Friday, July 31, 2009

Eryngium prostratum!!

Nice work, Keith! This crazy little blue Q-tip of a plant is one of the wackiest things I've ever seen. I mean, it blows me away that this thing is related to big bad Rattlesnake Master (E. yuccifolium). I saw it ten years ago on the margin of a pond in southern Missouri and again last week on the edge of the Ozark escarpment near Poplar Bluff. It was growing in large mats with Diodia virginiana and Polypremum procumbens (a state listed species). If you really want to appreciate the genus Eryngium then Google Image "Eryngium leavenworthii" and brace yourself.

Time For Saprophytes

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sp.)
Heavy rains in summer, especially after mid-July, often trigger a variety of fungi in natural areas. They also trigger several species of saprophytic vascular plants, and we should all begin watching for these. When the woods smell "mushroomy" in northern Indiana, it's time to start watching for:
-Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe)
-Monotropa hypopithys (Pinesap)
-Corallorhiza maculata (Spotted Coralroot Orchid)
-Corallorhiza odontorhiza (Late Coralroot Orchid - usually after mid-August)
These mysterious plants have an affinity for oak woods, but certainly do occur elsewere. In other regions, other species could be added to the list.

Pinesap (Monotropa hypopithys)

In addition, we should keep in mind that Thismia americana is a saprophyte, but it occurs in open, wet prairie. Now is the time to look for it, as well. I'm sure it's out there - we just have to find it!
Banded Trinity, Fairy Lantern (Thismia americana)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quiz Plant!!!!

It has been a while, but how about a plant quiz?

Photo taken in southeast Missouri.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Liatris pycnostachya

I got the chance at Fisher Oak Savanna to see several Liatris species side-by-side. It was helpful to see the difference in the involucral bracts. Liatris spicata has appressed involucral bracts (right), while those of Liatris pycnostachya are reflexed (left).

Platanthera ciliaris

To continue with the Platanthera theme, I had a real treat on Saturday to get to see Orange Fringed Orchid blooming in southern Jasper County at Fisher Oak Savanna. This is a recently discovered population. There were at least nine flowers growing in a forested wetland. It felt special to get to see them blooming.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Purple Fringed Orchid!

This tall and stately orchid is occasional in high-quality swamp forests behind the Indiana Dunes. It tends to grow in wet, mucky ground where Skunk Cabbage and Marsh Marigold put on a show earlier. It is also found in open, wet meadows. Populations fluctuate from year to year, but if you go to a known spot and search, it is sometimes possible to find a few.
Habenaria/Platanthera psycodes (Purple Fringed Orchid)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Preltis serotalis

This afternoon in Marshall County, Indiana, Tony and I ran across a new species to both of us... Preltis serotalis! Check it out...

I've seen two members of the same species fuse together like this before, and even trees grow around vines... but I'd never seen two different tree species fuse into a single trunk. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Random Plants From The Indiana Dunes

Harebell is occasional in those few Black Oak savanna remnants that still have a little sunlight getting in, and abundant on thinly wooded foredunes near Lake Michigan. Its thin stems allow it to dance on the breeze - rather delightful until you attempt to get a photo. Cauline leaves are linear - the species name refers to basal leaves that are somewhat round in outline, though in my view they tend to be reniform.
Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)

The French fur trappers called this little subshrub "Petit The Des Bois," meaning "Little Tea of the Woods."
Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen, Teaberry)

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) and Honey Bee

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed) and Honey Bee

Six Lined Racerunner and Eyed Elater

When the sun shines hot in the open dunes, there is always a scurrying going on just ahead of the hiker, the source of which we seldom see. It’s the Six Lined Racerunner, Cnemidophorus sexlineatus, and yesterday one was kind enough to hold still and let me get a photo. The speed with which they move is impressive. There is confusion about varieties/subspecies and their natural ranges.
Cnemidophorus sexlineatus (Six Lined Racerunner)

While botanizing the dunes yesterday a gargantuan bug came flying in my direction, so I moved a little, but it changed course and landed on me. This thing was about 5 cm long, so I performed a bit of an Irish jig and brushed it off. It turns out to be an Eyed Elater or Eyed Click Beetle, Alaus oculatus. That is a big bug! When a Click Beetle ends up on its back, it somehow snaps its body, making a loud click, and flips itself over. Amazing.
Alaus oculatus (Eyed Click Beetle, Eyed Elater)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blazing Stars!

Thoreau once said, "How early in the year it begins to be late." I always think of this when Blazing Stars and Goldenrods begin their summer show.

Marsh Blazing Star, which seems to grow in prairies and savannas more than marshes, was beginning to flower at Ober Savanna Nature Preserve in Starke County, Indiana. It was being frequented by a Skipper of some type (maybe a Dun Skipper). Thanks, Kirk, for pointing out that it's a Skipper, and that it's a butterfly, not a moth.

Liatris spicata (Marsh Blazing Star)

On low dunes in Gary, Indiana there were thousands of Cylindrical Blazing Stars in bud, and two were already in flower on a south-facing slope. In a week or two it should be spectacular.

Liatris cylindracea (Cylindrical Blazing Star)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Carex 3000

This interesting Carex was found at a gas station in Marshfield Missouri.

Here is a habitat photo:

I feel a string on one-liners is appropriate here. I'll start:

"Looks like I no longer need to go outside to botanize"


"Be sure to wash your hands after playing with Carex"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back To The City Of The Century

Like a Salmon returning to it's birthplace, I spent part of the day today in a city that I love (no kidding) - the city where I was born - Gary, Indiana. My visit did not include spawning, however.

Extremely good native plants abound there, as Scott so eloquently pointed out. In a low, sandy meadow I found the following good things, among many others. The first, Blue Hearts, is noteworthy for being the plant that brought together two botanical legends, Floyd Swink and Julian Steyermark. You can read about them here and here.

Buchnera americana (Blue Hearts)

Bromus kalmii (Prairie Brome)

Lilium philadelphicum (Prairie Wood Lily)

Lilium philadelphicum (Prairie Wood Lily) and Green Metallic Bee

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Symbiosis at Cressmoor Prairie

The amazing dedication, hard work, and financial contributions of people at the Shirley Heinze Land Trust make scenes like these possible. Plants and animals are surviving and hopefully flourishing! All three photos are from Sunday, July 12 at Cressmoor Prairie Nature Preserve in Hobart. It is Indiana's largest remnant of black soil prairie!
Asclepias sullivantii (Prairie Milkweed)
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth
Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamont) and Silver-Spotted Skipper
Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) and Great Golden Digger Wasp

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cactaceae of Indiana

That's right, folks, I am going to tackle the entire family Cactaceae within the entire state of Indiana in this post. Here in the Hoosier State, we have exactly one known species of cactus found growing naturally, this being Opuntia humifusa. Hey, that's not bad for a state that receives approximately 41 inches of precipitation per year.

Eastern Prickly Pear has enormous yellow flowers with numerous petals many stamens. These flowers form at the top of fleshy, spiny "pads," and persist for only one day, after which they develop into fleshy, tasty (though spiny) fruit. These fruit are eaten by a variety of wildlife species, and the seeds are spread after going through the animal's digestive system. The pads of Opuntia humifusa can break off and root, therefore the plant spreads by vegetative reproduction as well.

Eastern Prickly Pear is most often found in sandy or rocky soil, in full sun or partial shade. It can withstand a substantial amount of disturbance, as it is sometimes found in mowed fields and along railroads. According to Deam, this species is also found in friable clay soil in southeast Indiana.

Opuntia humifusa flowers from June through July. It is found from Montana and New Mexico east to Massachusetts and Florida.

City of the Century

I'm guessing that whoever nicknamed Gary, Indiana the "City of the Century" didn't do so for its botanical wonders, but they really should have. No joke. If you've never botanized in Gary, you are really missing out. Sure, alongside the steel mills, strip clubs, and highways, there are plenty of weeds. Phragmites australis dominates the areas you see as you drive through "The Region." But when you are finally able to fight through the smog and the crowd of people around Michael Jackson's house, you're in for a botanical treat.

This is just one example of what can be found in Gary, a wet sand flat community that was created by sand mining. This is such an interesting plant community, even though it is somewhat artificial. I often wonder how long the seed bank really remains viable when I see communities like this, where seeds are covered by years and years of sand and organic matter accumulation, only to readily germinate once that accumulation is removed and they are exposed by some form of disturbance.

In the photo above, the dominant plant is Cladium mariscoides, shown below. A relative of the sawgrass characteristic of the everglades, this species, known as Smooth Sawgrass and Twig Rush, is neither a grass nor a rush. Instead, it is a sedge. Cladium mariscoides is rare throughout much of its range. It is often found in calcareous or marly soils, but can also grow in acidic soils.

Another sedge that is scattered throughout this community is Schoenoplectus acutus. This species is often confused with Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, but has darker green culms and longer, often lead-colored spikelets. Hard-stemmed Bulrush, as it is known, was used by Native Americans in a variety of ways, including to make baskets, boats, and even houses.

Splashes of yellow in the wet sand flat are provided in part by the two species below. The first is Lysimachia quadriflora. This member of the Primulaceae is most often found in moist prairies and calcareous fens, but can also be found along streambanks. It is always interesting to hear a botanist pronounce the specific epithet of this species, as nearly everyone I know hesitates and thinks it out when they get to the "flora" portion... this is because there is another Lysimachia that has the specific epithet "quadrifolia." According to Gray's Manual of Botany, Lysimachia was named "in honor of King Lysimachus of Thrace, or from lysis, a release from, and mache, strife; tradition telling of Lysimachus, chased by a maddened bull, in desperation seizing a plant of Loosestrife and pacifying the bull by waving the plant before him." If ever I find myself in the field being chased by a maddened bull, I will surely try this tactic.

Hypericum kalmianum, a small shrub in the family Clusiaceae, also has wonderful yellow blooms. Kalm's St. John's Wort is known from Quebec and most of the Great Lakes states and provinces, and is found in sandy or rocky soil, often in open, moist areas.

A rare plant in this community is Clinopodium arkansanum. The fragrance of this mint much exceeds its diminutive leaves and flowers. Limestone Calamint is found in a variety of calcareous habitats, including fens, wet sand, seeps, gravel bars, and on glades. According to Missouri Plants, "chewing on the plant gives you fresh breath that will last for hours."

One of my all-time favorite sedges is Carex viridula. Little Green Sedge can be found in marly and wet sandy soil, calcareous fens, interdunal swales, and moist gravel prairies. Two similar sedges are C. cryptolepis and C. flava, both of which have perigynia greater than 3mm long, some of which are reflexed.

Finally, Carex crawei. I received some assistance in identifying this sedge from Dr. Paul Rothrock at Taylor University. While this plant has strikingly orange perigynia characteristic of Carex aurea, the achenes were trigonous and each flower had three stigmas.

These few species just scratch the surface of the wet sand flats of northwest Indiana. If you're ever vacationing or sightseeing in Gary, I recommend stopping by some of the preserves to get a glimpse of what Gary used to look like.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I had a chance to help Dr. Ruch and Dr. Torke for the day while they were doing a botanical inventory in Fayette County, Indiana. Two, small-flowered Agrimonies were blooming practically side-by-side, so it was a good opportunity to compare and contrast them. On the left is Agrimonia gryposepala and on the right is Agrimonia pubescens. The main difference is with the pubescence, although the flowers have a difference in size and the leaves are slightly different color and shape. Apparently, gryposepala means that the sepals are griffin-like. Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Wallroth must have had a good imagination.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Platanthera lacera

Yesterday, on my property in North Liberty, St. Joseph County, Indiana, I found a single plant of Platanthera lacera in bloom.

For more information on this completely unexpected find, click here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

GYBO Contributors Featured in Petal Pusher

Upon receiving Petal Pusher (the newsletter of the Missouri Native Plant Society) in the mail yesterday, I began reading the cover story about the Missouri Native Plant Society's April field trip to Holly Ridge Conservation Area. The story talks about many exciting Carex finds during the field trip, and highlights the discovery of Carex reznicekii by Get Your Botany On! contributor Alan Brant. Nice work, Alan!

At the same event, Get Your Botany On! contributor Justin Thomas found an orchid new to Missouri; in fact, he found a genus new to Missouri! How often does that happen?! While taking a few people to see a known population of Isotria verticillata on the site, Justin found and photographed a single plant of Listera australis, Southern Tway-blade Orchid. Justin's find set off a domino effect of a who's who of Missouri botany changing their plans the following day to see this interesting orchid. Congratulations on this incredible find, Justin! Watch for Justin's paper on this find in an upcoming edition of Missouriensis.

Listera australis, photograph by Justin Thomas