24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Lindsay, Scott, and Bootypants!

22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

In a matter of a few hours, I expect that I will look a lot like this Galapagos Land Iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) looks in this photograph, taken on our recent trip.

Happy Thanksgiving!

11 November 2012

Adirondack Foray, Part I

For the past couple of years, Bruce Behan has been trying to get me to join him on a trip to upstate New York to check out the flora in his old stomping grounds just south of the Canadian border.  Luckily, our timing finally worked out this year and I was able to join Bruce three days of botanizing in the Adirondacks in early June.  Our trip started on an interesting note, with a slow leak in the front passenger side tire of the rental car, caused by a screw, as it turns out, before we had even left South Bend.  After getting the tire patched, we were four hours behind schedule, but the next 13 hours of our trip to Blue Mountain Lake were smooth sailing until we were just 25 miles from our cabin and the car started shaking.  Upon stopping, we found that the same tire had gone flat.  No cell phone service, no light, it began to drizzle, and we were changing a tire at just before midnight.  The next morning we were able to find a service station in Tupper Lake, New York that found that we'd run over a nail that punctured the tire just inches from the spot that was patched less than 24 hours previously.  This second tire patching led to another half-day delay, but by the time the tire was patched things were looking up, as the steady rain had slowed to a sprinkle and we were on our way to Silver Lake Bog.

Silver Lake Bog
At the 98-acre Silver Lake Bog Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy, we were able to take in Beech-Hemlock Mesic Forest, Northern White Cedar Swamp, Pine Bluff overlooking Silver Lake, and the namesake of the preserve, Black Spruce-Tamarack Bog.  The mesic forest had an understory heavily dominated by ferns and boreal herbaceous species, whereas Sphagnum mosses and species with an affinity to wet, low pH conditions covered the bog.  A few of the plants we saw included Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum), Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum), Small Pussytoes (Antennaria howellii ssp. petaloidea), Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera), Drooping Woodland Sedge (Carex arctata), Fibrousroot Sedge (Carex communis), Nodding Sedge (Carex gynandra), Boreal Bog Sedge (Carex magellanica ssp. irrigua), Bluebead (Clintonia borealis), Yellow Coralroot (Corallorhiza trifida), Moccasin Flower (Cypripedium acaule), Intermediate Woodfern (Dryopteris intermedia), Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula), Western Oakfern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris), Catberry (Ilex mucronata), Tamarack (Larix laricina), Stiff Clubmoss (Lycopodium annotinum), Tree Groundpine (Lycopodium dendroideum), Pennsylvania Clubmoss (Lycopodium hickeyi), Threeleaf False Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum trifolium), Black Spruce (Picea mariana), Oldpasture Bluegrass (Poa saltuensis), Bog Labrador Tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum), Dwarf Red Blackberry (Rubus pubescens), White Goldenrod (Solidago bicolor), New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), Heartleaf Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), Red Trillium (Trillium erectum), and Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum). We also noted Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), Veery (Catharus fuscescens), Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla), Northern Parula (Setophaga americana), Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens), Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens), Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla), Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea), and White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), nearly all by song as our eyes were on the vegetation.

Equisetum sylvaticum
Woodland Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) was common in the Northern White Cedar Swamp understory.  This member of the prehistoric genus Equisetum is one of those plants that just gives you the feel of a boreal community.  Although not showy in the sense of flowering plants, an understory full of the branched branches radiating in whorls around the stems gives a lacy appearance that is beautiful and intriguing in its own right.  Woodland Horsetail grows in moist soils in open woods, shrubby areas, and meadows.  It has a circumpolar distribution; in North America it can be found throughout Canada and into the northern parts of the United States (but particularly in the northern Great Lakes and New England states).

Linnaea borealis
Also in the Northern White Cedar Swamp and along the boardwalk through the bog we encountered Twinflower (Linnaea borealis), a dwarf shrub with paired pink trumpet-shaped flowers.  This is another species that is more common to the north and that reaches its southern limits in the northern United States with the exception of higher elevation areas in the western part of the country, where the altitide provides a climate similar to that in Canada and the northwoods and allows its distribution to push further south.  Also circumpolar in distribution, this species is found in forests and boggy swamps, and it is no wonder after seeing the cute groundcover why Carl Linnaeus named this as his favorite plant species.

Spring Pond Bog
The following morning we travelled to Franklin County, New York and visited what was expected to be the highlight of the trip, Spring Pond Bog, another Nature Conservancy Property.  We started our hike in Mixed Mesic Forest and walked along an Esker before entering the enormous 500-acre Patterned Peatland.  Some of the more characteristic plants that we saw at this preserve include Striped Maple, Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia var. glaucophylla), Northern Shorthusk (Brachyelytrum aristosum), Fibrousroot Sedge, Coastal Sedge (Carex exilis), Nerveless Woodland Sedge (Carex leptonervia), Boreal Bog Sedge, Threeseeded Sedge (Carex trisperma), Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis trifolia), Bunchberry Dogwood (Cornus canadensis), Intermediate Woodfern, New York Fern, Tussock Cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum var. spissum), Harlequin Blueglag (Iris versicolor), Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), Bog Laurel (Kalmia polifolia), Tamarack, Threeleaf False Lily of the Valley, Black Spruce, Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), Bog Labrador Tea, Starflower (Trientalis borealis), Painted Trillium, and two varieties of Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium var. angustifolium and V. angustifolium var. nigrum). Birds of interest included a cooperative Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis), Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum), Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum), Ovenbird, and Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca).  As you will see below, we were not disappointed, as Spring Pond Bog produced what turned out to arguably be the highlight of the trip.

Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea
Another of the characteristic species within the Patterned Peatland community was the carnivorous plant Purple Pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea).  Purple Pitcherplant is a regular part of plant communities such as bogs, fens, peatlands, and swamps, and I don't think I've ever seen it at a site and not taken a photo of it.  Try as I might, I was soon on hands and knees with my camera out to shoot this charismatic species.  Purple Pitcherplant is known from much of Canada and the eastern half of the United States.

Vaccinium oxycoccos
If you aren't familiar with the plant in the photograph above, you may be surprised to find that the fruit that develops when the flower matures is quite tasty and tart and known as Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos).  This small and easily overlooked plant was common nestled amongst the Sphagnum mosses in the Patterned Peatland at Spring Pond Bog.  It is often mistaken for the similar Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), which is the cranberry that is cultivated for commercial use.  Small Cranberry has smaller fruits, leaves that are strongly rolled down along the margins (revolute) and thickly white underneath, and a tiny pair of reddish bracts that are usually attached below the middle of the flower stalk.  Large Cranberry, on the other hand, has larger fruits, leaves that are slightly rolled down along the margins and pale beneath, and a pair of small green bracts above the middle of the flower stalks.  In addition, flowers of Small Cranberry appear to be at the tips of the plants , whereas those of Large Cranberry are on stalks from the middle of the plant .  Small Cranberry grows in bogs, fens, muskegs, and in tundra.  It has a mostly circumboreal distribution, except that it is not known from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.  Its range extends south into the northern parts of the United States, continuing to southern extents at high elevations along the Cascades and the Appalachians.

Carex oligosperma
If asked to name a sedge that occurs in bogs, my first response would be Fewseed Sedge (Carex oligosperma), so we were not surprised to find that this species was common in boggy areas at Spring Pond Bog.  Fewseed Sedge spreads by underground stems known as rhizomes, allowing it to form mats of vegetation.  This method of vegetative reproduction means that the plant puts most of its energy into its underground growth, so it doesn't flower and produce fruit as often as species that don't spread by rhizomes.  Since it often doesn't have flowers or fruit, it is easily overlooked.  In addition to bogs, Fewseed Sedge can be found in poor fens, marshes, and in openings in swamps through much of Canada, around the Great Lakes, and in the New England States; there is also a disjunct population in North Carolina.

Carex pauciflora
A less common sedge with a similar geographical range to that of Fewseed Sedge and that grows in similar plant communities is Fewflower Sedge (Carex pauciflora).  Finding this plant was the highlight of the trip for about an hour, until as you will see below its status was usurped.  Fewflower Sedge is often a small-stature sedge that is easily overlooked.  The mature perigynia are easily dislodged, and they can stick in animal fur or botanist socks, allowing them to be spread by a means not normally used by sedges.

Platanthera blephariglottis var. blephariglottis
As we were botanizing the Patterned Peatland we began seeing orchid leaves that we suspected belonged to White Fringed Orchid (Platanthera blephariglottis var. blephariglottis), but since this is generally a summer bloomer we didn't expect to see it in flower.  Because of the warm spring, however, we were able to find a few plants on 5 June on which a couple of flowers had opened, and sure enough it was White Fringed Orchid.  This beautiful orchid (don't judge it on my photo!) is known from the New England states and several adjacent Canadian provinces south and west to Virginia, Ohio, and Michigan; there is also a disjunct population recorded in central Illinois.  It grows in bogs and peaty meadows, as well as in pine savannas.

Okay, you've waited patiently, so now the trip highlight.  While gingerly walking through Sphagnum and sedges, I was lucky enough to glance down at the right time and to somehow distinguish the greenish-red lips of blooming Southern Twayblade (Listera australis) from the greenish-red sphagnum that was so abundant in the Patterned Peatland at Spring Pond Bog.  Bruce probably thought I'd been shot with how fast I dropped to the ground to see this 20 cm tall gem.  Upon getting down to its level, we were able to find several more individuals forming a small population. 

Listera australis
You may be thinking... "I thought Scott and Bruce were in New York and were seeing species with boreal distributions... what is this 'Southern' Twayblade all about?"  As its common name suggests, Southern Twayblade is mostly a species of the southern United States, found from Texas and Oklahoma to Florida (with a disjunct plant, one plant, found in Missouri recently by one Justin Thomas).  The scattered distribution of the species then continues north along the Atlantic coast, with a few county records as far north in the United States as Vermont; it is also known from a few Canadian provinces.  Southern Twayblade grows in bogs, marshes, and moist forests and can easily be overlooked.  In fact, the best that we've been able to tell, our observation of this small population represents a first record for Franklin County.  In addition, the species is considered endangered in New York, adding to the excitement of finding it.

Listera australis flower close-up, showing the long lip
The similar Heartleaf Twayblade (Listera cordata) is much more widespread and is found in similar habitats.  The lip on the flowers of Heartleaf Twayblade is smaller than that of Southern Twayblade, and the flowers overall are larger than those of Southern Twayblade.  We spent probably an hour photographing Southern Twayblade and taking measurements to justify our identification, as well as taking notes on the population so that we could report it to the appropriate individuals.

Stay tuned for Adirondack Foray, Part II, which will cover the end of our second day as well as our third day of botanizing in the Empire State.

14 October 2012

Backyard Rainbow

Often with photography, timing is everything.  I was lucky this afternoon to catch an extremely vivid rainbow to the east of our property.

This rainbow almost appeared to start on the property next to ours and end in Potato Creek State Park.

For a while, a double rainbow was present, as seen faintly in the photograph below.

Final Harvest of 2012

Lindsay and her friends Amber and Matt collected the final harvest of 2012 this afternoon.  Below is a photograph showing half of that harvest.  Yes, the blue bin is full of tomatillos.

Another great year in the Namestnik garden!

30 September 2012

Worth the Trip (and the Resulting Lack of Sleep)

Memorial Day weekend is always exciting for me, as it means a trip to somewhere in Michigan to meet up with old friends and participate in the Michigan Botanical Club Spring Foray.  This year's foray was centered in Pellston, Michigan (in the Tip of the Mitt) at the University of Michigan Biological Station.  In typical Scott fashion, I pushed the limits of human sleep requirements on this fine weekend.  I worked until after 5 PM on 25 May, then came home and packed my things.  I was finally able to get to bed around 9:30 PM for a three hour nap before heading out for the six hour drive to the field station.  I arrived just in time for a quick breakfast prior to heading out on my first field trip. 

Lake Huron Tansy
On Saturday I joined an all day field trip to Sturgeon Bay Dunes, led by Kathy Bricker.  One of the highlights of this trip was seeing the state-threatened Lake Huron Tansy (Tanacetum bipinnatum ssp. huronense).  In the United States, this taxon is only known from four states, and it is of conservation concern in the three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine) in which it occurs in the Lower 48.  It is also known from Alaska and much of Canada, and looking at the species in the broader sense, it is circumboreal, also occurring in Siberia.  In the Great Lakes region, Lake Huron Tansy is only known from calcareous sand dunes along Lake Huron and Lake Superior. 

Ram's Head Lady's Slipper
We also made a quick stop along a roadside to see Ram's Head Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium arietinum).  This intriguing orchid is a species of conservation concern throughout its United States range (it is known from nine Great Lakes and New England states; it also has a limited range in Canada).  It is most commonly found in calcareous soils of coniferous and mixed forests.  Ram's Head Lady's Slipper is a small orchid that can easily be overlooked.  The only other time I've seen it was when I was taking a brief bathroom break in a boreal forest in northernWisconsin and I looked down and noticed an odd orchid that was just past peak bloom... after finishing up, I bent down and found that I'd happened upon a new county record of Ram's Head Lady's Slipper that without the benefit of my small bladder would have continued to go unnoticed for an unknown number of years.

Dwarf Lake Iris
Caving to the pressures of a flora-happy group that had little regard for getting back to the field station on time, Kathy made another roadside stop to show us Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris), a Great Lakes endemic known only from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario in areas bordering Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.  Some believe that this species should at best be considered a variety of the larger Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata), a species with a more southern distribution.  Dwarf Lake Iris is a rhizomatous species that can form near carpets in the calcareous soils in which it is found, but due to its limited geographical range it is considered federally threatened.  Plants at this location were nearly past bloom when we saw them, with just a few holding onto flowers.  Dwarf Lake Iris is the state wildflower of Michigan.

That evening, instead of getting to bed early like my body told me to, I decided to stay up until after midnight visiting with friends.  The next morning, I was up by 6:30 AM with high hopes of seeing more rare plants on an all day field trip to the eastern Upper Peninsula peatlands with Brad Slaughter.

Dragon's Mouth
Brad does not disappoint.  After an hour long drive and some confusion in getting our group of several vehicles together, we all made it into Eckerman Fen where we saw a mix of calciphiles and acidophiles growing in mucky soils and sphagnum hummocks.  Although a couple of the sedges were highlights for me, the group seemed to enjoy Dragon's Mouth (Arethusa bulbosa) more than any of the other plants we saw in bloom.  I have to admit... even this sedgehead was a bit mystified by the enormous pink blooms of the Dragon's Mouth plants, which occur on relatively short stems growing out of the sides of sphagnum mounds.  Dragon's Mouth grows in bogs, fens, swamps, and sedge meadows in the northeastern states and provinces of North America.

Tussock Cottongrass
We then made a stop at a very different type of peatland community, Trout Lake Muskeg.  The flora was expectedly not as rich here as at the fen because the soil chemistry was more acidic, limiting the number of species that can tolerate site conditions.  However, we still saw a nice mix of plant species, including Tussock Cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum var. spissum).  This circumboreal sedge is found in the northeastern parts of North America in bogs, peaty meadows, and similar habitats. 

Small Yellow Lady's Slipper
As most of our group headed back for dinner, Brad, Rob Liebermann, and I decided to forgo the meal that was covered by our foray registration fees and to continue on to Summerby Swamp to visit another fen community.  As expected, a rich flora awaited us.  Though there were many highlights, it was nice to see a good example of Small Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin), with small lips (pouches), purple sepals and petals, and distinctly vanilla-scented flowers.  For comparison, there were also individuals of Large Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) on the site; these had (slightly) larger lips, green (or at least with less purple) sepals and petals, and flowers with no odor. This elegant orchid is known from fens, wet prairies, and open forests in calcareous soils throughout much of the northern half of North America but is of conservation concern in many of the states in which it occurs.

When we arrived back to the field station, the sun was already beginning to fall below the northern Michigan horizon, and I knew I had to get on the road for home soon.  By 10 PM, I was on my way, stopping to sleep at a rest stop for an hour to help me get home safely by 4:00 AM on 28 May.  Another whirlwind, in a way considered one of the dumber things I've done given that I drove 12 hours round trip for 20 hours or so of botanizing, and given that I slept only 10 hours during this 72-hour period.  But as you can see here, and as I hope to show in posts this winter if I ever get caught up on the rest of the year of botanizing, it was defintely worth the trip.

22 July 2012

The Unexpected Orchid Exhibit Continues

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may be aware that in the five years that Lindsay and I have lived on our property in North Liberty, Indiana, we located two species of orchids on the land formerly used as hog pasture and currently in an old-field state.  First was Ragged Fringed Orchid (Platanthera lacera) on 4 July 2009, and then on 4 September of that same year I came across Purple Twayblade (Liparis liliifolia) while conducting transect/quadrat sampling on our property.  Two orchid species on our property!  Two species, that is, until this spring. 

Sometime this March I noticed the leaves of an orchid along the trails through our property.  I immediately recognized the orchid as a twayblade (Liparis), but the leaves seemed more narrow than the Purple Twayblade I'd found on our property two-and-a-half years prior.  I decided to keep an eye on this orchid with hopes that it would develop flowers.  Then, one day in late May, Lindsay was walking Bootypants and noticed that the orchid had produced flowers.  She called me at work to let me know, and with much anticipation, I asked if the flowers were purple.  To my amazement and delight, the answer was "no, they're green."  I was aware of the green-flowered form of Purple Twayblade (called Liparis liliifolia forma viridiflora), but I also knew that Green Twayblade (Liparis loeselii), which has narrower leaves than Purple Twayblade, has green flowers.  I couldn't wait to get home and walk (it turned out to be more of a jog) to the far western end of our property to have a look for myself.

Sure enough, that excited confusion that I experienced on 4 July and 5 September 2009 was repeated as I gazed upon a single Green Twayblade plant in flower!  During the sampling I conducted on our property on 5 September 2009, I did see a single narrow-leaved twayblade plant without flowers along the northern boundary of our property that I thought looked like Green Twayblade, but I didn't expect to see this species that normally grows in calcareous wetlands (such as fens, pannes, and sedge meadows) in our weedy old-field, so I assumed that it was probably just a narrow-leaved Purple Twayblade.  I went back to that location the following year and couldn't relocate the plant.  Now I am fairly convinced that the plant I saw on 5 September 2009 after already finding Purple Twayblade on our property was in fact the the same species that I saw in flower on 25 May 2012, Green Twayblade.

Although Green Twayblade (also known as Loesel's Twayblade) usually is found in calcareous wetlands, it is not unprecedented to find it in a shrubby old field such as ours. Homoya (1993) mentions accounts of this species in dry, brushy old-fields (such as ours) and young regrowth forests, but these accounts seem to be rare.  Maybe that's because this species is small and inconspicous and old-fields and young regrowth forests aren't on the top of the list for people to botanize.  Or maybe, as Homoya (1993) suggests, this species is expanding its range south and into different habitats.  Or maybe, just maybe, there is a third species of twayblade in the Great Lakes region that grows in drier conditions and that has yet to be described.

For more information on Green Twayblade, see my recent post at Get Your Botany On!.

Anyone care to venture a guess as to what the next species of orchid to surface on our property will be?  I would say that I would be surprised to find another species, but after what we've seen so far, I wouldn't be telling the entire truth.

Homoya, M.A. 1993. Orchids of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science. pp. 136-139.

19 July 2012

Why So Blue When You Can Be White, Yellow, or Pink?

Back on 21-23 May 2012, I was in northwest Indiana to conduct Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis, aka Plebejus melissa samuelis) monitoring.  My coworkers may think I'm being a fairweather fieldworker on days that I do these surveys, as they have to be conducted between 8 AM and 6 PM, it can't be raining, it can't be too cloudy or windy, and it has to be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but I assure them I'm doing it for the butterflies.  It is no lie that I look forward to spending perfect field days searching for a Federally Endangered butterfly.  Does fieldwork get any better than this?

Male Karner Blue Butterfly on Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum)
With the strange weather this spring, picking the best week for my surveys was like me throwing a dart at an accelerating Ferrari.  As I pointed out in a previous post that discussed the life cycle of the Karner Blue Butterfly, each individual lives just one week, and it is best to conduct surveys during the peak flight of the population.  Luckily, I had some help from some friends at The Nature Conservancy and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in deciding when to conduct my first brood surveys .

Female Karner Blue Butterfly on Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis var. occidentalis)
The Blues (Lycaenidae) are an interesting group of small blue butterflies.  There are several similar species or subspecies with very small geographical ranges scattered throughout North America, such as the Palos Verde Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis) in the Palos Verde Peninsula of California, the El Segundo Blue (Euphilotes battoides allyni) in southern California, the Miami Blue (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) in southern Florida, the Fender's Blue (Icaricia icarioides fenderi) in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and most famously the Xerces Blue (Glaucopsyche xerces), an extinct species previously known from San Francisco whose demise was said to be a result of habitat loss due to urban development.  Luckily for me as a botanist who does butterfly surveys, there aren't too many species around here that look similar to the Karner Blue, and those species that do look somewhat similar can be easily distinguished with a bit of patience.

Male Eastern Tailed Blue
Take a close look at the butterfly in the photograph above.  This is an Eastern Tailed Blue (Cupido comyntas), a species that can be confused with the Karner Blue, that lives in the same habitat (but a broader range of habitats), and that also feeds on legumes.  Looking at the hind wing, you can see a small "tail" that easily allows you to tell that this is not a Karner Blue.  In addition, Eastern Tailed Blues may have a couple of orange spots on the hind wing, but there isn't as much orange as on a female Karner Blue, and the male Karner blue has no orange spots on the upper surface of the wings.  Eastern Tailed Blues are generally slightly smaller than Karner Blues, and with some experience you can begin to see differences in the flight patterns of the two species.

Male Spring Azure
Yet another small blue butterfly that inhabits savannas and prairies (as well as other habitats) is the Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon), which is nearly impossible to tell from the Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta) aside from time of year that they are flying.  The azures can easily be distinguised from Karner Blues, as they lack orange entirely on their wings.  Still, when doing surveys for Karner Blues, it's worth checking every small blue butterfly that you see.

Of course, while doing butterfly surveys, I have to photograph a few plants that grow in the same plant communties where Karner Blue Butterflies occur.

Wild Lupine
It is impossible to discuss Karner Blue Butterflies without discussing Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis var. occidentalis).  Wild Lupine is considered the "host plant" for the Karner Blue Butterfly, meaning that the larvae feed on the foliage of Wild Lupine.  The problem is that Wild Lupine is the only host plant for the Karner Blue Butterfly, and habitat for Wild Lupine is declining.  This variety of Wild Lupine is known from the Great Lakes and many Atlantic Coast states, where it grows in sandy soils of prairies, oak savannas, woodlands, pine barrens, and dunes.

Wild Lupine
On occasion while searching through Wild Lupine populations you come across an oddball, such as the plant pictured above.  Wild Lupine plants with white flowers are known as Lupinus perennis var. occidentalis forma leucanthus.  You can see that one of the flowers in the inflorescence above is close to the normal color, so this plant seems almost intermediate between the typical form and forma leucanthus.

Hairy Puccoon
It is nearly impossible to talk about Wild Lupine without mentioning Hairy Puccoon (Lithospermum croceum), as the two are almost always found growing together, they flower at the same time, and their flower colors compliment each other so well.  In addition, Hairy Puccoon is one of the Karner Blue Butterfly's nectar species, meaning that the adults feed on its flowers.  Hairy Puccoon can be confused with Hoary Puccoon (Lithospermum canescens), with which it sometimes grows.  The leaves of Hairy Puccoon have a rougher pubescence and the leaves are more pointed at the tips, whereas those of Hoary Puccoon are soft gray pubescent and more blunt at the tips.  Hairy Puccoon is known from much of the central part of North America, where it grows in sandy soils of prairies, savannas, barrens, dunes open woodlands, and beach ridges.

Sand Coreopsis
Sand Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) is another showy early-blooming species of sandy prairies, savannas, barrens, and open woodlands.  It, too, is a Karner Blue Butterfly nectar species.  Although the North American range of this widely distributed composite includes two Canadian provinces and the entire lower 48 minus the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona (it is even introduced in Hawaii), its range in Indiana is much smaller than one might think, being found naturally primarily only in the northwest corner of the state.  Sand Coreopsis is widely planted and seeded in prairie "restorations" as well as in native landscaping outside of its true range.

Pasture Rose
Also in the sand prairies and savannas of northwest Indiana that Karner Blue Butterflies call their home grows a low-profile thorny species with large pink five-petaled flowers that have a wonderful fragrance.  This is Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina var. carolina), a shrub of the eastern half of North America.  Carolina Rose, as it is also known, grows in sandy or rocky soils of prairies, savannas, open woodlands, and glades.  Karner Blue Butterflies also feed on the nectar of this species.

Clasping Milkweed
I've posted about the ecological functionality of the milkweeds (Asclepias) in the past, so I won't go into detail here.  If you look at the left side of the inflorescence in the photogrpah above, you will see a caterpillar of a Monarch (Danaus plexippus), a butterly species that uses milkweeds as its host plant.  You can also see the broadly clasping and wavy-margined leaves characteristic of this species in the photograph... this is Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis), a species of prairies, savannas, sand blowouts, glades, open woodlands, and dunes throughout the eastern half of the United States.  Although this species is apparently not a known Karner Blue Butterfly nectar species, several other members of the genus Asclepias are, and I wouldn't be surprised to find a Karner Blue feeding on Clasping Milkweed flowers.

Woolly Beachheather
When you think of Indiana, you probably don't have a mental picture that looks like the photograph above, with sparse vegetation in pure sand.  The minimal amount of this habitat in the state is why the shrub in the photograph is considered threateneed in the Indiana.  This is Woolly Beachheather (Hudsonia tomentosa), a plant known from an area northeast of a line from the Northwest Territories to North Carolina.  Sand Heather, as it is also called, is a species of conservation concern in six additional states.  It grows in sand blowouts, savannas, dunes, and pine barrens in areas with little competition from other plants.

I must be a botanist... this post started out about butterflies and ended with photographs of more plant species than butterfly species!

16 July 2012

May and June, Oh Where Have You Gone?

It is hard to believe that it was 13 May when I started drafting this post, at the time called "Catching Up," about my outings from 21 to 30 April. It's been a busy year, to say the least. Since that time I've botanized and birded in six states (a few of them more than once); I am finally getting a chance to catch my breath.  If I stopped taking photographs right now, I would have plenty of material to get me through the depths of the (hopefully white) winter that lies ahead.

In trying to catch up, my next couple of posts, at least as I am planning them, will just be highlights of the last several months.  I'll hit on sites and species in more detail later in the year.  This post contains photographs from four botanical outings in Indiana in late April.

Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis)
Back on 21 April, I joined John Henry Drake for some botanizing in Lake County, Indiana.  I don't often think of this northwestern Indiana county that borders Lake Michigan as being much of a mesic upland forest county, so I was surprised and excited to see Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) on this day.  Showy Orchis is found throughout the eastern half of North America, but is considered a species of conservation concern in five states.  It is less common in the southeastern United States than it is throughout the rest of its range.  This orchid is found in deciduous mesic forests, primarily those with more calcareous substrates.  Goldenseal has a similar range to Showy Orchis, but it is considered a species of conservation concern in 12 states.  It's status in several states is a result of being overcollected for use as a medicinal plant; Goldenseal has been used in a variety of ways, including to treat cancer, diarrhea, liver problems, fevers, pneumonia, heart ailments, and skin ailments, to name a few.  Unlike Showy Orchis, which grows as individual plants, Goldenseal grows in large, dense colonies.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
At the same preserve was a sandy mesic to wet prairie and savanna, more expected plant communities for this part of the state.  The following three species were photographed in these more open habitats.

Northern Sweetgrass (Anthoxanthum hirtum)
One of the most pleasant grasses in the Chicago region is Northern Sweetgrass (Anthoxanthum hirtum, aka Hierochloe odorata and Hierochloe hirta ssp. arctica.)  I originally learned this grass as Hierochloe odorata, and it appears there is some disagreement in the correct latin name for this graminoid, which ranges from the New England area to the upper midwest to the western United States and into northern North America to Alaska.  There must be, however, agreement by all who have ever crushed and smelled the leaves that the vanilla scent emitted by the foliage of Northern Sweetgrass ranks up there with any other scent in nature.  Crush the leaves and let them dry out in your pocket, and at the end of the day you'll have double the aroma.  As a result, this grass was used by numerous Native American groups in religious ceremonies.  Northern Sweetgrass can be found in wet meadows and marshes.

Azure Bluets (Houstonia caerulea)
Azure Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) is a small perennial plant in the madder family (Rubiaceae) that is found throughout much of the eastern half of North America.  Also known by the common names Quaker Ladies and Innocence, Houstonia caerulea tends to grow in sandy or rocky areas with little competition from other species.  The flowers, though only a centimeter or so across, are quite large relative to the rest of the wispy plant.

Canadian Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis ssp. canadensis)
Many plants obtain nutrients through their roots from the soil.  Some plants are carniverous and get their nutrients from insects that they trap in modified leaves.  Other plants are parasitic and steal nutrients from surrounding plants.  Canadian Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis ssp. canadensis) is a hemiparasitic plant, meaning that it can act as a parasite, but that it can also obtain nutrients from the soil.  Found throughout the eastern two-thirds of North America, Wood Betony, as it is also often commonly known, grows in dry open woods, savannas, and prairies.  Canadian Lousewort was used as an edible and medicinal plant in a variety of ways by Native Americans, including as a spinach-like vegetable, as a love charm, and to reduce internal swelling.  The flowers can be entirely yellow, yellow with some red, or entirely red in color.

The following day, Keith Board and I botanized together in central Indiana.  Our primary target was Kittentails (Besseya bullii); in addition to finding our target, we saw numerous other plants of interest.

Kittentails (Besseya bullii)
Kittentails is definitely an interesting plant that seems to be becoming more and more rare over its geographical range.  Known only from a handful of states near the Great Lakes, and listed as a species of conservation concern in all of them, Bull's Coraldrops, as it is also known, grows in dry, acidic areas with sandy or gravelly substrate.  It doesn't compete well with other vegetation and can tolerate full sun or partial shade.  All of the populations that I am aware of are found on gravelly slopes or bluffs above rivers or lakes.  Unfortunately, due to the odd weather year we are having, most of the plants we found were already entirely finished flowering, but a couple of plants, such as the one pictured above, had a few of the more terminal flowers still intact.

Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata ssp. umbellata)
Like Canadian Lousewort, Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata ssp. umbellata) is a hemiparasitic plant.  The only member of the sandalwood family (Santalaceae) in the Chicago region, Bastard Toadflax (so named because of the apparent resemblance of its leaves to those of toadflax [Linaria spp.]) is known from much of Canada and the eastern United States.  It can be found in a variety of dry to mesic loamy and gravelly habitats, including black soil prairies, hill prairies, savannas, open woodlands, and prairie fens.

Sanddune Wallflower (Erysimum capitatum var. capitatum)
Certainly a highlight for me this spring was seeing the charismatic Sanddune Wallflower (Erysimum capitatum var. capitatum, also known as Erysimum arkansanum) in two different hill prairies.  Another common name for this species, Western Wallflower, hints that its geographical distribution is primarily in the western United States, but it ranges to the Atlantic Ocean in scattered counties east of the Mississippi River. Because of its extensive geographical range, habitats in which Sanddune Wallflower is found are also varied: hillsides, valley bottoms, deserts, open woodlands, sandy mesas, chaparral clearings, and alpine areas, to name a few.

Narrowleaf Stoneseed (Lithospermum incisum)
Another species that is much more common west of Indiana, in this case primarily through the central United States and into Canada, is Narrowleaf Stoneseed (Lithospermum incisum).  The specific epithet incisum is a reference to the fringed (or incised) petals on the trumpet-shaped flowers.  Fringed Puccoon, as it is also commonly known, grows in sandy and gravelly prairies.

Cleft Phlox (Phlox bifida ssp. bifida)
Cleft Phlox (Phlox bifida ssp. bifida) is an attractive, low-growing plant of the middle portion of the United States, ranging from Michigan south to Tennessee and west to Kansas.  It is very similar to Phlox bifida ssp. stellaria, but Phlox bifida ssp. bifida has petals cleft about half way to the base, whereas Phlox bifida ssp. stellaria has petals cleft only about one-quarter of the way to the base.  Phlox bifida ssp. stellaria also is known from a smaller geographical area, as it is only recorded from Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  Phlox bifida ssp. bifida grows in sandy or gravelly soils in plant communities including prairies, barrens, savannas, and glades. 

Pride of Ohio (Dodecatheon meadia ssp. meadia)
Being from Ohio, I am happy to use the common name Pride of Ohio for such an interesting plant as Dodecatheon meadia ssp. meadia.  If I were still living in the buckeye state, I probably would have learned this species by this common name, but in Indiana we tend to call it Shooting Star; it was also once referred to as Prairie Pointers.  These common names also seem appropriate, as the flowers look somewhat like shooting stars, and they are pointed and often grow in prairies.  They also remind me of the shuttlecocks that are used in badminton.  Pride of Ohio is known from the eastern half of the United States, where it is found in black soil prairies, hill prairies, limestone glades, fens, and rocky woodlands.  It can increase dramatically following fire, which acts as a disturbance and removes thatch that can prohibit the growth of this species over time.  The flowers do not contain nectar, and as a result the plant has adapted to release pollen at a certain frequency which is created by the buzz of the wings of several species of bees (particularly bumblebees).

Crowpoison (Nothoscordum bivalve)
I've been in the field with people who have seen the plant in the photograph above and said "what onion is that?"  I've answered that question with "smell it," and they soon find that it lacks the onion or garlic scent of the genus Allium.  That's because, although this species has been treated as an Allium in the past, it is not currently treated in the genus Allium, and, in fact, one of its common names is False Garlic.  Such is the plight of Nothoscordum bivalve, Crowpoison, a plant known from the southern portion of the eastern half of the United States and south into South America.  In Indiana and Ohio, two of the northernmost states in which it occurs, Crowpoison is a species of conservation concern.  Crowpoison grows in glades, prairies, fields, and open woods.  There is apparently disagreement on whether or not this species truly is poisonous, so if you eat it and live, be sure to let me know.

Leonard's Skullcap (Scutellaria parvula var. missouriensis)
I have always found the skullcaps (Scutellaria spp.) to be an interesting group of plants, and some of my favorites in this genus are the shorter stature species with small leaves.  At the two sites where Keith and I botanized, we found Leonard's Skullcap (Scutellaria parvula var. missouriensis, formerly treated as Scutellaria parvula var. leonardii), a plant known from much of the eastern half of North America.  Leonard's Skullcap is listed as a species of conservation concern in a handful of states at the northern and eastern ends of its range.  A similar taxon, Scutellaria parvula var. parvula, has leaves and stems that bear stalked glands. Unlike many plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae), the leaves of Leonard's Skullcap don't have a minty odor; they do, however, smell faintly like mushrooms when thoroughly crushed (a characteristic of the genus).  Leonard's Skullcap is found in sand prairies, on hill prairies, in barrens, on glades, and in open woodlands.

Virginia Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)
With the very hot spring that we had in 2012, many plants bloomed at least several weeks earlier than previously recorded early bloom dates.  As a result, Virginia Spiderwort (Tradesantia virginiana) had a very abnormal growth form where we saw it, as many of the flowers were just a centimeter or two above ground, giving it the appearance of the Missouri and Arkansas endemic Wild Crocus (Tradescantia longipes) (so much so, in fact, that I had to pull up the Tradescantia key in Flora of North America on my phone while in the field to make sure that we didn't have a plant new to the state and outside of its known range). Normally, Virginia Spiderwort is more difficult to tell apart from Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) or Long-bract Spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata); it is distinguished from the former by having pubescent sepals and pedicels (glabrous in T. ohiensis), and from the latter in that the hairs on the sepals are not glandular (T. bracteata has stalked glands on the sepals).  Virginia Spiderwort is known from many of the states and provinces in eastern North America, though it is primarily found in the middle of its range, where it grows in open woodlands and fields.

Common Goldstar (Hypoxis hirsuta)
Common Goldstar (Hypoxis hirsuta) is found throughout most of the eastern half of North America.  Because of the grass-like leaves and bright yellow, star-like flowers, another common name for this species is Yellow Star Grass.  This diminutive monocot is found in a wide range of plant communities, including prairies, hill prairies, savannas, open woodlands, fens, and glades.

The following Saturday (28 April), I decided to hike several miles along the St. Joseph River in St. Joseph County, Indiana with hopes of relocating an historic population of Kittentails.  Unfortunately, there were no Kittentails to be found (though I did find habitat at several locations), but I came away with new county records of a couple of plant species, as well as photographs of several other interesting plants.

Tinted Woodland Spurge (Euphorbia commutata)
Although it is found throughout much of eastern North America, I was surprised to find Tinted Woodland Spurge (Euphorbia commutata) during my hike, as this species is very uncommon in northern Indiana.  It can be found growing in mesic forests, in sandy open woodlands, on calcareous outcrops, and in sloping woods along streams and rivers.  Like other plants in the genus Euphorbia, the broken stems and leaves of this species produce a milky sap; there are reports that this sap is poisonous and that it can cause a poison ivy-like rash.

Aunt Lucy (Ellisia nyctelea)
Even more surprising was finding Aunt Lucy (no, not your Aunt Lucy... I'm talking about Ellisia nyctelea) stalking about the slopes along the river in a spot near the Tinted Woodland Spurge plants that I found.  This find was an apparent county record, as Aunt Lucy was previously known mostly from counties along the western boundary of Indiana, with additional populations in a couple of scattered counties in the central and northeastern parts of the state.  Over its entire range, Aunt Lucy is known generally from states and provinces throughout the entire continent with the exceptions of the northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest portions.  The county distribution maps, however, show that this only member of the genus Ellisia is much more strongly distributed through the Great Plains and into the Midwest, with an additional cluster of counties in the eastern United States and scattered counties elsewhere.  You can find Aunt Lucy in mesic woodlands, floodplains, along streambanks, and in waste areas; it does best in areas with recent disturbance, as it cannot persist with heavy competition from other plants.

Robin's Plantain (Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus)
In an area more typical of habitat for Kittentails, I came across a large population of Robin's Plantain (Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus).  This composite (Asteraceae), known from the eastern half of North America, is found in rocky woodlands, savannas, dune woodlands, bottomland woods, prairies, and on streambanks.  Robin's Plantain has larger flower heads than other members of the genus that grow within its geographical range.

On the following day (29 April), I visited Stockwell Woods in LaPorte County, Indiana to collect and photograph a new county record that I observed in a post-flowering state in 2011.  Although I drove to the site specifically for the first plant pictured below, I couldn't resist spending a bit more time botanizing the preserve on this beautiful June-like April day.

Fernleaf Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida)
Fernleaf Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida) is known from Iowa to Arkansas and east to the Atlantic Ocean, but in Indiana it is found in the southern three-quarters of the state, minus the east-central counties.  That's why I was so surprised last summer to find the remains of a population of this species growing in LaPorte County in northwest Indiana.  This population was expectedly introduced and has escaped, but the species can be found growing under natural conditions in rich rocky forests, mesic forest slopes, and floodplains.  As a member of the waterleaf family (Hydrophyllaceae), Fernleaf Phacelia looks somewhat similar to and is sometimes confused with Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum). 

Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata)
In a sandy savanna dominated by Black Oak (Quercus velutina), the showy spring wildflower Birdfoot Violet (Viola pedata) was in bloom.  This charismatic, low-growing violet has deeply lobed leaves that are evocative of, you guessed it, a bird's foot.  The plants at this location and throughout most of northwest Indiana are V. pedata var. lineariloba; another variety, V. pedata var. pedata, has bicolored flowers, with the two upper petals a dark purple and the two lateral petals and spurred petal a lilac-lavender color.  Birdfoot Violet is found within the eastern half of North America, primarily in areas with sandy or rocky substrate, in prairies, glades, savannas, open woodlands, and on sand dunes.

This concluded a busy April of botanizing, but little did I realize at that time just how much busier the next couple of months would be.  Hopefully I have time to summarize my May, June, and July botanizing expeditions before August is upon us.