Sunday, December 30, 2012

Green in Winter: Trailing Arbutus

This rare little shrub, Epigaea repens, can be locally frequent in the high dune country near Lake Michigan. Photographed on December 30, 2012 in Porter County, Indiana.

The pictures below show the spicy-fragrant flowers that emerge in spring.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Green in Winter: Ebony Spleenwort

This little fern is native in northern Indiana, but it is not very conservative. It tends to show up in degraded sites, often on sandy acid soil and steep, north-facing slopes. It also can be found in high quality sites. The stipe and rachis are black or purple, and each pinna bears a small auricle near its base. Asplenium platyneuron is usually dark green during the growing season but tends to be pale in winter. 

Green in Winter: Goldthread

Coptis trifolia is occasional in swamp forests near Lake Michigan. It often grows on mossy green hummocks or fallen tree tip-up mounds near shallow pools of water. The common name makes reference to the bright orange-gold colored rhizomes.

Green in Winter: Round-leaved Pyrola

Listed as State Rare by the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, Pyrola rotundifolia americana is very difficult to find. There is a thriving colony in a preserve in northern Indiana, where this photo was created on December 27, 2012. Some are now calling it Pyrola americana.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Green in Winter: Spotted Wintergreen

Chimaphila maculata is not very common in Indiana, but in northern Laporte County it is locally frequent in acid sandy flats with partial shade.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Green in Winter: Spinulose Wood Fern

Dryopteris spinulosa is common in northern Indiana woodlands. It sometimes grows at the base of a tree where water is funneled down along the bark. It is now being called D. carthusiana.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Green in Winter: Common Speedwell

The text and picture below were posted earlier as a plant quiz. The plant was correctly named by Scott as Veronica officinalis, Common Speedwell. Good call, Scott!   This attractive little garden escape has a definite preference for dry, eroded clay slopes in partial shade. 

Posted previously: This plant was growing on a forested clay slope in St. Joseph County, Indiana. Do you recognize it? Feel free to name it or just take a guess. Good luck!

Green in Winter: Cursed Buttercup

This is probably Ranunculus sceleratus, fully green in a frozen woodland pond at Potato Creek State Park. In getting this picture, I stepped on a small log in the shallow pond. The log broke, and I went into the icy muck up to my knees. Fortunately the camera and tripod stayed upright on the ice. I was reminded of the time Scott Namestnik and I were botanizing a frozen, degraded wetland near South Bend, Indiana. Scott went through the ice and overtopped his boots, but by the time I got my camera ready, he had climbed out. I tried to talk him into getting back in for a picture, but he wouldn't cooperate!   

Unusual Ice

On a steep clay slope at Potato Creek State Park (North Liberty, Indiana), I found these unusual ice formations right on the surface of the ground. My guess is that moisture was seeping out of the clay and freezing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Green in Winter: Plantain-leaved Sedge

The large, straplike leaves of Carex plantaginea are especially noticeable in winter. This plant is frequent in mesic forest remnants in northern Indiana, most commonly under beech and sugar maple. Photographed at Bendix Woods County Park near New Carlisle, Indiana on February 4, 2012.

Plantain-leaved Sedge is one of the earliest sedges to flower in spring, and also one of the showiest. Sedges are wind-pollinated and don't need to attract insects, and as a result, the flowers are apetalous (without petals). Even so, the flowers of this plant are very attractive. In the picture below, the pale yellow feather dusters are the staminate ("male") flowers; the transparent structures along the culms (stems) are the stigmas of the pistillate ("female") flowers. The photo below was created on April 9, 2011 in a privately-owned forest near Rolling Prairie, Indiana.
This is just a beautiful plant in every season!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Green in Winter: Sharp-lobed Hepatica

With its distinctive three-lobed leaves mottled with purple, Sharp-lobed Hepatica gives the winter explorer something extraordinary to admire. This plant has a special affinity for steep, wooded slopes on clay soil, but it occurs in a variety of woodlands. Long known as Hepatica acutiloba, it is now called Hepatica nobilis var. acutaPhotographed on December 24, 2011 at Potato Creek State Park near North Liberty, Indiana.

     "We must go out and re-ally ourselves to Nature every day. We must take root, and send out some little fibre at least, even every winter day. I am sensible that I am imbibing health when I open my mouth to the wind." Henry David Thoreau, Journal, December 29, 1856. 

When it flowers in March and April, the plant looks like this. Flower color can range from white to pink to purple, and many shades in between.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Do You Know This Plant?

I recently posted the following as a plant quiz...
I've taken a lot of photos this year, and I hope at some point I'll be able to catch up on posting some of them here and at Through Handlens and Binoculars.  In the meantime, here is a fun plant quiz.  Good luck!
As Ben said, the plant looks very "Pedicularis-ish," but A.L. noticed the inflated calyx with four lobes and correctly identified the plant in the photo as Rhinanthus minor.  Based on the whitish teeth on the corolla and the lines of hairs on two sides of the stem, as well as the mostly dentate leaves, I would call this Rhinanthus minor ssp. groenlandicus based on the most current understanding of the species.  Like other plants in the Orobanchaceae, this species is a hemi-parasite that can sometimes obtain nutrients from the roots of nearby plants.   "Rhinanthus" means "snout-flower," a reference to the nose-like appearance of the flowers.

Yellow Rattle, as it is commonly known because of the rattling sound made by the seeds within the inflated calyx when the fruit matures, grows in a wide variety of open habitats, ranging from wet to dry.  It sometimes grows in calcareous situations.  In this instance, Bruce Behan and I found it growing in moist shallow soil in an open area within a sandstone pavement community in Clinton County, New York. 

There is apparently some disagreement on whether or not Rhinanthus minor is native in New York.  Some authors consider it native in most of Canada and in the Pacific Northwest, as well as in one county in New Hampshire, but non-native throughout the rest of its range in the United States.  Other authors seem to consider it to be native where it occurs in the United States.
Congratulations, A.L., on correctly identifying the plant in this plant quiz!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Purple Love Grass

This attractive grass is frequent in dry sand throughout much of Indiana. At maturity the panicles break free of the plant and tumble their way around the sand country,  dispersing seeds as they go.
In the book, "Grasses of Indiana," Charles Deam wrote this: "The panicle of this species breaks off easily at maturity, and it is a common thing to see great heaps of them piled by the wind against a fence. Hence it is often called a "tumble-weed."

Arrow Feather

This extremely attractive native grass, Aristida purpurascens, is occasional in dry, sandy places that are not too disturbed. 
Photographed at Ober Savanna Nature Preserve near Ober, Indiana, on November 4, 2012.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Witch Hazel

Hamamelis virginiana is a common shrub or small tree on the forested slopes of the dune country in Indiana. It also occurs away from the dunes region, often on ravine slopes. The leaves are wavy-margined and noticeably asymmetrical. Interestingly, the flowers emerge in autumn, and in a mild year can sometimes be observed well into December. Watch for the occasional pink-flowered forma rubescens.

In a journal entry dated September 21, 1859, Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Heard in the night a snapping sound, and the fall of some small body on the floor from time to time. In the morning I found it was produced by the witch hazelnuts on my desk springing open and casting their seeds quite across my chamber, hard and stony as these nuts were. For several days they are shooting their shining black seeds about my chamber."

In a delightful book entitled "Of Woods and Other Things," the inimitable Emma Pitcher wrote, "Everything else in the woods is going to sleep in the frosts and cold of October and November when witch hazel is in full blossom. We found lingering petals on a Christmas Day stroll."
 In earlier times, a forked branch of witch-hazel was sometimes used as a “divining rod” for “water witching,” which was believed to locate good sites for digging wells.
Photographed on October 31, 2012 in Marshall County, Indiana.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Grass of Parnassus

A few weeks ago Parnassia glauca was flowering at a calcareous fen in northern Indiana. The plants were showing drought stress on a slope that normally is seeping but was completely dry on the surface. Their distinctive basal leaves were missing entirely, as were many of their attractive and intriguing associates. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Time for a Plant Quiz - Answered

I recently posted the following plant quiz...
It's been a busy year.  I'm behind on publishing blog posts and I'm not really sure where to start catching up, so in the meantime, here's a plant quiz.  Good luck!   
Anonymous and The Phytophactor both correctly identified this as the flower of Proboscidea louisianica, formerly known as Martynia louisianica.  This odd, conspicuous species is considered by some to be a member of the family Pedaliaceae (the sesame family) and by others to be in the family Martyniaceae (the unicorn plant family).

I was alerted of the presence of this plant in St. Joseph County, Indiana by a colleague who sent me a couple of photos of an unknown squash-like plant that showed up on the property of a friend of his.  I later found out that the plant was growing at the edge of a tilled vegetable garden.  The landowner, who has lived there many years, has never seen the plant before and did not plant it, at least intentionally.  I have doubts that this is truly a spontaneous occurrence; I wonder if there were seeds of this species accidentally included in the garden vegetable seeds that were installed in the garden.  In Flora of Indiana, Charlie Deam mentions that he once found this species introduced with strawberries that had been seeded in a garden.

In its native range, which seems centered in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado (but that ranges into scattered counties throughout much of the United States), Proboscidea louisianaca grows along streambanks and in waste areas.   I can't imagine seeing this species growing as part of a natural community.  It was apparently once a part of the native flora in Indiana (along the Ohio and Wabash rivers), but it is now considered extirpated from the state.

The fruit of Proboscidea louisianica are also quite unique and are the source of the common names Ram's Horn, Unicorn Plant, and Devil's Claw.  This species is sometimes cultivated so that the fruit can be pickled.  As The Phytophactor pointed out, mucilaginous hairs cover Proboscidea louisianica... and all members of the Martyniaceae and Pedaliaceae. 
Good call, Anonymous and The Phytophactor!
Note: Since posting the answer to this quiz, Kay Yatskievych has let me know that the correct spelling of the epithet for this species is actually "louisiana," making the correct name of this plant Proboscidea louisiana.  In addition, Kay is aware of records in Indiana from Hendricks, Jefferson, Wells, and now St. Joseph counties in Indiana; one of those records is from a weedy area near a bird feeder, so bird food may be another source of the spread of this species.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Flax-leaved Aster

The scratchy-scabrous leaves of this sand-loving plant have a very unusual feel. Photographed at Ober Savanna Nature Preserve in Starke County, Indiana.

Sky Blue Aster

Aster azureus contributes to the ineffable beauty of September and October days when flat-bottomed clouds line up across the brilliant blue sky. 
 Photographed at Ober Savanna Nature Preserve in Starke County, Indiana.
The lovely and descriptive name Aster azureus (Aster = starry), (azureus = sky-blue) has been dropped and replaced, alas!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fringed Gentian

Photographed in a wet meadow in northern Indiana. What's not to love about this striking plant?!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nodding Lady's Tress Orchid

This common orchid is flowering abundantly in wet sandy meadows in northern Indiana. The identification of this one is assumed - I didn't have a field guide in hand and didn't make a collection.

For anyone with an interest in wild orchids, a visit to Peter Grube's Flickr site is a must. In addition to stunning orchid shots he has a lot of other work displayed, and all of it is excellent beyond all measure!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Soapwort Gentian

The rare and inspiring Gentiana saponaria is occasional in sand prairie remnants in northern Indiana. It is interesting and fun to watch a bumblebee pry the flower open, crawl inside, and disappear for a while.
I will never forget how my good friend Hontz loved gentians, and how we spent so many September and October days looking for them as we hiked along under flat-bottomed clouds in a brilliant blue sky.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Great Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica is common in wet meadows and sometimes roadside ditches in northern Indiana. Photographed in a wet meadow between the Calumet Bike Trail and South Shore Railroad in Porter County, Indiana. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spotted Touch-Me-Not

Impatiens capensis is a common native that can grow densely in wet areas. A member of the Balsaminaceae (Touch-Me-Not Family), it is annual, and is unusual in having fruits that explode when touched (if they're fully ripe). 
The seeds get scattered quite some distance when this happens, and this is always a fun activity for young kids on an outing. It is equally fun for adults!

Impatiens capensis is also known as Jewelweed or Snapweed, but make no mistake, it is native in northern Indiana.
This attractive plant is very popular with hummingbirds and makes a colorful addition to a rain garden or any native plant area that doesn't dry out. This is also true of the closely-related Pale Touch-Me-Not, Impatiens pallida.