Category Archives: Wildflowers

Sabatia difformis

Lance-leaved sabatia; at least I’m calling it that! In comments on Saturday’s post, Patrick reminded me of a helpful website for Pine Barrens plant ID. That, combined with all six of my wildflower guides, helped me decide what this flower is. I think so, anyway.

I’ve said it before, but learning wildflowers really makes me feel for people who are just starting out with birds. You can have all the best reference material at your fingertips, but it’s all a waste if you don’t put it to use. I’m easily confused and overwhelmed with all the possibilities, so the few books I have that say what’s blooming when are the most helpful because they narrow down the choices of what’s possible. Yet, no book can compare, in my opinion, with having an experienced person by your side in the field.

Anyway, glad we figured this one out together!

Guesses welcomed

I’m hoping maybe Patrick or someone else may be able to help me sort this one out, found today at Webb’s Mill Bog in the Pine Barrens. I had thought it might be False Asphodel, but that’s not it.

We drove halfway to Philly almost to visit an arboretum on the grounds of a retirement community. I was mostly interested in the courtyard gardens, private patio gardens, and the wildflower meadows, but there was also a Pinetum (with native and exotic plants), a collection of rhododendrons, an experimental planting of chestnut trees, and 55 acres of natural woodlands. The wildflower meadows were a disappointment as there were no butterflies (not much was blooming), but the courtyard gardens were very pretty. Maybe when I’m old and gray I’ll find a place like that to live. My husband was ready to find a place there today after I made him traipse through the woods for a few hours. Poor guy; his knees are bad and he’s not one for walking much.

On our way back we stopped my Webb’s Mill to see what was blooming. There were lots of those white mystery flowers and the bladderworts were blooming everywhere. We had the place to ourselves; that’s a first as the last few visits to the bog have been pretty crowded. I’m not sure what else I can expect to find blooming later in the summer, but it’s always worth a visit when I’m in the area. I’m not sure how interested the DH was in the odd bog plants, but he pretended well. He’s a good sport.

Another sundew

I know that I had promised wildflower pics, but these other Pine Barrens oddities have me enamored. I’ll save the pretty bog orchids for another day.

I shared a pic of a Thread-leaved Sundew a few weeks ago; today I have this Spatulate-leaved Sundew. Isn’t it pretty for a bug-eating plant? Please click on the pic for an enlarged view! These plants are thought to lure insect prey by their attractive red coloring and the beads of sticky liquid secreted on the leaf tips.

Back to bluebells

I know we’re way past bluebells in terms of seasonal progression, but I’m still looking over the many wildflower photos I took earlier this spring with the idea of finally identifying some of the unknowns.
One of the earliest that stumped me were Virginia Bluebells. I couldn’t ID them from any of my wildflower guides because the buds were still tightly closed when I first found them. Despite what you all said here, I found it hard to imagine that the flowers would change form that much, but sure enough they did.
When I returned two weeks or so later, the plants looked like the bluebells that are in my field guides. So for all of my early confusion with this common wildflower, I don’t think I’ll ever mistake it again, now that I’ve had the chance to watch it as it progresses through its bloom period.
Bluebells go dormant during the heat of summer and I’m watching that happen right out in my own little woodland garden in the backyard; the plants I purchased at the beginning of May are slowly deteriorating as the days grow hot.

Anyway, I found some interesting info about bluebells that you plant geeks might also enjoy:

“Virginia bluebells have two interesting properties that contribute to their success as ephemeral wild flowers. Virginia bluebells form buds that are pink in color due to the anthocyanin (from the Greek anthos meaning flower and kyanos meaning blue) or colored cell sap that they contain. When the flower is ready for pollination, it increases its alkalinity to change the red pigmentation into blue pigmentation, a color that is much more attractive to pollinators. When the flower is pollinated and seed formation begins, it falls to the ground so that subsequent pollinators will only find those that still require their ministrations. The ubiquity of bluebells in their preferred riparian habitat… is testimony to the success of their adaptations to attract insects.”

from the Hiker’s Notebook which looks like a good source of info about things commonly found in the woods. If you look at my photos you can see that progression from pink to pollination-ready blue, as well as the way some of the flowers have already fallen away from the plant.

Watch where you step

Yesterday while in the woods enjoying these…

I looked up and saw this…

My little brookside haunt is just full of surprises! I’m used to fossil-hunters in waders finding me with my face in the foliage trying to photograph some odd flower, but this was the first time I’ve been surprised by a horse and rider.

The flower is Star of Bethlehem, which is one of my all time favorites. It grows like the weed it is in my mother-in-laws lawn, yet any that I’ve attempted to transplant here are never seen again.

More wildflower confusion

It’s a good thing the spring wildflower peak is just about done here because I have many more photos of mystery flowers than I have the time or patience to sort out. I found these blooming over the weekend in my brookside haunt; the jack-in-the-pulpit that I found there has since grown very tall and there’s still some spring beauties blooming. There could be other things hidden away there, but the understory is so full of garlic mustard that it would seem impossible to find anything else. My best guess for this flower is that it’s some type of cress – maybe spring cress? At first I thought bluets, then some type of flax, then maybe a speedwell of some sort – but have settled on cress because of the alternate leaves. Whatever it is there’s lots of it, but this is the only one that I found in bloom so far. It’s been quite fun to return each week and see what’s new and spend a little more time exploring the far ends of the greenway. The last two visits have been especially nice because of the spring migrants that are there in the woods and along the old horse pastures. This weekend I saw the first Indigo Bunting that I’ve seen in a long while and listened to it sing while I rested in the sunshine.

Get out your wildflower ID books!

I’m kind of at my wit’s end with trying to figure out what these flowers are. Maybe someone can help? I know, I know, I’ll never learn to key out a plant by cheating this way!

This looks like it wants to be some sort of hyacinth, but the leaves are all wrong.
These were past their prime, but I’m guessing Bloodroot? I know the way the leaves are clasping the stem is important, but I can’t think of the flower that does that! Someone recently had this flower on their blog, but I can’t remember who it was.

These were blooming on a very spindly shrub. There were no leaves yet and the flowers were on the tips of the branches; the open ones reminded me of apple blossoms sort of.

I’ve edited this post to add this last photo above which shows, rather poorly, what the flowers look like when open.
Ideas anyone?

Trout lily X 4

Another find from the brookside trail. I walked past these at least twice before I noticed them, and then I saw patches of them everywhere – most weren’t blooming yet; only their purplish-spotted green leaves gave away their presence. Ther’ye tiny things and easy to miss at about six inches high.

I’m trying to teach myself wildflowers, and it seems half the exercise is in finding them, never mind identifying them! I have to get my head out of the clouds and my eyes off the treetops and look down at my feet for a new perspective on the natural world.

The few wildflowers that I recognize I know only from books and I’m finding the wildflower ID guides to be fairly useless this early in the learning process. Reminds me of what it felt like when I was first learning to identify birds – the field guide only confuses and frustrates. I’m having better success with with a few books by Hal Borland. Who else? One, A Countryman’s Flowers with photographs by Les Line, was a gift from my father a few years ago. I’m sure it’s out of print, but you might find it online with some searching. What I like about it, in addition to the photographs, is that the flowers are grouped by habitat, helping a beginner like me to know what flowers to expect where. Of course a standard wildflower ID guide includes that info, but it’s buried with all the other confusing stuff that makes my eyes glaze over. The categories are basic – the dooryard, the roadside, the old pasture, and brookside and bog and the book only includes 85 species, but I figure that’s enough for someone just starting out. The book also features Borland’s delightful essays; one for each species and includes info on growth and flowering habits as well as a bit of folklore. Of the trout lily, he writes:
“If you don’t know this flower by this name, try dogtooth violet, or yellow adder’s tongue, or fawn lily… The names trout lily and fawn lily come from its time of blooming – late April and May, when trout are biting in the brooks and when does are dropping their fawns in the woodland… Dogtooth violets mean May Day to me. As a small boy I gathered them for my May baskets, simply because they were one of the few flowers that always were in bloom by then.”
This book is almost as good as having someone along with me, teaching and telling stories. Does anyone make May Day baskets anymore?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now that I’ve finished ruminating on trout lilies (lol!) I’m off to finally finish up my income taxes. All that’s left to do is recopy them in nice handwriting and make photocopies, and stuff the envelopes. Think I might’ve waited a bit longer?
My husband is off with a fireman friend evacuating nursing home residents in another part of the state. Here on the coast there hasn’t been any significant flooding, but inland to the west is another story. I’m proud of my DH for doing this. I guess we all have our sense of duty – me to the IRS and him to something a bit more valiant.

Where’s a wildflower expert when I need one?

Group nature walks have spoiled me, I think. While I don’t need to pay too much attention on bird walks, it’s comforting to have a naturalist closeby to ID a bird I don’t know. I don’t often bird with a group anymore, but when I do I use the naturalist to help me learn a birdsong or a tree or the name of a wildflower. At last night’s bird walk I learned Partridge Pea and Bouncing Bet.

I have a few wildflower books, but haven’t learned how to *key* a plant properly. It’s laziness, I admit, but I tend to rely on my better knowledge of cultivated plants, rather than a wildflower guide, to help me ID a plant. Last night the Bouncing Bet reminded me of Phlox, so had I not been able to simply ask the naturalist for an ID, I’d have come home and searched through my Newcomb’s Guide for a flower that reminded me of Phlox. The Partridge Pea looked very similar to Crown Vetch, so that one I might’ve figured out easily enough on my own.

This evening I took Buddy for a walk to the farm pond and stream that are down the street. The environmental commision here in town has recently made this wetland area their *project* for improvements; they’ve removed a lot of the vegetation from the borders of this pond. This concerns me because I think it will only make the area even more attractive to Canada Geese (they frequent the adjoining athletic fields) – I often find herons and sandpipers here and a pair or two of mallards, but hardly ever any geese. They’ve also made and mulched a narrow trail through the wet woods which makes walking there more pleasant.

I found the plant pictured above right growing all along the stream bank. The flowers look very familiar to me, but I’m not certain what it is and my wildflower guides have only further confused me. I’m nearly certain it’s a Eupatorium – maybe Eupatorium coelestinum, most commonly known as Mistflower, but the flowers (which haven’t opened completely yet) don’t look right for this ID. Also, it seems to be growing as a vine, or maybe that is some other plant vining up through it. To further confuse the issue, this flower could be a *cultivated* one, rather than wild, because a plant nursery shares the property. I would really appreciate if any readers can help me guess what this pretty plant might be.

One group of plants that I almost always recognize is Viburnums; they are a favorite. These beautiful berries belong to a Cranberrybush Viburnum that grows along the woods edge beside the nursery. Whenever I walk by, I have a look to check on the progress of flower or fruit and remind myself that I really would like a few of these at home. I just need to find a place for them.