Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fringed Gentian, A Late Bloomer

Fringed Gentian at Pokagon State Park, September 28, 2008
The Fringed Gentian is among the last wildflowers to bloom in the fall.  After looking for it in vain for several years Joann and I finally saw it for the first time on September 28, 2008 at Pokagon State Park.  In 2009 we found it in the Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area near Mongo.  To date we haven't found it anywhere closer to Goshen.

On October 3 a friend and I went back to the Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area to look for the gentian.  We searched first at the Mongoquinong Fen that borders the Pigeon River on the west side of CR 600E, 1 1/2 miles west of Mongo.

View of Mongoquinong Fen on north shore of Pigeon River

On the fen
Water flows into the fen from springs in the bluff (at back of above photo) and into the river.  After searching among tufts of sedge, we finally found two Fringed Gentian plants, but the flowers hadn't fully opened (photo below).  Also in bloom were Shrubby Cinquefoil, New England Aster, Fen Thistle, and Black-Eyed Susan.
Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis crinita
We then found several Fringed Gentian flowers fully open (photo below) a few miles away in a wet ditch along CR 150N.  [Click on the photos to enlarge.]

A white butterfly on Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis crinita
Fringed Gentian up close
 Fringed Gentian are few and far between; nonetheless, I enjoy the search.

[Please note: This is the last blog post for the 2011 wildflower season.]

Oct. 3, 2011 - Fall Woodland Wildflowers at Olin Lake Nature Preserve

In April and May local woodlands burst with wildflowers, but as new leaves set on throughout May, the display diminishes.  A different set of woodland wildflowers appears in the fall, not as showy as in the spring, but interesting and beautiful in its own way.  Olin Lake Nature Preserve located about 4 miles northwest of Wolcottville IN [or 7-8 miles south of LaGrange] is a fine place for a fall woodland flower walk.
At the corner of LaGrange County Roads 550S & 125E
Olin Lake is the largest lake in Indiana to have no development on its shores.  The Lake connects on the north to the larger Oliver Lake with many homes.  A trail leads from the parking lot to the south shore of the lake.
The woodland trail ends at the south shore of Olin Lake
Two woodland goldenrods grow near the beginning of Olin Lake trail, the Wreath or Blue-Stemmed Goldenrod and the Zigzag Golden. [Please click on photos to see the plants in greater detail.]
Wreath or Blue-Stemmed Goldenrod, Solidago caesia
Close-up of S. caesia
Flowers of most goldenrod species are at the end of the stem, but flowers of Wreath Goldenrod, S. caesia, are along the stem, between the leaves.  The long, narrow leaves of the Wreath Goldenrod are typical of most goldenrod species' leaves, but the leaves of the Zigzag Goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis, are nearly as broad as long.
Zigzag Goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis
The inflorescence and broad leaves of Zigzag Goldenrod
At least four species of asters are flowering along the trail, but because I have trouble identifying species with subtle structural differences, I'm including the photo of only one, the Big-Leaved Aster.
Big-Leaved Aster, Aster macrophyllus
Tall Rattlesnakeroot is also in bloom, but its small, greenish-white flowers are easy to miss.
Tall Rattlesnakeroot, Prenanthes altissima
A lower leaf of Tall Rattlesnakeroot
Lower leaves of Tall Rattlesnakeroot tend to be three-lobed, but higher up on the stem they are most often unlobed.

By fall fruits are set on many of the plants that flower in spring.  Below are the fall fruit and spring flower of Blue Cohosh.
Berries of Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides
Blue Cohosh green flowers, May 3, 2011
[As always, I will appreciate comments on the accuracy/inaccuracy of any of the plant identifications.]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sept. 28, 2011 Uncommon Plants in a Wet Prairie

Bear Lake Prairie
 On the south shore of Bear Lake at the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College is a wet prairie with a distinct set of plants now in bloom.  [Click for directions to the Learning Center south of Wolf Lake, IN; park in the learning center lot and follow the trail map to Bear Lake Prairie.]

The wet prairie soil is a marl, i.e., a gray mixture of sand, clay and calcareous sediment.  Some of the plants in the wet prairie only grow in wet, alkaline soils; others grow in a variety of habitats.

Trail through Little Blue Stem Grass and many other plants
Little Blue Stem grass is reddish this time of year.  It dominates this wet prairie, but it also thrives in drier habitats..  Between the tufts of Little Blue Stem many other plants, including several uncommon ones, are now in bloom.
Nodding Ladies' Tresses, Spiranthes cernua
Nodding Ladies' Tresses are 12-15 inch spikes 15-40 white flowers stick up in the grass; their long, thin, basal leaves are camouflaged by the grass leaves.
Nodding Ladies' Tresses
Bear Lake Prairie is one of only three places within 50 miles of Goshen where I find Nodding Ladies Tresses, Spiranthes cernua, although the USDA Plants Data Base lists it as occurring in most Michiana counties and in all but a few states east of the Mississippi.  Although S. cernua is widespread, it is nonetheless an uncommon wildflower - most people have neither heard of nor seen it.

Pictured below are other plants that grow in this prairie but which I find in few other places.
Purple Rattlesnakeroot, Prenanthes racemosa

Closed Bottle Gentian, Gentiana andrewsii
Marsh Yellow Cress, Rorippa palustris
The Marsh Yellow Cress has a tiny, yellow, four-petaled flower that is easy to miss; I saw just two individuals.  This is the first time I have ever seen or heard of this plant; I used two wildflower guides to key it out.  [Post script: Please see comments at the bottom of this entry; this identification may not be accurate.]

Shrubby Cinquefoil surrounded by Little Blue Stem
Many Shrubby Cinquefoil, Potentilla fruticosa, plants populate this wet prairie, but they are overshadowed by the Little Blue Stem.   Shrubby Cinquefoil also grows in drier habitats.   Most of the following plants also grow in a variety of habitats.
Blazing Star species, Liatris species
Blazing Star flowers up close
This Blazing Star may be Northern Blazing Star, Liatris scariosa, but after consulting several guides I am still not sure.
Flat-Topped White Aster, Aster umbellatus
There are at least three species of goldenrod growing in the prairie.  
Goldenrod species, perhaps Slender-Leaved Goldenrod
I'm uncertain about the goldenrod above, which for now I'm calling it Slender-Leaved Goldenrod, Solidago tenuifolia (or Euthamia remota in some guides) because of the flat inflorescence and very narrow leaves.  There were few plants of this species in the prairie.

The most common goldenrod in the Bear Lake Prairie is Ohio Goldenrod, Solidago ohioensis.  Ohio Goldenrod is primarily a wetland plant.
Ohio Goldenrod, Solidago ohioensis
Ohio Goldenrod inflorescence
Showy Goldenrod, below, grows in a variety of habitats, not only in wetlands.  They were much less numerous than the Ohio Goldenrod in this prairie.
Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa
Close up of Showy Goldenrod flower heads
Goldenrod pollen does not contribute significantly to allergies. Ragweed pollen is the culprit, but because goldenrod and ragweed flower at about the same time, goldenrod often gets the blame.  Ragweed is one of the many native plants growing in Bear Lake Prairie, but goldenrods are far more numerous.
Common Ragweed, Ambrosia artemisifolia
[As I noted at several places above, I had some problems identifying some of the plants.  Please feel free to comment if you can help improve any of the above identifications.]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sept. 21, 2011 A New Prairie

Two years ago Goshen College students and faculty seeded a prairie along Indiana SR 15 on the south end of the Goshen College campus.  (See Trading turf for prairie and Native Landscaping Project . )

It will take several years of careful maintenance to establish the prairie, but it is off to a solid start.  Below are pictures of plants now in bloom.
Tall Ironweed, Veronia gigantea
Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Ironweed and Cardinal Flower are just beginning to establish in the lowest and wettest part of the prairie.  The majority of the plants flowering now are in the higher and drier places.
Lance-Leaved Coreopsis, Coreopsis lanceolata
Rosinweed, Silphium integrifolium
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta
Black-eyed Susan has hairs all over the stem and simple leaves.  If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will see the hairs.
Three-Lobed Coneflower, Rudbeckia subtomentosa
 Sweet Coneflower, Rudbeckia subtomentosa, is easy to confuse with Black-Eyed Susan unless you find the three-lobed leaves at the base of the plant. 
Three-lobed lower leaves of Three-Lobed Coneflower
Four species of Goldenrod are blooming.  Leaf shape and size and arrangement of the small flower heads vary from species to species, but sometimes the differences are subtle enough that I overlook or misinterpret them.  Therefore, my identifications below may not be accurate.  Please comment if you question my identification.
Canada Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis
Very often this is the species you see along roadsides.  It likely was not seeded in this reconstructed prairie, but is a "volunteer'.
Old-Field Goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis
Note the large leaves at the base of the Old-Field Goldenrod.
Monarch Butterfly on Stiff Goldenrod, Solidago rigida
This individual is leaning way over, but note the rigid stem and rounded leaves.
Buckeye Butterflies on Stiff Goldenrod, Solidago rigida
Grass-Leaved Goldenrod, Solidago graminifolia
Note the flat-topped arrangement of the the flower heads on S. graminifolia.  Botanist K. Yatshievych in Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers calls this species "Common Flat-Topped Goldenrod" and uses the scientific name Euthania graminifolia.
Monarch on Smooth Blue Aster, Aster laevis
 Several species of Asters are now blooming in this prairie.  Asters are as difficult for me to identify as Goldenrods are; again I welcome corrections to my identification.
Clasping leaves of Smooth Blue Aster, A. laevis
One key characteristic of Smooth Blue Aster is the way the stiff, smooth leaves clasp the smooth stem and have little "ears" that extend beyond the stem.  Some species of Aster have hairy stems and/or leaves.

Buckeye butterfly on New England Aster, A. novae-angliae
The bright reddish-purple New England Asters are the most showy in this prairie. There are several species of less showy, white asters that I have problems distinguishing.  The white aster in the photos below could be either "Many-Flowered" Aster, Aster ericoides or Heath Aster, Aster pilosus.
 A white aster, perhaps Aster ericoides or A. pilosus
A. ericoides or A. pilosus