Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Does Anyone Smell Smoke?

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), that is. I'd say that smelling Prairie Smoke would be much more pleasant than smelling Old Man's Whiskers, the common name given for this plant in the PLANTS Database. Just my personal preference.
Tony and I spent a good part of the day botanizing grassed swales in northwest Indiana (not too exciting), so I decided to post a few photos of this gorgeous Rosaceous plant, which is growing in my home landscaping. Geum triflorum isn't found naturally in Indiana, but it is known from prairies in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan (threatened), as well from much of Canada and the western United States. The only place I have ever seen this plant growing naturally was on a remnant hill prairie in Wisconsin. I'm typically a purist when it comes to native landscaping, but this is just a cool plant.
As you can see in the close-up, the "smoke" or "old man's whiskers" are actually mature, plumose styles visible when the plant is in fruit. (As a side note, nature is full of plumose, or feathery, structures... to see another click here.) These feathery styles are important for seed dispersal in this species. The nodding flowers aren't very showy, as they consist of 3/4" pinkish sepals surrounding white or light pink petals that never seem fully open.
According to Illinois Wildflowers by Don Kurz, Geum triflorum has been used in the past to treat sore or inflamed eyes, canker sores, sore throats, and flesh wounds; it was also smoked to "clear the head."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Fields are on Fire

On May 18, Tony and I were at the Clark and Pine East Nature Preserve, more commonly known as "Bonji." The Bonji site is now an Indiana Dedicated State Nature Preserve, though it consists of formerly mined sand dunes. A rare and unique flora persists at this heavily impacted site, and aditional restoration efforts are underway to control invasive species.

As we drove along, we noticed that the low ridges appeared to be ablaze... a sure sign that the Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) was in bloom.

Moving closer, we could almost feel the warmth of this flaming gem. We just had to take a quick break from work to take some photos. It is a scene like this that gives me a sense of what the great Hoosier botanist Charlie Deam must have felt when he was taken to the prairies at 17th and Whitcomb Streets in Gary for the first time by the great Chicago Region botanist Floyd Swink in the late 1940s. "When he was shown the Indian Paintbrush stretching for blocks into the distance, he said: 'I have collected in every township in the state of Indiana; I am now in my eighties; this is the finest Indiana natural area I have ever seen in my life.'" (Swink and Wilhelm 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region.)

Moving closer, you can see the georgeous flowers...

Ahh... yes... those georgeous, green flowers.

As you probably know, the "paintbrush," which can range from white (in forma alba) to yellow (in forma lutescens) to scarlet red (in forma coccinea) is actually a series of brightly colored, lobed bracts. The flower is the yellowish-green structure above each bract. If you look closely, you'll see two broad, rounded calyx lobes (sometimes with colored tips), a protruding bilabiate corolla with a galeate upper lip, and an exserted style/stigma.

While most of the bracts on the plants that we saw were orange in color, a few scattered plants had scarlet-colored bracts.
The genus Castilleja was named in honor of Spanish botanist Domingo Castillejo; the specific epithet coccinea obviously comes from the bright red bracts. Castilleja coccinea is somewhat parasitic on the roots of other plants, and can be found throughout much of eastern North America. Native Americans made a tea from the flowers that was used as both a love charm and a poison (don't get any ideas, Commander).

Plant Quiz

Well, I could say that this is a plant quiz, but I really am just confused. I would appreciate any help. This is from a mitigation wetland in Central Indiana (Madison County), but I don't think it was seeded. I have been watching it all winter and waiting for it to bloom. It only grows in standing water, although I don't think it fits the definition of true aquatic, since it doesn't have any thin leaves and does emerge from the water. In the winter, it would be in 6" deep water and have basal leaves that float to the surface. You can see some of the basal leaves in one of the pictures. Now it is blooming. The petals are tiny (<6mm) I have assumed it is a buttercup, but I can't get anything to fit.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Right Place, Right Time

The National Park Service and National Geographic Society joined forces this past weekend to hold a 24-hour BioBlitz at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (to see a National Geographic account of the event, click here). I participated by leading survey teams at Miller Woods Pannes, Howe's Prairie, and Inland Marsh. My teams tallied over 200 plant species at these sites during our field trips. However, my most exciting find came at my campsite at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore campground.

In April 2005, Keith found Collinsia sparsiflora, a species native to the extreme western United States and never before seen in Indiana or the Chicago Region, at the horsemen's campground at Potato Creek State Park.
Soon after Keith's observation, the campsites were herbicided by the park, and this plant hasn't been seen at this location since.

On Friday, I spotted what I believe to be Collinsia parviflora, a species native to the western United States, Canada, and scattered counties in the northeastern United States, growing in gravel at my campsite.
Until now (if my identification is confirmed), this species was not known from Indiana or the Chicago Region. The closest known population of maiden blue-eyed Mary to northwest Indiana is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At my campsite, there were several individuals of Collinsia parviflora, so I made a collection in addition to taking photographs.
My campsite was chosen for me by someone from the National Park Service... I guess they picked the "right place" for me to stay.

Now for the "right time" part... I found this plant when botanizing my campsite by lantern with Maryland botanist Joe Metzger, who was sharing the campsite with me, at approximately 9:00 PM CDT, in the dark. Who says that the only good botanizing takes place during the day? I guess I take this 24-hour BioBlitz thing pretty literally!

I am interested in hearing opinions about my identification, especially if you have seen Collinsia parviflora.


Chain-O-Lakes State Park. Must be worth some luck! Even the floral parts are in fours.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them." A. A. Milne

Myosurus minimus - Mousetail

Sclerochloa dura - Fairground Grass, Hard Grass

Glechoma hederacea - Creeping Charlie, Gill-Over-The-Ground
Lamium purpureum - Purple Dead Nettle

Monday, May 11, 2009

Botrychium matricariifolium, Daisyleaf Grape Fern

Also spelled Botrychium matricariaefolium. This peculiar little fern grows in several places in northern Indiana - more abundantly and widespread than published maps indicate. It is probably missed by botanists because it grows in degraded woods, and in very young stick forests where saplings are so thick it's difficult to walk between them. It does occasionally show up in high quality forested sites. Photographed May 10, 2009 at Potato Creek State Park in St. Joseph County.

A similar, smaller species, Botrychium simplex, occurs rarely in the Dunes region. It differs in having the blade pinnatifid (that of B. matricariifolium is bipinnatifid, approaching pinnate-pinnatifid),and its blade lacks the prominent, wide midrib that B. matricariifolium has. Also, its sporophyll is not as noticeably branched (branches are short to obsolete).

Polygala paucifolia - Fringed Polygala, Gaywings

Fringed Polygala is known from just one area in Indiana. One of the earliest reports came from Marcus W. Lyon of South Bend, who showed it to Charles Deam in the 1930’s. After the dreadfully hot drought of 1988 many northern plants that reach their southern limit here began to diminish and disappear. Polygala paucifolia dwindled to only a few plants, and it seemed apparent that the end was near. Fortunately, the plants have increased dramatically in recent years and flowered by the hundreds last year, marking an extraordinary comeback. On Saturday I went hill climbing and visited the two known colonies - one predominantly the white-flowered form, and one the typical pink color. They were at the peak of flowering and again flowering by the hundreds, with more plants present but not flowering. It was a spectacular show!

Caulophyllum thalictroides

Blue Cohosh growing in a woodlot in Kosciusko County.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009


Hydrastis canadensis
On the edge of a nice forested wetland in Kosciusko County. Scott had posted a picture of the fruit, so here are the flowers.

Viburnum prunifolium

My mnemonic device for this plant is something like "a dried up, black prune", to remember that it is upland, that the common name is Blackhaw, and that prunifolium is the specific epithet.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mayapple Set Free!

In honor of my old friend Deesie Daisy, who always does this, I set one free!



Monday, May 4, 2009

Trillium Tromp 2009

As many of you know, last week, Justin Thomas and I embarked on a trip known as Trillium Tromp 2009. We spent time in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, logging three species of Trillium new to both of us. We had hoped to find six or seven species, but were also focused on seeing a variety of species and habitats (some of which knowingly would not have Trillium). I will post about other plants we observed in future posts, but for now, I wanted to briefly discuss the three species of Trillium that we saw.

Trillium catesbaei, a true Trillium (in the subgenus Trillium), was to me the most graceful Trillium of the trip. We found it growing in moist acidic woods, as well as in the grassy, somewhat shrubby area near our campsite at DeSoto State Park in Alabama. As the name implies, this trillium was named in honor of English naturalist Mark Catesby. This is one of the trillies with a pedicel that nods, leading to flowers held below the bracts. According to Case and Case, there is a form of this species that grows in South Carolina with an erect pedicel. The stigmas, unlike those of the somewhat similar Trillium cernuum and Trillium flexipes, are uniformly thin throughout, although they are connected basally into a short style. The petals are curved backwards and range in color from white to pink.

Trillium cuneatum is an extremely variable species, with petal color ranging from maroon to purple to brown to green to yellow, and to all colors in between. Petals are sometimes even bicolored. We saw most of these color variants at Old Stone Fort State Park in Tennessee and at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia. The specific epithet comes from the shape of the petals, which are wedge-shaped at the base and broad above. This trillium was observed in upland woods; it is known to occur in both sandstone- and limestone-based soils. Unlike the species above and below, the flowers of Trillium cuneatum are sessile. This is one big trillie, growing to up to 45 cm tall, with petals sometimes longer than 6 cm. The stigmas of this species are separate to the base, putting it in the subgenus Phyllantherum. Unlike Trillium recurvatum, the sepals are horizontally spreading to erect. Trillium cuneatum may be confused with Trillium sessile, but the anther dehiscense is latrorse in the former and introrse in the latter. Finally, the connectives of the stamens of Trillium cuneatum are barely prolonged beyond the anthers, and the leaves come to an abrupt point.

Trillium sulcatum was the least common of the three trilliums that we observed. We found it only in a couple of spots in acidic, mesic forest at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia, where it is at the edge of its range. Like Trillium catesbaei, Trillium sulcatum is in the subgenus Trillium; however, the flowers are on pedicels held above the bracts. The specific epithet comes from the boat-shaped tips of the sepals. The stigmas are thickened basally, and the ovaries are large and six-angled. Trillium sulcatum has petals that are wider than the sepals, and leaves that are very wide. This species is similar to Trillium erectum, and has been treated as a variety of T. erectum by some authors; however, according to Case and Case, Trillium sulcatum generally is taller, larger-leaved, and more robust than Trillium erectum. Also, the flowers of Trillium sulcatum face outward at a 90 degree angle from the erect pedicel, a feature not seen in Trillium erectum.

A few additional photos of these trilliums can be found here.
After this trip, I consider myself a true trilloholic.
Information from this post from:
Case, Frederick W., Jr. and Roberta B. Case. 1997. Trilliums. Timber Press, Inc., Portland, Oregon.

Citizen Scientists

Nice story on the contributions of citizen scientists:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Phacelia covillei/ Phacelia ranunculacea, Scorpion Weed

Some of the nicest plant discoveries happen when a person is not even botanizing. A few years ago I was walking a farm field in Starke County, Indiana in search of unusual rocks and decided to cut through a small forest to get to the next field. What luck! The forest floor was literally covered by thousands of small plants with tiny blue flowers that I did not recognize. What could be more fun than finding something new – especially when you don’t even know the genus?! I took a few specimens with me and identified it as Phacelia ranunculacea/ P. covillei in the Hydrophyllaceae. I’m not sure I will ever learn to see the subtle differences between the two species. My plants were officially identified as Phacelia covillei by Dr. Michael Vincent of Miami University in Ohio, a leading authority on this plant, and former botany professor of several participants in this blog.

Yesterday I visited a nearby forest (about 3/10 mile away) and found the plant abundant there, as well. It turns out that both species are extremely uncommon the world over.

Phacelia covillei, Coville's Phacelia, Coville's Scorpion Weed