Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lady's-thumb





Neither of these pictures is the best. This is lady's-thumb also commonly referred to as redshank. It is one of my girlfriend Diana's favorite flowers! It is very pretty and delicate. There are a few different varieties in our areas, some native and some spread from Europe. This particular speciman is Persicaria maculosa and is native to our area and is found throughout the continental U.S.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) -native
2. red maple (Acer rubrum) -native
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) -native
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) -native
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) -not native
6. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) -native
7. Canada goldenrod (Solidago altissima) -native
8. catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) -not native
9. butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) -not native
10. meadow hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa) -not native
11. spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper) -not native
12. Carolina horsenettle (Solanum carolinense) -native
13. lady's-thumb (Persicaria maculosa) -native

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Carolina Horsenettle





These are autumn pictures mostly featuring the fruit that grows on the horsenettle plant. Although they look a lot like tomatoes, they are poisonous. When I was a kid, my parents referred to this plant as poison oak. Since then I have heard others in our area refer to it that way, although it is not at all related to poison oak (a west coast relative of poison ivy.) I think it might be because the leaves are similar to oak leaves and the prickers of the plant can give you a a rash. Also true poison oak doesn't grow in our area.

This plant is not a true nettle either. It is a relative of the tomato, and its scientific name is Solanum carolinense. All parts of the plant are poisonous to people and livestock if ingested. It is native to our area and most of the eastern U.S. but has spread to most of North America.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) -native
2. red maple (Acer rubrum) -native
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) -native
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) -native
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) -not native
6. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) -native
7. Canada goldenrod (Solidago altissima) -native
8. catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) -not native
9. butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) -not native
10. meadow hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa) -not native
11. spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper) -not native
12. Carolina horsenettle (Solanum carolinense) -native

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spiny Sowthistle



Sowthistles are not true thistles. They are tall spiny leaved plants with flowers that look sort of like dandelions. The spiny sowthistle can be distinguished from other varieties by the way the leaves sort of curl around the stem. These plants can get to be six feet tall, and I find them rather pretty. They are not native but another plant that spread from Europe. They are now found in all of U.S. and Canada North America except for the arctic region. The scientific name is Sonchus asper.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) -native
2. red maple (Acer rubrum) -native
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) -native
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) -native
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) -not native
6. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) -native
7. Canada goldenrod (Solidago altissima) -native
8. catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) -not native
9. butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) -not native
10. meadow hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa) -not native
11. spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper) -not native

Meadow Hawkweed



Since I covered dandelion and catsear, I thought I should tackle hawkweed next. Most of the hawkween in our yard stopped blooming awhile ago, but I was able to find one last blooming plant right along the edge of our trailer. Probably the leaking heat helped it along.

Unlike catsear and dandelion, meadow hawkweed has unlobed leaves. It also tends to get a leaf or two about halfway up the stem. The stem, leaves, and bracts are covered with a stiff hair. The flowers of meadow hawkweed tend to be in a loose cluster at the top of the stem as you can sort of see here. Some other varieties of hawkweed only have a single flower per stem though. The scientific name of meadow hawkweed is Pilosella caespitosa. It is not native to our area although some other hawkweeds are. Like so many other plants, it was native to Europe and was spread here with European exploration.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) -native
2. red maple (Acer rubrum) -native
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) -native
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) -native
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) -not native
6. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) -native
7. Canada goldenrod (Solidago altissima) -native
8. catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) -not native
9. butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) -not native
10. meadow hawkweed (Pilosella caespitosa) -not native

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Butter-and-Eggs





Locally this plant is called butter-and-eggs. In some places, it is called common toadflax. Its scientific name is Linaria vulgaris.

We do not have a lot of this in our yard. We only have two patches. One is at the end of the trailer on the septic tank side. One is in a shady, sandy area near our propane tank. I think it is a very pretty flower though, and I like the foliage a lot. It is native to Europe and Northern Asia and like so many other plants has spread to most of North American.

I was thinking that I would like to keep track of which plants on my list are native and non-native to my area so I am going to add that to my list!

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) -native
2. red maple (Acer rubrum) -native
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) -native
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) -native
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) -not native
6. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) -native
7. Canada goldenrod (Solidago altissima) -native
8. catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) -not native
9. butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) -not native

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Catsear





Is it a dandelion? Is it hawkweed? No! It's catsear! Catsear is often mistaken for dandelions. The leaves are similarly shaped, but they are smoother and hairy. The flower stems are not hollow and often branch into two or three stems for two or three flowers while each dandelion stem only has one flower. We have a lot of catsear in our yard!

Catsear is not native to our area. It is native to Europe and has been spread to North America, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Its scientific name is Hypochaeris radicata.

Now for a few interesting facts about catsear. It is named for the shape and hairiness of the ends of the leaves which are suppose to resemble cats' ears. (I don't see the resemblance so much!) It is toxic in large quantities to horses. The leaves are edible. (The hairiness makes them rather unpalatable to me.) The roots are also edible and are sometimes roasted and ground for a coffee substitute!

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
2. red maple (Acer rubrum)
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
6. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
7. Canada goldenrod (Solidago altissima)
8. catsear (Hypochaeris radicata)

Canada Goldenrod


A Young Plant Just Beginning to Bloom


A Plant at the End of its Flowering


Some Plants that Have Gone to Seed

There are at least two species of goldenrod commonly referred two as Canada goldenrod, but the one growing in the field in back of my house is Solidago altissima. How do I know? Well, it wasn't easy to ID it because there are a lot of species of goldenrod in my area, and a lot of them are similar, but between a careful examination of the stem, leaves, flowers, and height of the plants, I feel that I have made a positive ID.

Canada goldenrod is native to my area and most of the rest of the United States and Canada with the exception of the Northwest U.S., the far west of Canada, and the Arctic regions. Unfortunately it has also spread to Europe and Asia where it is considered an invasive weed.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about Canada goldenrod. It contains rubber! Thomas Edison did a lot of research on using goldenrod for rubber and even had a Model T Ford with rubber tires made from goldenrod. It is also the state flower of Kentucky and Nebraska.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
2. red maple (Acer rubrum)
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
6. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
7. Canada goldenrod (Solidago altissima)

Monday, October 13, 2008

New England Aster


Dying Bloom of the New England Aster


New England Aster Plant in Fall


Lots of Flowers on this New England Aster Plant!

This summer, in the large field of goldenrod in back of our house, I noticed a lot of purple flowers that I hadn't seen around before. They were purple with yellow centers and stood about 4 feet tall and looked stunning in amongst the yellow goldenrod. Diana thought that they were a type of aster, but she also thought that asters didn't grow so tall. A search showed that she was right! They are New England asters, and they grow taller than most other asters. The scientific name for the New England aster is Symphyotrichum novae-angliae.

Since we identified these earlier this year, I have seen them everywhere! I am not surprised because New England asters are common in everywhere in North America east of the Rocky Mountains with the exception of the far north and a few areas of the deep south with particularly hot climates. Those are also the areas where the New England aster is a native plant. You can find the New England aster in other areas where it has been introduced as an ornamental plant.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
2. red maple (Acer rubrum)
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
6. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

Common Dandelion



The common dandelion is extremely common in our yard! It's scientific name is Taraxacum officinale. In our area, it only blooms in spring and summer so I was only able to get a picture of the foliage. Most of you reading have probably seen the common dandelion at some time or another though because it can be found in all areas of the world that have a temperate climate!

The common dandelion is not native to North American. It is use to be found only in Europe and Asia, but it was spread rapidly to new places as they were settled by Europeans. It was not spread intentionally. The seeds are small and can get stuck in all sorts of places and one plant can produce lots and lots of seeds that can be blown far starting other colonies.

Although most people consider the common dandelion a weed, it is a useful plant. The young leaves in the spring make nice additions to salads, and the older leaves can be cooked with a taste similar to mustard greens. The flowers make a pretty yellow-green dye. I personally think the flowers are beautiful and seeing the first dandelion flower of the year always lets me know that spring has arrived!

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
2. red maple (Acer rubrum)
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)
5. common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Staghorn Sumac


Staghorn Sumac Berries


Staghorn Sumac Bushes

Staghorn Sumac is a common plant in the area between our yard and our wood. Its scientific name is Rhus typhina. It is a very common plant in our area and rather aggressive, spreading quickly. A lot of people try to get rid of it, but I find it quite beautiful. In fall, the foliage turns a beautiful shade of red, and the showy berries stay red well into the winter.

You can boil the berries in water, strain the water, and then sweeten it to make a pretty pink beverage that tastes a lot like lemonade. You can also use the berries, bark, or leaves to make different colors of natural dye.

Staghorn sumac is a native plant to our area, including the Northeast United States and Southeast Canada. It is grown as an ornamental plant in other areas.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
2. red maple (Acer rubrum)
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
4. staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Virginia Creeper


See the red way up at the top! That is Virginia creeper.


Here is some Virginia creeper on the ground that isn't red yet and isn't looking too healthy.

Out among the poison ivy, we also have Virginia creeper. The scientific name is Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Virginia creeper is a vine that grows up tree trunks and walls, and sometimes along the ground. Mature Virginia creeper has leaves in groups of five, but the younger vines often have groups of three making it difficult to distinguish from poison ivy. Virginia creeper attaches to things with little fork-like shoots that have sticky pads on them as opposed to poison ivy which has lots of little hair like roots. There is another plant that is nearly identical to Virginia creeper (often called false Virginia creeper) that attaches to surfaces with curly tendrils similar in manner to grape vines. It is more limited in what surfaces it can climb up. The plant that is common where we live is true Virginia creeper.

Virginia creeper is very pretty, and it doesn't cause an itchy rash like poison ivy. In the fall the leaves turn a vibrant red color. We have a lot of dead trees, and the Virginia creeper grows heavily in the tops turning them into pretty red torchlike posts in the autumn sun. Virginia creeper is native to most of Eastern and Central North America. It has been introduced in some other areas as an ornamental plant. It can be an aggressive climber growing thickly in the tops of trees and has been known on occasion to shade its host tree to an extent that it kills it.

Earlier this year, when I was out hiking with my daughter Lia, I got a vine caught around my ankle. I commented that I hoped it had not been poison ivy but Virginia creeper. Lia said, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but we don't have as much Virginia creeper as we use to so it was probably poison ivy." She was right! When I was out taking pictures for this post, I had trouble finding good specimens. The few I could see were way up in the treetops and hard to photograph.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
2. red maple (Acer rubrum)
3. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Red Maple


Young red maple tree in our front yard. The leaves are just starting to change color.


In the woods, the leaves are a lot redder already!

Red maple trees are probably the second most common plant near us. The scientific name is Acer rubrum. These trees should not be mistaken for the Japanese maple that have red leaves year round. Red maples have red leaf buds and flowers in spring, the smaller branches have a red hue, and the leaves turn red in autumn, but for most of the summer the leaves are green.

Like poison ivy, red maple is native to North America and is very widespread. It is native in most areas including higher elevations, and although it is not native on the west coast, it has been introduced there as an ornamental tree. Also like poison ivy, it is also more common now than it was in previous centuries.

The red maple is fairly easy to identify. Like all maples the leaves are attached to the branches directly opposite each other instead of alternately. The stems of the leaves are usually red. The leaves have the typical maple shape and are whitish on the bottom side. In the spring, they are one of the first trees to bud and then get leaves, and of course, the buds and flowers have the noticable red color.

A couple if interesting facts about red maples. They are sometimes tapped for sap to boil into maple syrup. Although there is no flavor difference between red maple syrup and sugar maple syrup because the red maple leaves earlier it has a shorter sap season and is therefore less desirable to use for this purpose. Also, red maple leaves are toxic to horses.

1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
2. red maple (Acer rubrum)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Poison Ivy


I decided to start with the plant that seems to be most pervasive where I live, poison ivy! The scientific name for poison ivy is Toxicodendron radicans. We live on about three acres of mostly new growth woods and poison ivy is rampant! We have poison ivy creeping in our yard. We have it growing healthily over our trails. We have poison ivy bushes in the undergrowth and poison ivy vines running up the trunks of trees into the canopy where they send out branches a few feet long making dead trees sometime looks like they have returned to life!

How do I identify it? Well...everyone knows "leaves of three let them be", but we have a lot of other plants that mimic poison ivy. We have tons of box elder seedlings. I can distinguish them from poison ivy because their leaf clusters grow directly opposite each other instead of alternately like poison ivy. Virginia creeper joins poison ivy in covering our tree, but I can tell the different because mature virginia creeper has leaves in groups of five. If I see a young vine with leaves of three, and I think it might be virginia creeper, I carefully follow it to find out if it attaches to another vine with leaves of five. Also virginia creeper doesn't send out lots of hairy roots like poison ivy does. Wild strawberry has leaves of three but they have serrated edges. Poison ivy leaves may have a few serrations, but they are not serrated to the extent that the wild strawberry is. Our blackberries and rasperries have leaves of three, but they are thorny and have light colored undersides to help distinguish them.

I went out today to take some poison ivy photos. A lot of the foliage is already starting to droop from the cold weather. I had trouble getting good photos. I asked the kids if I should bring some samples inside, but they were opposed to that idea.

So have we had a lot of problems with allergic reactions to the poison ivy since we moved here? We have had some, but we have gotten better (especially the kids) at avoiding it over the last three years. I don't think Diana has had a rash yet, but she might not have been sensitized. I had my first rashes this year. (I was one of those lucky ones who wasn't sensitized previously myself.) I generally don't mind it. We warn others who visit us, and as far as we can tell a visitor has never gotten a rash. The kids get several minor rashes a summer, but as I said, less each year. If we stay here, we will probably try to reduce the amount of poison ivy, but I doubt it will ever be all gone.

A few interesting facts about poison ivy: it doesn't grow in California or Newfoundland, at very high elevations, or in the desert, but other than that it is found in most parts of North America. It is a native plant of North America and is more common now than it was in previous centuries. I likes both shade and sun and all types of soil It can grow in land that is frequently flooded with brackish water making it common even in beach areas.
1. poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

100 Species Challenge

I have decided to join the 100 species challenge issued by scsours over at xanga in this post. In response to a quote that most people couldn't name 100 species in their neighborhood, she issued a blogging challenge, and here are a recap of the rules:

1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge.

2. Participants should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the participant's home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

3. Participants are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can name in the first post in which that plant appears.

4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts.

5. Participants may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

6. Different varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries (e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate entries); however, different species which share a common name be separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g., camillia japonica and camillia sassanqua if the participant can distinguish the two--"camillia" if not).

7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge.

My note - I will not just include native species but any species that are common to our area. Some of these plants have been here for centuries and are now intergrated into the ecosystem and are not any less plants growing in my neck of the wood than plants that were here before Europeans arrived. I will try to mention non-native plants as being such in the associated entries.