Long-Tube Valerian

Two weeks ago I mentioned long-tube valerian in a post. This plant bedevils me. It grows in the deep, deep shade of the woods, often along the banks of seasonal streams and in other very moist soils. The deep shade makes it difficult to photograph, especially since I need to use a very small aperture to get the entire inflorescence in focus.

Valeriana pauciflora, whose other common names are few-flowered valerian and large-flowered valerian, is in the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family), and is listed S1/endangered by the Maryland DNR. Its native range is restricted almost entirely to the Ohio River drainage basin, along with a few occurrences on the lower Susquehanna River, central Maryland, and northern Virginia.


The plants I’ve seen consist of a single delicate stem that grows to about two feet tall, sporting a terminal cyme of flowers. The compound leaves have 3 leaflets each, the terminal leaflet often with an elongated tip. According to descriptions I’ve read in other sources, there can also be inflorescences in the upper leaf axils; sometimes these are described as panicles rather than cymes; also, the leaves can have as many as seven leaflets.

The are fourteen other Valerian species found in North America, only one of which is in the mid-Atlantic (barely).

I’ve never managed to do it justice in pictures. This one from 2014 is still my favorite.

But I’ll try again next year.

Shrub of the Day: Elderberry

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Sambucus canadensis, aka
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis
Caprifoliaceae

 

Elderberry is a small, many-stemmed shrub, found in the woodland understory in riparian areas all over the US, except for a few states in the West and Northwest.

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The foliage is lush, with odd-pinnate compound leaves,

 

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and in good growing conditions masses of tiny flowers in large, umbel-like panicles.

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You won’t see it growing like this in the wild, though.  This is an established specimen in my garden.

 

 

Elderberry is useful, providing good food and cover to wildlife and useful wood to humans.  (And fruit, of course, though not commercially.)  All the ecology, horticulture, and ethnobotany you’d care to know can be found on this USDA page.

Maybe I should re-name this site “Elizabeth’s Flowering Tree Blog”. Between rain and commitments to other projects, I haven’t been getting out to the Gorge much.  And when I do, tree flowers are what I’m seeing.

Flower of the Day: Long-Tube Valerian

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aka few-flowered valerian
(from the specific epithet)
and large-flowered valerian
Valeriana pauciflora
Valerianaceae
(sometimes Caprifoliaceae)

 

From Florida to Alaska, there’s a valerian for almost every state (except for a few Great Plains and Midwestern ones). Fifteen native species occur across the US and Canada, plus one alien: Valeriana officinalis, the European plant used in alternative medicine.  Of the natives, only V. pauciflora is found in Maryland, and this species has a narrow range, from Pennsylvania to Illinois and south to Tennessee (with a few occurrences in northern Alabama).

The USDA site shows it in Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland; the Maryland Biodiversity Project shows it in Montgomery and Harford.  Either way, it’s endangered in the state.

20150514-20150514-_DSC0140That makes it even more special to stumble upon.  I’ve found five discreet stands in the Potomac Gorge; there must be more.  One of these stands comprised at least one hundred individual plants. Absolutely glorious in full bloom.

Each of these stands is located in deep woods, in low areas that are consistently moist but not wet. Not in the Potomac floodplain proper, but often along the banks of deep-cut rills just above it.

(<—– isn’t that elegant?)

 

20150507-20150507-_DSC0075Whenever I see a deep tube on a flower, I wonder who pollinates it.  Internet research got me almost no information, except this from the excellent Illinois Wildflowers site of Dr. John Hilty: “The long slender corollas suggests that the flowers are pollinated by bumblebees, butterflies, Sphinx moths, and possibly hummingbirds. The nectar of the flowers is inaccessible to most insects with short mouthparts.”

I’m not the most patient hunter.  Maybe next year, I’ll sit quietly in that hundred-plant area and see who comes visiting.

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emerging foliage, April 6

 

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budding up, May 1