Botany Blog Plants of the Northeastern U.S.

August 12, 2016

Rusty Woodsia

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 12:35

Today I finally found a fern that I’ve been trying to find for several years. While not rare in NY, rusty woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis) can be difficult to find because it prefers to grow in crevices in rocks. In central NY suitable habitat for this fern is restricted to rocky cliffs surrounding mountain summits. Even after finding the plants, getting close enough to photograph them proved to be a challenge. Fortunately there were a few plants that were accessible with a little careful maneuvering.


The plants are rather small. The largest fronds were not more than 5 or 6 inches in length.


The common name comes from the appearance of the fertile fronds which are reddish-brown on the underside.


The rusty appearance comes from the color of the sporangia and a mixture of scales and long hairs that turn rusty-brown at maturity.



Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 12:16

Visited the Adirondacks for three days earlier in the week. On the drive up I stopped near Hinckley Reservoir and found Canada burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis) in full bloom.


Near Raquette Lake I found dwarf rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera repens) in several places. This one was growing in a clump of the leafy liverwort Bazzania trilobata. Others were found growing in Sphagnum.


Also found one checkered rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera tesselata). This species is a little bigger than G. repens.


On a dry slope found long-bracted orchid (Coeloglossum viride var. virescens). The petals had withered but the long floral bracts were still evident.


Some capsules of western spotted coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis) were found nearby. This variety blooms earlier than var. maculata and usually has more reddish capsules, though some plants with yellow capsules were present. These were likely a pale form of var. occidentalis.


This was a good year to see creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula) in fruit. The fruits taste like wintergreen.


Also found some nice flowering clumps of false violet (Rubus dalibarda).


On the last day I made a trip to Whiteface Mountain to see alpine flora. Three-toothed cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata) is often done blooming at lower elevation this late in the summer but were just getting started in the alpine zone.


Alpine goldenrod (Solidago leiocarpa) was in full bloom on rocky outcrops.


A Milbert’s tortoiseshell (Aglias milberti) was feeding on one of the plants.


Large-leaved goldenrod (Solidago macrophylla) was abundant in areas with some shade and could also be found along the road further down the mountain.


Another species found growing on rock outcrops was mountain stitchwort (Minuartia groenlandica). Plants in the sun were done blooming, possibly due to drought, while those in the shade were still going strong.


This is northern meadowsweet (Spiraea alba var. latifolia). Alpine plants have been called var. septentrionalis.


Several dwarf shrubs are found in the alpine zone including bearberry willow (Salix uva-ursi).


One of the dominant shrubs is Alpine bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum). The blue-green leaves and 4-merous flowers distinguish this species from lowbush blueberries.


Black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) is a rare species restricted to rock outcrops in the alpine zone.


Mountain alder (Alnus viridis ssp. crispa) is another alpine shrub found here.


Alpine rattlesnakeroot (Prenanthes boottii) only occurs at the very top of the mountain growing around boulders. Most had already gone to seed though I was able to find a few open flowers. This plant is very rare and unfortunately some of the plants appeared to have been trampled by visitors.


Three-leaved rattlesnakeroot (Prenanthes trifoliata) was also present here and a little further down the mountain. Alpine plants have been called P. nana.


Descending the mountain one passes through an area of dwarfed and deformed trees known as krummholz. The common fern here is mountain woodfern (Dryopteris campyloptera).


A few alpine clubmosses can also be found here.  Appalachian firmoss (Huperzia appressa) is occasional here and in the partial shade provided by boulders in the open areas. It resembles a diminutive shining clubmoss (Heuperzia lucidula) with the addition of gemmae (asexual propagules) produced near the apex of the stem.


A few plants of clasping-leaved twisted-stalk were found in the shade of the krummholz. Apparently this species was found here for the first time just a few days earlier by a group on a New York Flora Association outing.


A species that was relatively abundant along the road leading up to the summit was narrow-leaved gentian (Gentiana linearis). This species was also found growing with the Canada burnet near Hinckley Reservoir.



July 31, 2016

Pine Barrens in Late July

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 14:15

Visited the NJ pine barrens again over the weekend. Toothed whitetop aster  (Sericocarpus asteroides) was in full bloom along one of the sand roads.


A short distance down the road we found a pond surrounded by sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia). This is a common shrub in southern NJ and can be seen blooming now along roadsides.


Once we got deeper into the pine barrens we found an eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina). Unfortunately these turtles have become less common because of poaching for the pet trade. We snapped a few photos and then moved on.


We spent most of the time searching what are called savannas down there. These are fens that occur along many of the rivers that run through the pine barrens, and are open peatlands typically fed by groundwater. They are often bordered by atlantic white cedar swamps. Nuttall’s lobelia (Lobelia nuttallii) can often be found where the swamp transitions into the savanna. It has a very slender flowering stem.


Canby’s lobelia (Lobelia canbyi) is occasionally found growing in the open savannas, though it is much less common. Like Nuttall’s lobelia it is quite slender but has a thicker flowering stem and a more upright growth habit.


Thread-leaved sundew (Drosera filiformis) can also be found in the open savannas and was nearing the end of its flowering period.


The ten-angled pipewort (Eriocaulon decangulare) is another familiar sight in the savannas. It often grows on higher ground than other pipewort species and has thicker leaves.


The last time I visited the bog huckleberry (Gaylussacia bigeloviana) was in flower. This time it was in fruit.


Some species prefer to grow in the wetter parts of the savanna including in the shallow drainage channels. The comb-leaf mermaidweed (Proserpinaca pectinata) was in fruit.


Several species of yellow-eyed grass (Xyris spp.) were blooming as well. Not sure which one this is, as they all tend to have similar flowers. This is one of the species that have twisted leaves.


The savannas are often separated by white cedar swamps. As we moved from one savanna to the next we came across a small colony of netted chainfern (Woodwardia areolata) in one of the swamps.


In the open parts of the swamps and along the edge of the savannas we found lots of Virginia meadow beauties (Rhexia virginica) in bloom.


There were also a few Turk’s-cap lilies (Lilium superbum) flowering in some of the shrub thickets.


The thickets and swamps were also full of club-spur orchids (Platanthera clavellata). This pair of plants were about twice as large as the others. While we were photographing these we saw a hummingbird nectaring on white fringed orchids (Plantanthera blephariglottis). Unfortunately it was moving too fast for us to get a picture.


We also saw crested yellow orchids (Platanthera cristata) along the edge of one savanna.


Yellow fringeless orchids (Platanthera integra) were still in bud. One of the larger plants may have flowered but unfortunately a deer had eaten the inflorescence. Maybe next year.


One of the last plants we found was growing next to the river in the flood zone. This is pink bogbutton (Sclerolepis uniflora). It is a member of the aster family (Asteraceae) that reaches the northern limit of its range here.


June 25, 2016

Creating a native meadow with plugs

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 18:03

Some pictures of a project that I’ve been working on at SUNY Cortland for about the last year and a half. This is part of a much larger area that has proven to be a challenge in that the original installation was overrun by invasive weeds in the first growing season.

Plants were grown in 38 cell deep star plug trays in a greenhouse in 2015 from seeds collected locally and some donated by the Finger Lakes Native Plant Society. Species include Agastache foeniculum, Allium cernuum, Asclepias sullivantii, Asclepias incarnata, Asclepias speciosa, Andropogon gerardii, Aquilegia canadensis, Geum triflorum, Monarda fistulosa, Monarda puctata, Heliopsis helianthoides, Penstemon hirsutus, Penstemon digitalis, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, Schizachyrium scoparium, Sisyrinchium angustifolium, Viola sororia, and Ratibida pinnata. Most were about 4 months old at the time of planting though a few were added later.

Plugs in the greenhouse, April 2015


The site was sprayed with Roundup in June of 2015 and planted soon after. The after photos are from June of this year after hand weeding and mulching.

June 21, 2015


June 24, 2016


June 21, 2015


August 4, 2016


June 21, 2015


Aug 4, 2016


June 21, 2016

Mountain Woodsorrel

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 23:52

Mountain Woodsorrel (Oxalis montana) is now blooming in northern hardwood forests of Central NY. Colonies of this plant may not flower in a given year but they are very attractive when they do.


June 16, 2016

Pine Barrens in June

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 10:56

Made another visit to the NJ pine barrens yesterday. Two orchids were in abundance in the peatlands. All but one of our native orchids have flowers that are resupinate, which means that the pedicel of the flower twists 180 degrees as the flower opens. Grass pink orchid (Calopogon tuberosus) is not resupinate and therefore the lip petal, which on other orchids is on the bottom, is on the top. The lip of grass pink is also crested.


Rose pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides) usually bears a single flower but I found one large plant that had an extra flower bud above the open flower.


The recent warm weather seems to have made up for a cool spring, so some plants that I did not expect to see flowering were in full bloom including the globally rare bog asphodel (Narthecium americanum).


Some goldencrest (Lophiola aurea) was also in bloom.


A number of carnivorous plants can be found in open peatlands of the pine barrens. This is likely the flower of striped bladderwort (Utricularia striata) as they were rather large, however humped bladderwort (U. gibba) is similar and occasionally has large flowers as well.


Slender blue iris (Iris prismatica) was occasional on the margins of streams. It resembles northern blue flag (I. versicolor) but has much narrower leaves.


Dwarf huckleberry (Gaylussacia bigeloviana) is apparently secure in NJ but rare in most other states. This one was found growing on an open sphagnum mat.


Swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum) was just coming into bloom. The flowers are very fragrant.


I normally wouldn’t take a picture of a common ribbon snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). On the way out of the swamp I found this one sunning in a shrub. Presumably it was doing this to get off the cold substrate of wet sphagnum.


Back on dry land we saw many Eastern turkeybeard (Xerophyllum asphodeloides) plants in bloom. The lower flowers of the inflorescence open first. Most plants were nearly done blooming and I was only able to find a few that still had unopened flowers at the top of the inflorescence.


Pine barrens stitchwort (Minuartia caroliniana) was abundant in the few open sandy areas but absent everywhere else.


While many people regard greenbriers as a nuisance, I was excited to find round-leaved greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) in full bloom.


Some plants also had fruits of them.


June 11, 2016

Van Brunt’s Jacob’s Ladder

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 16:18

Polemonium vanbruntiae is just starting to bloom in Central NY. This northeastern U.S. endemic occupies a rather limited range that extends from Quebec in Canada (historic in New Brunswick) south through ME, VT, NY, PA, WV, and MD. One population, now extirpated, was known from NJ. The majority of populations are found in NY. The long protruding stamens (botanists would say they are exserted, i.e. surpassing the lobes of the corolla) and relatively tall flowering stems distinguish this species from other Polemonium spp.


June 10, 2016

Alvar Grassland

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 20:19

Yesterday I visited a beautiful alvar ecosystem in upstate NY. Alvars occur on mostly flat expanses of limestone bedrock with very little soil accumulation (a type of pavement barren). Alvar plant communities are typically dominated by grasses and sedges, with scattered forbs, shrubs and trees. Many of the plants are rare and a few are found nowhere else in the state.

Balsam ragwort (Packera paupercula) was one of the dominant forbs at the site and was putting on a spectacular floral display.


Downy arrowwood (Viburnum rafinesquinum) is a shrub found in open areas on limestone, usually along the edge of grassland. It can also occur in woodlands but will not usually bloom in the shade. A related species, V. dentatum, is a common shrub of wetlands that is tolerant of a wider range of pH values.


Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) occurs on very thin soils over limestone. This species can also occur in more acidic environments like pine barrens and sand dunes. This plant, like many other alvar species, likely thrives here because of its ability to tolerate extreme environmental conditions that limit the establishment of more aggressive plant species.


Many native roses thrive in dry environments. The most common species in the alvar community is smooth rose (Rosa blanda).


There is even a rare species of poison ivy found in alvars. Western poison (Toxicodendron rydbergii) is a small shrub, unlike the climbing plant (Toxicodendron radicans) more commonly found in NY. As the common name suggests it is more frequent in the Western U.S. where annual precipitation is lower. In the East it is most often found growing on sandy or gravelly soils.


Wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum) is widely distributed in NY but rarely abundant where it is found. It is tolerant of drier conditions than our other native lilies. Some of the more unusual habitats for this species in NY are powerline right of ways where brush clearing maintains the high light exposure this species requires. This specimen was found growing up through a russet buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis) that would probably have overgrown the lily had it not been dwarfed by the harsh environmental conditions of the alvar.


The real highlight of the trip was a huge population of scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) that covered many acres of the site. This species is a hemiparasite that attaches itself to the roots of surrounding plants to acquire some of its water and nutrition. Scarlet paintbrush has experienced a severe decline and is extremely rare outside of the alvar ecosystem in NY, and even in alvars the populations are typically small, making the population at this site a significant remnant of New York’s natural heritage.


On the way back I made a short stop at a fen near Lake Ontario to see one of the most beautiful of our native orchids, dragon’s mouth (Arethusa bulbosa).



June 7, 2016

Green Dragon

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 20:42

That’s one long spadix!


June 1, 2016

More NJ spring flowers

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 23:12

I visited southern NJ again on May 12th and found the following plants blooming in the pine barrens.

Lance-leaved violet (Viola lanceolata) is normally found on moist sandy soils bordering ponds, lakes, and rivers. These plants seemed to be quite drought tolerant, growing on an open sandy site without any nearby water source.


A similar species is primrose-leaved violet (V. primulifolia), which some botanists believe is a hybrid of V. lanceolata and V. pallens though it can occur without one or both parents nearby.


A common biennial plant in the pine barrens is blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis). Since its life cycle is heavily dependent on successful annual seed production this plant is a prolific bloomer.


Another interesting plant blooming in pine barrens this time of year is American ipecac (Euphorbia ipecacuanha). The root of this plant has been used to make an emetic (syrup of ipecac, which induces vomiting), hence the common name and specific epithet.


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