Friday, December 6, 2013

Asclepias ovalifolia

Asclepias ovalifolia is a milkweed of prairies, barrens, savannas, and open woodlands in the Upper Midwest.

Asclepias ovalifolia
See my recent post at Through Handlens and Binoculars for more information on this and other milkweeds.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Furbish Lousewort ( (Pedicularis furbishiae) Poem Charles Osgood, CBS newsman, 1977. From “Nothing Could Be Finer Than a Crisis that is Minor in the Morning” by Charles Osgood, 1979.

Quoted in Robert Mohlenbrock’s book, “Where Have All the Wildflowers Gone,” 1983. 

Kate Furbish was a woman who a century ago
Discovered something growing, and she classified it so
That botanists thereafter, in their reference volumes state,
That the plant’s a Furbish lousewort. See, they named it after Kate.
There were other kinds of louseworts, but the Furbish one was rare.
It was very near extinction, when they found out it was there.
And as the years went by, it seemed with ravages of weather,
The poor old Furbish louseworts simply vanished altogether.
But then in 1976, our bicentennial year,
Furbish lousewort fanciers had some good news they could cheer.
For along the St. John’s River, guess what somebody found?
Two hundred fifty Furbish louseworts growing in the ground.
Now, the place where they were growing, by the St. John’s River banks,
Is not a place where you or I would want to live, no thanks.
For in that very area, there was a mighty plan,
An engineering project for the benefit of man.
The Dickey-Lincoln Dam it’s called, hydroelectric power.
Energy, in other words, the issue of the hour.
Make way, make way for progress now, man’s ever constant urge.
And where those Furbish louseworts were, the dam would just submerge.
The plants can’t be transplanted; they simply wouldn’t grow.
Conditions for the Furbish louseworts have to be just so.
And for reasons far too deep for me to know or explain,
The only place they can survive is in that part of Maine.
So, obviously it was clear, that something had to give,
And giant dams do not make way so that a plant can live.
But hold the phone, for yes they do. Indeed they must, in fact.
There is a law, the Federal Endangered Species Act,
And any project such as this, though mighty and exalted,
If it wipes out threatened animals or plants, it must be halted.
And since the Furbish lousewort is endangered as can be,
They had to call the dam off; couldn’t build it, don’t you see.
For to flood that lousewort haven, where the Furbishes were at,
Would be to take away their only extant habitat.
And the only way to save the day, to end this awful stall
Would be to find some other louseworts, anywhere at all.
And sure enough, as luck would have it, strange though it may seem,
They found some other Furbish louseworts growing just downstream.
Four tiny little colonies, one with just a single plant.
So now they’ll flood that major zone, no one can say they can’t.
And construction is proceeding, and the dynamite goes bam.
And most folks just don’t seem to give a Dickey-Lincoln Dam.
The newfound stands of Furbish louseworts aren’t much, but then
They were thought to be extinct before, and may well be again.
Because the Furbish lousewort has a funny-sounding name,
It was ripe for making ridicule, and that’s a sort of shame.
For there is a disappearing world, and man has played his role
In taking little parts away from what was once the whole.
We can get along without them; we may not feel their lack.
But extinction means that something’s gone, and never coming back.
So, here’s to you, little lousewort, and here’s to your rebirth.
And may you somehow multiply, refurbishing the earth.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Triadenum virginicum

Time to start catching up on photos from this growing season.
Back in late July, Lindsay and I joined a group from Save the Dunes on a quick trip to Pinhook Bog in LaPorte County, Indiana.  Led by staff from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the walk down the boardwalk and back was very brief and only touched on the unique bog flora, but I used a free second to take a couple of photographs of a plant that I admire but don't see very often, Triadenum virginicum (Virginia Marsh St. John's Wort).
Triadenum virginicum in Pinhook Bog.
The most concentrated area of the geographical range of Triadenum virginicum is the New England region of the United States (and north into Canada).  The range of the species follows the Atlantic Coast south, around Florida, and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to Texas.  Like several other species with which it often grows, this modest pink-flowered plant is also disjunct in the Great Lakes region, making it a unique part of the flora in this part of the country.  Triadenum virginicum grows in bogs, interdunal swales, and wet meadows.

Note the pointed sepals and "long" styles of Triadenum virginicum.
A very similar species, Triadenum fraseri (Fraser's Marsh St. John's Wort), has a geographical range that overlaps with that of T. virginicum, but T. fraseri is found more in the Great Lakes and New England regions and north, without an affinity to the coastal plain.  It has been treated as a variety of T. virginicum in the past, but most botanists now consider the two to be distinct species.  The sepals of T. virginicum are longer (greater than or equal to 5 mm long versus up to 5 mm long in T. fraseri) and sharper pointed (acute to acuminate versus obtuse in T. fraseri), and the styles are longer in T. virginicum (more than 1.5 mm long versus less than 1.5 mm long in T. fraseri).  In addition, T. fraseri is rarely found with open flowers in the field (but they are said to open after spending an afternoon in a vasculum!), whereas it is not uncommon to see T. virginicum with open flowers.

Plants in the genus Triadenum were formerly treated as part of the genus Hypericum, but they are now distinguished from Hypericum due to petal and stamen characteristics.  The petals of Triadenum are pink or flesh-colored (versus yellow in Hypericum).  The stamens of Triadenum are in three groups of three and alternate with three large orange glands (versus being of various number and lacking glands in the flowers of Hypericum).  This unique characteristic of the flowers of plants in the genus Triadenum is the origin of their Latin name, as Triadenum means "three glands."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Plant Quiz - Answered

I recently posted the following plant quiz...
Been a while... how about a cropped photo plant quiz?

Good luck!

Ben and DenPro both correctly responded that this is a close-up of Clematis virginiana, Virgin's Bower.  Here's the original photo, prior to being cropped...

Note the plumose styles of Clematis virginiana in fruit.
... and here's another photo showing the feathery inflorescences made up of numerous plumose styles when the plant is in fruit.  Like most plants I've noticed this fall, Clematis virginiana seemed to flower and fruit profusely this year.

The dense inflorescence of Clematis virginiana in fruit.
During the summer, Clematis virginiana looks like this, a vine with flowers in axillary panicles, each with four white to cream-colored petaloid sepals, no petals, and numerous pistils in female flowers and stamens in male flowers.  The leaves are compound, often with three leaflets, each of which is toothed on the margins. The similar looking Clematis ternifolia, an invasive species from Asia, has five leaflets that are entire or merely crenate on the margins.

Clematis virginiana in flower.
Clematis virginiana grows in moist thickets, in wooded and open floodplains, and along fencerows throughout the eastern half of North America.  Taxonomically, it is placed in the family Ranunculaceae.

Nice job, Ben and DenPro!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sassafras Color

One of my favorite trees is Sassafras albidum. It’s a native of dry sand country and adds a lot of color and character to black oak savannas.  The leaves occur in three different types: one lobe, two lobes, and three lobes. The crushed leaves and twigs have an unusual but pleasant smell. The cut wood is beautiful and has a pungent chemical smell that is also very good. And of course, the roots have that wonderful root beer smell and flavor, long cherished for sassafras tea. Experts now say the tea can cause stomach cancer, but I’m starting to think so does breathing the air and drinking the water.

Of this remarkable and very attractive tree, Thoreau wrote the following: "The odoriferous sassafras, with its delicate green stem, its three-lobed leaf, tempting the travelers to bruise it, it sheds so rare a perfume on him, equal to all the spices of the East. Then its rare-tasting root bark, like nothing else, which I used to dig. The first navigators freighted their ships with it and deemed it worth its weight in gold."   Henry David Thoreau - journal entry, August 31, 1850.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bottle Gentian

This picture of Gentiana andrewsii is posted for comparison to the Soapwort Gentian posted earlier. This attractive plant often grows in aspen thickets on damp, sandy soil. Compared to Soapwort Gentian, this plant has darker blue flowers that are more tapering into the summit, and this plant tends to grow 2 or 3 times taller. I'm sure that someone who never leaves their lab (and has never gotten their feet muddy or received a mosquito bite) has renamed it, but it is Gentiana andrewsii and always will be. I have a very large botanical library that says it is G. andrewsii

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Foredune Invader in Disguise

The foredunes along Lake Michigan are home to an interesting early successional plant community, but one that is not terribly diverse.  This ecological zone was part of the renowned studies on primary succession conducted by Henry Chandler Cowles at the end of the 19th Century.  Marram Grass (Ammophila breviligulata), a colonizer that both serves to help stabilize the sand dunes and that requires the moving sand for its own survival, is by far the dominant plant species on these first dunes back from the lake, and other colonizers such as Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), American Searocket (Cakile edentula), and Seaside Sandmat (Chamaesyce polygonifolia) take advantage of the stabilization work done by the rhizomes of Marram Grass.  Just a handful of additonal species are commonly found in the pure beach sand of these foredune communities.

Foredune vegetation along Lake Michigan consists maily of Marram Grass and Eastern Cottonwood, but take note of the glaucous-leaved grass on the left side of the photograph.
Marram Grass is native in counties surrounding the Great Lakes, as well as along the Atlantic coast of the United States.  It also has been introduced in a few counties along the Pacific coast.  Ammophila means "sand lover," a reference to its propensity to grow in pure sand. 

Marram Grass inflorescence with foliage in background.
The inflorescence of Marram Grass consists of a dense spikelike panicle. Within that panicle are numerous one-flowered spikelets that are each between 8 and 15 mm long. These spikelets are so tightly packed into the inflorescence that they are barely visible without very close inspection.

Close-up of the dense panicle of Marram Grass.
The leaf blades of Marram Grass are green on the dorsal side and somewhat glaucous and scabrous on the ventral side.  They range from 4 to 8 mm wide when flat, but they are soon involute, making them appear much narrower.  The basal sheaths are often pinkish in color.

Base of Marram Grass stems.
So what is the deal with the blue-green leaves on the foredune pictured below?  Unfortunately, this photograph is showing Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius, formerly called Elymus arenarius), a recently introduced European grass that is quickly invading the foredunes along the Great Lakes.  In the Chicago region, Lyme Grass was first collected in the 1940s invading dunes in Berrien County, Michigan.  Since that time, it has been documented in nearly all of the Chicago region counties bordering Lake Michigan.

The glaucous foliage and wider leaves of Lyme Grass make it stand out against a backdrop of the green, narrow leaves of Marram Grass.
The distribution of Lyme Grass in North America is currently dominated by counties bordering Lake Michigan, with records from a few scattered counties bordering other Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.  The genus name is an anagram created from the genus name "Elymus."  Superficially, Lyme Grass can resemble Marram Grass, and it is possible that it has been overlooked by those unfamiliar with the species. That said, there are some distinct differences between the two species.
Close-up of the densely packed, more conspicuous spikelets of Lyme Grass.
The inflorescence of Lyme Grass consists of a dense spike with usually two spikelets per node. Within that spike are two- to five-flowered spikelets that are each between 12 and 30 mm long. These spikelets are much more conspicuous within the inflorescence than are those of Marram Grass.

Lyme Grass inflorescence.
The flat leaf blades of Lyme Grass are approximately 1 cm wide.  They are distinctly and conspicously glaucous on both the ventral and dorsal sides.  The sheaths are not pinkish, but rather are glabrous and glaucous.

Base of Lyme Grass stems.
Unlike Marram Grass, which spreads by horizontal rhizomes, Lyme Grass has a more cespitose growth form that is not as efficient at stabilizing moving sand.  It is possible that as Lyme Grass becomes more abundant the structure of the foredunes and their characteristic vegetation communities could change as a result.  Unfortunately, Lyme Grass is still planted as a landscaping plant in sandy areas, increasing the likelihood of its continued spread along lakeshores and coastal areas outside of its native range.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Soapwort Gentian

One of my favorite things about autumn is finding gentians. And one of my favorite gentians is Gentiana saponaria, Soapwort Gentian. This one was photographed in a damp sandy meadow in Lake County, Indiana. Welcome Autumn!!!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

If There Was A Needle In That Haystack...

In early July, I joined Rich Dunbar and Roger Hedge in a search for one of Indiana's most diminutive and inconspicuous orchids, Malaxis unifolia.  We were at a known site for the species, but it hadn't been seen there in many years, and we didn't have good location or population size information.  For the first few hours of our visit, we searched unsuccessfully, making us begin to wonder if it was no longer present at this site.

Then, by some small miracle, I spotted a tiny sterile leaf on a mossy hummock that I was convinced was Malaxis unifolia.  This led us to find several plants in the first of a few populations of Malaxis that we found that day. 

I'd seen this little green-flowered orchid before in Wisconsin, but I had forgotten just how small it was.  The Drosera rotundifolia leaves in the first photograph above give an idea of scale.  Given the size and flower color, how many individuals were there that we didn't find?

Malaxis unifolia is known from the eastern half of North America, but it is most frequent in the upper Great Lakes region and in New England.  It is considered a species of conservation concern in six states.  Habitat includes swamps, bogs, and in much drier conditions in heathlands, sand barrens, and open upland woods.  This is another species that seems to be more reliant on soil chemistry than soil moisture.

Stachys hyssopifolia

I recently was in a sand prairie/savanna remnant in St. Joseph County, Indiana when I stumbled into a healthy population of Stachys hyssopifolia (I later found out that Keith Board had found this population years before).  This mint is found at various locations in states along the east coast of the United States, but it is also disjunct in the Midwest/Great Lakes region, specifically in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and to a lesser extent in Missouri.  In 25% of the states in which it occurs, Stachys hyssopifolia is considered a species of conservation concern.

Stachys hyssopifolia has an interesting ecological distribution.  Those who have compiled the National Wetland Plant List seem to think of this species as a pure wetland plant, as it is ranked as OBL or FACW in all regions in which it occurs.  That would mean that it is almost always found under wetland conditions but that it is occasionally found in uplands.  Many of the references I checked state that this species is found in moist soils, often near lake margins, and also in bogs.  This is of course true, but it is also found in dry acid soils of prairies and savannas.  Regardless of wetness, it seems that Stachys hyssopifolia tends to require acidic conditions.

Stachys hyssopifolia, like some other members of the genus, is said to have edible tubers.

Friday, August 16, 2013

That's Why They Call It....

Wild Golden Glow!  This common native, Rudbeckia laciniata, lights up the darkness when it grows in damp, shady places.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fringed Loosestrife

The nodding flowers of Lysimachia ciliata seem to light up the shaded darkness of wooded floodplains in summer. Note the ciliate leaf petioles.Photographed at Potato Creek State Park in St. Joe County, Indiana. This is a very common native plant.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Piedmont Bedstraw

The tiny Galium pedemontanum was first discovered in the Chicago Region by the sharp-eyed Ken Dritz, who found it as a lawn weed in both St. Joseph and Starke Counties in Indiana. Good work Ken!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Field Madder

Little Sherardia arvensis is one of many obscure weeds that the inimitable Ken Dritz discovered in the Chicago Region. He also discovered numerous native plants in places where they were not previously known, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for adding so much to our knowledge of wild plants in the Midwest. Thanks Ken! Photographed in a lawn at New Carlisle, Indiana.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tall Bellflower

Campanula americana is a common native that tolerates the deep shade of mesic woods but often shows up along trail edges, forested road edges, and near treefalls where a little sunlight gets in. Common in northern Indiana, it's my guess that it's common all over the state, with a possible exception of the prairie counties in the northwest corner. The flowers are attractive and unusual, and if it was a rare plant we'd go crazy over seeing it. At any rate, it's a native and we should enjoy it when we see it. Photographed in rich woods in rural LaPorte County, Indiana.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Red-berried Elder

Growing in rich, deeply shaded forests, Sambucus pubens is much less common than the related Common Elderberry (S. canadensis). This one was photographed in rural LaPorte County, Indiana. The crushed foliage of this shrub smells pretty bad!

Friday, July 12, 2013


Campanula rotundifolia ranges pretty much all over North America, with the exception of the southeastern US. In northern Indiana, it is occasional in sandy Black Oak savannas and frequent on the foredunes of Lake Michigan. The specific epithet "rotundifolia" draws attention to the rounded basal leaves, which, in my experience are more often reniform (kidney shaped). The cauline leaves are linear. This plant can be difficult to photograph because the flowers almost always are dancing around in the breeze on their delicate stems. Photographed on the foredunes of Lake Michigan in Porter County, Indiana on July 11, 2013.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Spatulate-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia)

Occasional on wet sand flats and abundant in sphagnum bogs, sundews are plants that capture insects and eat them! Well, they don't actually chew them up and swallow, but they do absorb nutrients from the bodies of the bugs they trap. The bugs get caught in the sticky liquid on the leaf hairs and the rest is history. In northern Indiana, sundews should begin producing small, white, 5-merous flowers in the next week or so. This video shows a variety of insectiverous plants, with a time-lapse of the closely-related Round-leaved Sundew at 1:10.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Swamp Candles

Adding brightness to the low meadow on overcast days, Lysimachia terrestris is occasional in low, sometimes mucky spots in high quality wet meadows. Photographed at Liverpool Sandpits in Lake County, Indiana on July 7, 2013. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Wild Blueberry

Have you noticed the super abundance of all kinds of fruit this summer, both wild and cultivated? Recall last spring that it just never got warm outside, and it seemed like every weekend was cold and wet. Somewhere at a greenhouse my wife talked with a guy from Arkansas or Alabama and he called it a "raspberry winter." He said that a spring like that would result in more fruit that we knew what to do with and it's starting to look like he was right. We could attribute this to the abundant rain this summer, and while that certainly helps with the size of the fruit, something good had to happen last spring when these plants were flowering.
This Vaccinium was fruiting with more abundance and larger fruit than I had ever seen, at a sandy black oak savanna in Lake County, Indiana. It was a low shrub about knee high, and it is either Vaccinium angustifolium or V. pallidum. Can anyone offer opinions on the I.D? Thanks! I apologize but I didn't notice whether the underside of the leaf was pale or not.   Eat well, breathe easy, and thank a plant for both!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Early Summer in the Prairie

Late last summer, I visited a site near Lowell in Lake County, Indiana and unexpectedly stumbled into a dry-mesic prairie opening with good diversity and unique species including Asclepias viridiflora, Aster laevis, Ceanothus americanus, Eryngium yuccifolium, Liatris scariosa var. nieuwlandii, and Petalostemum purpureum.  I had a chance to get back to the site a few weeks ago.
Dry-mesic Prairie Remnant with an abundance of Silphium terebinthinaceum
In northwest Indiana into Illinois, it is not uncommon to see Silphium terebinthinaceum along roadsides... an indication of the prairie that once was.  In most cases, this is one of the only natives that remains, with Solidago rigida and Ratibida pinnata sometimes holding on as well.  In the case of this site, a rich prairie flora has persisted in this remnant despite lack of intentional management.

Lobelia spicata
One of the plants that I noted in this remnant last summer that was in bloom a few weeks ago was Lobelia spicata; it should continue to flower into late August, but its inflorescences get a bit twisted later in the season.  This is primarily a prairie, savanna, and glade species of eastern North America.  Its flowers look similar to those of Lobelia kalmii, a species of wet, calcareous soils, but the leaves of Lobelia kalmii are less than 3 mm wide, whereas those of Lobelia spicata are more than 3 mm wide.

Parthenium integrifolium was also beginning to bloom when I was at the prairie this summer and should continue to bloom into mid-September.  This composite grows in prairies, savannas, and glades and doesn't tolerate site degradation.  It has been used to make a tea to treat fevers (hence one of its common names, American Feverfew), and was also used to treat malaria.  A similar species, Parthenium hispidum, is known from the central United States.  It has stems with noticable speading hairs, upper leaves that are auriculate-clasping with spreading hairs on the veins beneath, and larger flower heads.  Parthenium integrifolium has stems that are glabrous to minutely pubescent, upper leaves that are sessile but not clasping with mostly appressed hairs on the veins beneath, and smaller flower heads.  Flora of North America treats these both as Parthenium integrifolium, not even warranting varietal status to Parthenium hispidum.  Having seen both, this surprises me.
Parthenium integrifolium
Nearby is a railroad prairie remnant that I also surveyed in 2012.  Interesting prairie plants at this location included Allium cernuum, Comandra umbellata, Dodecatheon meadia, Heuchera richardsonii, Phlox pilosa, Silphium integrifolium, Veronicastrum virginicum, and Zizia aurea.  I also noted the remains of an Oenothera that I was able to verify this summer.

Oenothera fruticosa
Oenothera fruticosa is identified by its winged, glandular pubescent ovaries and its large petals.  It is a showy prairie species with a range including much of eastern North America.  The very similar Oenothera pilosella, which lacks glandular hairs on its pubescent ovaries, is sometimes found growing with this species, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.

Prairies reach their full glory late in the season, but there is plenty to see early in the summer as well.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Geum rivale

I had the opportunity on Saturday to botanize several southwest Michigan sites with Brad Slaughter and Dave Cuthrell.  As we were leaving a fen and heading back to our vehicles, Brad spotted the unique Geum rivale (Purple Avens) along the gravel road.

Geum rivale is a circumboreal species, being known from much of Canada south into the Upper Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains, as well as northern parts of Europe and Asia. Because it reaches the southern edge of its range in a few northeastern Indiana counties, it is listed as endagered in the Hoosier State. 

We saw some pretty interesting plants on Saturday, including orchid hybrids, state-listed species, and good mesic forest sedges, but this member of the Rosaceae was one of my highlights.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Late May in an Indiana Circumneutral Seep

Just a few shots from a rich circumneutral seep in Cass County, Indiana on 22 May 2013...
Circumneutral seep
Phlox maculata
Phlox maculata
Ranunculus hispidus var. nitidus
Saxifraga pensylvanica
Saxifraga pensylvanica

Friday, May 10, 2013

 Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (bearberry)

A member of the heath family. This low, woody, creeping evergreen plant resides in the Indiana Dunes as a glacial relic. It can be found in many different habitats in the dunes, but has a close association with jack pine which typically is found in the foredunes.

Botanist Michael Huft informs me that the word arctostaphylos means bear-berry in Greek, and that uva-ursi means bear-berry in Latin. It was known as kinnikinnik by Native Americans of the Algonquian Nation, probably Delaware, referring to a mixture of leaves, bark, and other plant materials to form a smoking product.