Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Woodland Find - American Germander

This is the pinkish flower spike that I first noticed.
The other day I was walking along a wooded edge in the backyard bemoaning how much stiltgrass (Mircostegium vimineum) there was to remove and I spotted some pale pink spiky flowers that I had not seen before. Since these flowers looked so tight and upright,  I thought these might have escaped from an old garden rather than being a native plant.

The stems are square with oppositely arranged leaves and the flowers were kind of tubular with a long tongue.  So I figured they were kind of mint (Lamiacea family).  After going through the identification keys in Gleason and Conquist several times and then looking at a lot of pictures on-line, I finally ID'd this plant as American Germander, Teucrium canadense, an actual native species!  In retrospect, a feature that really stands out in germanders is that the 4 stamens stick out above the flower petal(s).  This same arrangement is found on creeping germander, T. chamaedrys, a common garden plant.

Here you can see the unique form of the flower.  The arrow indicates the upright stamens.
10 days later, the flower spike has elongated and blooming is
continuing up the spike.  Maybe another 10 days of bloom.
Here the shape of the toothed leaves is more easily seen

While it is a member of the mint family the leaves are not fragrant and the leaves have a bitter taste (reportedly).  They are not bothered by grazing animals, i.e., deer.  The flowers are frequented by long-tongued bees and hummingbirds.

American Germander grows in moist soils in full to partial sunlight.  Habitats include moist meadows, thickets and along water courses.  The plants I found are on consistently moist soil with about 4 hours of morning sun, in the middle of summer.

Plants spread by rhizomes and will reseed effectively, creating large colonies under favorable conditions.  In a formal garden they would be considered weedy, but in a natural edge with lots of competition they are under control (so far).  I would love for these to push out the stilt grass, but I think they will need my help.  

This clump of American Germander has probably been here for awhile.
I'll make a more concerted effort to clear out the stiltgrass from around here
to give this plant more opportunity to spread.
Just a reminder, Stiltgass will be blooming soon in Maryland so you need to take action soon to keep them from setting seed.  I will continue pulling for now, but come the end of August I will weed whack down as much as I as can reach.  This should  take out the flowers before they can set seed and be late enough in the year to keep flowers from regenerating.  Check out the Mircostegium link above for more information.

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