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Friday, April 18, 2014

Three Buttercups

I got pictures of three species of buttercup in Alabama. Only one of them is new to me, and we'll do that first. Actually, my best photo of it is actually a small bee on a blossom. The flower is heavily chewed by something. This is hispid buttercup, Ranunculus hispidus.

Do you know what hispid means? It means hairy- actually stiff hairs. And these stems are very hispid. It makes this buttercup easy to identify. You can see them sticking out along the stem.

hispid buttercup leaves

The other two are common everywhere, and I've seen both before, but now I have a better idea of how to tell them apart. First is kidneyleaf buttercup, Ranunculus abortivus. It's not very showy. You've probably seen it and didn't even bother to look or know it was there.

kidneyleaf buttercup

I'm sure you are now protesting and saying those leaves aren't kidney shaped at all! Right. However, there is a basal leaf that often withers when the plant is full size, that is shaped like a kidney. It's a definitive feature of this species. Also note the seedhead that's round like a little spiked ball.

Here's Cursed Buttercup or Cursed Crowfoot, Ranunculus sceleratus. Looks really similar, right? However, the seedhead is elongated like a thimble. And if you find the basal leaves, they are lobed, not rounded. Now I think I'll be able to remember the difference.

cursed buttercup

And why is it cursed? Because the sap can cause skin irritation. This one almost always grows in swampy areas, whereas kidneyleaf will grow in lawns, or almost anywhere.

See A Cup Full of Sunshine for two other buttercups
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Henbit Deadnettle

Here's a little alien beauty. I got good pictures of it in Alabama, but it grows pretty much everywhere in the East.

henbit deadnettle

Yes, this is closely related to the deadnettle you plant in your gardens. This is Lamium amplexicaule. It's a dainty little thing. The plants are about 8 inches tall and each blossom is maybe a half inch long. It will carpet whole lawns or fields in spring.

henbit deadnettle

But look closely. It's gorgeous! And the leaves are supposedly edible. I'll have to try that when (and if) we ever get spring here.

henbit deadnettle

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Textures Involving Water

These are three pictures from the southern trip, all involving water, that I just like for the "feel." And they are all different.

The first is Cane Creek:

water on rocks

I'm sure you can tell this is just a reflection but I like how it slides from seersucker to shiny.


This one was pure luck. The backdrop is Shoal Creek, and the camera totally blurred it out to give a soft background to the bare branches.

bare branches

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oh, Those Common Names

One new plant today, and a little discussion. This plant is tiny, but I think it's a little beauty. It's Cumberland or Mercury Spurge, Euphorbia mercurialina, another southern species.

Cumberland spurge

Euphorbias, like this is, are the plants I usually think of as being called spurges. I've shown you a number of succulent ones from the Philadelphia flower show. And there are some that grow wild around here. I haven't done a good job of getting their pictures yet.

But remember yesterday, I said the plant that looks something like an orchid, that Chuck said looks like a maggot tree (it does, too), is called Allegheny spurge. These plants are not related at all.

As it turns out, the word spurge comes from Middle English where it means to purge. The milky sap of many of the plants with that common name is a strong laxative, if not outright poisonous.

Here is one more Euphorbia from the 2009 flower show, that I really loved. Euphorbia x martinii 'Tiny Tim' spurge

This is just a reminder that common names are fine to use, but they can't really tell you about the relationships of plants to one another like the Latin names can.

See Philadelphia Flower Show 2013: Euphorbias
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Monday, April 14, 2014

More White Flowers

There is SO much to learn and so many surprises with plants, I just can't get enough of them. But I hope I'm not boring you. I'll group three together today. The only things they have in common is a white blossom, and that they are native to the south.

First let's do a tree. This is the Little Silverbell Tree, as near as I can figure. It's one of the Halesias, but the taxonomy is all goofy as to the genera. So I'm calling it Halesia carolina. It was just calmly doing its blooming thing off the in the woods and no one was paying the least bit of attention to it. But it was beautiful!

photo label

Now, how about a shrub? A tiny shrub, which I guess is now called a sub-shrub. Anyway, you probably know one of its cousins, and if you have a shade garden you may even own some. This is Allegheny spurge. (More on that topic tomorrow). But it's really a Pachysandra. The one that gets planted in gardens is a Japanese Pachysandra. This one is native, Pachysandra procumbens. If you know the garden plant, this one has similar leaves, but the flower of this one is much more striking.

photo label

Finally, a little herbaceous gem. This grows like a weed in the south- just a common plant no one pays any attention to. But it's beautiful. It's called False Garlic, Nothoscordum bivalve. That's a mouthful. I can't seem to find out too much about why it's a false garlic, except that it doesn't smell like garlic or onion, and that may be the only reason. It's a cousin plant, in the same family and subfamily.

photo label

And that's enough for today!

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