An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Flowering Plants

Beaked Hazelnuts Maturing

8-14-17 beaked hazelnut IMG_2015Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), a multi-stemmed shrub, is named for its fruit — a nut with a tubular husk (a modified leaf known as an involucre) that extends at least an inch beyond the nut, resembling a beak. The surface of the involucre is covered with fine filaments that can irritate the skin. The fruit grows individually as well as in clusters. There are two species of hazel in the Northeast. The other, American Hazel (Corylus americana), lacks the prolonged husk and instead has a short involucre with fringed edges.

The nuts of Beaked Hazelnut may be roasted and eaten — they ripen in August and September. One must be quick to harvest them, however, as they are highly sought after by Ruffed Grouse, Hairy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, White-tailed Deer and squirrels, due to being rich in protein and fat. Most (99 percent) of the hazelnuts consumed by the U.S. are from a European species of hazel and are grown in Oregon.


Buttonbush Flowering

8-10-17 buttonbush 049A0728

At this time of year Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is studded with one-inch diameter white or pale pink globular flowerheads. Each “button” consists of many individual flowers, each of which has an extended pistil, giving the flowerhead a starburst appearance, and a striking resemblance to a pin cushion. Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies all flock to this bountiful nectar provider. Once seeds have formed, waterfowl and shorebirds feed on them.   Often found near swamps and wetlands, Buttonbush’s mid-summer flowering period lasts for about a month.


Teasel Flowering

8-8-17 teasel and painted lady 049A2076

Teasel (Dipsacus sp.) is classified as an invasive plant. It was originally brought to North America from Europe and has thrived here. Even though it is considered a noxious weed, this biennial’s form and flower are striking. The first year, Teasel produces a rosette of leaves. The second year the flowering stem can grow to a height of almost eight feet.

Teasel is unique in the way in which it blooms. Flowers first form in a ring around the middle of the head. The ring of flowers grows in width over a few days, but since the flowers are relatively short lived, the center of the booming section may die off leaving two rings, one growing towards the top and one towards the bottom. Several long, leaf-like bracts branch out from the base of the flower and curve upward around the head.

Historically, Teasel’s seed head was used in the textile industry to raise the nap on woolen cloth. Although it is invasive and does crowd out native plants, Teasel redeems itself somewhat by providing insects with nectar and birds with a multitude of seeds (2,000 – 3,000/head). (Photo: Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) on Teasel)


Clintonia Fruiting

8-2-17 bluebead 049A1593

The yellow, bell-like flowers of Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) that were fertilized earlier in the summer are now developing into the blue berries from which their other common name, Yellow Blue-bead Lily, was derived. Transitioning from green to white, and ultimately to a deep porcelain blue, the berries of Clintonia are beautiful to gaze upon, but are said to be unpleasant-tasting and mildly toxic.

 


Rose Pogonia Flowering

rose begonia 049A0560

We are at the tail end of the flowering season for Rose Pogonia, (Pogonia ophioglossoides). Although it also has the common name Snakemouth Orchid, the species’ name, ophioglossoides, comes from the Greek word for snake (ophis) and tongue (glossa), referring to a perceived similarity to Adder’s Tongue Fern (Ophioglossum pusillum), rather than a snake’s mouth.

The petals of this exquisite orchid have a delicate fragrance when fresh, reminiscent of red raspberries. The lower petal, or labellum, is deeply fringed and bearded in the center with yellow bristles. Rose Pogonia grows to a height of about two feet, and there is a single narrow leaf near the middle of its stem. Look for it in sphagnum bogs, fens, wet meadows, and acidic swamps. Although Rose Pogonia is pollinated by a number of different species of bumble bees, a white crab spider on the labellum looks like it has captured a much smaller insect that was visiting this particular flower.

NOTE: Sadie and I are overcome by the incredible generosity of Naturally Curious readers. Truly, there are not words to express the gratitude we have for each and every one of you. You feel like our extended family. A thousand thanks from Sadie, Otis and me. You have touched our hearts deeply.

Naturally Curious is the embodiment of my passion for learning and teaching about natural history.  If and when the spirit moves you to support my tiny contribution to your day, you can donate to a fund that was set up to support my recently-widowed daughter Sadie and her two-year-old, Otis.  If you choose to contribute, you may go to https://www.plumfund.com/financial-hardship/sadie-brown-otis-brown-fund . Thank you so much to those of you who have so generously done so.


One-flowered Cancer-root Flowering

6-20-17 one-flowered cancerroot 099

One-flowered Cancer-root (Orobanche uniflora), also known as One-flowered Broomrape, is now flowering  in fens — wetlands similar to bogs, but less acidic and more mineral-rich.  Covered with glandular hairs, its flower looks like it’s made of crystallized sugar. One plant produces up to five flowering stalks, each of which bears a single, fragrant, white-to-lavender flower.

One-flowered Cancer-root has no chlorophyll in the scale-like leaves that grow on its underground stem, and thus is incapable of making its own food. This parasitic plant is classified as a holoparasite – entirely dependent upon other host plants for its nutritional needs. A One-flowered Cancer-root seedling must find a suitable host plant (often sedums, saxifrages and asters) within a few days of germinating or die. The search for a host by One-flowered Cancer-root is guided by chemicals released by the growing roots of the host species. Once a host plant is located, the One-flowered Cancer-root’s root hairs exude an adhesive substance that attaches its roots to those of the host plant. Enzymes break down the cell walls of the host, and a tuber-like connection (haustorium) forms between the vascular tissue of the two plants, allowing the movement of water, minerals and carbohydrates to flow in one direction, from host to parasite. (Thanks to Shiela and Steve Swett for photo op.)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.


Clintonia Flowering

6-13-17 clintonia 166A shade-loving member of the Lily family, Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) forms colonies throughout moist woods of the Northeast. It reproduces via rhizomes as well as seeds, which accounts for its colonial habit. This wildflower has many common names, among them Bluebead, which reflects the brilliant blue color of its summer berries.

Native Americans used Clintonia as an eye and heart medicine, as well as a dermatological and gynecological aid. Of particular note are its thick, fleshy leaves, which made perfect palettes for Chippewa children who are said to have delighted in making designs in the leaves with their teeth. It’s likely they did this with young leaves, which taste something like cucumbers, as opposed to older leaves, which are tough and bitter.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.