Triodanis perfoliata (L.) Nieuwl.
Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. I took the new camera wildflower hunting for the first time on May 15. I took well over 100 photos on the 15th and close to 200 on the 16th and it worked great! Nathan went with me on the 15th and we walked from the house up the north side of the farm, across the back (east side), to the “swamp” on the southeast corner. It was late in the day so I was kind of in a hurry. I had been out of town all afternoon and didn’t get back home until almost 8 but I just had to try out the new camera. 🙂 Nathan was lagging behind because he was taking photos with his cell phone and sending them to some of his friends. Of course, some of them replied and he “had” to answer. Finally, after I finished looking around in the southeast corner, where I call “the swamp”, he caught up with me. As we were crossing over into the southeast corner of the south hayfield, I looked down and spotted a SINGLE Triodanis perfoliata under some other taller plants… I had already given up finding any because I looked where I spotted one in 2020 and there was none. Now, this plant only grows 6-8″ or so tall from a single stem so they are not easy to spot. If you are looking for this plant, just remember the leaves are light green, roundish, and they clasp the stem in kind of a spiral pattern. It was about 8:30 PM when I took a few photos of the plant on the 15th, but we continued walking down the south hayfield along the fence. It was still bright enough to take a few photos. Toward the end, I found several plants of a species I had been unable to identify before… The Arnoglossum atriplicifolium, commonly known as Pale Indian Plantain. By that time, it was too dark to take good photos but I still took a few anyway.
I went back to the south hayfield on the 16th (by myself) mainly to take photos of the Pale Indian Plaintain. I took the direct route this time, walking through the tall, thick grass from the barn and up through the front pasture. The grass is very tall and thick and will be cut for hay in a few days. Talk about a workout! It is like climbing stairs all day long. I finally made it and as soon as I stepped into the area I needed to be in I looked down and HOLY CRAP! There were A LOT of Triodanis perfoliata. I had noticed them on the 15th because by the time we got to this spot it was too dark to tell. The great thing was that some of the plants still had flowers. I was very excited and I took quite a few photos. You have to take a lot, or at least I do, in case some are blurry or a bit weird.
SO, here it is… Triodanis perfoliata, commonly known as the Venus Looking Glass. It was named and described as such by Julius (Aloysius) Nieuwland in American Midland Naturalist in 1914. It was previously named and described as Campanula perfoliata by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753. It has several close cousins, five species of Triodanis are found in Missouri that can be difficult to tell apart. Missouri Plants only has information on three species, one of which is now an infraspecific taxon of T. perfoliata (T. perfoliata sub. biflora). Triodanis perfoliata can be found in every state in the continental United States, a few provinces in Canada, on down through Mexico and South America. Plants of the World Online lists six species of Triodanis and they are members of the plant family Campanulaceae with 89 genera.
I was working in a friend’s planters and at a glance I thought I saw one of these plants. I pulled it up with the other debris and put it aside not really looking close. Kevin came and I was talking to him about the Triodanis perfoliata and I had found one in a planter. He asked what it looked like, so I found it and showed him. As I started to show him the roundish clasping leaves I realized I was mistaken… I hate it when that happens when I am trying to sound smart. Especially Kevin because he is the friend that owns the pasture and secluded woods I wildflower hunt in sometimes. He is also the one who is leasing my pasture/hayfield. He sends photos of plants for me to ID sometimes so he can sound smart (at least that’s what he always says). He is a pretty smart guy anyway and I wouldn’t want to tell him any different since he is bigger than me. He is my age and his family moved back here when we were in high school. His dad was the first vet in town and later became the state veterinarian.
Anyway, the leaves on the plant I discarded were NOT roundish or clasping. They were narrow and sessile but they did run up the stem in a spiral pattern. It did have spent flowers at the leaf axils like T. perfoliata, whereas some species just have terminal flowers (at the top of the stem). There is a cluster of kind of similar plants growing around the base of a Sycamore in my yard that I keep forgetting to photograph. Their leaves are tiny and kind of lance-shaped.
The roundish clasping leaves are a special trait of Triodanis perfoliata. Their fruits are also different than other Triodanis species.
Missouri Plants says, “Plants in this genus usually produce numerous cleistogamous flowers in addition to the normal flowers. These do not open but instead self-fertilize, and appear visually quite distinct.”
Native Americans (Cherokee) used the root of the plant to treat dyspepsia from overeating. The Meskwaki used it as an emetic to make one sick all day long and smoked it at ceremonies.
It was such a relief to find flowers of the Clasping Venus Looking Glass. I thought I was going to have to wait until 2022. It was also a relief to find so many in the south hayfield. I was beginning to think it was a very rare species, but evidently not. It was just here until I found so many after the old fence row along the south hayfield was mowed off. It is incredible how many wildflowers were hiding in all the blackberry briars. Of course, they are growing back, but for now, it is making great hunting for wildflowers.
You can read this species own page by clicking HERE. There aren’t any descriptions of the plant’s parts yet, but you can look at more photos and check out the links at the bottom of the page.
After I was finished photographing a few wildflowers in the south hayfield, I didn’t want to walk in the tall grass again so I climbed over the fence, walked through the trees, and walked down the trail. The trail that used to be the Rock Island Railroad and is now part of the state park system. I took quite a few more photos along the trail and more as I walked along the street next to the front pasture. 🙂
Until next time, be safe and stay positive. Always be thankful, and GET DIRTY when you can.
This is one of my favorites. I’ve found it twice: once in very sandy soil in east Texas, and once in a prairie environment at Brazos Bend State Park. There was a good bit of information in your post I didn’t know — I’m glad you found some, and had your camera to help record the experience!
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Hello Linda! It is certainly a neat little plant and I am glad you found it, too. Missouri Plants says it flowers from May-June, so I was very blessed to have found a few that still had flowers on the top of the plants. Wildflowers are indeed fascinating, even the smaller species. Take care and thanks for the comment. I hope you are doing well.
I was just about to say that it looks like a Campanula. That name sounds familiar, although I never met it before. The few Campanulas here were planted, rather than native.
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Hello Tony! This one is so small it could easily be overlooked, especially without flowers. Take care and thanks for the comment!
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A happy find. This species grows in Austin, too.
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Hello Steve! It is a very widespread species. All across the U.S., part of Canada, and a big part of South America. At least that is what the map (s) show. I was surprised to find so many here on the farm after thinking it was uncommon. Mowing the briars along the south hayfield opened up a new world. 🙂 Take care and thanks for the comment!