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.

Purpurea

Continuing with pretty pictures during this cold season. It’s a thin line between blue and purple. Color is a continuum. Color is in the eye of the beholder. If some of these look more blue or pink than purple, well, c’est la vie.

Triodanis perfoliata (Venus’ looking glass; Campanulaceae)

Look for this annual forb growing in rocky places where there isn’t much competition from other plants. It generally blooms from about mid May into early June here in the Maryland piedmont.

Clinopodium vulgare (wild basil; Lamiaceae)

A perennial forb with circumboreal distribution. Look for the flowers in the height of summer.

 

 

Cunila origanoides (common dittany; Lamiaceae)

A perennial native to North America, and found mostly in the mid West and mid Atlantic. It blooms in late summer.

 

Elephantopus caroliniana (Carolina elephant’s foot; Asteraceae)

A rather weedy-looking plant with a fascinating inflorescence. Click on the picture and look closely; you’ll see that this is actually four disk flowers, each with a five-lobed corolla. The species is native to the southeastern US (Maryland is almost as far north as it goes). It blooms in late summer.

 

Eutrochium purpureum (sweet joe-pye weed; Asteraceae).

The joe-pye weeds (formerly Eupatorium species) are perennials that love wet places, but this particular species tolerates drier soils and is a great native for the home garden, with dramatic heads of colorful flowers towering above most other forbs. And it attracts butterflies. Blooms in late summer.

Mentha arvensis (field mint; Lamiaceae)

Another mint-family plant with circumboreal distribution. Another late-summer bloomer.

 

 

Mimulus alatus (winged monkeyflower; Phrymaceae)

Watch for this wetland plant and its almost identical cousin M. ringens var. ringens (Allegheny monkeyflower) blooming in early to mid summer.

 

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot; Lamiaceae)

The mint family sure is represented well here. Look for it in mid summer, possibly covered in bees and butterflies.

 

Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox, wild blue phlox; Polemoniaceae)

As you can see this flower ranges from almost white through lighter and stronger shades of blue and purple. They bloom at about the same time as Virginia bluebells. Bluebells grow in the floodplain while this phlox grows just upland of the floodplain, in still moist (but not wet) woodland soils.

Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant; Lamiaceae)

Yet another mint family mid summer bloomer. Watch for it on rocky outcrops and gravel bars in the Potomac.

 

 

 

 

Ruellia caroliniensis (hairy wild petunia; Acanthaceae)

In Maryland this species is found mostly in the Coastal Plain; in the piedmont it’s restricted to a few sites near the Potomac River (as far as I know – please leave a comment if you know otherwise). Watch for it in late spring and early summer.

Trichostema dichotomum (forked bluecurls; Lamiaceae)

Blue or purple, or splitting the difference? Whatever. This is a most striking plant, one of those OMG finds. Well it was for me, anyway. What a lurid color. Late summer, dry soils, open areas. Yow.

Verbena hastata (blue vervain, swamp verbena, Verbenaceae)

As one of the common names suggests, you’ll find this in wetlands, blooming anywhere from late June to mid August. This is an extreme closeup; the plants are rather tall but the inflorescences rather small.

 

 

Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed; Asteraceae)

All ray flowers with strongly exserted stigmas, no disk flowers. Very tall plant, wispy appearance. Likes wet soils. Blooms in mid to late summer.

 

Viola palmata (early blue violet, three-loved violet; Violaceae)

Violet taxonomy is in flux, and violet species can be difficult to differentiate. This one is relatively easy because of the unusual leaf shape, although even that can be highly variable. Look for it in mid spring in drier woodlands.

Venus’ Looking Glass

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Triodanis perfoliata
Campanulaceae

This beautiful little flower belongs to an annual plant that’s found all over the continental US (except Nevada), and parts of Mexico and Canada, and is considered weedy.

The plant consists of a single stem about 12 inches tall, sometimes taller, usually a little shorter, whose leaves clasp most of the way around, so that the stem appears to be piercing them. The flowers are found in the leaf axils. Only the upper ones open; the lower ones are self-pollinating.

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I find it in the Potomac Gorge in dry, rocky areas, most often growing right up against a big rock.

The genus Triodanis has only five species. Of these, two are found only in Texas, and two others are found through parts on the Midwest.

Triodanis means three toothed, and may refer to either the three-lobed calyces on the lower stem flowers*, or the fact that the seed capsules open into three parts**.

 

*The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
** Illinois Wildflowers website

A Plant That Stays Put

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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.

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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?

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So Unbelievably Blue

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*per the Maryland Biodiversity website

So Unbelievably Red

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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).

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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.

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