Monday, January 30, 2012

Green in Winter: Marginal Fern

Dryopteris marginalis is a frequent native in the eastern half of North America. Especially common and abundant in the Appalachians, it is one of the most characteristic plants of steep, cool slopes and shaded rock cliffs.

Photographed in LaPorte County, Indiana on January 29, 2012.

It is very well expressed at Turkey Run and Shades State Parks in west-central Indiana, as well as several nature preserves in the vicinity. It is virtually absent from the northern third of the state, with one known exception being a robust population in LaPorte County, on a steep sandy slope above Trail Creek. It occurs at a few sites just to the north in Berrien County, Michigan.

The sori (clusters of tiny sporangia, where spores are produced) occur along the margins of the pinnules (smallest blade divisions), hence the specific epithet marginalis.

Ferns are lovely. Ferns are beautiful. Emma Bickham Pitcher

Nature made ferns for pure leaves, to show what she could do in that line. Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Green in Winter: Christmas Fern

Polystichum acrostichoides grows in a variety of woodlands and is especially at home on north and east facing slopes. The acrostic fertile portion of the blade normally withers away after sporulation, so it is only occasionally visible in winter (acrostic = densely fertile, as in Acrostichum, a tropical fern genus) .

This attractive, native fern has blades that are coriaceous (thick and leathery), stipes (lower stems) that are densely scaly, and pinnae (side branches) with auricles (ears) near their proximal end (nearest the point of attachment).

Photographed on December 24, 2011 at Potato Creek State Park, St. Joseph County, Indiana

"A beautiful form has as much life at one season as another."

Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Flora of...

Have you ever been planning for a botanical excursion in the United States and wondered what floras or field guides might be available to help with plant identification in that part of the country?

Here's a recently published resource that may help...

Flora and Field Guide References Supporting All U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Regional Supplements

Marianne Giolitto sent this along to me today, and I just had to share.  Thanks Marianne!  I'm sure that Lindsay will be happy that now I have a new checklist for books I have to have.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Green in Winter: Wild Columbine

These leaves of Aquilegia canadensis emerged in the landscaping around my house during mild weather in December, 2011. They seem a little thin for winter leaves but they persist, even with freezing temps and no snow cover. Wild Columbine is one of the easiest native plants to grow from seed, and it will flourish in almost any conditions. It is very popular with hummingbirds.

Photographed in rock landscaping on January 1, 2012 in Marshall County, Indiana.

This is how the plant looked in May, 2011 in a shaded hollow between wooded dunes in Porter County, Indiana.

"Without anxiety let us wander on, admiring whatever beauty the woods exhibit." Henry David Thoreau Journal, 1850.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Green in Winter: Ground Cedar and Running Ground Pine

Exceedingly rare in Indiana, the little-known and poorly recognized Ground Cedar (Lycopodium tristachyum) is occasional in semi-dry, sandy, early-successional flats behind the dunes, mainly in LaPorte County. This plant is sometimes called Diphasiastrum tristachyum.

Photographed in LaPorte County, Indiana on December 28, 2011.

It is similar to the somewhat common Running Ground Pine or Fan Clubmoss (Lycopodium complanatum var. flabelliforme) shown below, but the latter has horizontal stems at the surface and “leaves” on the lower side of the branch much reduced and not overlapping. In addition, the antrorse lateral leaves of the latter are slightly more appressed, a little less spreading.

Photographed in LaPorte County, Indiana on December 31, 2011.

One could make a full time job out of trying to stay current with the bothersome revolving door of clubmoss nomenclature. To wit, the latter species has the following handles involved in its identity crisis: Diphasiastrum digitatum, Lycopodium digitatum, L. complanatum, L. flabelliforme, and L. complanatum flabelliforme. Some botanists feel obligated to provide all 4011 names so as not to offend anyone’s tender sensibilities, alas.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Aye Aye... That's Potentilla arrrrrggguta, Matey!

Potentilla arguta
... at least that's how I picture the conversation between William Dampier and a field assistant upon seeing the species above.  What the heck am I talking about?  You've got to take a look at this blog post on the NPR webpage...


Friday, January 20, 2012

Green in Winter: Plant Quiz - Phlox divaricata

Good call, Scott! It is Phlox divaricata, Woodland Phlox, a common native plant in Midwestern forests.

Posted earlier: This plant shows up occasionally in mesic forests in winter. Barbara Plampin, Myrna Newgent and I used to see it as we explored the forests of northern Indiana on winter outings. We disagreed on its identification, so eventually I marked a colony and returned to it in the spring. Barbara had the identification correct - no surprise there! Can you name the plant? Feel free to name it or just take a guess.

This is how it looked in May, 2009 near Dowagiac, Michigan.

"Is not January the hardest month to get through? When you have weathered that, you get into the gulf stream of winter, nearer the shores of spring." Henry David Thoreau Journal, February 2, 1854.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Green in Winter: Round-Lobed Hepatica

Hepatica americana is a colorful and attractive member of the Ranunculaceae (Crowfoot or Buttercup Family). It has a special affinity for rotting oak leaves and shaded, acid sandy soil. The dark green leaves have three rounded lobes, often mottled with deep maroon. Flowers open in very early spring and range in color from white through pink to purple. New leaves emerge as flowers fade away. Photographed in the Ardmore section of South Bend, Indiana in January, 2012.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Green in Winter: Monarda punctata, Plant Quiz Solved!

Congratulations to Andrew "The Commander" Blackburn for correctly identifying the winter leaves of Monarda punctata, Horse Mint. A common plant of dry sand in the dunes region of Indiana, this attractive mint produces pale yellow flowers with magenta spots (punctata = dotted). Upper bracts of the plant are pale pinkish or lavender and get a lot more attention than the flowers, which also are attractive. The entire plant has an extremely good minty smell, even the brunnescent, dried inflorescence in winter.

Posted earlier: Can you name this plant? It was photographed near Portage, Indiana on January 8, 2012. Good luck! I have no idea what the white blotches are on the leaves, but my guess is fungal growth.

This is how the plant looked in August, 2011 at Ogden Dunes, Indiana.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Green in Winter: False Rue Anemone

Frequent in mesic woods, Isopyrum biternatum is one of the most abundant green plants in winter. In a very cold winter the leaves are mostly purple. It's a member of the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family) and its white flowers are a big part of the floral display in springtime woodlands. The flowers have no petals - just white petaloid sepals (aka "tepals")! Photographed at Bendix Woods County Park in St. Joe County, Indiana, on January 7, 2011.

This is how the plant looked in April, 2011 at Turkey Run State Park in west-central Indiana.

"The more thou learnest to know and enjoy, the more full and complete will be for thee the delight of living." Frances Theodora Parsons, 1899.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Honoring Emma Bickham Pitcher (again!)

Rough Sand Sedge, Cyperus schweinitzii, scribes a series of nearly concentric arcs in Porter County, Indiana. Sand arcs like these, along with any kind of gentians, were favorite photo subjects of Emma Pitcher and they always remind me of her.

"Bickie" was an excellent naturalist in the Indiana Dunes region. She was remarkably observant and very sensitive to subtle detail and beauty. After she moved to Michigan, several of her well-written essays were compiled into a delightful book entitled "Of Woods and Other Things (Beach Leaf Press, Kalamazoo, 1996). Earlier I posted some of my favorite quotes from the birding section of the book. Here are my favorites from the botany section:

[Re: Dandelions]: Every spring dandelion battles are enjoined again. Are you for or against them? Are you for strong sprays and a country club lawn? Or for letting Mother Nature have her way? She’ll sprinkle your lawn for free with golden yellow blossoms. The soil will have no chemicals and be full of worms…”
[Re: orchids]: “Let us all look at orchids long and appreciatively and let them be.”
[Re: Wild Cucumber]: “One of my favorite nature pleasures is to pick a two-inch fruit when it is dry and carefully remove bits of outer skin. Underneath I find a reticulated tissue of incredibly fine spun gold.”
[Re: Juneberry or Serviceberry]: They flower when the outdoors is still brown and dreary. It warms the heart to find delicate wispy white petals scattered over prevailing bleakness… It is hardy in southern Michigan, adapts to all soils, blossoms profusely, and bears tasty fruit enjoyed by humans and our feathered friends alike.”
[Re: white oak]: In contrast to most oak species, this acorn is ripe by its first autumn instead of the usual second season.”
[Re: Basswood or American Linden]: Pistils are almost lost among stamens but develop into woody nutlets attached to long leafy bracts. These act as parachutes when seeds are ready to drop. Basswood nectar is a favorite of bees and honey from it is considered unexcelled in flavor.”
[Re: Thuja occidentalis]: “The name arbor vitae originated with Frenchmen in Jacques Cartier’s St. Lawrence River expedition who were stricken with scurvy. Friendly Indians gave them tea brewed with Vitamin C-rich branchlets of this cedar which cured their condition. Thus, the name tree of life was born.” In a glacial relict Indiana bog, the state’s only known site for this tree, the hundred or so white cedars appear to be root sprouts from older trees. There are no young ones.”
[Re: Liriodendron tulipifera]: "Fossils from the Upper Cretaceous era, 70 to 100 million years ago, indicate that this tulip and a Chinese cousin are the only Liriodendrons to survive the Ice Age. European species were wiped out by the glaciers.” A detail that never fails to attract me is the way leaves unfold. Terminal buds are flat, shaped like a duck’s bill. When stipules (parts of the bill) separate, a curled-over leaf folded exactly on the midrib straightens out and unfolds, revealing a perfectly shaped miniature leaf. At its base inside the stipules is another duck’s bill which also opens to disgorge another curled-over, folded-down-the-midrib leaf, and so on and so on, ad infinitum. Plant some tulip trees on your property as a unique gift of shade and ornamental beauty for your descendants.”
[Re: Juglans nigra, American Black Walnut]: "Their foliage is the favorite food for the ethereal pale green luna moth. Trees grow rapidly and are a valuable crop to plant if you have timber harvesting in mind. Black walnut wood is scarce, hardly available at any price. Friends have planted large acreages with black walnut as an inheritance for their children. Will these be more reliable than a stock portfolio?”
[Re: Hamamelis virginiana, Witch Hazel]: “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.”
[Re: Birches]: “Now that leaves have fallen, it’s fun to look around, study trees, and observe their distinctive characteristics.”
[Re: Fraxinus americana, White Ash]: "Ash branches are also opposite, an occurrence in only a few tree families. If leaves and branches are arranged alternately, the tree is not in these families. Such characteristics are particularly useful in winter when other clues are scarce. A handy phrase to help you remember opposite arrangements in woody plants is MAD-Cap-Horse: Maple Ash Dogwood-Caprifoliaceae-Horse chestnut. (Caprifoliaceae: the honeysuckle family). Francois Andre Michaux, a Frenchman who botanized in North America from 1785 to 1797, wrote that a a leaf rubbed on a bee sting or mosquito bite relieves itching at once. Worth trying, isn’t it?”
[Re: Marvels of Design and Pattern]: "Soft antennae of moths are as delicate as the infinitely fine feathers which make up a bird’s eye ring.”
[Re: Sorghastrun nutans, Indian Grass]: “In Where the Sky Began, John Madson wrote about midwestern prairies: A big patch of tall Sorghastrum is the ultimate playground. The kids are safely lost in deep grass that soaks up their noise and energy, finally spewing them out tired, quieter, and almost human. Another plus for prairie.”
[Re: Spring]: "Ever since winter solstice, days started lengthening and small changes are occurring in our natural world. Skunk cabbages sent up tightly furled green leaf cones last September. Now that their strange internal furnaces are activated, dark red flower spathes are forcing up through ice and snow. (Air inside the spathe can be as much as fifty degrees warmer than outside air, so great is the heat the root generates)."
"If you enjoy watching catkins develop, search our birches and alders which soon will be in blossom. Alders are interesting because they have last year’s cones, this year’s flowers, and next year’s fruits all present at the same time. A stalk of catkins brought in now will keep your windowsill in gold for a week.”
[Re: Midsummer Flowers]: “…it’s a good time to gather common yarrow flowers for winter bouquets. Hang stems upside down in a sheltered place for a few days to let them dry thoroughly.”
[Re: Color Harvest]: "The many yellow composites of autumn make ditches glow, a sight to store away in your mind and be retrieved on a gray, sleety December day.”
[Re: In Praise of Autumn]: "As sugar maple leaves magically turn luminous pale gold, a woodland walk is an experience in radiance.”
“A bright expanse of old-field goldenrod, dotted with tawny bracken fern fronds and sun shot with scrubby scarlet staghorn sumacs, is a warming memory to recall on a snowy, sub-zero morning.”
[Re: Winter Woodlands]: "A red-headed woodpecker fills holes with acorns and other seeds, holes too deep for him or any other bird to get at. He puts bits of bark in place to seal the entrance. Later, he carefully chisels out a new door, lower down, and extracts the food.”
[Re: A Snowy Day]: “Cottontail rabbits… Isn’t it fun that prints of their hind feet are ahead of the front?”
From the birding section (posted previously):
“Nature writing of necessity involves two delightful occupations: roaming around wild places observing flora and fauna and later poring over relevant books attempting to learn more. In such pleasant ways do naturalists grope toward understanding. Questions always remain – leading to the next foray. Fortunately, the learning never ends.”

“… the nostalgic, somewhat dreamy whistle of an unseen migrating white-throated sparrow on a misty spring morning, a sound that sets blood a stirring in birdwatchers everywhere.”

“…when the flute-like ee oh lay of the wood thrush sounds through the woods, I drop everything to treasure each crystalline note.”

“One of the most astonishing all-time banding records is that of an Arctic tern found dead on the same Maine island where he had been banded thirty-four years earlier. At 25,000 migratory miles flown in a year, this tern weighing four ounces flew 850,000 in its lifetime.”

“A white-throated sparrow, that bird of haunting, ethereal whistles…”

[Ah, yes, my favorite quote of all time from any author]: "...pale satiny yellow breasts and dark velvety smudges around eyes are apparent." [I'm basking in the beauty of the image this evokes... of Cedar Waxwings!].

“In winter, tough, scaly fringes grow on toe edges of the feet of ruffed grouse, serving as unique snow shoes. These drop off in spring…. Like willow ptarmigan, these grouse will spend cold winter nights in a snow bank.”

“A family of barred owls lived near me and one often hooted from the big pine just outside my bedroom window. It was a scary but delightful experience to be wakened by that call of the wild just ten feet from my bed.”

[Re: barred owls]: “Invisible ears are cavities in lower sides of the head covered with loose-ribbed feathers that can spread to form funnels.”

[Re: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird]: “… when a thumb-sized ruby-throated leaves for South America in fall, this wee being makes an extraordinary 500-mile nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico from the tip of Florida to the coast of Yucatan. Miracle? Yes.”

[Re: Blue Jays]: “When they do migrate, they move by day. On April28, 1981, 2,210 were observed flying eastward along the Lake Michigan shore east of Gary, Indiana.”

[Re: Blue Jays]: “Edward H. Forbush tells of jays not only feeding and guarding an old, partly blind jay, but also leading it to water. Who would have expected compassion from this often aggressive intruder?”

[Re: Black-Capped Chickadees]: In cold weather they become totally round, fluffing feathers to almost twice their normal size, thereby trapping air as insulation. One morning at twenty-five degrees below zero, I saw inflated chickadees covered with hoarfrost crystals, dazzling in the sunlight.”

[Re: Cedar Waxwings]: “Sometimes wing tips contain a bright red wax-like substance visible only at close range. The function of those waxy droplets is unknown.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Green in Winter: Goldie's Fern

Yesterday I posted this as a plant quiz: "Photographed in a beech-maple forest in St. Joe County, Indiana on January 7, 2012. Can you identify it?"

Legendary photographer Pete Grube identified it correctly as Goldie's Fern, Dryopteris goldiana. This is a rare one of high quality forests and deep shade, and it is rather difficult to find in northern Indiana. It has a subtle zigzag to the rachis and the pinnules are of uneven lengths. In season, the blade is often held at such an angle to the Earth that it is almost horizontal. The two lowermost pinnae are usually directed back or downward at an angle, giving the blade a sagittate gestalt.

Good work Pete!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Green in Winter: Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Goodyera pubescens: The basal rosette of this attractive orchid is a good thing to look for on winter hikes. It grows in a variety of forest types, but is especially at home on a sandy substrate among rotting oak leaves. One unusual place to find it is in conifer plantations that are so thick that very little light reaches the forest floor. This, along with the allelopathic effect of a thick bed of rotting needles, ensures that very few herbaceous plants are able to live there. White flowers open in early to mid summer in northern Indiana. Dried and empty seed capsules remain into the following year.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Green in Winter: Partridge Berry

Providing color and variety for the winter hiker, Mitchella repens is a member of the Madder family (Rubiaceae). It grows on cool, shady rock ledges down south, and in northern Indiana it's a regular member of the cool, high quality swamp forests behind the dunes. Note the two scars on the berry. This plant has flowers in pairs that are fused at the base, so two floral ovaries produce one berry with twin scars. Photographed in LaPorte County on December 31, 2011.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Green in Winter: Cardamine hirsuta, First Flower of 2012!

"The sun that brief December day rose cheerless over hills of grey, and darkly circled, gave at noon a sadder light than waning moon...." Snowbound by John Greenleaf Whittier comes to mind when a winter howler is bearing down. This morning I went to the garden to compost a bucket of kitchen midden before the approaching snowstorm and saw rosettes of Cardamine hirsuta with white flower buds showing near the base. By the time I returned with the camera, snow was beginning to fall.
Hairy Bitter Cress, Cardamine hirsuta, with flowers present on New Year's Day, 2012.
At first glance it seemed that flowers were only in bud, but a close look reveals a flower that's partially open (lower left part of the inflorescence)! This may be a weed, but I saw my first flowering plant of 2012 today, January 1st. The weather forecast for northern Indiana suggests it may be a while before anything else achieves anthesis.