Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quiz Winner

I recently posted the photograph below of a quiz plant...

As usual, it didn't take long to get a correct answer. Tom correctly identified the quiz plant as Senecio vulgaris, Common Groundsel. According to the USDA Plants database, the common name of this plant is Old Man in the Spring (USDA NRCS 2009). The Latin name Senecio comes from senex, meaning "old man," which is a reference to "the hoariness of many species [in the genus], or perhaps to the white hairs of the pappus" (Fernald 1950). The specific epithet vulgaris means "common" (Fernald 1950).

As I mentioned in my quiz post, the plant was in bloom on Thanksgiving 2009. It has one of the longest flowering periods of any plant in the Chicago Region, being known to bloom from April into December (Swink & Wilhelm 1994). It is, in fact, considered a winter annual (Oregon State 2009), which is a plant that germinates and grows in fall or winter but that does not live longer than a year. This weed of gardens and waste areas is native to Eurasia and has spread throughout nearly all of North America with the exception of the Canadian Arctic north of the Hudson Bay (Barkley 2006). This member of the Asteraceae lacks ray flowers and has only disk flowers.

Congratulations, Tom!

Barkley, T.M. 2006. Senecio. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 15+ vols. New York and Oxford. Vol. 20.

Fernald, M.L.. (1950). Gray's Manual of Botany, Eighth (Centennial) Edition. New York: American Book Company.

Swink, F. & G. Wilhelm. (1994). Plants of the Chicago Region. Indianapolis: Indiana Academy of Science.

Oregon State. 2009. Weed Management in Nursery Crops (, 28 December 2009).

USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (, 28 December 2009). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Little Pink Elephants

Lindsay and I saw a lot of charismatic plants in Colorado this past July; Pedicularis groenlandica certainly fits into that group.

If you're curious about why the title of this post is "Little Pink Elephants," or if you are interested in seeing more photos and learning more about this species, click here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

And the winner is...

Justin, with his quick call of Juncus stygius. Not that he was aided by past conversations...

This tiny boreal rush is known from a few locations in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where it occurs on floating poor fen ("bog") mats and in flarks within large patterned peatland complexes.

Plant quiz

More to ponder...

And the winner is...

Scott, with the most likely answer. This plant was puzzling, with fleshy, waxy non-withered basal leaves and little else to go by. So, we have to rule out the other possibilities to arrive at our answer, which is, I believe, the aforementioned Artemisia campestris. Nice work!

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Alpine Charmer

Lindsay and I spent a lot of time in the alpine during our trip to Colorado in July 2009. Tetraneuris grandiflora, also commonly known as Hymenoxys grandiflora or Rydbergia grandiflora, depending on whose nomenclature you decide to follow, is one of the more fascinating plant species we saw in this amazing life zone. This gorgeous composite is only known from Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming (Biernier 2006).

For more information on this plant and a couple of additional photos, click here to visit my post on Through Handlens and Binoculars.

Biernier, M.W. (2006). Hymenoxys. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 15+ vols. New York and Oxford. Vol. 21.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Interesting Little Forest

Does this young forest look mundane? Uninteresting?
It’s quite the opposite!
At a fraction of an acre, it occupies a little corner in a long-abandoned ag field in St. Joe County, Indiana – out of cultivation for at least 30 years. Most of the surrounding land is yellow clay at the surface, and forests in the vicinity are Beech-Sugar Maple. But this little corner is dominated by Red Maple, with occasional Black Cherry and Sassafras on a sandy substrate. Unlike other Red Maple forests, this one is not in a low lying flat, but upland. The sand is almost certainly underlain with clay, keeping moisture at the surface for long periods of time.

When Red Maple forests aren’t too shady the herbaceous vegetation can be pretty exciting, especially if you like ferns, club mosses, and sedges. I first botanized this site in 1997 and found hundreds of Daisyleaf Grape Ferns (Botrychium matricariaefolium).

In 2008 I was startled to find Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) and Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata).

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid (Goodyera pubescens)

Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)

Last week I went there to photograph Botrychium dissectum and its segregates and was fortunate to see a tiny Spiranthes orchid in seed. Its identification is guesswork, but diminutive Spiranthes ovalis is a possibility.

On the same visit I saw the lovely Shining Club Moss (Lycopodium lucidulum)!
Interestingly, the club moss was growing right at the base of a tree where water gets funneled when it rains. If you’ve never observed this, it’s worth donning a rain suit and going into the forest while it’s raining. All of the water that doesn’t drip from a tree’s limbs or get absorbed by the bark gets funneled right down the trunk, and even during moderate rain, water comes gushing down. Some plants take advantage of this. For example, Spinulose Wood Fern (Dryopteris spinulosa) will grow anywhere in mesic and wet forests, but in dryer sites it survives at the base of tree trunks. Watch for this – it’s a common sight, at least in northern Indiana. Dryopteris intermedia does this too, as shown in this photo from Warren Woods in Michigan. We should keep this in mind when doing native landscaping. And we should never pass up a chance to botanize a Red Maple forest!
Florist's Fern (Dryopteris intermedia)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Plant Quiz - Scott is a Winner!

Good call Scott. It is Diervilla lonicera, the native Dwarf Honeysuckle. I don't think there's a shrub in North America that Scott and Justin don't know at a glance, even vegetatively!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Plant Quiz

The only clues are in the photo. Good luck!

Plant quiz - Keith nails it.

Hi all. Thanks to Justin and Scott for telling me about this awesome blog, and thanks to Ben for setting me up as a contributor. I am a plant ecologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. I get to spend my summers traipsing through the woods and training budding botanists to identify every plant they see, no matter how small or vegetative. I love it, and I'm not likely to get bored anytime soon, trying to learn all the plants in the Missouri Ozarks!

I photographed this specimen on November 1st of this year, in a dry-mesic woodland about a 1/2 mile from the Current River in Shannon County. Associated plants include Asimina triloba and Asarum canadense. It has a taproot. No odor.

Justin and Scott may NOT participate in this quiz: Justin identified the mystery plant for me at the botany slideshow.

Keith gave the very first guess and nailed it... it is the fall foliage of the biennial Osmorhiza claytonii, getting ready to bloom in spring. Obviously I'll have to pick a harder one next!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Botany Slideshow Extravaganza - A Recap

The 8th Annual Botany Slideshow Extravaganza took place in Salem, Missouri on 6-7 November 2009. Here, I will attempt to provide a recap of this outstanding event for those of you who couldn't make it. Every year, the slideshow gets better, and this year's event certainly followed this trend.

Lindsay, Bootypants, and I drove to Salem on Thursday afternoon so that we could be there for a new addition to the extravaganza, the pre-slideshow field trip.

We joined Bryn, John, and Rilo and Dana, Justin, and Eli for a trip to Cave Spring in Shannon County, Missouri. Our ~5 mile hike to the cave and back took us through a variety of plant communities, where we saw a diversity of plants highlighted by the late-flowering asters and goldenrods.

We were also treated to great views from dolomite bluffs of the Current River. A few small dolomite glades were also encountered.

Cave Spring itself was very interesting. We were only able to go a short way into the cave before it was too dark to see, and the muddy, slippery substrate made footing unstable at best.

Very near to the cave itself were two of the biggest healthy Ulmus americana individuals that any in our group had ever seen. In the photograph to the right, I am between a Platanus occidentalis on the left and a 36" DBH U. americana on the right.

We had beautiful weather for the hike, and were fortunate enough to see an adult Bald Eagle soaring overhead while we were admiring Cave Spring.

Susan and Dan arrived on Saturday afternoon, and then Dana and Justin led us on a tour of their property. We saw numerous interesting plants (including 5 species of Andropogon), and heard about Dana and Justin's plans for maintaining and restoring the property. Other attendees, including Andrew, Doug, Paul, and Allison trickled in; then, it was time for the main event.

Unfortunately, my photos of the slides shown below don't do justice to the quality of the slides or the presentations. As they always say, you just had to be there.

Justin led off the slideshows by explaining to everyone how much he and I happen to love socks, and how our hosiery infatuation took us to Fort Payne, Alabama in the spring of 2009. After several hilarious slides about socks, Justin got into the meat of his presentation about the plants that the two of us saw on Trillium Tromp 2009 in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.

Susan was next to present, adding a more technical aspect to our event by discussing work she is doing to determine the difference between vegetative plants of Zizia aptera and Thaspium trifoliatum. For those of you familiar with these two taxa, you know how much of a pain they are to distinguish as seedlings, but Susan really seems to be onto something.

Dan's presenentation on rare plants found on National Park Service property in 2009 was next. This presentation included lots of great photos of beautiful rarities.

I was next to present, and showed slides of the trip that Lindsay and I took to Colorado in July 2009, focusing on the Montane, Subalpine, and Alpine life zones. As I told the group, even after spending time in the cloudforest and rainforest in Costa Rica and Peru, the alpine tundra is still probably my favorite life zone of those that I've seen to date.

Doug's lively presentation had several themes, including Belize, lichens, and the delicate beauty of grass stamens. We were honored to have Doug in attendence, and his presentation raised the bar for botany slideshow quality.

This year's slideshow quiz was presented by Dana. After relaxing all night and enjoying slides of beautiful plants, this slideshow made us all think as we tried to identify all of the plants that Dana showed us. As always, major botanical prizes were awarded following this slideshow.

Paul and Allison then showed informal slideshows of their recent trip to quality natural areas in Texas and Louisiana, followed by even more informal slideshows by Justin and me. There was plenty of plant talk, and we looked at numerous pressed plant specimens. We were also treated to a tremendous pulled pork dinner with all the fixings during the slideshow.

I think the final slide of Doug's slideshow pretty much sums it up...

Special thanks goes out to Dana and Justin for hosting the best botany slideshow yet. I can't wait to see how we can possibly make it even better next year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quiz Time!! JohnnyHank Nails It!!

JohnnyHank says it is Strophostyles helvula. Librarian or not, that is the right answer. Here is a photograph of the flower.

Some of you may be asking yourself "Doesn't Strophostyles helvula have lobate lateral leaflets?". That is where I was a bit tricky. This is actually S. helvula var. missouriensis which lacks the lobes on the lateral leaflets (the typical variety has lobed leaflets).

Vegetatively the genus Strophostyles can be distinguish from Amphicarpaea bracteata, which it most resembles, by its erect stipules. Amphicarpaea looks exactly like Strophostyles helvula var. missouriensis but has appressed stipules. By clicking on the photo above you can see the stipules in the enlarged version. They are perpendicular to the stem.

Lesson learned; Librarians make great botanist. If only it worked both ways.

Thanks to everyone for playing!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What's This? Justin Knows!

I recently posted this photograph as a plant quiz...

It is difficult to post a quiz on this blog that lasts more than a day without an answer. Justin correctly identified the mystery seedling in the photograph above as Penthorum sedoides. Ditch Stonecrop, as it is commonly known, is native to wet meadows, marshes, ditches, and muddy shores throughout the eastern half of North America, and has been introduced in the Pacific Northwest. Once accepted as a member of the family Saxifragaceae, it seems that most authorities now place this interesting plant in the family Crassulaceae; some even put it the Penthoraceae. As this species matures, it produces greenish-white, inconspicuous flowers; the flowers develop into attractive reddish follicles with spreading beaks, shown below. Penthorum means "five-mark," a reference to the five-parted flowers, and sedoides means "resembling Sedum."

Nice work, Justin.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Diplazium pycnocarpon, formerly Athyrium pycnocarpon

Good call, Scott and John! Diplazium pycnocarpon it is, also known as Glade Fern or Narrow-leaved Spleenwort. In northern Indiana this exceedingly rare native grows in rich mesophytic woods, in deep humus and deep shade. It has a special affinity for those rich riparian bottoms that don't get scoured bare by filthy water gushing in torrents from denuded uplands every time it rains. Fertile blades are rare and emerge in late summer.

Henry David Thoreau said, "Nature made ferns for pure leaves, to show what she could do in that line." Well said, and noted!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wild Geranium - White-Flowered Form

Just for fun, this is Geranium maculatum L. forma albiflorum (Raf.) House. It was photographed in low woods in Porter County, Indiana in 2008. Interesting that one of the flowers has 6 petals.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Deadly Predator

Can you spot the deadly predator?

Bottle Gentian, Gentiana andrewsii

When sorting photos I'm always surprised to notice a detail I hadn't seen in the field. The little spider waits for a bee to land, and it makes me wonder how many Bottle Gentians and other tubular flowers have spiders waiting inside. On a few occasions I have found a tubular flower with a dead bee half in and half out. It doesn't seem like such a tiny spider would have enough venom to bring down a large bee, and that makes me wonder, does a bee ever fly away with a spider latched onto it?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slide Show Rejects - Corallorhiza

The eighth annual botany slide show is rapidly approaching, and in preparation I have been going through photos from our trip to Colorado this July. My slide show will highlight the montane, subalpine, and alpine communities that we saw in central and northcentral Colorado.

Until now, I hadn't posted many of the photos from our trip, as I wasn't sure which photos I was going to include in my slide show and I didn't want to spoil my show for those in attendance. Now that I've picked the photos for my presentation, I will start displaying some of the rejects here and at Through Handlens and Binoculars.

This is Corallorhiza trifida (Yellow Coralroot), a bit past its prime. We saw this saprophytic subalpine orchid along the Missouri Lakes trail at Holy Cross Wilderness.

Corallorhiza trifida is typically self-pollinating. It is circumboreal, found in a variety of habitats including swamps and coniferous, deciduous, and mixed woods.

Corallorhiza striata (Hooded or Striped Coralroot), pictured directly above and below, is an orchid of deep, moist woods.

We stumbled upon this unique orchid at Hanging Lake preserve, which is located along the Continental Divide near Glenwood Springs. It was growing in a mixed woods that had a remarkably eastern feel to it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Final Gasp

The 70 degree temperatures in northern Indiana today were likely our last taste of summer for quite some time. As I walked the trails on our property after work, most of the plant species that I couldn't wait to see flowering just a few short months ago were long gone, dormant until the winter doldrums are once again melted away by vernal verses. Only a few hardy species are still in flower.

Trifolium pratense (Red Clover)

Taraxacum officinale (Common Dandelion)

Aster pilosus (Hairy Aster)

Aster simplex (Panicled Aster)

On a related note, Tony told me that today he saw Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold) in bloom near Logansport, Indiana, four months outside of its flowering time either way you look at it.