Like a Marble, or an Eye

More small blue things from May. Between travel and rain I haven’t had the opportunity to go hunting in Maryland for several weeks now.

This annual is truly one of my favorites, and I make a point of hunting for it every year. Venus’ looking glass (Triodanis perfoliata) likes poor soils; look for it in open rocky or sandy places.

 

 

I have been having so much fun shooting with The Beast (70-200mm lens). Just look at the sparkle on those petals!

 

 

 

This is a species of Sisyrinchium, probably S. angustifolium though I can’t be sure. Blue-eyed grass is the common name, and indeed the leaves are grass-like. It’s in the iris family.

 

And speaking of irises, the ones I obsessed over last year are going strong. The ones along the canal are, anyway. The ones in the vernal pool are growing like crazy but I haven’t seen flowers on them yet.

I wish I had some new pictures of Baptisia australis to share, but honestly I haven’t even been out to shoot them. We’ve had tremendous amounts of (badly needed) rain in recent weeks, and I know that part of the river well enough to know that one stand is under water. Here’s what they looked like budding up in early May this year.


The other stand I’m sure is fine, but the channel I need to cross to get at them is flooded, too. Here’s a picture from last year.

Winter Blues

Virginia bluebells carpeting a Potomac River floodplain last spring

Happy new year! I’m back, after a truly epic case of writer’s block. Not that there’s anything blooming to write about yet, since the local wildflower show won’t be starting until late February at the earliest, more likely mid-March if this winter stays as cold as it has been. Which has been pretty darn cold compared to the last five years or so, but not that unusual compared to, say, the past 50 years.

At any rate I’m fighting the winter blues by recalling blue flowers I found this past year. Here are a few from the Maryland Piedmont.

Anemone americana (formerly Hepatica nobilis var obtusa; round-lobed hepatica; Ranunculaceae)
This species is hibernal – the basal rosette of leaves will be out right now, though likely hidden under leaf litter. The leaves will die back as the small flowers appear just an inch or two off the ground. In the Piedmont I’ve seen them as early as early March and as late as mid April, though they don’t bloom for long; they just seem highly variable about when they start blooming.

Baptisia australis (wild blue indigo; Fabaceae)
This species is found primarily in prairies, but also occurs in some prairie-like habitats east of the Appalachians, including bedrock terraces in the Potomac gorge. According to the Maryland DNR’s new RTE list, there are only a few populations here. It’s listed S2/Threatened. Finding it is a real treat.

Clitoria mariana (Atlantic pigeonwings, butterfly pea; Fabaceae)
I’ve only seen this in a few places, always in rocky areas in a bit of shade, and there’s never much of it. Start looking in mid June.

 

 

Conoclinium coelestinum (formerly Eupatorium coelestinum; blue mistflower; Asteraceae)
This medium-height plant blooms from June through September in wet soils next to the Potomac River – not right on the banks, but close by.

 

Houstonia caeulea (azure bluet, little bluet, Quaker ladies; Rubiaceae)
These tiny flowers bloom en masse in April and May in moist, rocky soils in open wooded areas. Sometimes you’ll see only a few, but other times you may find them carpeting a meadow. They are really tricky to photograph up close, as even the slightest breeze sets them in motion.

Ionactis linariifolia (formerly Aster linariifolius; flax-leaved aster; Asteraceae)
I’ve seen this species blooming in a rocky meadow in the Carderock area in October of the last few years, but also in open, rocky areas of the Billy Goat A trail – in June!

 

Iris species, either I. versicolor or I. virginica (northern blue flag or southern blue flag; Iridaceae)
These flowers drove me nuts in 2017. I posted many times about my quest to determine exactly which species it is. There are scattered stands along and near the C&O Canal from the Marsden Tract upstream to Widewater; look for it in late May or early June.

Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia; Campanulaceae) stands dramatically tall on riverbanks. I’ve seen two stands of them along the Potomac: one just upriver of the American Legion bridge, the other near Fletcher’s Boathouse in DC.

 

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)
This spring ephemeral often grows in large swaths in floodplains, like in the lead-in photo above. The pink buds start turning blue as they open. This species can also flower in pure white, pure pink, and pale violet; I love hunting for these variations every April.

Phacelia covillei (Coville’s phacelia, buttercup scorpionweed; Boraginaceae)
A short annual plant with tiny flowers that have to be seen up close to be appreciated. Currently listed S2/Endangered by the Maryland DNR, with a proposed change of status to Threatened.

Phacelia dubia (small-flowered phacelia or scorpionweed; Boraginaceae)
A fellow botanerd directed me to a large stand of this species last spring. Most of those flowers appeared white, but up close a few had this pale blue cast.

 

Phacelia purshii (fringed phacelia, Miami mist; Boraginaceae)
Listed S3 in Maryland. I’ve found only three stands of it between the Potomac and the Billy Goat B and C trails.

 

Scutellaria elliptica (hairy skullcap; Lamiaceae)
Look for sparse stands of these from Carderock to the Marsden Tract, in rocky soils where the woods aren’t too dense.

 

 

Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia spiderwort; Commelinaceae)
In some lighting situations this flower looks more purple than blue, but oh well. I’ll cover purple flowers in a future post. The plant has iris-like foliage: broad blades with parallel veins. The three-petaled flowers are another clue that this plant is a monocot. Which gives me an idea for another future post.

Just Pretty Pictures

Writing that series about the irises kinda wore me out. And I may not be done yet: I’m in the process of getting a collection permit.

 

 

 

In the meantime, here are some pictures of Baptisia australis (blue wild indigo). For more info on the species see last year’s post.

 

 

 

These are from May 25 this year. Plenty of light meant I was able to shoot with a macro lens, hand held.

This Just In – Blue Wild Indigo Now Blooming

I hope to post more pictures in a few days, when the iris series is done, but if I wait ’til then these plants will be done blooming, so go looking for them now. Baptisia australis (Fabaceae) is not often see in Maryland. It likes the bedrock terraces in the Potomac Gorge. Be careful of high, fast-moving water and poison ivy. There isn’t much else blooming now, so the color really stands out.

More pics soon.

…But Wait, What’s This?

20160512-_DSC0195Growing close by the wild blue indigo I wrote about yesterday was this plant. No flowers yet, just yellow buds. Light green leaves, not quite as blue-gray as the indigo’s, but with the shape and in an arrangement that strongly suggests the pea family. Could it be Baptisia tinctoria?

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I’ve gone back to that area twice just to look for this plant and have been completely unable to find it. I can’t tell you how pissed off at myself I am – for not taking photos of the surrounding area, to make it easier to find. Oh, and it’s raining again.  Gah!

Persistence Pays Off, Part Two

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Mud, rock, and poison ivy.
——>

That’s what I stepped into and on and over and around one recent morning, down by the Potomac, while trying to photograph wild blue indigo (Baptisia australis, Fabaceae).

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As I wrote around this time last year, I saw flower buds in this stand of plants in 2014, but then there was a bit of a flood and the plants were wiped out. Then, in 2015, I totally missed seeing the flowers, though I did see the seedpods.

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I wasn’t going to miss it three years in a row. Despite an extraordinarily rainy May I’ve trudged out to this area about once a week, then every day or two as I saw the buds developing. The river is running really high, lapping at the rocks where the plants are growing, but it hasn’t covered them yet, though as it turns out the bedrock terraces of the Potomac gorge are exactly the habitat this species loves, so the occasional flood doesn’t bother it at all.

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Wild blue indigo is listed as S2/threatened in Maryland, so finding a big, healthy stand is kinda special. (It’s also threatened in Indiana and endangered in Ohio.) Mostly wild blue indigo grows in Oklahoma and Kansas, with a few occurrences in nearby parts of Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri. According to BONAP’s North American Plant Atlas, it is present but rare in about a dozen states east of the Mississippi River.

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Sonofa…!

I was quite excited to find this on June 6, 2014:

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It was on one of those rock formations that juts into the river. These formations are often covered in poison ivy, but almost always worth the effort. Anyway, these were the only buds in a large stand of the plants.  I made a note to go back a week later and photograph the flowers.

And then, there was a flood.  When I returned, the waters were completely covering the rocks.  A week after that, I went again, and… nothing.  The flood waters were gone, but so were the plants.

I know this plant, because I grew it at my old house.  It’s Baptisia australis (blue false indigo, blue wild indigo), a member of the Fabaceae.  I was excited because it’s threatened in Maryland.

This year, I’ve kept an eye on that rock formation.  Nothing.  Then nothing.  Then nothing… then, on June 10, I decided enough of this game, I’m going out there anyway, poison ivy or no (and boy was there a lot of it).

And I saw this:

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Yep.  Seedpods.  No doubt that this is B. australis, but darn it, two years in a row I’ve missed seeing the flowers!