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)