Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trillium cuneatum?

Can anyone share thoughts on the identification of this Trillium? I'm labeling photos from 2010 and not sure what it is. Trillium cuneatum seems likely, though it would be a significant range extension where it was found in southern Michigan. It seems possible that it was introduced at the site, a rich forest remnant where it was growing by the hundreds with several other Trillium species. Thanks for any help!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Unusual Sundog

One nice thing about itinerant botanical exploration is the sights we take in along the way, and the telling of stories afterward. Four years ago I was in central LaPorte County, Indiana, looking northward as heavy lake-effect snow moved in from Lake Michigan. Sunshine bouncing through the myriad snowflakes produced wide bands of color in a striking variation of the classic "sundog."

"If the race had never lived through a winter, what would they think was coming?"
Henry David Thoreau journal, November 8,1850

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another Fruity Quiz; Medicago sativa!!

Cdr nailed it! Who else knew that Alfalfa had spiraled fruits? I see it often as a lingerer or an escapee, but I had never noticed the fruits until I collected it this past summer. Hats off to you Cdr!

Hot on the heels of the last quiz comes another strange legume that threw me for a loop (a loopty-loop you might say). It is a species that occurs throughout the Midwest.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fruity Quiz: Apios americana!

Scott nailed it!!

First I thought this quiz would be too easy. Then I feared it was too difficult. I took the photo because I, just like Scott, had never seen Apios americana fruits. Evidently they are quite rare or at least overlooked.

The photo below has a few persistent leaflets if you want some confirmation on the ID. Thanks to everyone for participating.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Garden Oddities

Earlier this fall I discovered these helical carrots spooning obscenely in the garden...

...and shortly after, here was quack grass (I think) with a red potato firmly attached at the base. The grass rhizome had grown right through the potato!

Believe it or not!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Plant Quiz - Keith's Got It!

I recently posted the following plant quiz...

Well, October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month have come to an end. Thank you to all who participated by posting photos of pink plants.

Along with the "unpinking" of Get Your Botany On! comes this plant quiz...

Good Luck!

Keith was able to pick up on my subtle hints and correctly determine that the photo above shows a berry of Actaea rubra forma neglecta. In the typical forms, Actaea rubra (Red Baneberry) has red berries...

... and Actaea pachypoda (White Baneberry or Doll's Eyes) has white berries...

However, there is a fairly common form (the more common form in some places, including where I saw it in Douglas County, Wisconsin) of Red Baneberry with white fruits (called Actaea rubra forma neglecta, shown below). Amazingly enough, there is also a rare form of White Baneberry with pink or red fruits (called Actaea pachypoda forma rubrocarpa, which I have never seen). The ranges of these two species of Actaea overlap in the northern half of eastern North America, as Actaea rubra is found throughout much of western North America and in the northern half of the eastern half of the continent, and Actaea pachypoda is found from Quebec to Florida and as far west as Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

So how would one tell the difference between these two species if the fruit color is not reliable? Actaea rubra has pedicels (flower/fruit stalks) that are green or brown when in fruit, whereas Actaea pachypoda has pedicels that are pink to red when the plant is in fruit. In addition, the pedicels of Actaea rubra are slender (up to 0.7 mm in diameter, and thinner than the inflorescence stalk), whereas those of Actaea pachypoda are thick (0.7 to 3.0 mm in diameter, and about as thick as the inflorescence stalk). A third character to look for is the scar that remains on the berry when the stigma falls off and the plants are in fruit. In Actaea rubra, this scar is small, whereas in Actaea pachypoda, this scar (the "iris" of the "doll's eye") is larger.

Both of these medicinal species were used heavily by Native Americans. Actaea rubra was used to treat coughs, colds, and other illnesses; Actaea pachypoda was used to treat sore throats. The way I am feeling right now, I sure wish I had a little bit of both of these on hand.

Congratulations, Keith, for figuring out this plant quiz!