I’ve always been fond of tiny flowers, and ephemeral things (like dewdrops and shadows), so I’m always trying to get the camera lens right in there, to get the closest possible shot, or at least a different perspective. As a benefit, I’ve come to appreciate things in a new way.
plantain-leaved pussy toes
Things like pussytoes, which have never been a favorite. I’d spent some time trying to get good pictures of them, without much success, then one day last week I spotted a stand of pussytoes that looked… strange.
Like the flower heads were coated in spiderwebs.
It wasn’t ’til I got the lens closer that I saw what was really happening – they were going to seed. Quickly. A light breeze was pushing the seeds away as I worked.
This plant is a low-grower, a small basal rosette of gray-green foliage coming up in dry, rocky soils in full sun, with an inflorescence that might stand as much as two feet tall; the flower heads are small, and clustered tightly together. About three dozen species of Antennaria grow across the US, six of which can be found in the mid-Atlantic.
Another common name for this species is woman’s tobacco. I have no idea why.
Venus’ looking glass in bud
about 3/16th inch long
aka spider lily
More than two dozen species of Tradescantia grow in the US; most are natives, a few are alien. Of these, only this one and T. ohiensis can be found in the Maryland Piedmont. The plants stand two to three feet tall, and like moist soils and some shade. The flowers open in the morning and close by early afternoon (maybe later on overcast days). Each flower lasts only one day, but the plant can produce flowers over a period of a month or more.
This is a nice plant for the garden, and there are many hybrids in the nursery trade. Remember, if you garden to benefit wildlife (bees and butterflies visit spiderwort), look for the species rather than cultivars, which are often not recognized by the wildlife you’re trying to attract.
Here are a few brief articles on the subject:
Vaccinium is a large genus, comprising some 450 species worldwide, of which about 40 can be found in North America. You might know them by the common names blueberry, bilberry, deerberry, lingonberry, huckleberry, cranberry… Some of the species can be rather difficult to distinguish unless you examine the fruit, and good luck with that, because just about every mammal feeds on them (including me if I ever get to them first).
The rocky areas near Carderock are covered in these two unassuming little shrubs, which along with V. pallidum are the only Vaccinium species found in the Maryland Piedmont (according to the Maryland Biodiversity Project.) Like most other plants in the Ericaceae (heather family), they like well-drained acidic soils and a good amount of shade.
As with fringtree (May 13), I don’t have any pictures of an entire specimen, because I’ve never seen one that wasn’t crowded in among other trees and shrubs. Whereas you’re likely to find fringetree on bluffs, you’ll find bladdernut right along the river. It, too, is an understory tree, but one that prefers a bit more light and a lot more water.
Bladdernut is more of a Mid-Atlantic and Midwest tree, fairly common throughout its range. It’s small, usually standing about 12 feet tall or less, and unremarkable except for the lovely flowers. And interesting seed-pods.
Chionanthus virginicus; Oleaceae
Like buttonbush and American bladdernut, fringetree is one of those natives that’s fairly common but that you’ll seldom notice, until you see it in bloom. It’s a spectacular sight, with big clusters of flowers (each with petals up to an inch long) hanging from the branches.
I have never been able to get a picture of an entire specimen, or even a large portion of one, because I can never see the whole thing. Fringetrees grow in the understory, and in the Carderock area, at least (where there are dozens of them), they’re always mixed up with the larger trees. They typically stand 10 to 20 feet tall, but in a cultivated landscape can grow taller. They’re native to the southeastern US, where they prefer damp woods, thickets, and bluffs (like Carderock).
If you go looking for them, keep your nose open. Every time, I smell them before I see them. The scent is lovely.
aka woodland stonecrop
I’ve written about this plant before, but it’s a favorite and blooming now. Wild stonecrop is native to Eastern US woodlands. It likes to sprawl across rocks where there is a little bit of soil or leaf mould, and stands no more than eight inches tall.
The inflorescence typically has about a dozen flowers on three branches.
This flower is about 1/4 inch across, and consists of four green sepals, four white petals, eight stamens with purplish anthers, and four pistils.
You can get a sense of scale from this picture (note the fallen leaf at the lower right).
This particular stand is under a tree alongside a very small stream near the base of a large rock formation. The sun was just starting to peek over the rocks as I was taking these pictures.
I spent an hour there, in that one location. Felt like 15 minutes.