Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter Weeds, Part 1

On nice winter days it is fun and interesting to take a walk through some of the wilder areas to see what plants are still standing.  An excellent guide book for this is Weeds in Winter by Lauren Brown.   This book has all kinds of useful information for winter plant ID in New England.  There’s a glossary of terms, a dichotomous key for plants described in the book and some really great illustrations of the winter appearance of these plants.  

Since this winter has been so mild in southern New England, I was able to find many of these plants right around my house.  These normally would have been crushed under piles of snow.  In fact, I found so many of them I need to split this post into two parts.  Most of these photos were taken at the end of January this year.  Here is the first of two installments of photos of my winter weeds.  

This Prairie Aster retains its strong
stems through the winter
These photos are roughly in alphabetical order.  I had already decided on the order when I remembered the name changes for the asters, so Symphyotrichum is coming first.
Aster can be difficult to ID in the winter.
Fortunately, I remembered which is which in this case.
Many of these native asters have long lasting stems.  For example, the 'bush' on the far right in the topmost photo is a Prairie Aster.

The Bigleaf Aster still has some of its seeds.
When I came across this old stem of the American Bellflower I was not sure what I was looking at.  After I few minutes I remember what had been growing in that location and narrowed it down to this species.  One advantage of using the plants around the house is that ID is a lot easier than when working in the field.
American Bellflower has distinctive seed capsules.

Sweet Pepper Bush looks like a tangle of branches in winter.  Closer examination of the older branches shows that it has exfoliating bark.  It is more easily identified by its flower spikes that stay on through the winter.
The long styles of the pistil are retained
on these dried Sweet Pepper Bush flowers.

I usually don't see the Pink Tickseed in winter.  It's growing out of the driveway and is usually covered with snow.  On close examination you can see the narrow little leaves have already started coming up.
Pink Tickseed is only 6-8" tall.

The new buds on this Sweetfern are beginning to swell.
The hairs on the stem really show up in the afternoon light.

The low angle of the sun really enhances the appearance of the stems and spent flowers of these plants.  This is particularly true for the taller plants like these River Oats.

The seeds of the River Oats are shed
slowly over the coarse of the winter.

Purple Coneflower is one of the easier plants to identify.  The old flowers retain their cone-shape even thought the seeds are long gone, either eaten by birds or scattered in the wind.
Seeds of the Purple Coneflower are all gone now

Even though it's dried up American Pennyroyal
still has its minty scent.
The last plant in this post is the American Pennyroyal.  This low growing annual is usually buried under snow there is nothing left of it when the snow melts.  The dried calyxes are arranged in whorls around the stem.  These are much easier to see now that all the leaves are gone.

Well pregame is nearly over, so it's time to close down the computer and start watching the Super Bowl.

Go Pats!!!!

1 comment:

Forest Keeper said...

I love the winter aspect of plants. Though not as exciting as spring or fall the winter has much to teach us.
This winter has been so mild for us here on Cape Cod that I've been able to harvest Dandelions and other wild edible greens right up until now!