Wednesday, September 29, 2010
This cluster of mushrooms grew from our path wood mulch in early August. The long hyphae strands emerging from the mushroom gills caught my eye as I was walking by.
Stinkhorns are aptly named for their strong mushroom-feces odor. This wonderful smell attracts flies and other carrion loving insects.
Monday, September 27, 2010
We saw this native wetland plant while hiking in Sicca Hollow State Park in South Dakota in early June.
The basal leaves are round to heart shaped but the leaves on the flower stalk are pinnately lobed.
It was growing in several inches of water next to a spring as well as down a whole hillside where there were spring seeps. The bright yellow daisy like flowers were spectacular in a mass down the slope.
Plants growing in association with this Ragwort were Spotted Touch Me Not, Cow Parsnip and a Bittercress species (Cardamine) yet to be identified.
Golden ragwort is native to Eastern North American from Saskatchewan to Texas south and eastwards.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Other Common Names: American Black Elderberry, American Elderberry
The flat topped inforescence is very showy and fragrant - usually 6 or more inches in diameter made up of many 5 petalled tiny white flowers. Many nectaring insects (bee, fly and beetle species) as well as butterflies are attracted to the flowers.
The other elderberry common in Minnesota is the Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) which flowers much earlier in late May with more conical shaped inflorescences and bright red berries in late summer.
I chose to highlight it as the Native Plant of the Week because the ripening berries are very showy right now. They turn a shiny blue-black when mature and are held by bright pink petioles. The berries are highly sought by many bird species and thus the seed gets dispersed.
Elderberries provide a long season of interest from their early leaf buds swelling in late February to their showy flowers in July to their heavy deep blue black fruit set in September.
The one thing that frustrates gardeners with this plant is its weak woody stems that break easily and often die back substantially each season. It therefore needs a little extra attention in a managed landscape to keep it looking balanced. In a less formal wildlife garden, the pithy stems provide cavities for insect species to overwinter in.
Canada Elderberry is an native to most of North America except for the northwestern States and Provinces, northern Canadian territories and Newfoundland.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Another local park discovery while walking the dog, but a first for me in sighting this plant in Minnesota.
This is a 3 to 6 foot native forb with bright yellow downward drooping petals. The ray florets in the center of the flower stick up giving it somewhat of a coneflower appearance.
The former Genus name Actinomeris in Greek refers to the irregularily of the size of the ray florets. (Source) The plant is very showy with numerous flowers on the branching stems.
Wingstem gets its common name from the wings or flares on the stem (somewhat like that of Helenium or Euonymus species).
I almost walked by this plant thinking it was Rudbeckia laciniata (Wild Golden Glow) which is common in our area along wetland edges but the spikey florets caught me eye.
There were several bumble bees nectaring on the flowers and I'm sure it is a valuable late season nectar source for many insects.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Local Native Vines
Native Vines in Our Yard
American Bittersweet Vine ~ Celastrus scandens
I just found a small 3 foot long American Bittersweet Vine this week at a local park. I wasn't sure if this was in fact the native American Bittersweet or the invasive Oriental Bittersweet Vine (Celastrus orbiculatus) because both exist in Central Minnesota.
University of Rhode Island Control Fact sheet)
Some of the things to look for for the Fact Sheet Key are the flower pollen color, leaf shape, fruit color, the flower and fruit position on the stem and the number of seeds in each fruit.
The vine I found this week is the native American Bittersweet. Pictured in the first photo, the berries are clustered at the end of the vine instead of being arranged along the stem as in the Oriental Bittersweet.
The other factor that leads me to believe this is the native one is that it was relatively small. The Oriental Bittersweet is a much more rapid grower and can girdle trees as it wraps around the trunks.
American Bittersweet flowers from late May through June in Central Minnesota. The following yellow-orange seed capsules are very showy as they dry and the outer skin peels back like the petals of a flower. They can persist throughout the winter on the vine providing some colorful interest.
All of the photos on this posting are of the native American Bittersweet.
For photos of the invasive Oriental Bittersweet go to the Invasive Plant Atlas.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Silky Aster is aptly named for its soft violet pink flowers and silvery leaves. We planted a large amount of Silky Aster in our yard this year with the Grant Project.
It just started to flower in amongst the Little Bluestem and Side Oats Grama grasses. This area is extremely sandy, well drained and dry.
Silky aster "habitats include dry gravel prairies, dolomite prairies, sand prairies, hill prairies, scrubby barrens, limestone glades, and prairie remnants along railroads (rarely)". (Illinois Wildflowers)
The Botanical Survey of Nebraska by Pound & Clements, 1900
You can see in the photo of the close up of the hairy leaves that the stem has been nipped by a rabbit. So, yes, unfortunately this is one prairie native that the bunnies love.
The bees and syrphid flies like to nectar on this plant as it flowers from August through October.
If you have a dry, sunny and well drained spot in your yard for this well behaved Aster, I would highly recommend it.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I discovered this plant last year at my local park and went back to photograph it in late August. It is growing in very rich moist soil at the edge of a creek wetland in part sun.
The City did an extensive burn this spring in the park including where these few plants are. There doesn't seem to be any more plants this year compared to last; I was expecting more due to the amazing amount of rainfall we've had this summer.
According to the Illinois Wildflowers website, "Bumblebees are the primary pollinators of the flowers, as they are one of the few insects that can force their way past the closed corolla."
In an 1884 book, this native plant was reported "frequent through the south half of the state and in the Red River Valley; extending northeast to the upper Mississippi River". (Catalogue of the Flora of Minnesota, by Warren Upham).
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) was one of the few woodland natives that was present in our yard before we started our yard restoration. One reason is that they are not browsed by deer or rabbits and readily propagate from seed.
Inside each of the red fleshy pulp capsules are several seeds. According to William Cullina in his book Growing and Propagating Wildflowers, the pulp needs to be washed off because it contains germination inhibitors. It also has a skin irritant so wearing gloves is recommended when removing the pulp.
This makes it easier to identify the first leaves emerging the following year which don't look anything like the true leaves. I then know not to weed these out when I see the triangular pattern.
We have several seedlings of various ages now in our yard after planting seeds for the last 3 years. The older ones should start flowering soon.
It is also important to sow these seeds right away so they don't dry out (William Cullina, Growing and Propagating Wildflowers).
My success rate with these has been really high. They are easier to recognize the following spring too because they form their true leaves in the first season.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
In the cold mornings the last couple of days the bumble bees are perched frozen on top of the flowers waiting for the sun to warm up their bodies so they can move again.
In my opinion, it is one of the most attractive goldenrods, with light blue gray soft leaves and a very upright and sturdy (stiff) growing habit.
For this reason, it makes a great addition to any sunny, medium to dry place in the landscape. En masse, the blue gray leaves contrast very nicely with prairie grasses or forbs.
Monarch butterflies love to nectar on Stiff Goldenrod late into the season prior to their migration, often after their other favorites like the Milkweeds and Blazingstars are finished flowering.
There are also many other insect species that like Stiff Goldenrod including many moth species that feed on the flowers and foliage.
bee or wasp mimic with its black and yellow coloring to ward off potential predators. The beetle buried himself head down in between the flowers overnight, and like the bumbles waited to warm up with the rising sun.
Stiff goldenrod is native to central North America from Alberta to Quebec southwards to Texas. It grows up to 4 feet tall in rich soils, shorter in drier, poorer soils.
I took these photos below in about 20 minutes in my yard on the Stiff Goldenrod to illustrate the amazing insect diversity.
Great Golden Digger Wasp
Cabbage White Butterfly
Northern Paper Wasp
Splendid Metallic Green Bee
Cuckoo Bumble Bee
Spotted Cucumber Beetle
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The green plastic mesh is from sod rolls (sod companies wrap sod rolls in this mesh) and it is also used in seeding lawns where a straw layer is added on top as a mulch. The straw is held together with the plastic mesh.
In our neighborhood, it was used with the construction of some new homes - most likely where this chipmunk got entangled in it.
I have seen several instances where the mesh surfaces and gets clipped by lawn mowers, people trip on it and where the straw blows away leaving the plastic mesh exposed. It certainly should be considered a hazard to wildlife (like most plastic items) and I would hope that sod companies will not continue to use this mesh.