme Grass make it stand out against a backdrop of the green, narrow leaves of Marram Grass.|
|Close-up of the densely packed, more conspicuous spikelets of Lyme Grass.|
|Lyme Grass inflorescence.|
|Base of Lyme Grass stems.|
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Monday, September 9, 2013
Saturday, August 24, 2013
In early July, I joined Rich Dunbar and Roger Hedge in a search for one of Indiana's most diminutive and inconspicuous orchids, Malaxis unifolia. We were at a known site for the species, but it hadn't been seen there in many years, and we didn't have good location or population size information. For the first few hours of our visit, we searched unsuccessfully, making us begin to wonder if it was no longer present at this site.
Then, by some small miracle, I spotted a tiny sterile leaf on a mossy hummock that I was convinced was Malaxis unifolia. This led us to find several plants in the first of a few populations of Malaxis that we found that day.
I'd seen this little green-flowered orchid before in Wisconsin, but I had forgotten just how small it was. The Drosera rotundifolia leaves in the first photograph above give an idea of scale. Given the size and flower color, how many individuals were there that we didn't find?
Malaxis unifolia is known from the eastern half of North America, but it is most frequent in the upper Great Lakes region and in New England. It is considered a species of conservation concern in six states. Habitat includes swamps, bogs, and in much drier conditions in heathlands, sand barrens, and open upland woods. This is another species that seems to be more reliant on soil chemistry than soil moisture.
I recently was in a sand prairie/savanna remnant in St. Joseph County, Indiana when I stumbled into a healthy population of Stachys hyssopifolia (I later found out that Keith Board had found this population years before). This mint is found at various locations in states along the east coast of the United States, but it is also disjunct in the Midwest/Great Lakes region, specifically in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and to a lesser extent in Missouri. In 25% of the states in which it occurs, Stachys hyssopifolia is considered a species of conservation concern.
Stachys hyssopifolia has an interesting ecological distribution. Those who have compiled the National Wetland Plant List seem to think of this species as a pure wetland plant, as it is ranked as OBL or FACW in all regions in which it occurs. That would mean that it is almost always found under wetland conditions but that it is occasionally found in uplands. Many of the references I checked state that this species is found in moist soils, often near lake margins, and also in bogs. This is of course true, but it is also found in dry acid soils of prairies and savannas. Regardless of wetness, it seems that Stachys hyssopifolia tends to require acidic conditions.
Stachys hyssopifolia, like some other members of the genus, is said to have edible tubers.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Monday, July 22, 2013
The nodding flowers of Lysimachia ciliata seem to light up the shaded darkness of wooded floodplains in summer. Note the ciliate leaf petioles.Photographed at Potato Creek State Park in St. Joe County, Indiana. This is a very common native plant.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Friday, July 19, 2013
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Campanula americana is a common native that tolerates the deep shade of mesic woods but often shows up along trail edges, forested road edges, and near treefalls where a little sunlight gets in. Common in northern Indiana, it's my guess that it's common all over the state, with a possible exception of the prairie counties in the northwest corner. The flowers are attractive and unusual, and if it was a rare plant we'd go crazy over seeing it. At any rate, it's a native and we should enjoy it when we see it. Photographed in rich woods in rural LaPorte County, Indiana.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Growing in rich, deeply shaded forests, Sambucus pubens is much less common than the related Common Elderberry (S. canadensis). This one was photographed in rural LaPorte County, Indiana. The crushed foliage of this shrub smells pretty bad!
Friday, July 12, 2013
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Occasional on wet sand flats and abundant in sphagnum bogs, sundews are plants that capture insects and eat them! Well, they don't actually chew them up and swallow, but they do absorb nutrients from the bodies of the bugs they trap. The bugs get caught in the sticky liquid on the leaf hairs and the rest is history. In northern Indiana, sundews should begin producing small, white, 5-merous flowers in the next week or so. This video shows a variety of insectiverous plants, with a time-lapse of the closely-related Round-leaved Sundew at 1:10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYGwgzehf6c