An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Flowering Plants

Watershield Flowering

7-29-15  watershield 008Watershield is a perennial aquatic plant whose bright green, shield-shaped leaves float on the surface of shallow water in lakes and beaver ponds. Its small purple flowers bloom from June through September, with each individual flower only lasting two days. One the first day, the female flower parts (stigma, style, ovary) are mature. After receding into the water overnight, the flower re-emerges with mature male flower parts (stamens, filaments, anthers). The anthers burst open, releasing pollen to the wind, and the flower is then withdrawn below the water where the fruit develops.

The horizontal rhizomes, or stems, of Watershield, as well as the undersides of the leaves and developing buds, are covered with a thick, jelly-like slime. Botanists theorize that it may deter snails from grazing on these plants. Watershield secretes a number of chemicals that kill or inhibit growth of a wide range of bacteria, algae, and other plants.

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Twisted Stalk Fruit Maturing

twisted stalk  039Twisted Stalk’s (Streptopus amplexifolius ) name is very descriptive, for not only are the stems bent slightly where the leaves clasp them, but there is a 90-degree twist in the flower stalk after it emerges from the base of the leaves, causing the flowers to hang down from the stem. Earlier in the summer, delicate, greenish-white, bell-like flowers hung below these leaf axils. Those that were fertilized are currently developing into bright yellow-to-red fruit which make the plant obvious even in the moist, shady woods where it grows. Although considered edible by some, Twisted Stalk (also called Watermelon Berry) can be mistaken for poisonous species of plants so consumption is not recommended.

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One-flowered Wintergreen Blossoming

7-14-15  one-flowered wintergreen  249A walk in cool, moist woodlands this time of year may reward you with the sight (and smell) of One-flowered Wintergreen in bloom. The three- to six-inch-tall nodding flower has five waxy petals with rounded tips and wavy edges. Its true beauty can only be appreciated if you get down on your hands and knees and look underneath these petals. At this angle and close range, you not only can see the ten stamens and five-lobed stigma, but you can detect the flower’s delightful fragrance, which is very similar to that of Lily-of-the-Valley.

One-flowered Wintergreen’s blossom remains viable, without withering, for up to six weeks. After the flower is pollinated, the developing capsule becomes erect. Along with orchids, wintergreen seeds are the smallest in the plant kingdom – a single seed weighs around two-millionths of a gram. One-flowered Wintergreen is in the Heath family, which also includes rhododendrons, mountain laurel, azaleas, blueberries and cranberries.

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Iridescent Dogbane Beetles Emerging

7-1-15  dogbane beetle170Dogbane beetles (Chrysochus auratus) appear suddenly, usually when the plant which they consume and for which they are named is flowering. Look on the leaves and blossoms of Dogbane, or Indian Hemp, (Apocynum cannabinum) for this blue-green beetle with a metallic copper and crimson shine to it.

The iridescence is a special type of color that shines and changes as the insect changes position or we change position looking at it. It is produced by special body structures and light. The surface of the body parts of this beetle is made up of stacks of tiny, slanting plates, under which is a pigment. Some light rays reflect from the surface of the plates, and other light rays reflect from the pigment underneath. At different angles, the light reflects at different speeds, causing interference and resulting in our seeing different colors that shine.

Although all parts of this plant are toxic to humans, Dogbane is tolerated by Dogbane Beetles, whose larvae reside underground where they eat the roots of Dogbane. When they mature into adult beetles, they climb up the plant to the leaves and flowers, which they then consume.

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Trailing Arbutus Fruiting

trailing arbutus fruit 115The fruit of Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens), also known as “Mayflower,” is maturing. While this plant’s flower is familiar, its fruit may not be. Although it develops from the flower, and therefore is in the same location (under cover of Trailing Arbutus’s leathery leaves next to the ground), it is not as showy or as noticeable. In addition, the aromatic pink and white flowers that blossom in early spring infrequently set fruit. Out of a stand of well over 100 flowering Trailing Arbutus plants, only two could be found that bore fleshy white fruit.

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Calopogon Flowering

6-26-15  calopogon 113A visit to a bog or marshy area at this time of year may well reward you with the sight of a striking orchid known as Calopogon or Grass-Pink (Calopogon tuberosus). Immediately noticeable are the fine, white “hairs” on the upper lip of the flower, which are thought to act as a “pseudopollen” lure, attracting native, recently-emerged bumblebees. The bees, expecting a reward of nectar and/or pollen, land on the hairs. At this point, the hinged labellum (part of flower that attracts insects and acts as a landing platform) swings down under the weight of the bee and positions the bee on the column (fused male and female structures located directly beneath the labellum), where pollen can be placed on its back. If the bee already carries a load of pollen, it will contact the stigma and thus pollinate the plant.

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Showy Lady’s Slippers Flowering

showy2  231The month of June can’t go by without a mention of Showy Lady’s Slippers. Just fifty years ago, this orchid could be found over most of the Northeast. Habitat loss and an exploding deer population are considered major factors in Showy Lady’s Slipper’s decline, making it endangered or on the verge of extinction in many areas. Although rare, it is still locally abundant, particularly in fens (peat wetlands that get their water from rainfall and surface water).

As with Pink and Yellow Lady’s Slippers, one of Showy Lady’s Slipper’s three petals is greatly modified into a large inflated pouch called the labellum . (The pouch’s color can vary widely from year to year, depending on the ambient temperature. Cooler conditions appear to produce more intense color.) The petals on either side of the pouch attract pollinators with an alluring odor, but the insects that enter into the pouch are in for a disappointment, as lady’s slippers produce little or no nectar. The structure and positioning of the pistil and stamens are such that they encourage cross-pollination to take place, which is crucial, as lady’s slippers rarely self-pollinate.

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