Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Roadside Wildflowers

The roadside flora has changed  completely since my Late May Roadside Flowers post.  Drive south from Goshen on Indiana SR 15 and continue about 1/2 mile south of the US 6 intersection.  The wide strip of land to the east, between SR 5 and the railroad, supports a fine show of native wildflowers.

Three species of the Milkweed Family are in bloom.  The suffix "weed" is unfortunate because they are all native grassland plants with beautiful flowers.  I saw monarch butterflies visiting the flowers of all three species.  The orange Butterfly weed will catch your eye first.
Butterflyweed, Ascplepias tuberosa
Whorled Milkweed, Ascplepias verticillata, from the road

Whorled Milkweed is also visible from the road, but you have to pull over and get out to see the small flowers and thin, whorled leaves.
If you double-click on the photo you can see the individual flowers that have their five petals pointing up and their five sepals pointing down, as illustrated in drawing below, from the USDA Plant Database.
This five up & five down flower structure (lower left diagram in the above illustration) is typical of most milkweed flowers, including the A. tuberosa, A. verticillata, and A. syriaca (Common Milkweed), which is growing close by the other two species.
Common Milkweed, Asclepia syriaca. 
Double-clcik on the above photo to see theflower structure.
Common Milkweed pod
Most of the Common milkweed are past flowering - pods have set on.  Bugs are common on the pods and monarch eggs and caterpillars are on the undersides of some leaves.
Flowering Spurge,  Euphorbia corollata
Flowering Spurge is another native plant growing near the milkweeds.  A milky juice exudes from the stem when a leaf breaks off, as happens for milkweeds too, but Spurges belong to another plant family.  Below are other native plants growing nearby
Flowering Spurge (white), Tall Ironweed (purple),Veronia gigantea  
Great Ragweed (center), Horseweed (both sides)
Most people consider Great Ragweed, Ambrosia trifida, and Horseweed, Conzya canadensis, as noxious weeds, even though both are native species.  Both are as tall as a horse and invade disrupted areas.

Two introduced, i.e., not native, that are common along roadsides now are Bouncing Bet and Crown Vetch. 
Bouncing Bet, Saponaria officinalis
Crown Vetch, Coronilla vaira
The Indiana Department of Transportation plants Crown Vetch as a roadside ground cover, but it escapes to neighboring fields.

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