Botany Blog Plants of the Northeastern U.S.

August 12, 2017

Southern NJ in August

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 11:41

First stop on August 9th was a dry woodland of pine, oak, and hickory. Several stems of cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor) were in full bloom. The slightly asymmetrical flowers are pollinated by moths.

Northern Adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum pusillum) was scattered in richer soil among a large population of lily-leaved twayblade (Liparis liliifolia). This is a eusporangiate fern (sporangia developing from several epidermal cells), while most ferns are leptosporangiate (sporangia developing from a single cell).

On the way out spotted a nice patch of pine sap. The pink stems and relatively late flowering time suggest this may be Hypopitys lanuginosa rather than Hypopitys monotropa, though mid-August is when flowering of the two species typically overlap.

I then visited a powerline right-of-way that cuts through a nearby Wildlife Management Area. Flowering along the roadway was lots of slender aster (Eurybia compacta).

Orange milkwort (Polygala lutea) was fairly abundant in wet sand along the access road. These plants have been blooming for over a month.

Engelmann’s arrowhead (Sagittaria engelmanniana) growing in standing water in the deep ruts of the access road. This species prefers acid water and has leaves typically narrower than the common arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia), however examination of the achenes is best for positive identification. The latter has none or at most one facial wing on the achene whereas S. engelmanniana has 1-3 facial wings.

Golden hedge-hyssop (Gratiola aurea) was also abundant in the wet muck of the access road.

A rare species that was common here on dry sand was elliptic-leaved rushfoil (Crotonopsis elliptica). This species is quite small and easy to overlook.

The next day I visited a savanna that had formed on a former bog iron mining site. Here I found three flowering plants of the globally vulnerable yellow fringeless orchid (Platanthera integra). This site is threatened by encroachment of cedars and would probably benefit from additional disturbance in the areas where the canopy is beginning to close.

On the way out I stopped by a few disturbed areas closer to civilization. A nice patch of climbing hempvine (Mikania scandens) was flowering on the bank of a river.

Seems I find a new species of thoroughwort every time I visit southern NJ. This one is round-leaved thoroughwort (Eupatorium rotundifolium) and was growing along the edge of some woods.

July 13, 2017


Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 13:47

Five Pyrola spp. occur in New York. These plants are commonly known as wintergreen or shinleaf. I was able to photograph all but one of these in the last two days. The one that still alludes me is Pyrola chlorantha which, unlike the other species, has greenish flowers. It is not uncommon so I may still find it before the end of July.

The most common species is elliptic-leaved shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica). This one was found under a young gray birch on an old iron mining site. The leaves are often a darker green.

Two days ago I found a large patch of American shinleaf (Pyrola americana) growing in moist sand along the edge of a bog. I’ve also found this species in swamps. This is one of the largest species with round leaves and relatively large white-petaled flowers. It is probably the most common species in New York other than Pyrola elliptica (and possibly P. chlorantha which I have ironically yet to find).

Back at the old iron mine site there was a good population of the state threatened pink wintergreen (Pyrola asarifolia) growing primarily in the shade of willows, tamarack, and black spruce. While the leaves resemble those of P. americana to some extent, this is the only species with consistently pink or pink-purple flowers. The petals of P. elliptica can sometimes have a faint pink hue but are mostly white and the thin (rather than shiny and leathery) leaves are quite different.

Shiny, leathery, rather round leaves of P. asarifolia.

The rarest species in New York is the state endangered little shinleaf (Pyrola minor), known from just below the alpine zone of one high peak and one other nearby location. There are probably less than 100 known plants in the state, though careful searches in the area might turn up more. This species is primarily a boreal species that inhabits subalpine coniferous forests in New York. It is smaller than the other species and also differs in having a short and straight style. All other species in NY have an elongate and strongly curving style (not counting the segregate genera Moneses, with solitary flowers, and Orthilia with flowers all on one side of the raceme).

July 2, 2017

July Orchids

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 15:20

Lots of orchids in bloom now in Central NY. The first batch are from a poor fen. The pink orchids are rose pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides) growing with northern pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea), spoon-leaf sundrew (Drosera intermedia), and mud sedge (Carex limosa).

Scattered on the floating mat were grass pinks (Calopogon tuberosus). It was raining most of the day and this skipper was probably just seeking shelter on the petals.

Some of the grass pinks were impressively large and exhibited considerable color variation.

The sun came out just long enough for bog coppers (Lycaena epixanthe) to become active. The larvae feed exclusively on large and small cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon and V. oxycoccos, respectively) and adults are usually found when these plants are flowering.

We also visited a wet meadow with a large population of northern tubercled rein orchids (Platanthera flava). This species can be distinguished from similar ‘green’ orchids by the tubercle (bump) on the labellum (lip petal).

On a roadside nearby we found some ragged fringed orchids (Platanthera lacera). This species likes open, moist to wet fields and benefits from mowing early in the year to reduce competition.

Greater purple fringed orchids (Platanthera grandiflora) are in full bloom now. This one was found in a swampy partly shaded edge of a rich fen. The similar lesser purple fringed orchid (Platanthera psycodes) usually blooms a couple weeks later and can be found in similar habitats.

June 24, 2017

Tug Hill

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 21:59

Some interesting plants seen today on the Tug Hill in Lewis County, NY.

The first is bog Jacob’s-ladder (Polemonium vanbruntiae), a globally rare species found primarily in NY.

This was the first time that I have seen Michaux’s sedge (Carex michauxiana).

Shiny lanceolate leaves and reddish spotted stems help distinguish wild sweet-william (Phlox maculata) from other Phlox spp.

Broad-lipped Twayblade (Neottia convallarioides, formerly Listera convallarioides) occurs in northern white cedar swamps in NY. Though once known from several locations in upstate NY, the plant pictured here is from the only known extant population in the state.

June 12, 2017

Round-leaved Orchid

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 18:19

Round-leaved orchid (Amerorchis rotundifolia) once occurred in a few places in northern NY but is now considered to be extirpated. It is considered to be rare in most states where it still occurs.

This orchid is primarily found in northern white cedar swamps. I joined a small group today on a trip to a cedar swamp in Canada where this orchid is still relatively common.

The flowers are pinkish white and typically have pink spots on the lip.

Plants have a single, round to oval basal leaf.

A form with broad, longitudinal reddish lines on the lip has been called var. lineata and was found mixed with the more typical form.

Closeup of the lined form.

June 9, 2017

Alpine flora

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 16:52

Yesterday I visited Mount Washington, NH to see several alpine plants in bloom. The auto road was originally scheduled to be closed for paving but fortunately the work was done early and they decided to open at 9:30 am. Even more fortunate, as I got there early, the road was opened a little after 8:30 am.

While I was waiting for the road to open I took a walk around the visitor center. In a small rocky brook I found twisted sedge (Carex torta) which I had not seen before with mature perigynia. Notice the black-margined scales and somewhat dropping lower spike.

On a hillside meadow there was lots of bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) in bloom. Here in central NY bunchberry is not so common and rarely grows out in the open like this.

Little bluet (Houstonia caerulea) was also abundant. These could be seen everywhere from 2000′ elevation all the way up to the alpine zone, though they became less abundant further up the mountain.

In a few spots along the roadside, including just below the summit, was mountain shadbush (Amelanchier bartramiana). Unlike most other Amelanchier spp. this one has nearly sessile leaves that taper towards the base and flowers borne singly or in few-flowered clusters.

Before leaving the tree line I got the chance to see lots of mountain paper birch (Betula cordifolia). It is quite similar to, and used to be considered a variety of paper birch (Betula papyrifera). It differs from the latter in having leaves that are more or less cordate at the base and bark with a pinkish hue.

Pinkish-brown peeling bark of heart-leaved paper birch.

As the forest transitioned to krummholz (a zone of dwarfed, deformed trees) I started to find black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) along the road. Close examination of several patches of crowberry turned up at least a little purple crowberry (Empetrum atropurpureum) which has twigs covered by white hairs unlike the smooth twigs of black crowberry.

Also in the krummholz and lower alpine zones there were alpine bilberries (Vaccinium uliginosum) just beginning to bloom.

Once I reached the summit I hiked down to the Alpine Garden Trail where boulder fields and bedrock were still covered by a bit of snow. The dwarfed and twisted evergreens are likely balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and/or black spruce (Picea mariana). The bit of lavender in the foreground are the flowers of Lapland rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum) and the creamy white flowers are those of pincushion plant (Diapensia lapponica).

I was able to tentatively identify a few graminoids simply because of their abundance in the alpine zone despite the fact that most had not yet started to flower. These are likely the leaves of Bigelow’s Sedge (Carex bigelowii).

I was able to identify this plant as a rush since some still had fruits from last year. It is probably highland rush (Juncus trifidus) since it was rather abundant in the alpine zone.

Tufted clubsedge (Trichophorum cespitosum) was the only graminoid close to flowering. The related alpine cotton-grass (Trichophorum alpinum) is occasionally found in rich fens in central NY.

There were a few little rivulets running through the alpine zone. Near one of these the coppery-red leaves of squashberry (Viburnum edule) were just starting to emerge.

At least one willow was also associated with the rivulets. I think this one is tea-leaved willow (Salix planifolia) because it has yellowish styles. This species is known to hybridize with Labrador willow (S. argyrocarpa) on Mount Washington.

The ground-hugging bearberry willow (Salix uva-ursi) was also blooming in the alpine zone.

Ligonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) was quite common in the alpine zone. A few plants still had fruit from last year. Some were close to but not quite flowering.

I was also hoping to find the endemic mountain avens (Geum peckii) in bloom but had to settle for leaves and a few immature flower stalks. This rare plant is only found in the White Mountains of NH and a few sites in Nova Scotia.

The mountain avens above is growing through a patch of Diapensia. Here is more Diapensia which was in full bloom and quite abundant in the alpine garden.

Alpine azalea (Kalmia procumbens) was found growing in close association with Diapensia. The genus Kalmia, named for famed botanist Peter Kalm, includes the mountain laurel (K. latifolia), sheep laurel (K. angustifolia), and bog laurel (K. polifolia).

Closeup of the flowers of alpine azalea.

The term azalea is typically applied to some members of the genus Rhododendron. Two Rhododendron spp. can be found in the alpine zone on Mount Washington, Labrador-tea (R. groenlandicum) which was not blooming yet, and Lapland rosebay which was just starting to bloom when I was there.

On my way back down Mount Washington I spotted another Rhododendron growing on a rock outcrop right next to the road. This one was Rhodora (R. canadense). A search of the area turned up a few more plants along a stream and some taller ones growing in a wet meadow.

May 20, 2017


Filed under: Plant-Insect Interactions,Uncategorized — admin @ 15:21

Cecropia moths (Hylaphora cecropia) have started to emerge from their cocoons. Here is a caterpillar in its fourth and final instar toward the end of August of last year.

And this is what they look like after cocooning. The leaves are maple leaves, one of the primary food plants of the caterpillars.

Mating adults after their wings expanded in May.

May 11, 2017

More Violets

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 13:31

Among the stemless blue violets there are several ‘cleft’ violets, so named for their variously lobed leaves. The number of species is not very well understood at this time. I recently observed one of these cleft violets near Albany in limestone woods. It is treated as the Viola subsinuata species complex by some or split into two separate species by others, V. palmata and V. subsinuata. Supposedly V. palmata makes uncleft leaves early in the spring followed by cleft leaves later (i.e. it is heterophyllous), while V. subsinuata only produces cleft leaves (i.e. it is homophyllous). According to this latter definition the plant in this picture would be V. palmata, however I was given a plant from near Ithaca that in my garden is homophyllous but has produced heterophyllous leaves in another person’s garden this year. Both have been called early blue violet, although they don’t flower particularly early relative to the common stemless blue violet V. sororia.

A perhaps more well-defined species is V. brittoniana (Coast Violet) which has deeply cleft leaves and is only known from near the Atlantic Coast. This plant was photographed growing on a sandy roadside in southern NJ a couple days ago.

April 29, 2017


Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 19:04

Violets are blooming and with the sudden surge of warm weather in the northeast there is considerable overlap in bloom time for many species. In the last two days I’ve observed flowering of V. blanda, V. pubescens, V. rotundifolia, V. rostrata, V. sororia, V. striata, V. sagittata, and V. selkirkii. I photographed the latter species for the first time this year.

Flowers of Selkirk’s Violet (Viola selkirkii) have beardless petals.

Leaves and flowers of Selkirk’s Violet all arise from the rhizome, i.e. there are no leafy stems. Leaves are ovate and sparsely hairy above.

The spur of the lower petal is elongate and somewhat expanded, giving this species the alternate common name of Great-spurred Violet.

Arrow-leaved Violet (Viola sagittata var. sagittata) in my garden. It usually does not have so many flowers and notice the leaves are slightly chlorotic. I suspect this might have something to do with the gravel substrate it is in, which is slightly alkaline.

The Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) can also be quite floriferous, especially when grown in full sun without competition.

Not a violet but Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) is blooming now as well. It naturally occurs in a rather restricted region from Ohio and West Virginia west to Missouri and Arkansas.

October 2, 2016

Spiranthes magnicamporum

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 20:49

Great Plains Ladies-tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum) was first identified in New York at an alvar preserve in Jefferson County by Dan Brunton in 2014 (see Winter 2015 NY Flora Association Newsletter). Not long after another distinct population was located within the same preserve in Jefferson County and two other populations in St. Lawrence County. It is likely that this species had been overlooked in the past because of its similarity to S. cernua, though it is also likely restricted to a few locations in northern NY.

With this in mind I asked Don Leopold if he had seen this species at another large privately owned alvar in Jefferson County we had visited back in 2011. He soon sent me a picture taken several years ago of what he thought was S. cernua at the time. Sure enough it appeared to be S. magnicamporum. We revisited the site on September 25th of this year and found what may be the largest population of this species in NY.

Plants tend to be scattered, though in one location there were about 50 plants with some close enough together to get several in one shot.


The flowers of this species tend to be a bit longer than those of S. cernua and have a bit of yellow in the throat, with lateral sepals that spread over the top of the flower. The leaves are typically absent at the time of flowering.


The plants in these photographs have characteristics of typical S. magnicamporum.


We found a few plants that had started flowering earlier and had characteristics that suggested possible hybridization with S. cernua. Examination of seeds collected from some of these plants seems to support gene flow from S. cernua, as some capsules contained a mix of monoembryonic and polyembryonic seeds.


The above seed appears to be monoembryonic. Below is a polyembryonic seed from the same sample.


Another common species at the site was fluxweed or false pennyroyal (Trichostema brachiatum).


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