Saturday, November 2, 2019

Surprise Plants

Living in a more rural area means that there is the possibility that there are still many native species lurking just out of sight.  Here are some of the plants that I have found growing spontaneously around our property.  Most of these have benefited from the removal of invasive species.  Reducing competition for light allows for germination from the seed bank and stronger growth overall.  Removing the cover, especially Japanese stiltgrass, also makes it easier to see what all is growing.  

The scalloped leaves along the stem made me think
that this was ground ivy, but the flower on top
quickly showed me to be wrong.
Among one of the first species of native annuals I tried to grow was clasping Venus looking glass, Triadonis perfoliata.  I had no luck in getting the seeds to germinate under controlled conditions (moist stratification, sterile soil, under lights, etc.)  This past spring, I came across some blooming plants as I was looking for some other seedlings in an area where I have been pulling out Japanese stiltgrass.  I can't say for sure that its emergence was due to reduction in stiltgrass, but it was much easier to find with less competition for space.  Since this species is an annual, continued success depends on it producing seed and getting that seed in contact with the soil.  Having the area less clogged with stiltgrass should help it along. 
When I first noticed it, I saw the clasping leaves on a long stem and thought it was ground ivy.  Before I could pull it I noticed the bright lavender flower at the end of the stem.  Closer examination shows that there were calyces in most of the upper leaf axils.  These had probably already bloomed out.  I will keep an eye on this area next spring to find this plant again. 

The round, glaucous stems on this bush indicated that this was some sort of raspberry. 
The berries were initially red, but all turned black over the course of a few days, so it some sort of black raspberry

When we moved here in 2012 many of the unmown areas that got any sun at all had the invasive wineberry, Rubus phoenicolasius, growing in them.  Fortunately this is not a strongly growing plant and it can be suppressed by cutting it back on a regular basis (at least once a year). It is also fairly easy to pull.  While the stems are covered with sharp bristles, these are not very stiff and will not penetrate my gardening gloves.  I was disappointed that I could not find any native raspberries (we have a ton of wild blackberries) growing in or around the woods.  In 2017 I started noticing a different berry plant showing up in various places, many of those that had been covered with wineberry.  The trifoliate leaflets and bluish blush on the rounded stems pointed toward some sort of raspberry.  (See this link to Illinois Wildflowers for way to tell raspberries and blackberry plants apart.)  It didn't matter which, as long as it wasn't wineberry (or more blackberry).  This spring these new plants flowered and produced fruit.  The berries were initially red, then turned black as they ripened.  While I have not nailed down the ID, it's a pretty good guess that these are native black raspberry, Rubus occidentalis.

I don't know if these are from an existing seed bank, or were brought in by wildlife.  Next year I will pay closer attention to the flowers to try and confirm the ID; although there are only three species of raspberries that are black, most are red.  If these came in via wildlife, they may be from some cultivated varieties rather than strictly wild.  On tasting the black berry I finally appreciate what the flavor 'black raspberry' really is like.  Jolly Ranchers have the taste right.   

Two years after I started removing the invasive species from this area,
these American germander have formed a hedge of their own.

American germander, Teucrium canadense, was one of the first native plants to emerge from what was before a dense hedge of wineberry, garlic mustard and Japanese stiltgrass.  Since this plant spreads by rhizomes and is a prolific reseeder it may be able to hold its own against the stiltgrass.  Peak bloom is in mid-summer at which time it is easily identified by the stamen arching out above the slipper-shaped, white to pale pink flower.

You can see the small white flower clusters coming
out of the stem at the bottom of this photo.
Sweet cicely, Osmorhiza claytonii, is a pretty common woodland edge native.  I usually find it along paths in partly to mostly shady wooded locations.  I usually notice it because of the deeply lobed bright green leaves and the hairs that cover the leaves and stems that catch the light.  As more invasives are removed from the understory small plants like this one are easier to spot.  Also as space opens up native like sweet cicely can fill in.

This large, about 5" long, trumpet-shaped flower is unlike most native species in our area. 
Is is actually a southwestern native but has naturalized as far north as New England.

Afterthe removal of a large pine tree I've been finding new plants cropping up all around it.  These were probably buried in the seed bank and were stirred up by the work crew or were just sitting there waiting for more light and moisture to encourage germination.  One plant that really surprised me was Sacred Datura or Angel's Trumpet, Datura wrightii.  Native to the western states, this plant is probably a garden escapee, possibly grown by the previous owner or flown in by birds. In colder climates this plant behaves as an annual though is is listed as cold hardy to USDA zone 4.

Though a little tattered Robin's Plantain seems to be
getting established in a shady portion of the lawn.
We have a number of fleabanes, Erigeron, growing here.  Most of the plants are either annual fleabane or Philadelphia fleabane, E. annuus or E. philadelphicus, respectively.  In a shady portion of the lawn (where grass doesn't grow well) I noticed a new white daisy-like flower.  It was growing up from something that looked like plantain.  While I'm not absolutely certain I'm pretty sure that this new find was Robin's Plantain, Erigeron pulchellus.  When it's in bloom I try to avoid mowing it so that it will have a chance to spread.  Since Robin's Plantain likes limy soils and has persistent green basal leaves it is a welcome addition to my natural lawn.