Well, all right... the scenery today wasn't too stellar. 15 miles of flat road walk, but I did see a trumpeter swan with babies. Trumpeters are pretty special. In 1933, there were only 70 birds known to exist. Now there are over 50,000 thanks to a serious program of protection and re-introduction. They are native, while the mute swans (the ones with yellow beaks and curved necks) are not.
But the fact that not much happened today gives me a chance to show you some neat pictures I've been collecting across North Dakota. There are lots and lots of plants here with silvery-gray leaves. Do you wonder why? Quite often the plants are hairy. Other times, the leaves are waxy. Familiar silver garden plants are things like Dusty Miller and Lamb's Ear. The silver coloration is usually an adaptation by the plants to deal with hot, dry conditions including poor soil and sometimes little water. The leaves reflect more sunlight than green leaves, protecting the plant.
You'll notice a lot of trees with white leaves in North Dakota. Most of these are Russian Olive (not as invasive as the horrid Autumn Olive, but in the same genus). They were widely planted here for windbreaks, but they are alien, so they aren't being used as much any more. The leaves are white on both sides.
A shrub from the same genus, Elaeagnus, that is native is Silverberry. Scott from the Corp of Engineers told me they are planting a lot more of this now. Its fruit is edible by humans, and is also an important food source for sharp-tailed grouse. Elaeagnus leaves get their silver color from small scales.
Here's a plant that was brand new to me. In fact, it was so brand new, I'd never even heard of it. This is Woolly Plantain, Plantago patagonica
. The flower stalks do look a lot like Common Plantain, but the leaves are so different I did not recognize it as a plantain! It's very attractive. As you might guess from the name, this plant is covered with small hairs.
Here's a praire favorite because it is so white. This is Silverleaf Scurf Pea, Pediomelum argophyllum
. The blossoms are small, but they are deep purple. You can hardly believe it, but these leaves are also hairy. But the hairs are very short. The "pea" part of the name is accurate; they are members of the legume family. Several plants in this genus are called Indian breadroot because they grow edible tubers.
And now we come to the Artemesia. These are often collectively called Wormwoods. A popular garden variety is "Silvermound." Dusty Miller is also an Artemesia. In the wild, they can be frustratingly complex, with up to 400 species. Sagebrush is an artemesia. So is Mugwort, a common weed (not white). Many of them are highly aromatic. I am lucky in that I already knew two of the ones I saw here.
The first is Artemisia ludoviciana
, Pasture Sage or White Sage. I have this all over my yard, and I kept trying to get it to grow in my garden, but it likes to ramble rather than collect into a patch that would be attractive.
I also have the next one in my garden at home, and I wish I'd never bought it. It loves Michigan sandy soil and spreads everywhere. This is Artemesia absinthium
, here called Wormwood, and Absinthe in other regions. It's alien, and yes, it is the ingredient in teas, liquors, and medicines with that name. There are some cultivars that have won horticultural awards, but this one is a total pain in a garden.
Now for one that was new to me. I like this one. It does get a bit leggier as it matures, but the younger plants of Artemesia frigida
, Prairie Sagewort or Fringed Sage, are soft and feathery. It was very attractive and fragrant.
I think I saw another kind of artemesia too, but I haven't been able to ID it.
This is probably more than you ever wanted to know about silver plants! If you don't care about the botany, you can always hum, "There's silver on the sage tonight, sprinkled by the moon above..."
Miles today: 15.1. Total miles so far: 2924.4