Sunday, June 28, 2009

Southern Indiana Sedgin'

Just ask Lindsay... I've been doing a lot of travelling lately, both for work and for fun. This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to travel for fun - to botanize in southern Indiana. Better than that, I was out in the field all day with Mike Homoya, Indiana's Heritage Botanist. Throughout the day, I could be found frantically scribbling in my notebook about all of the plants we were seeing, many of which I had seen rarely or never before. Some additional photos and commentary are posted here at Through Handlens and Binoculars, but in this post I am focusing on four of the more exciting sedges that we saw.

The sedge above is Carex oklahomensis, Oklahoma Sedge, an endangered species in Indiana. It is somewhat similar to C. stipata, of which it has been treated as a variety in the past, but you'll notice that it doesn't have the spongy, inflated culm of C. stipata. Carex oklahomensis is found in wet meadows, marshes, and alluvial bottomlands, mostly in the plains and southern states. However, its range is thought to be increasing to the north and east. We saw this species in abundance in a wet sand flat.

Yes, it really does exist! Above is Carex lupuliformis, False Hop Sedge, a rare species in Indiana. While its range includes the entire eastern half of North America, it is said to be rare and local where it occurs. Until yesterday, anyone I had ever asked about this species said they had never seen it. You may think that this looks a lot like C. lupulina, the far more common and closely related hop sedge. The best way to tell the two apart is by looking at the achenes, which are longer than wide and not strongly knobbed on the angles in C. lupulina, but which are nearly as wide as long and strongly knobbed on the angles in C. lupuliformis.

Just look at those knobs! After seeing this, I was sure I'd never seen C. lupuliformis before, even though I had seen some plants with achenes that were weakly knobbed on the angles. Mike also pointed out a few additional characters to distinguish the two; C. lupuliformis usually has longer spikes, and the perigynia are usually more spreading than in C. lupulina.

As if seeing these two sedges hadn't already made my day, we also saw Carex crus-corvi, Ravenfoot Sedge, a plant I had only seen once before. Maybe the common name Ravenfoot Sedge makes sense to some, but I think it should be called Golf Tee Sedge.

Agree? These are the perigynia. Get a good look at those long, pointed beaks. The beaks of the perigynia are what make the inflorescence look so "spiky." Carex crus-corvi is found throughout most of the eastern half of the United States, as well as in Ontario, in habitats including wet meadows, marshes, swamps, and alluvial bottomlands.

I apologize that this photo isn't that great, but the culms of this species are shorter than the leaves and therefore the spikes are often somewhat hidden. This is Carex cumberlandensis, Cumberland Sedge. This beautiful sedge is found in mesic forests in the eastern half of the United States, but moreso in the southern portion of this range.

Southern Indiana is a world away from northern Indiana in terms of topography, geology and floral associations. I hope to get back more often in the future, as I rarely have the opportunity to botanize this scenic part of the state.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Echinacea paradoxa

While conducting vegetation sampling at Hercules Glades Wilderness in southwestern Missouri (roughly 25 miles from the Arkansas line) I came across a paradox. Well, actually Echinacea paradoxa. I assume it is called this because it has yellow ray flowers where those of most Echinacea are purple.

This taxon is essentially an Ozark endemic. Technically, there is a purple colored variety in Oklahoma and Texas that is often treated as a distinct species. The best floral display of Echinacea paradoxa occurs at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camden County where stretches of glade are littered with thousands of stems. At Hercules Glades Echinacea paradoxa, like E. pallida, is limited to small openings between juniper trees within the larger glade context. Over the past two weeks I have covered several hundred acres of glades and I have seen only this small population.

They persist here only because they have been overlooked by the greedy, greasy (yeah I said greasy) hands of root diggers. Historically, both species were common and dominant members of the glades in the region. Hey, just what we need, another example of human exploitation of the natural world. Echinacea paradoxa is listed as Globally Imperiled.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Imagine my surprise when, after ariving at the Loblolly Marsh bioblitz in Jay County, Indiana on Friday afternoon, I stepped out of the car and the first plant I looked at I didn't recognize! I feel pretty comfortable with the flora of northern Indiana, but I'd never seen a scene like this in the state.

I immediately knew that I was looking at an Oenothera, as the four large petals and four-parted stigma are diagnostic characteristics. I'd seen Oenothera speciosa along roadsides south and west of Indiana, but I didn't think this species occurred in the state. Shows what I know. While it isn't known from the Indiana counties of the Chicago Region, Showy Evening Primrose, or Pinkladies as it is more affectionately known, is found as an introduced plant in a few scattered counties throughout the state. I collected a specimen and keyed it out in my hotel room Friday night, and sure enough, I was looking at Oenothera speciosa. Pinkladies can be found within much of the southern half of North America, and is often planted in highway wildflower plantings. The flowers are often more pink than they are in this population.

For a recap of the bioblitz and a few more photos from the event, click here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Boreal Highlights

I had the opportunity to spend the last week in Superior, Wisconsin, working on a boreal forest and black spruce-tamarack swamp restoration with Andrew Blackburn, Josh Brown, Nick Gressick, Nicole Kalkbrenner, and Gary Walton. This is the same site at which we last year found the first state record for Wisconsin of Canadanthus modestus (click here to see my post on that find). Below are some highlights from our visit last week.

This is Viola novae-angliae, a species of boreal forests in Wisconsin that is also known from Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Gary mentioned that it used to be state-listed in Wisconsin; it is common at this site.

Vicia americana is a plant found in a variety of upland habitats in Wisconsin. It is also known from much of North America.

I saw Maianthemum trifolium (=Smilacina trifolia) for the first time ever on this trip. We first saw it in a roadside bog near Wascott, Wisconsin. At our site, it was growing in Sphagnum spp. within the black spruce-tamarack restoration area. It is known from all provinces in Canada, as well as from New England and a handful of northern states in the United States.

Rubus pubescens is an herbaceous, thornless raspberry species of bogs, conifer swamps, boreal forests, lowland forests, sedge meadows, and pine barrens. It is found in nearly every county in Wisconsin, as well as throughout most of Canada and the northern United States.

This is the beautiful sedge Eriophorum angustifolium. This cotton grass is known from the northern half of North America, as well as from a few southwestern states. It grows in a variety of wet habitats.

You may have seen my recent post on this species, Castilleja coccinea. At this site in Superior, Andrew and I found just a single Indian Paintbrush plant. In Wisconsin, this species is found in boreal forests, lowland forests, prairies, and on sand dunes.

We saw numerous sedges on the site, but one of my favorites has to be Carex castanea. Chestnut Sedge, as it is known, is only found in a few northern counties in Wisconsin. It can be found throughout northeastern North America in cedar swamps, mesic conifer-hardwood forests, conifer forests, and mesic meadows.

Corydalis sempervirens is found throughout the eastern United States and Canada, as well as in Alaska and Montana. It is endangered here in Indiana and is rare in the Chicago Region; this was the first time I've ever seen this species. Rock Harlequin is found in sandy soil following a disturbance (fire, scraping, etc.), and it doesn't persist long in the absence of disturbance. In Wisconsin, it is found on cliffs and in savannas. We found it on the site in a burned area.

Last year at the site, we saw Corallorhiza maculata; this year, Gary and Nick found Corallorhiza trifida, a new one for me. In Wisconsin, this species is found in boreal, upland, and lowland forests. Its North American range is generally the northern two-thirds of the continent.

Natural or Introduced?

While botanizing in a St. Joseph County floodplain woods a week ago, I came across a population of Matteuccia struthiopteris, Ostrich Fern, a rare plant in Indiana. Ostrich Fern is often planted as an ornamental fern. It is known (as a naturally occurring plant) from St. Joseph County and adjacent LaPorte County, both from single collections by our own Keith Board. Plants of the Chicago Region (1994) states that it is found in "moist, often calcareous woodlands, either on slopes or floodplains." The woods in which I was botanizing was a floodplain woods with some degradation, but there were no signs a former home site or of this population being an escape from a nearby residence. In fact, one of its associates at this location was Asimina triloba, with which it also apparently grows at a known location in Berrien County, Michigan.

My question is this. With landscaping using native plants as well as well-intentioned "restoration" becoming more widespread, how do we track naturally occurring populations of rare plants versus those that have been introduced, or does it even matter? Specifically, how do I know whether this population was naturally occurring and if I should collect and report it?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Just a Dandelion?

Justin and I spent a few hours botanizing together at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Sunday. I took Justin to a sand blowout where I knew that the Federally Threatened Cirsium pitcheri grew, and we saw several plants in flower.

We then began heading back into black oak savanna when we noticed a dandelion. I mentioned to Justin that there was another dandelion in the Chicago Region that I'd never seen, but that I wasn't sure how to distintuish it from Taraxacum officinale. Consulting Plants of the Chicago Region right there in the field, I read the key as Justin examined the plant. Conincidentally enough, we were staring at a new plant for both of us, Taraxacum laevigatum (=T. erythrospermum), the red-seeded dandelion. I bet you've never seen two seasoned botanists get so excited about a dandelion!

This species differs from our common dandelion in several ways. The terminal lobes of the leaves of T. laevigatum aren't noticably larger than the lateral lobes, while the terminal lobe is larger than the laterals in T. officinale. Also, the lobes on the leaves of T. laevigatum are divided all the way to the midvein, while the terminal lobe of T. officinale is not much divided or is divided only part way to the midvein. If flowers are present, you can tell the two species apart by examining the inner phyllaries, which are mostly flat at the tip in T. officinale and callous-thickened at the tip in T. laevigatum. Finally, the seeds in T. officinale are stramineous to brown, while those in T. laevigatum are deep reddish-brown.

For comparison, I've included photos of Taraxacum officinale from my yard, both in flower and fruit, below.

I will never look at a dandelion, especially in sandy soil, the same way again.

Roses Are Red, Violets Are... All Different Colors!

Here are just a few of the many violets that grow in northern Indiana. Identification and nomenclature are debated at every turn, so please feel free to chip away at these identifications - I can always play the amateur card. One thing I would never do is debate the ID of a blue violet with basal, cordate leaves. Doing so would be an exercise in futility.

Viola sagittata - Arrow-Leaved Violet
Viola lanceolata - Lance-Leaved Violet

Viola palmata - Lobed Violet
Viola pubescens - Yellow Violet

Viola sororia - Common Blue Violet

Viola pallens or V. incognita - Smooth or Hairy White Violet

Viola conspersa - Dog Violet

Viola pedata - Bird's Foot Violet

Viola canadensis - Canada Violet

Viola striata - Cream Violet

Viola rostrata - Long-Spurred Violet