Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. We had a storm pass through on Monday that did some damage in town. A big tree was uprooted at the park and a smaller tree snapped off at the base. There were a lot of limbs at the park and throughout the town. The house I grew up in had damage when two trunks of the same tree fell on it. It was a tree with four trunks and I remember it as a kid. Not much damage in my own yard, though, just a big limb that fell from one of the maples in front of the house. I was surprised the old elms in the chicken yard didn’t have issues break but they went through the storm.
I went back to the woods on Sunday, May 3, to check on the progress of some of the wildflowers and there were three I couldn’t find… It was later in the afternoon so I was more selective where I looked and didn’t have time to find many new plants. Before I left I took a few photos here and a few when I returned. As usual, they are in alphabetical order and not as they were seen. 🙂 It is easier for me to upload photos and write captions and then write the post.
I took a few photos of what appeared to be a species of onion but there is no oniony scent. Wild Allium species fascinate me and there are MANY. It is very difficult to tell which species is which so I just label them Allium sp. Missouri Plants lists 7 species of Allium and Plants of the World Online a whopping 977.
Arisaema dracontium (Green Dragon, Dragon Root)
I went back to the woods on May 3 and found the Arisaema dracontium starting to flower. I have seen photos online, but it is AWESOME in person. Not only does the plant only produce one leaf, but it also only produces one flower… I first posted about this species on April 26 which you can check out HERE.
Whereas the other Arisaema species I have seen online have a hooded spathe, the Arisaema dracontium is much different. The base of the spathe circles the apex of the flowering stem. The stem can be anywhere from 6-12″ up to the apex. The spathe itself will be around 2″ long, glaucous and glabrous, and partially open.
One of several good-sized colonies of Green Dragon in these woods.
The spadix can grow from 6-12″ long or more, the lower 2″ enclosed in the spathe.
Inside the spathe is where the male and female flowers are. In other words, the plants are monoecious with separate male and female flowers, but sometimes they are unisexual. The male flowers are above the female flowers and are both small and rather inconspicuous. Flowers last about a month and have a fungus-like scent that isn’t noticeable by humans…
Hesperis matronalis (Dame’s Rocket)
Hesperis matronalis is another plant with a mistaken identity. One evening toward the end of April I noticed what appeared to be a Phlox divaricata flowering in the area north of the chicken house where they have not been before. There is quite a large colony of them growing along the road up the street past the church which I also always assumed were Phlox. The Wild Blue Phlox (in the last post) grows abundantly in large colonies along highways and back roads in several areas. I decided to take photos of the plant and noticed right off it WAS NOT a Phlox divaricata. Hmmm…
Phlox divaricata has flowers with five petals and this one only has four… They have a pleasant scent which gets stronger in the evening. Hesperis matronalis is a biennial or short-lived perennial that comes up and forms a rosette of leaves its first year and flowers the second.
The other distinguishing feature for Hesperis matronalis is the leaves. Phlox leaves grow opposite one another on the stems and Hesperis leaves grow in an alternate fashion. The leaves have no petioles and darn near clasp the stems.
Hesperis matronalis is a native of many Eurasian countries and was apparently brought to North America in the 17th century. The USDA Plants Database shows its presence in most of North America now. Common names include Dame’s Rocket, Dame’s Violet, Sweet Rocket, and Wandering Lady. Many states have listed this species as a noxious weed and it is recommended not to move it or grow it under conditions that would involve danger of dissemination. Hmmm… Seed is available and wildflower mixes often contain its seeds which helped its spread in the first place.
You can read about the Phlox divaricata from a previous post by clicking HERE.
Koeleria macrantha (Prairie Junegrass)
Grass. It’s everywhere in one form or another sun or shade, wet areas or dry. Once in awhile I find a colony I hadn’t seen before which was the case on May 3 when I was exploring the woods. I spotted a colony growing in an open area between two wooded areas so I took a few photos so I could ID it using iNaturalist. It turns out to be Koeleria macrantha commonly known as Prairie Junegrass and Crested Hair-Grass. It is native to most of North America, Europe, and Eurasia.
The grass is suitable for livestock and wildlife and even used in fire control. Its seed can be ground and boiled and used for porridge and ground as flour for making bread.
Laportea canadensis (Wood Nettle)
There is a lot of this growing in the woods and is easily identified as a nettle because of its stinging hairs on the stems. There are many nettle species and this one happens to be Laportea canadensis also known as Wood Nettle, Canadian Wood Nettle, and Kentucky Hemp (and probably others). They weren’t flowering when I observed them on May 3 but will be soon.
Plants produce both stinging and non-stinging hairs and can leave you with an unpleasant experience of you aren’t careful. They can cause burning and stinging of the skin and sometimes can leave barbs in your skin. Skin can turn red and blister which may last for several days…
Menispermum canadense (Moonseed)
First off, kind of ignore what the genus name looks like because that is NOT how you pronounce it. It has nothing to do with mini sperm. Secondly, it is NOT a grapevine. It is Menispermum canadense commonly known as Moonseed. It flowers and bears grape-like fruit about the same time as grapes BUT these are poison. Three key differences help to tell them apart. 1) the fruit kind of has a rancid flavor, 2) the seeds are crescent-shaped instead or round like grape seeds, 3) vines have no tendrils while grapevines have forked tendrils.
The principle toxin is dauricine and can be fatal even though the Cherokee Indians used it for a laxative. HMMM… It makes you wonder if they thought they were grapes and, well, we know what happened… Somehow, they also used the plant as a gynecological and venereal aid. I am not making this up. It is on the Wikipedia page. Did you ever wonder how many Native Americans died figuring our what plants did what? I wonder if they experimented on captives from other tribes? The roots have also been used for skin diseases and to treat sores on the skin.
To be quite honest I have never seen the fruit of a Mayapple until now. I suppose it is because I am looking for mushroom when they are flowering then pretty much forget about them after that. I did learn that the ripe fruit is the only part of the plant that isn’t poison. If the fruit isn’t ripe, it is also poison. So, what do I do? Wait until is it soft like a peach to try it? What about mushy like a persimmon? Remember from before I mentioned flowers are only produced from female plants, plants with two leaves instead of one. Fruit may be harder to find than female plants
Smilax tamnoides (Bristly Greenbriar)
Of all the plants in the woods I try to avoid for one reason or another, this one ranks #3. I try to avoid it so much that I pretty much refused to ID it until I ran across what I supposed was Smilax ecirrhata (Upright Carrion Flower) from the last post. Now, I am wondering if that plant was actually a deceptive Wild Yam… ANYWAY, there is absolutely no mistaking Smilax tamnoides commonly referred to as the Bristly Greenbriar, Hag Briar, and Sarsaparilla Plant.
Yes, this plant’s rhizomes are apparently where sarsaparilla comes from… YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!?!? You know what that is, right? The drink Sarsaparilla… Similar to root beer in flavor… Hmmm. I always thought it was spelled sasparilla. 🙂
This plant is edible and young leaves, shoots, and tendrils can be added to salad… DOUBLE HMMM...
Doing plant research has brought many smiles as many plants have evolved to survive. What people have used plants for is sometimes very interesting as well. This one is no exception… The thorns of this plant have been used as a “counter-irritant” by rubbing them on the skin to relieve localized pain… A tea made from the leaves and the stems has been used to treat rheumatism and for stomach issues… Wilted leaves can be used as a poultice for boils… A decoction made from crushed leaves has been used as a wash on ulcers (such as leg ulcers)… Tea from the roots is used to help expel afterbirth… TRIPLE HMMM… I could also mention testosterone and steroids but that has not been confirmed or denied.
We went from soft drinks and salad to being a counter-irritant, removing afterbirth, and the possibility of its roots containing testosterone or steroids. GOOD HEAVENS!!!
Valerianella radiata (Beaked Corn Salad)
I have written about this species before but now their tiny flowers are open. I find this species interesting for several reasons. Their leaves are a very distinctive feature which you can see from a previous post HERE (since I haven’t gotten its page finished yet).
Another interesting feature is that although the plants have a single stem, the flowering stems branch out far and wide making you think there are many plants than there really are.
Viola pubescens (Downy Yellow Violet)
Of the four species of Viola present on the farm (and in other areas), I think the Viola pubescens is the most interesting. When not in flower they pretty much look the other species. One might wonder why it has the name “pubescens” as a species name or “downy” as a common name… Well, it has nothing to do with flowers or leaves…
I didn’t give much thought to the meaning of the names until I was in the woods on May 3 and saw this colony of Downy Yellow Violet looking a little strange. The yellow flowers had been replaced by fuzzy fruit…
Now tell me… Why in the world would the Universe decide to give Viola pubescens fuzzy fruit? Plants of the World Online lists 620 species in the Viola genus found nearly worldwide and this one has… FUZZY FRUIT! I don’t know about you but I think that is amazing.
Well, that is it for this post. I need to go back to the woods periodically to check for flowers on plants I already identified that weren’t flowering at the time. Finding some of them may be a bit of a challenge.
I moved the potted plants (cactus, succulents, etc.) to the front and back porches a while back because they were screaming at me. Tonight there is a chance frost so I may have to move them all back inside again for a few days. The Alocasia are still in the basement and I haven’t planted the Colocasia rhizomes yet.
Until next time, be safe, stay well, and always be thankful.