Thursday, July 31, 2008

Plant Quiz #4 Winner is.....

....Ben Hess!!! The photo is of Heliotropium indicum. Nice work!! As tradition dictates, it is now your turn to post a plant quiz.

Here is the whole photo. I took the photo a month ago in the Bootheel of Missouri. It was the first time I had seen this cute little exotic incarnate, though I had seen it in wildflower guides. I know, it's just a weed, but for some reason I find it interesting. Heliotropium means "moves with the sun".

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Benton County Wind Farm

Have you driven through Benton County, Indiana lately? A wind farm of gargantuan proportions is taking shape. Historically, Benton County was almost completely tallgrass blacksoil prairie, with the exception of wooded groves along streams. All of it was converted to agriculture a long time ago. It's the one part of Indiana where you can see to the horizon in all directions. It seems good to produce electricity without the combustion of fossil fuels, but my guess is there are negatives associated with wind farms, as well. At least this one is taking out small pieces of cropland, and not high-quality natural areas.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pinesap, Monotropa hypopithys

This little treat was growing along Trail 2 at the Indiana Dunes State Park. Only a few colonies were observed. Like Indian Pipe and Coralroot Orchids, it's a saprophyte, so it tends to emerge after heavy rains in mid to late summer, especially in oak woods with that wonderfully aromatic rotting leaf litter. Monotropa = one turn... hypopithys = growing under Pines. This plant is sometimes infused with red color, especially in the stem. So cool!

Dappled Light

On a long hike in the Indiana Dunes State Park recently, I was treated to the dancing shadows of Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) leaves on the compacted soil of a trail. The shadows look a bit like Hickory, don't they?

I was reminded of a favorite Huck Finn quote: "There was freckled places on the ground where the light sifted down through the leaves, and the freckled places swapped about a little, showing there was a little breeze up there."

It would be fun to capture this on video.

Phryma leptostachya

I am always trying to appreciate different scales of beauty. It seems funny that if a flower were 3" big, it would be a favorite, but as it is, no one notices it. (Besides botanists, of course.) Eastern Marion County, IN

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Platanthera in LaPorte County, Indiana

While in a woods in Northern LaPorte County, Indiana yesterday, I found three different orchids in the genus Platanthera (aka Habenaria). The first is Platanthera clavellata. There were two plants in this colony, growing in mesophytic swamp forest under an overstory of Acer rubrum, Betula papyrifera, and Fagus grandifolia. Sassafras albidum and Quercus rubra seedlings were in the understory, with of Maianthemum canadense, Lycopodium complanatum v. flabelliforme, Gaultheria procumbens, and Rubus hispidus.

The second and third species were vegetative, and I'm not sure which species they are. Any help would be appreciated.

The second species was found in swamp forest under an overstory of Acer rubrum, Fraxinus pennsylvanica v. subintegerrima, and Ulmus americana. Understory associates included Quercus palustris, Lindera benzoin, Glyceria septentrionalis, Glyceria striata, Carex projecta, Carex intumescens, Carex sp. (maybe C. crinita - it did not have an inflorescence), Impatiens capensis, Pilea pumila, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Iris virginica v. shrevei, Sium suave, Onoclea sensibilis, and Boehmeria cylindrica. There were 4 plants at this location, and one additional plant within 15 feet. Keith Board and I have seen this plant here before, and our guesses are either P. psycodes or P. flava v. herbiola.

The third species was found along the edge of an excavated wet sand flat in successional forest. The overstory was comprised of Nyssa sylvatica and Acer rubrum, while the understory included Quercus rubra, Spiraea tomentosa v. rosea, Linum striatum, Panicum sp., Bartonia virginica, Vernonia sp., Lycopus rubellus, and Apios americana. There are several scattered plants along this edge. Keith and I have seen this plant here before as well, and our guess has always been P. lacera.


The Plant Quiz #3 Winner is...

Justin Thomas (who else?)! Okay, this was probably an easy quiz, but I've been known to give quizzes that are "too difficult." Sorry it wouldn't let you enlarge the photo. I'm not sure what I did that made this happen... I thought I created this blog the same way that I had done some of my other posts, and you could enlarge photos on those.

I've attached the photo of the entire plant, with flowers. Chelone glabra (turtle head) is a plant of calcareous fens and marshes, but is also found in boggy woods. As the common name implies, the flower looks like a turtle's head. Leaves from this species were used to make a tea used for a variety of ailments, including worms, fevers, jaundice, and as a laxative.

To get Justin going, I'm going to point out that some authors (molecular botanists) now put this plant in the family Plantaginaceae. I'm sticking with Scrophulariaceae.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Plant Quiz #3

I guess the person who correctly answers the plant quiz should probably send around the next plant quiz to keep the cycle moving. Here's the next quiz.

Hydrastis canadensis

This past week in Will County, Illinois, we came across several colonies of fruiting Hydrastis canadensis. This plant is very difficult to miss when it has mature fruit. As you probably all know, this plant has been used in a variety of ways throughout history, including medicinally (antibacterial, antispasmodic, diuretic, laxitive, sedative, and tonic, among others), as a yellow dye, and as an insect repellent.


Botany Cartoons

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Platanthera leucophaea

I'll take a stab at this game. This is a photo of Platanthera leucophaea, the eastern prairie fringed orchid, one of the rarest plants in the eastern United States, an unusual feat for a formerly widespread species. In Michigan, this species was historically common on lakeplain prairies along Saginaw Bay and farther south on Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and associated drainages. Eastern prairie fringed orchid was also formerly widespread, if local, in the interior counties of southern Lower Michigan, where it occurred in sphagnum bogs developed on carbonate-rich lakes and floating sedge peat mats. Alas, the lakeplain prairies fell to the plow in the early 1900s, and many of the inland populations of this species were destroyed by natural or anthropogenic disturbances, primarily shrub encroachment and hydrologic alteration. Today, eastern prairie fringed orchid hangs on in generally low numbers in ditches and habitat fragments that barely resemble original prairie. The above photo was taken at a site in Huron County, one of the very few intact lakeplain prairies contiguous with Lake Huron. This is important, because orchid populations move with lake levels, seeding lakeward in low water years and landward in high water years. The past 10-15 years have brought on rapid expansion of the non-native halotype of Phragmites australis (common reed) in areas that would have historically been colonized by prairie species during low water years. Landward, shrub encroachment limits the availability of bare, moist substrate the orchid requires. If this species is to survive in Michigan, considerable and persistent restoration and management effort will need to take place. Isn't she pretty?

alan brant

I tried to register at the blog site witout luck. You mentioned that you could help novices get started. Help!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Filipendula rubra

The Queen was probably the prettiest flower blooming last weekend. The tiny sundews were blooming, and the sticky tofieldia had flowering stalks. It seemed very early, but Solidago uliginosa was also blooming. Cabin Creek Bog, Randolph County, IN

Liatris spicata

The main fen area at Cabin Creek Bog had two corners of blazingstar. In one area it was growing very thick with prairie dock and in the other area with Ohio goldenrod, shrubby cinquefoil, and obedience plant.

Campanulastrum americanum

Even though it is just a common flower, I love bellflower and always want to take its picture. Putnam County, IN

Veratrum virginicum

The blooms hadn't turned white yet, but it was still pretty. Cabin Creek Bog, Randolph County, IN

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Plant Quiz #2 Winner is......

.....Scott Namestnik!!!!!! Within hours of posting the quiz, Scott and his botanical super-sluething went to work. He came up with Rhamnus lanceolata and that is correct!! Nice work, Scott!
Here is a photo of the whole plant (flowers and all). It is a strange little shrub that I seldom see in Missouri and never elsewhere. It seems to like edges of old fields, gravel roads and creeks. It is documented from most counties in Missouri, but one rarely sees it. Perhaps it is in decline due to the lack of thickets and shrubby habitats that were more common before extensive row-crop agriculture and the introduction of fescue. I'm sure fire suppression has something to do with it as well.

Jim McCormac's Blog

Some of you may know Jim McCormac. He is a botanist/birder/naturalist/all-around-good-dude in Ohio. He has some interesting posts on his blog. If you ever find yourself looking for random botanical anecdotes, check it out:

Plant Quiz #2

If some one instantly gets this one, then I'm done. What more incentive do you need?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Plant Quiz, Anyone?

Anyone interested in a plant quiz? The attached photo is part of a leaf. Feel free to ask questions in order to get to the answer. I'll post a full leaf tomorrow and then the whole plant Wednesday.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Centaurium pulchellum, Showy Centaury

Centaurium pulchellum, Showy Centaury. This tiny, non-native member of the Gentianaceae grows in ruderal areas of northern Indiana. It prefers barren gray clay and compacted limestone gravel. This one was growing in compacted gravel at Beverly Shores, Indiana. I'm reminded of Aldo Leopold's description of tiny Draba: "... just a small creature that does a small job quickly and well." I'm claiming the Gentianaceae.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Star-nosed Mole

For the second straight year, I have found a dead State Special Concern mammal on our property in northern Indiana.  Last September, there was a dead Least Weasel in our driveway.  This past weekend, Lindsay's dad and I found this dead Star-nosed Mole in our corn crib.  I'm hoping for a Badger next, but maybe alive this time.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Foto Phun

Here are some fun photos!!

I have been photographing every species of Asclepias I can find, in prepartion for the slide show. I am up to 7 species. Here is Asclepias variegata from Wayne County, MO. The flowers are white with a band of purple-pink around the middle.

Campsis radicans blooming on the side of my house. It volunteered and we haven't interfered. Campsis means "curvature", in reference to the stamens and radicans, of course, means "rooting", in reference to its habit. Fernald has "Cow-itch" as a common name for this species. I can't imagine the source.

Here is one of our more jazzy spring wildflowers in Missouri; Monarda bradburiana. The stems are unbranched and the leaves are sessile. Named in honor of John Bradbury (1768-1823) who collected plants with Thomas Nuttall while retracing the steps of Lewis and Clark in 1809-1811. In December of 1811, he sent the specimens he collected back to England on a freighter. He left the next day on the passenger boat. He was in New Madrid during the earthquake of 1811 and was delayed several weeks due to the devastation. By the time he made it to New Orleans, the war of 1812 broke out and he was detained for 5 years due to hostility between the US and Great Britian. When he finally made it home, he found that Fredrick Pursh, the scoundrel that he was, had broken into his specimens and described them all!! Robbed of his scientific glory, he returned to America and never took up botany again. I often raise a glass in honor of John Bradbury, and all the John Bradburys of the world.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Little Trip to Swamp-east Missouri

I spent several days in the Bootheel of Missouri, last week. I ran across many new and exciting plants in this northern-most extension of the Mississippi embayment. Treats like Quercus nuttallii, Q. pagoda, Q. phellos (The Brian Fellows Oak), Q. falcata, Q. lyrata, Q. michauxii, Fraxinus profunda, Styrax americana, Leersia lenticularis, Carex reniformis, Brunnichia cirrhosa, Iris fulva, Gleditsia aquatica and Juncus nodatus were quite common.
While driving along back roads through the Mingo Swamp, I kept seeing this large Juncus in open areas. Finally, I decided it just might not be the large J. acuminatus I convinced myself it was. So, I pulled over for a closer look. As I stood next to the plant I was shocked to find it reached the height of my chin (5 ft and then some). Upon examination of the flower, I realized it was no Juncus. A long, hard style projected from involucral scales. I gave the exerted style a tug and found the other end attached, to an achene the size of a rice krispie. I galloped back to the truck and feverishly flipped through the Flora of Missouri (vol. 1) for answers.

The gelatinous depths my brain knew it was a Rhynchospora with its tuberculate style and overall architecture, but I wouldn't listen. It was just too big! I wanted it to be a Scirpus. After several failed attempts at an identification under Scirpus, I gave in and tried Rhynchospora. The first couplet made sense; the leaf blades were 8-20mm wide. The second couplet also fit; the perianth bristles were 2-4mm long. Alas, the giant sedge had a name, Rhynchospora corniculata!
Following Keith's tradition of providing english interpretations of scientific names, Rhynchospora means "nose seed" (perhaps why they are called "Beak Rushes") and corniculata means "horned". Both are apt descriptions of the long-horned style of this crazy-big sedge. It is a species of swamps throughout the southeastern United States.

Stenanthium gramineum

I just thought I would share a recent find. Stenanthium gramineum (Liliaceae) was blooming at Shawnee Mac Lakes outside of Salem, Missouri. This is only the second time I have ever seen this plant. The first time, one Mike Williams showed me a blooming specimen at Peck Ranch. That was ten years ago. Every growing season since, I have looked for Stenanthium to no avail. Stenanthium means "narrow flower" in reference to the skinny panicle, while gramineum is in reference to the grass-like leaves. Vegetatively, this fella looks just like a sedge. Click on the photo for details.

Fall 2008 Botany Slide Show

Preparations are underway for the Fall 2008 Botany Slide Show! This year's slide show will again take place on November 8, 2008. We'll probably start the slide shows around 5 PM, and dinner will be provided. Please let me know if you plan to attend and if you will be presenting a slide show (PowerPoint or slides). We'll have t-shirts made again this year, so if you would like a t-shirt to commemorate the event (they'll cost ~$20 each), please let me know what size you would like by August 15. I look forward to seeing many of you at this annual event.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Today (July 13, 2008), while driving on a county road in LaPorte County, Indiana, I saw Dipsacus fullonum (Dipsacaceae) in flower, so I stopped and took the attached photo. I'll claim Dipsacaceae.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Onopordum acanthium, Cotton Thistle, Donkey Thistle

This is a giant plant with huge spiny wings on the stem. Maybe 2 meters tall. Lower leaves about 8 dm long. Known from two places in St. Joseph County, IN. One at Lydick, along a RR, and the other in the industrial part of South Bend. To take an herbarium specimen you need leather welding gloves and a suit of armor. This plant was used as an added layer of defense around forts in Scotland. Its flower has been a national emblem in Scotland for over 800 years. It is eaten by donkeys(Onopordum is derived from the Greek words onos (donkey) and perdo (to consume).

Anyone else ever see it? Is it becoming a pest anywhere?

If you have Swink/Wilhelm 1994, you might enjoy a bit of humor hidden among the common names of thistles. Instead of looking up a thistle by latin name, go to "thistle" where all types are listed by their common name, and read the list.

You might also enoy their common name for Conobea multifida. It's a little-known plant and it lacks a common name in many books.

Down With Hangovers!

Here you go! No more hangovers! Does anyone know if this stuff actually works?

Please note that it's called Drinkin Mate, not Drink and Mate!


Friday, July 11, 2008

Restrepia trichoglossa

Restrepia trichoglossa from my trip to Costa Rica last year.


Sorry, Keith... I took Ericaceae with Vaccinium corymbosum, also at Sebert Woods, on 4/26/08.

Scott A. Namestnik

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Calopogon tuberosus

Just for fun. Calopogon or Grass Pink is the only orchid in the
Chicago Region that carries the lip at the top (the flower lacks
resupination). Those are not stamens up there - just decorative hairs
that fool bees! (Calopogon = "beautiful beard"). When a bee lands, the
lip bends down and the back side of the bee touches the column, where
a sticky mass of pollen is attached (or hopefully, detached).



OK, then, I'll take the Ericaceae with Gaultheria procumbens,
Teaberry, or Wintergreen, which was flowering at Sebert Woods in
LaPorte County, Indiana. The French fur traders called it "Petit The
Des Bois," meaning "Little Tea of the Woods." Nice name!


Re: Campanulaceae

Crap! Some weasel got the Campanulaceae before me! Well, enjoy the
picture anyway!



Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia (named for the elusive basal leaves)
was flowering it's little butt off today on the foredunes of the great
Lake Michigan. I therefore lay claim to the Bluebell or Bellflower
Family, Campanulaceae. This was a high-res picture, so I just cropped
most of it away.

All the best!


"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no
birds sang except those that sang best."
-Henry Van Dyke

Flame Tree

Delonix regia. This gorgeous tree was covered in large, red flowers and was very common in parks in Manila.  -Ben