Wolf Foot

20150822-20150822-_DSC0121

Virginia bugleweed, aka Virignia water-horehound (and a host of other common names)
Lycopus virginicus
Lamiaceae

The last photo in yesterday’s post showed most of a single boneset, with a few other plants to its left – plants with small white flowers.  They didn’t really register the day I took that photo. It was my first time out in a kayak with a camera (an ancient point-and-shoot with very low resolution), and I wasn’t able to maneuver close to the plants, and anyway I was totally focused on the boneset leaves.

So much for excuses.  I was looking at the picture on the computer and thought “what in the world…?”  So I went back with a better camera (cleverly though cumbersomely packed to keep it dry) and got better pictures.

20150822-20150822-_DSC0119

But not great pictures.  I was still unable to maneuver close to the plants, and the water was choppy, making it exceptionally difficult to keep the camera still.

It was quick work to get to the genus Lycopus, but I’m still not sure the species is correct.  With help from the Maryland Biodiversity website I narrowed it down to three.  Cross-checking with the excellent, detailed dichotomous key at gobotany.com didn’t help much, because I didn’t have enough or the right details in the pictures.   And the Illinois Wildflowers site, one of my go-to resources, offered some contradictory information.

One thing I did learn: this is considered a tricky genus.

At any rate, the bugleweeds/water horehounds are wet soil lovers (as is everything I’ve found growing in the lower Potomac Gorge).  This one ranges from the Atlantic coast as far west as Texas and Minnesota. It’s threatened in Michigan.

Why “Lycopus“?  Beats me.  The lower leaves of some of the species are sharply lobed (more so than this one).  Perhaps someone thought they looked like a wolf’s foot.  Common names tell us more about the name-givers than about the plants.

20150822-20150822-_DSC0123

UPDATE 12/30/16: I am virtually certain, after much study, that I got it wrong. This one is northern bugleweed, Lycopus uniflorus.

Leafpiercer

20150821-_DSC0079

boneset
Eupatorium perfoliatum
Asteraceae

I’m not sure what compelled me to look closely at this particular cluster of tiny white fuzzy flowers.  They’re all over the place at this time of year, in the form of late-flowering thoroughwort and white snakeroot.  But for some reason I pulled the kayak up close to this one islet near Fletcher’s Cove, and there it was.

20150821-_DSC0078

This was a big deal because I’ve never actually seen this plant, despite it being fairly common.  What sets it apart from the other Eupatoriums is the paired, clasping, opposite leaves that make it look like the stem is piercing a single leaf.

There’s nothing about the flowers to distinguish them from other bonesets or thoroughworts.

Boneset likes sun or a bit of shade and wet soils and is tolerant of flooding, so the rock outcrops near the banks of the Potomac are perfect habitat for it.  The native range is from Texas north into Manitoba and all the way east to the Atlantic.

The genus Eupatorium once contained hundreds or species, including (in this area) the various bonesets/thoroughworts, mistflowers, snakeroots, and joe-pye weeds.  Those last three have been moved to other genera, but that is a subject for another day.

20030101-20030101-IMGP0240

…hey, what about the other white flowers in that picture?  Stay tuned!

Lepidopterans Photobomb My Mistflower Shoot

20150823-_DSC0108

I’ve been trying for two weeks now to get some up-close, detailed shots of various flowers to write a post about plants currently and formerly classed in the genus Eupatorium.  With blue mistflower it’s fairly easy as there’s a nice clump growing in my garden.  But a skipper and a butterfly just wouldn’t leave the plants alone.  I’m not complaining; it was a good opportunity and a pleasant way to spend time on a lovely afternoon.

20150823-_DSC0084

Pictured:
blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum; Asteraceae)
a skipper (little glassywing?)
eastern tailed-blue butterfly (Cupido comyntas)
20150823-_DSC0103 20150823-_DSC0104 20150823-_DSC0105

Blue mistflower is a common plant of partly sunny, wet places – you’ll see it frequently close to the banks of the Potomac, where it blooms from mid to late summer (at least). It can be found from Florida north to New York, east to Texas, and from there north to Nebraska.  It’s a nice native alternative to the similar-looking common garden plants known as ageratum, about which a plantsman at a botanic garden where I used to volunteer would always roll his eyes; he called them “droopy Maryland swamp plants”.  Don’t know where he got “droopy” from.  Anyway, they are growing so vigorously in my evergreen garden – which isn’t particularly wet – that I’m a bit worried they’ll become weeds.

A Plant That Stays Put

20150821-20150821-_DSC0094

obedient plant, aka obedience, false dragonhead
Physostegia virginiana
Campanulaceae

Another find from my exploration of the lower Gorge by kayak.  I seem to have missed peak bloom, as there could be up to two dozen blossoms per foot-long spike.

20150821-20150821-_DSC0022

Obedient plant is a favorite of native plant gardeners, as it grows vigorously in good soil and sun, and is deer resistant.  Its native range is across most of the US and Canada but for most of the West.  It’s listed as special concern in Rhode Island, and is threatened in Vermont.

About a dozen species of Physostegia grow in the continental US and Canada; of these, P. virginiana is by far the most widespread, and the only one found in the mid-Atlantic Piedmont.

These plants were growing right atop the rock outcrops in the Potomac near Fletcher’s Cove, where I’d expect there is little soil that’s frequently flooded in the spring when the river level is higher.

About those common names… supposedly, you can twist each flower into a different position and it will stay put, at least for awhile.  How do people come up with stuff like that?

20150821-20150821-_DSC0019

Skippers Photobomb My Pickerel-Weed Shoot

20150825-_DSC0106

Pontedaria cordata
Pontedariaceae

 

Pickerel-weed is an emergent aquatic, so you’ll find it along shorelines, forming large colonies of four-foot tall plants that bloom from summer into autumn.
20030101-20030101-IMGP0249

The flowers have two lips, an upper lip with two lobes and a lower lip with three lobes.

I’ve never seen it in the upper Potomac Gorge, but found masses of plants along the shores of the river downstream of Chain Bridge.

 

20150825-_DSC0115

 

The flower spikes and heart-shaped leaves are typically about six inches long.
20150825-_DSC0130

 

 

 

 

 

And the skippers adore it.  I believe the one on the left is a male zabulon skipper (Poanes zabulon); the one on the right is either a female zabulon or a clouded skipper (Lerema accius).

Pickerel-weed ranges from Texas to Minnesota and east (and is also found in Oregon and British Columbia).  It’s threatened in Kentucky yet considered weedy by some authorities.

20150825-_DSC0119

peekaboo!

By the way, pickerel-weed flowers are generally a blue-violet color.  All the pictures on this page (except for the colony) are of the same spike; I think some combination of shifting sunlight and camera position accounts for the apparent discrepancy in color.

So Unbelievably Blue

20150822-_DSC0129

great blue lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica
Campanulaceae

 

Here’s a cousin of yesterday’s unbelievably red flower.  Like the cardinal flower, great blue lobelia is a plant of wet places.  This single plant was growing right at the water’s edge near Fletcher’s Clove in the lower Potomac Gorge (in Washington, DC.).  I looked all around for others, by boat and on foot, but this was the only plant I could find.

Getting good pictures of it was darn near impossible.  I could only get so close in the kayak, there was no place to land, and the sun was in a less-than-ideal position.

20150822-_DSC0132

 

seen from the water, mid afternoon

 

When I went back a few days later to try from the shore, I still couldn’t get close: the bank was too steep, I couldn’t maneuver to different positions, and the sun was, again, not cooperating.

20150825-_DSC0042

 

 

 

the very same plant, seen from the land three days later, early afternoon

 

Great blue lobelia is found in the US and Canada from the east coast to the Great Plains.  It’s listed as possibly extirpated in Maine, endangered in Massachusetts, and exploitably vulnerable in New York.

Twenty seven native species of lobelia can be found in the US, eight of which occur in Maryland*.  One of these, Indian tobacco, is fairly common in the Carderock-Marsden Tract area.

20150825-_DSC0039

*per the Maryland Biodiversity website

So Unbelievably Red

20150821-20150821-_DSC0008

cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis
Campanulaceae

 

Of the more than 370 different flower species I’ve seen in the last two years, this is the only one that is truly, unequivocally, red.  So very red, I practically squeaked upon seeing it.  So very red, I actually beached the kayak and got out to take some photos (in the shade, in a strong, steady breeze).

So very red, you’ll be forgiven for thinking I tinkered with the colors in processing (I didn’t).

20150821-20150821-_DSC0004

This stand of plants was right by the water, under the woodland canopy – exactly the habitat it prefers (wet with some shade).  I explored every little cove and rock outcrop (okay, not every one) between Fletcher’s Boathouse and Chain Bridge, on both shorelines (DC and Virginia), and saw no others.

Cardinal flower is found all over the continental US, except for parts of the northern Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest.  It’s listed as “salvage restricted” in Arizona, is threatened in Florida, and is exploitably vulnerable in New York.

20150821-20150821-_DSC0009