Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mayapple - Podophyllum peltatum

Mayapple is probably one of the most recognized of the spring time woodland wildflowers, but few people actually know it by its flower.

Recognition comes from the umbrella-like leaf centered on top of a single stalk. This arrangement typifies the non-flowering plant.

The stalk of a flowering specimen splits midway up, with both stalks developing leaves of a more fan-like shape that attach at the base of the fan. The single flower emerges from the fork in the stem.

Non-flowering plants usually dominate in any population, but plants with flowers should still be present. In tightly packed stands, the flowers are often overlooked because they are hidden beneath the leaf canopy. It’s worth the effort to look around for the blooms the next time you locate a patch of Mayapples.

Photos taken April 25, 2010 in Adams County, Ohio.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

American Columbo - Frasera caroliniensis

American Columbo, Frasera caroliniensis, has a most amazing bloom. It’s well worth the effort to seek out this spectacular plant.

The American Columbo will exist for several years as a cluster of basal leaves. Look for these basal leaves in the woods now. Remember the location where they are found and check back next month for a chance to see flowering individuals.

When the plant has reached maturity, a thick stalk will ascend 4 to 6 feet and clusters of green blooms will appear. Although they are quite showy when viewed up close, they quickly blend into the dappled sunlight of the woods and can be hard to notice at a distance.

Most years, only a few flowering plants are seen at one site. This is truly a wondrous plant.

Photos taken on May 27, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Carex Flowers are Fun

Video is available in full 1080hd by clicking where it says 360p

Here's a quick video of the flower head (inflorescence) of a sedge in the genus Carex. This is the genus that really gets us botanists excited. There are representatives of Carex genus in just about any habitat, natural or human created, in Ohio. Although I'm not sure what the exact number of species for Ohio is at the moment, I believe it's upwards of 160.

I believe this is Carex pensylvanica, but I'm going to have to wait a little bit for the fruits to mature. The long, slender white things you see are stigmas of the female flowers. They're on a pollen quest, and the gentle breeze really blows the inflorescences around, which I assume increases the chance that a tiny little pollen grain will land on a stigma and produce a fertile seed.

In this particular inflorescence, the male flowers towards the top end of the plant have not fully opened. The anthers are not yet extended, and therefore they aren't releasing pollen. I'm assuming that having the stigmas fully develop before the same plant's anthers are releasing pollen helps prevent self fertilization.

Many of our early sedge species, mostly those that grow in woods, have already flowered and have mature fruit. But don't worry, one can see different species of sedges flowering in the months of April and May. Many of these flowers are fascinating and truly under-appreciated.

So my challenge to you is, go find a few sedge flowers and point your macro lens at them- I think you'll find them incredibly interesting.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Hoary Puccoon - Lithospermum canescens

Hoary Puccoon is one of the first of the brightly colored blooms of the dry prairie. This is a hemiparasitic species, meaning that it is a parasite on other plants, but also contains chlorophyll and can produce its own energy through photosynthesis.
At the start of the blooming season the landscape can be a carpet of yellow. When the long-lasting blooms begin to wane, dozens of other prairie forbs are pushing forward to take their place.

Hoary Puccoon provides an excellent early nectar source for many insects. A bad year for the puccoon could have a negative effect on much of the prairie fauna.

Photos taken May 20, 2009 in Adams County, Ohio.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wood Betony - Pedicularis canadensis

Wood Betony is one of the earliest of the colorful Southern Ohio prairie bloomers. The pink and red of the blooms can be seen for quite a distance. Look for it in prairie openings, especially along a woodland edge.
From above, you can see a lovely pin-wheel pattern.
This is a perennial plant that spreads by way of rhizomes. It can sometimes form large patches.
Photos taken on April 25, 2010 in Adams County, Ohio.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wild Ginger - Asarum canadense

Here’s a weird little flower that many people overlook. The bloom of the Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense, is typically situated beneath the leaf litter on the forest floor. It usually requires a little leaf removal if you want to get a clear view of the flower. Of course, it’s hard for me to look into the center of the flower without seeing the face of the Creature from the Black Lagoon looking out at me.
It doesn’t make sense for a flower to be hidden beneath the dead leaves, unless that’s where the pollinators are to be found. The list of pollinators for this flower ranges from carrion eating flies to ground dwelling beetles and ants. The common denominator among the various pollinators is their habit of searching for food within the leaf litter on the forest floor.

Most people only notice the pair of deep green, velvety leaves reaching for the sunlight. Even if a flower is uncovered, it’s hard to see from a standing position. In some areas, Wild Ginger becomes the dominant ground cover.

Wild Ginger is another plant that produces a tasty substance attached to the seeds in an attempt to get ants to carry them off and distribute them around the forest. This seed dispersal strategy seems to be shared by many woodland plants.

If you like hairy plants, you really need to get acquainted with Wild Ginger. The plant is almost completely covered in a thick carpet of hairs. The least hairy part of the plant is the upper surface of the leaf. It wouldn’t be a sound survival technique for a plant that gets limited sunlight, to put obstacles between the sun and the sun collecting surface.

Photos taken April 10, 2010 in Adams County, Ohio.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Beauty - Claytonia virginica

It should be a rule that you always get on hands and knees to view the small, short statured plants. That’s where you will really get to know a flower. I’m sure the person who gave Spring Beauty its name was nose to petal with the lovely bloom when the name came to mind. This plant is at the early end of its blooming season and should not be missed.
Spring Beauty is likely to be found in any shaded area, from wilderness to rural back yard. Its commonness causes many people to pass it by in their pursuit of the rare and unusual, but you should really make it a point to reconnect with this gorgeous bit of eye candy each season.
It’s usually the common species that spur the fire of enthusiasm in the newly proclaimed amateur botanist. If you happen to be guiding such a person, get their face into the bloom of a Spring Beauty and they’ll be hooked on a hobby that will last them a lifetime.

Photos take April 11, 2010 in Adams County, Ohio.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Large-flowered Trillium - Trillium grandiflorum

Large-flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, is usually found in rich deciduous woodlands.
It can be found as a single blooming plant or as a mass of plants carpeting the woodland floor.
Large-flowered Trilliums have to grow for several years before flowering, so it takes a long time to build up a population.
It’s also a plant that is slow to spread to new areas, because it depends on ants to scatter the seeds. A juicy morsel is attached to the seed that causes the ants to carry the seed back to the colony. After the ants finish their meal, the seed is carried out and discarded. This practice of ants dispersing seeds is fairly common among woodland flowers.

Photos taken April 28, 2010 in Adams County, Ohio.