Tales From The Ditch…

Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well. We had more rain, up to 3 3/4″ through Thursday with more in the forecast. A few days ago I was trimming the ditch in front of what I always call the “other yard.” It is where my grandparent’s house was and where the garden is. Well, I didn’t plant the garden this year but that is beside the point. The part of the ditch in front of where the garden normally is can get a little wild. I can’t mow it with the riding mower because the ditch was cut too deep. I have mowed the front part with the riding mower in the past but it keeps getting hung up. Then I have to turn it off and pick it up and move it over. I can mow with the push mower, but my son finally moved out and he needed it for his yard. He hasn’t brought it back yet so I have to use the trimmer… Anyway, when I got to the mailbox I stopped dead in my tracks because of what showed up… Then I found more behind the mailbox. I continued trimming until the battery ran out of power then I went to the house to get the camera…

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-17.

I was pretty excited I found what I “thought” was Euphorbia dentata (Green Poinsetta) right in the ditch!

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-18.

Then I saw more behind the mailbox! Look how tall they are! It had been a while since I trimmed this part of the ditch, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised.

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-19.

There was fruit and what was left of the flowers. NICE!!!  I took quite a few photos and noticed something weird…

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-20.

A lot of the leaves are SPOTTED! Hmmm… It is normal for there to be some maroon tinting on the leaves, but SPOTS?!?!?! I thought only Euphorbia davidii has spots plus the leaves are shaped more like E. dentata… After uploading the photos on the computer and giving them a good look, I realized some of the leaves looked a little iffy… Then I did the drag and drop thing on iNaturalist and the top suggestion, actually the only suggestion, was Euphorbia davidii. GEEZ! That made me scratch my bald head! I wondered how in the heck could it figure that out from the first photo or even the second one? You can’t see spots. Honestly, I was wanting them to be Euphorbia dentata so I was trying to argue to prove my point. I have learned not to label the photos before I use iNaturalist because I think the algorithm can read… But, the more I wanted them to be E. dentata, the more I was beginning to see I was “possibly” mistaken. The leaves are somewhat more pointed than E. dentata, which are more bluntly pointed. Plus, the leaves of E. davidii are somewhat variable, more so than E. dentata.

Euphorbia davidii (David’s Spurge) on 7-26-22, #901-21.

Look at this photo… I know I am new when it comes to Euphorbia davidii and E. dentata, but this is weird among plants… What was a cluster of flowers and fruit with a short pedicel separated into three and grew longer peduncles (flower stems). The flowers and fruit are on one side and the leaves are on the other. That is weird…

Apparently, Euphorbia dentata is a native of Argentina, northern Mexico, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. The species has moved all the way up to Idaho and all the way to the east coast and up into Canada. It normally is found hit and miss in a few counties, but it seems once it gets started… I have been trimming the ditch since 2013 (when I moved back here) and never saw it until now. Well, if I disregard the plant I found in the basement of the old foundation last year I identified as E. dentata. Now there is the huge colony along the park which I wrote about a couple of posts ago…

It was found in a couple of places in Europe 15 or so years ago and is considered an invasive weed in several countries there.

For now, Euphorbia davidii and E. dentata are neat plants to photograph and write about. Time will tell what happens in the future. Sometimes plants show up and then all of a sudden disappear. You just never know…

Apocynum cannabinum (Hemp Dogbane) in the ditch on 7-26-22, #901-7.

Here we go again! Of all the species on the farm, the Apocynum cannabinum (Hemp Dogbane) has definitely spread the quickest since I found the first plant in the hayfield in 2020. Oh, there are plenty of other plants with much larger numbers but they have been here forever. When the conditions are just right for several years in a row, they spread. Remember the Persicaria a few years ago when I identified seven species? They are still here but the colonies aren’t near as large. You never know what will come and go…

Honestly, I think I need to stop mentioning this species and taking their photos. I think it thinks I like it but too much of a good thing…

Ampelamus laevis (right) and Convolvulus arvensis (left) on 7-26-22

I remember many years ago when I was a kid morning glories would come up in the garden. They would twine up the sweet corn and anything else if allowed. I always liked their flowers. Here in the garden, they are always the first plants to come up within a day or so of tilling. One came up and climbed on the asparagus a few years ago, so I left it so I could get photos. Then I noticed a few climbing on the sweet corn, which I left as well. But, then they started blooming they were NOT morning glories… They turned out to be Ampelamus laevis commonly known as the Honey-Vine Climbing Milkweed. I could never get good photos of the flowers until now. I can now write a page for this species since I have more photos. 🙂

Ampelamus laevis (Honey-Vine Climbing Milkweed) on 7-26-22, #901-1.

They definitely have morning glory-looking leaves…

Ampelamus laevis (Honey-Vine Climbing Milkweed) on 7-26-22, #901-6.

But their flowers tell a different story…

Many websites are using the scientific name Cynanchum laeve, including iNaturalist with Ampelamus laevis as a synonym. I am sticking with what Plants of the World Online says for now.

Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) on 7-26-22, #901-9.

The other morning glory-looking vine is Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed). I first identified this species on a friend’s pasture in 2019. It has been growing in the ditch for a few years but I didn’t give it much thought. The flowers are either white to mostly pink…

Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) on 7-26-22, #901-13.

The underside of the flowers is somewhat strange. When I first saw their flowers on Kevin’s farm, they appeared to have pink stripes on the petals. I haven’t found a website that mentions this feature, but from the underside, the center of the petals seems to have a “thicker” stripe that are sometimes pink. In bright light, the pink color shines through to the upper surface. With this species, mostly single flowers appear on long peduncles produced from the leaf bracts. Another look-alike produces mostly doubles…

Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) on 7-26-22, #901-14.

From the above photo, you can see the calyx with five short sepals, the outer 3 being slightly shorter and narrower. Farther down the peduncle (flower stem) are a couple of bracts… These bracts fall off during the fruiting stage. In most species of plants, the bracts are part of the calyx…

I seem to be missing something…

Lathyrus latifolius (Bread-Leaved Pea/Everlasting Pea) on 7-26-22, #901-26.

Oh yeah! The sweet peas! Well, that’s what we always called them when I was a kid. The Lathyrus latifolius has been growing here since I was a kid, and even on the fence where I grew up. There is quite a patch of them growing in the area north of the chicken house in varying shaded or pink and white. This species is actually a European native that was imported as an ornamental. Other common names include Broad-Leaved Sweet Pea, Everlasting Pea, Wild Sweet Pea, Perennial Pea, Perennial Peavine, Everlasting Vetchling, and probably more.

The ditch is where a few of the daylilies also grow. They don’t normally produce many flowers, but like I mentioned in an earlier post, this has been a day lily year… Another patch in the shade and they rarely flower. There are A LOT of other species of “weeds” and grass in the ditch like the trumpet vine, Horse Nettle, etc. The ditch in front of the house has its own species, including Ruellia humilis (Wild Petunia).

I am not going to talk about the ditch in front of the pasture. It is a complete disaster. Well, there are some interesting plants there, too. For the most part, the sumac has gone mad with threats of a complete takeover. I guess it is doing that because of my threats…

Well, that’s it for now. I am still waiting for the Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) and the two asters to flower in the back of the farm to flower… It’s almost August, for crying out loud, and they haven’t a single bud yet! I think possibly the New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) I found by the front pond last year may have come back. It is another late bloomer. I have been looking for it all summer, but it appeared they didn’t come up. Last week, I think I finally spotted it. I didn’t notice it until the end of September last summer when it was blooming… Keep your fingers crossed!

Until next time, be safe, stay positive, and always be thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest For Truth: Wildflower ID Part 1

Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) on 6-24-19.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you all well. I guess the title of this post could get some attention for many reasons. Many of us are on a quest for the truth about something because, after all, the truth will set you free. We wonder about the truth of who we are when traditional religious teaching leaves us asking questions we are told have no answers. Some of us accept there are no answers and we go about life la-de-da. Well, I am not one of those people. While I may live in my own little la la land sometimes, it is far from a life of not knowing who I am, where I came from or where I am going. I have concluded it doesn’t really matter where or how we originated. What matters is who we are now and how we embrace life day by day. Growing spiritually, being thankful, and remaining positive are a few keys to living a happy and abundant life. We continue learning and making new discoveries which makes life truly amazing.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working outside this summer. The past several months spraying and digging thistles on Kevin’s farm have allowed me to watch many wildflower species grow and flower. I have identified many species not growing on the 38 (or so) acres where I live which has been pretty exciting. There are many plants I haven’t identified fully because I am waiting for flowers which can get a bit entertaining. Partly because sometimes I can’t find a plant I was watching and partly because the cows eat them before they flower. So many species in different genera look alike while they are growing then they change when they are about to bud and flower. Some plants of the same species look different growing in different areas of the pasture.

Taking a lot of photos of many different plants can be somewhat confusing if you let it be. Going from one plant to the next then finding better specimins later. Maybe a feature you didn’t shoot before to help clarify a species… I usually photograph a finger (or fingers) between plants. I have learned from experience to take as many photos as possible when you have a chance. You may think there will be other plants of the species somewhere else but maybe not. Then later, when you didn’t find any others, you may not be able to find the plant you photographed earlier. Been there, done that more than once.

 

Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) on 6-24-19.

One of the many plants I haven’t encountered before is the Convolvulus arvensis commonly known as the Field Bindweed. There were several flowering in the front area of Kevin’s pasture all white flowers with five pale pink stripes. I saw one on the west side with all white flowers and information on Midwest Weeds and Wildflowers says they are commonly all white or mostly pink. There are five pink bracts on the underside of the flowers which may be why the flowers appeared to have pink stripes. The bracts distinguish it from the Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium). Their roots can grow from 8 to 30 feet deep with stems up to 9 feet long. Their roots can send up many shoots and a group of these can spread up to 20′ per year. They produce LOTS of seeds which are viable for up to 30 years!

 

Asclepias sp. in question on July 17.

The biggest issue I have been dealing with is the cows eating the plants I have been watching. I am certainly not complaining about the cows or anything. It is just the way it is and part of the cycle of life and nature. The milkweeds are a good example. The cluster of milkweed I posted about before that I couldn’t ID was likely because it had been snacked on at an earlier age. I took the above photo on July 17, which you can tell from the caption. 🙂

 

Asclepias sp. in question on July 17.

This probably caused the leaves to be smaller and is perhaps what caused the stems to a different color than they would have been had if they had been allowed to grow to maturity naturally. While the growth habit, even though nipped earlier, sort of remained the same. So, the Asclepias viridis (Green Milkweed) would still remain a bit of a sprawler. Even though several Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) stems were eaten earlier, the growth that remained would still grow upright. Both the Common Milkweed and Green Milkweed have similar leaf veins but their growth habit, leaf shape and other characteristics remain true for the species.

 

On Monday, July 22, I went to Kevin’s farm to locate the Milkweed I previously questioned to get more photos. I wanted more in-depth photos of its leaves and stems on the upper and lower parts of the plant. I didn’t work on Monday so I wasn’t taking time away from my duties. Hmmm… I went to where I thought it was and it was not there. I thought maybe I wasn’t in the right spot so I walked around a bit and still couldn’t find it. So, I went back to where I originally thought it was and found a clump that was probably it. I remembered the clover and other weeds growing with the clump which was the determining factor but the whole spot had been eaten. What remained left me somewhat confused. What remained looked like Asclepias viridis (Green Milkweed). The upper part of the stems that left me questioning what species it was earlier was now missing. At least I am fairly certain this is the same cluster… Hmmm… With the cows grazing and eating all the time, the surroundings change. Plants and parts of plants they like get eaten while weeds they don’t care for continue to grow.

 

Asclepias sullivantii on 7-22-19.

There are a few milkweeds that look similar but have distinguishing features that separate them from the rest. The Asclepias sullivantii (Prairie Milkweed) grow more upright with up facing leaves. The veins on the leaves are also more refined than the Common Milkweed but the midrib is pretty similar. When there are no flowers it can be somewhat difficult so you have to look for other features. Am I 100% certain? Not going to tell you…

There is a fairly large colony of Asclepias sullivantii in one area but the plants are spread out quite a distance from each other. They are supposed to flower in June and July but none of the plants had flowers during the time I have been there. There are no seed pods…

 

Arctium minus (Burdock) on 7-22-19.

Then there are the plants that completely change in appearance as they mature. The Arctium minus, commonly known as Burdock, is one of these species. The HUGE lower leaves that look like rhubarb are all but completely gone and have been replaced by smaller leaves and flowers (or buds).

 

Ruellia humilis (Wild Petunia) on 7-22-19.

Rarely have I seen Ruellia humilis, the Wild Petunia (etc.) with this many leaves. Without the flowers, it may be a little difficult to identify because we look at their flowers first. If I saw this plant without flowers, not having seen one this large and with so many leaves, I may not have even recognized it. The only plants I have been around are those that have been in the pastures and the ditch where they are constantly eaten or mowed. The one in the above photo somehow escaped being eaten. When I mowed on Saturday I also noticed a large specimen in an area of the ditch here that hadn’t been mowed. The Wild Petunia is a true survivor.

We depend a lot on flowers for proper identification but sometimes that isn’t enough when there are many species in a genus that all have similar flowers. We have to look to their leaves and stems and sometimes their calyces on the underside of the flower may be the only difference.

Sometimes we get a little surprise and have to rethink what we think we know. Notice I am saying “we” (trying to avoid “I”).

 

Unidentified species on 7-22-19.

Several clumps I have been watching have done this… It is in an area where there are several Vernonia baldwinii (Baldwin’s Ironweed) that are now beginning to flower. This plant is definitely not an Ironweed. The teeth on the upper leaves look like little nubs…

 

Hmmm…

The upper leaves are growing upright…

 

Double HMMM…

The teeth on the lower leaves look similar to many species, including Ironweed… Well, some of them… As these plants grew the teeth on their leaves changed somewhat.

Over the years I have taken a lot of wildflower photos on the farm but not always in every stage. So, it could be I will recognize it once it flowers.

 

Vernonia sp. (Ironweed) on 7-24-19.

As I mentioned, the Vernonia baldwinii are now beginning to flower. Actually, some had started earlier in another area and I included them in an earlier post. This plant is Baldwin’s Ironweed which most people just call Ironweed. At my place, an Ironweed is an Ironweed but I noticed something a little weird.

 

Dark stems on this cluster of Ironweed on 7-24-19.

This particular cluster of Ironweed has very dark stems. Some colonies stems are darker than others but have the same general characteristics otherwise. Stems partially dark but not necessarily the entire stem.

Have you ever thought something was right then started feeling maybe not?

 

Again with the Hmmm…

Notice the stems, or whatever you call them, on the entire inflorescence are a maroonish color… Well, I think it looks pretty neat!

 

GEEZ!

And then there is this one… No dark stems…

 

DOUBLE GEEZ!

Its inflorescence looks like this! No maroonish color at all!

 

TRIPLE GEEZ!

WHAT IS THIS? Its leaves look like the plant in question from before with the little nubs! Hmmm…

 

Ummm…

Here is a blooming inflorescence of the same, umm, Ironweed in a different spot.

 

Here is the whole group of Ironweed without dark stems. What you don’t notice in the photo is that these plants have a reddish glow which is quite fascinating in person.

Missouriplants.com gives descriptions of four species of Ironweed. The Missouri State University website, Midwest Weeds and Wildflowers, has five. Looking at their descriptions of Vernonia baldwinii AND photos I took of plants here last year… Ummm… They all are plants with green stems and not dark. Vernonia gigantea (or Vernonia gigantea var. gigantea), the Tall Ironweed, has dark stems. Information says Vernonia baldwinii is “variable” and sometimes difficult to ID. Species in the genus cross to form hybrids as well. The different species can be identified by looking at the bracts surrounding the flower head. The phyllaries are somewhat different, but GEEZ!!!

So, I sent Pamela of Missouri State University some photos to get her input. The photos in the folder are not all labeled because they are not all ID’d. Actually, the photos in the last three folders are not all labeled. Each day of photos is in separate folders… Ummm… 606 folders so far since 2009.

Well, I think I will conclude this post and start on part 2. There may even be a part 3 and 4. I kind of like the name of this post. The Quest For Truth…

Until next time, be safe and stay positive. Be thankful and get out and enjoy the fresh air.