Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011 Scarlet Splendor in the Elkhart River Floodplain

Cardinal Flower along the Elkhart River
From the Rieth Interpretive Center at 410 W. Plymouth, Goshen, take the path close to the Elkhart River.  Just as the path goes over the culvert for a ditch, walk off the trail, along the north side of the ditch, down toward the river.  You are now in a floodplain.  Near the river's edge you will see a great show of Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.  This is the most extensive show of Cardinal Flower I have ever seen.
A view across the floodplain
Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Like other Lobelia, the flower has three petals pointing down and two pointing up; the petals join to form a long tube. [This link contains this quote: "Since most insects find it difficult to navigate the long tubular flowers, Cardinal Flower depends on hummingbirds, which feed on the nectar, for pollination."]

Another showy flower of the floodplain is the Orange Jewelweed, or Spotted Touch-Me-Not, Impatiens capensis.  If you click on the photo you can see the seed pods that will eject their seeds when touched.
Orange Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis

Less showy section of flood plain
There are other, less showy flowers now in bloom throughout this floodplain forest.  Lizard's Tail, Clearweed, and False Nettle are the dominant flowering herbaceous plants in the above forest floor photo.  The trees that make up this floodplain forest include Silver Maple, Sycamore, Cottonwood, Hackberry, Swamp White Oak, Pin Oak, Green Ash and others.
Lizard's Tail, Saururus cernuus
Clearweed, Pileas pumila
False Nettle, Boehmeria cylindrica
Because both Clearweed and False Nettle have green flowers at the axils of the leaves, the flowers are not easy to see.  [If you click on the photos the flowers will show up more.] Both are members of the Nettle Family.
Spicebush berries, Lindera benzoin
Spicebush has yellow flowers in early spring.  The red fall berries are very aromatic when crushed.

Two plants now in bloom that grow in flood plains, as well as other moist areas, are Creeping Smartweed, Polygonum cespitosum, and Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana.
Creeping Smartweed, Polygonum cespitosum
Pokeweed flowers, Phytolacca americana
Pokeweed fruit at varied stages of development

1 comment:

  1. After correspondence with a professional botanist, I corrected the identification of the Smartweed above from Polygonum pensylvanica to Polygonum cespitosum. P. cespitsum is an introduced species, whereas P. pensylvanica is a native species. There are many locally occurring species of Polygonum; I find it difficult to differentiate between some of them.