Wildflowers that are parasites

Parasite.

To humans, the word has a pejorative connotation.

None of the plants shown below are green in color.  That’s because they each lack chlorophyll, that green substance that traps light energy from the sun, which is then used by those green plants to combine carbon dioxide and water into sugars in the process of photosynthesis.  Since the plants shown below don’t fuel their activities by photosynthesis, each must obtain its food from other plants known as “hosts.”  Some of the plants shown below have very specific plant hosts that they rely upon, while others are far more indiscriminate.

Be that as it may, each of the following opportunistic plants offers its own version of blooms to earn the right to be called a wildflower.

 

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) –

Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe is a native perennial forb.  The plant hosts of Indian Pipe are certain fungi whom themselves have a symbiotic relationship with the roots of trees; this biological relationship is called a mycorrhiza.  Since Indian Pipe is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can often be found in relatively dark environments such as the forest floor of dense woodlands.

Indian Pipe: New blooms on the left, stems and empty seed pods from last year on the right

After blooms have been pollinated, the plant straightens out to stand vertically and, as it goes dormant, the plant stem dries out to form a rigid “pole” atop which the seed pod then disburses its contents by simply popping open.  I think the seed pods resemble pumpkins.

Indian Pipe

The dried plant stems and seed pods of Indian Pipe are weather-resistant and therefore remain persistent on the forest floor.  Once you recognize this life stage, you will be able to easily and confidently identify this specific wildflower at any time of the year – even in winter.  Welcome to forensic botanizing!

Indian Pipe

 

Pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys) –

Like Indian Pipe, Pinesap is a native perennial forb that also obtains its nourishment from fungi associated with tree roots, often those of oaks and pines.

Pinesap

The dried plant stems and seed pods of Pinesap, just like those of Indian Pipe, are weather-resistant.  They, too, persist on the forest floor.  Note that, unlike the single seed pod on each stem that Indian Pipe exhibited, Pinesap always exhibits more than one seed pod per stem.  Once you recognize this life stage, you will also be able to easily and confidently identify this specific wildflower at any time of the year – even in winter.

Pinesap

 

Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) –

Beechdrops is a native annual forb.  Beechdrops parasitize the roots of beech trees using a structure called a haustorium which collects the nutrients the plant requires from its host.

Beechdrops

Beechdrops

Just as with Indian Pipe and Pinesap, the dried plant stems and seed pods of Beechdrops are weather-resistant and therefore persist on the forest floor throughout the year.  Therefore, they too, enable you to identify this specific wildflower once you learn to recognize this life stage.

Beechdrops

 

Common Dodder (Cuscuta gronovii var. gronovii) –

Common Dodder is a native annual vine.  While it can be found in a variety of habitats, most often you can find it growing in damp areas with partial or full sunshine, such as the edges of wetlands or streams.

Similar to Beechdrops, Common Dodder relies on haustoria to draw moisture and nutrients from its host.  However, these haustoria are located along the stems of this plant and they effectively serve as modified roots that penetrate the host plant.  In the photo above, the yellowish orange stem with white flowers is Common Dodder.  Note that it is wound around its host; in this case, the host plant is Mad-dog Skullcap.  However, Common Dodder is not associated exclusively with Mad-dog Skullcap.  In fact, it is quite indiscriminate in the variety of host plant species to which it attaches.

Watch “Attach of the Parasitic Plant!” featuring Common Dodder.

Happy trails!

Summertime Wildflower Sampler #2

During my wildflower inventory visit today to Anchor Diamond Park at Hawkwood in the Town of Ballston, I decided to take some extra time to explore the wetland area bordering the clear-flowing stream that enters the property from the far west end of Hawkwood Trail (white markers).  I’m so glad I did!  Within an area about the equivalent of the footprint of an average home, I found a surprising variety of blooming wildflowers.

Here’s a sampling of what I observed –

Arrow-leaved Tearthumb

Clayton’s Bedstraw

Blue Vervain

Monkeyflower

Water Horehound

False Pimpernel

Big Bur Reed

Wild Mint

Spotted Joe-Pye Weed

Canada Thistle

Common Smartweed

Spotted Jewelweed

Ditch Stonecrop

Boneset

Dwarf St. Johnswort

While quietly and slowing walking about wetland area in search of another bloom, I noticed that I was being observed by the watchful eye of this spectator –

Great Blue Heron

While walking the woodland trails, I also observed these blooming wildflowers –

Mad-dog Skullcap

Indian Pipe:  New blooms on the left, stems and empty seed pods from last year on the right

Happy trails!

Summertime Wildflower Sampler

After yet another soggy week, today’s sunshine beckoned me to take another stroll along the Historic Champlain Canalway trail.  I returned to the segment in the Town of Waterford to continue my wildflower inventory.

Here is a sampling of what I observed –

Creeping Thyme

Chicory

Woodland Sunflower

Helleborine

Blue Plantain-lily (someone must have planted three plants along the trail)

Garden Phlox

Agrimony

Smooth Sumac

White Vervain

Sulphur Cinquefoil

Dillen’s Tick Trefoil

Purple Loosestrife

Red-osier Dogwood

Ripening now – American Black Currant; Recipes to consider:  Currant Parfait and Cherry Ginger Chicken with Currants

Lopseed

Wild Mint

Mad-dog Skullcap

Check out my revised page for the Historic Champlain Canalway Trail, now with information and photos of the trail segment in the Town of Waterford.

Happy trails!

UPDATE #3: A New Wildflower Information Station at Town Park

Today, I placed the fourth (and final) Wildflower Information Station along the north loop of the nature trail at Town Park in the Town of Halfmoon.  For those of you who frequent that park and walk along the nature trail, you’ll notice this sign (for the next couple of weeks) off the left side of the trail shortly before it intersects with the wooden bridge that links the south loop to the north loop of this nature trail.  Since Intermediate Dogbane remains in full bloom, I chose not to remove the third information station sign along the south loop.

Wildflower Info Station – Canada Lily (orange blooms near center of image)

Wildflower Info Station – Canada Lily

If you have a smartphone, use your QuickRead bar code scanner to download info about the wildflower mentioned at this information station.

This is a collaborative project with the Town of Halfmoon Parks Department.  If you have observed any of these signs during a visit, please let me know what you think about your experience.

During my visit, I saw these blooms elsewhere along the trail –

Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint

Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint (close-up)

Hop Clover

Deptford Pink

Sulfur Cinquefoil

Common Yarrow

Butter-and-eggs

Black-eyed Susan

Common St. Johnswort

Common Milkweed

Happy trails!

Big Bird and a Bouquet of Blooms

Stretched my legs for a relaxing hike along the Historic Champlain Canalway Trail in the Town of Waterford today to celebrate my pre-holiday day of vacation.  Bountiful sunshine was a wonderful bonus.

Not far beyond the railroad bridge, I glimpsed the long wing of a large bird flying above the tree canopy overhead.  After shuffling along a little further while continuing my wildflower inventory here, I spied the silhouette of my trailside companion –

Great Blue Heron

Here is the virtual bouquet of wildflower blooms I found along the way –

Thimbleweed

Pointed-leaved Tick Trefoil

Common Blue-eyed Grass

Lesser Daisy Fleabane

Enchanter’s Nightshade

Asiatic Dayflower

Yellow Wood Sorrel

Great Chickweed

Pokeweed

Virginia Stickseed

Motherwort

Deptford Pink

Orange Daylily

Horse Nettle

Yarrow

Bouncing Bet

Fringed Loosestrife

Tall Meadow Rue

Daisy Fleabane

Hedge Bindweed

Creeping Bellflower

Water Hemlock

Common St. Johnswort

Rough Cinquefoil

And one last splash of color –

Red Baneberry fruit

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy trails!

Summer is Here!

Summer Solstice 2017 will occur on Wednesday, June 21.

With the extended daylight that the summer solstice brings, it offers the best opportunity of each year to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Observe nature at a local preserve.  Listen to the calls and songs of birds in your backyard.  Go fishing.  Forage for some wild edibles.  Take a tour of any of the area bike trails.

Great Blue Heron – Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve

For more specific suggestions, consider these –

Happy trails!

UPDATE #2: A New Wildflower Information Station at Town Park

Under today’s sunny skies, I placed the third Wildflower Information Station along the south loop of the nature trail at Town Park in the Town of Halfmoon.  For those of you who frequent that park and walk along the nature trail, you’ll notice this sign (for the next couple of weeks) off the right side of the trail shortly before it intersects with the wooden bridge that links the south loop to the north loop of this nature trail.  I also removed both of the first two information station signs.

Wildflower Info Station 3 – Intermediate Dogbane

Closeup of Intermediate Dogbane

If you have a smartphone, use your QuickRead bar code scanner to download info about the wildflower mentioned at this information station.
This is a collaborative project with the Town of Halfmoon Parks Department.  If you have observed any of these signs during a visit, please let me know what you think about your experience.

During my visit, I saw these blooms elsewhere along the trail –

Maiden’s-tears  (NOTE:  This was the plant identified on station #1.)

Alfalfa

Common Milkweed (white bloom form)

Sulphur Cinquefoil

Clammy Ground Cherry

Common Milkweed (pink bloom form)

Black-eyed Susan

Daisy Fleabane

Wildflower bouquet (clockwise from bottom center):
Oxeye Daisy (large white blooms), Birdsfoot Trefoil (yellow), Cow Vetch (purple), Red Clover (red), and Lesser Stitchwort (small white blooms)

English Plantain

Deptford Pink

Oxeye Daisy

Common Elderberry

Staghorn Sumac

Everlasting Pea

Common Blue-eyed Grass

Yellow Sweet Clover

Wild Radish

Wild Parsnip (Hazardous Plant ! – DO NOT TOUCH ! Entire plant causes photo-dermatitis; avoid all contact with skin.)

Prickly Dewberry

Alsike Clover

Lesser Stitchwort

Bittersweet Nightshade

 

 

Happy trails!