I Blame the Ants


Wednesday morning I went to check on the downy rattlesnake plantain. The buds weren’t open yet. But I did find a lovely stand of lopseed (Phryma leptostachya), so I took out all the gear and had a lot of fun trying to get extreme closeups.


It was already 80ºF by 9am, humid and dead still, no breeze at all. But the plants were still shaking around. Eventually I saw ants on them. So every few pictures I would move camera and tripod over to a different plant and shoot those flowers, until the ants came back. If any of these pictures are less then perfectly clear, it’s the ants’ fault.



Macro work really requires stillness. It’s hard to do in the field.


Each flower measures about 3/8″ long.


At any rate, I wrote a very detailed post about lopseed last summer; you can read all about it there. This post is just about the pictures. Please click on them to enlarge and see the fine details.


Two Years Old


Happy 2nd Birthday to my blog! I’m celebrating by changing the look. Also by upgrading the account. OK, actually it’s not celebrating; I’ve uploaded so many pictures that I ran out of space, so I had to upgrade.

young fronds of ebony spleenwort


I’m also celebrating by re-posting some favorite photos.  Enjoy.



wild stonecrop












flowering dogwood






enchanter’s nightshade

















cranefly orchid





purple-headed sneezeweed





bee leaving goldenrod



Back to regular blog posts tomorrow!

Another One Missed

Last year I noticed a small stand of pointed-leaf tick trefoil (Desmodium glutinosum) among the lopseed stand along lower Cabin John Creek (a tributary of the Potomac).  The leaf is distinctive:


What I didn’t see was the flowers.  When I went back a week or so later, there weren’t any flowers, but there were a few loments* dangling, tormenting me.


This year when I went to photograph the lopseed, I saw the pointed-leaf tick trefoil again, and a single flower, damaged by rain and barely recognizable.  So I gave it a few days and went back.  Nothing.  No buds, no flowers, no loments.

I was amused, though, to read that both lopseed and pointed-leaf tick trefoil often grow and bloom together.

At any rate, here’s a picture of a single blossom of naked-flowered tick trefoil, a different species (Desmodium nudiflorum), but the flowers are almost identical.



* a characteristic fruit of some plants in the Fabaceae


All About Lopseed


Phryma leptostachya




Here’s another of those summertime woodland plants that has tiny flowers (like vervain, enchanter’s nightshade, honewort).  The plant itself can grow to three feet tall, with leaves about five inches long and an inflorescence about one foot long, but the individual flowers are only about a quarter inch long.

From a distance the flowers appear pinkish; once you get up close, you can see that the three lower lobes are white, with a pinkish upper lobe and three pink-purple teeth on the top part of the calyx.



closeup of flower; it looks very Art Deco to me







the distinctive toothed calyx





the new flower spike; note that the flower buds are lying upright along the stem






the flowers, arranged on the stem in opposing pairs, stand out at a 90 degree angle



When the flowers are finished and starting to form their single seed each, they lie flat along the stem – hence the name “lopseed”.




spent flowers flopping down along the stem





The specific epithet is derived from the Latin “lepto”, meaning thin, fine, slight, and “stachys”, meaning ear of grain.

Once by itself in its own family, lopseed was later placed into the verbena family (Verbenaceae).  Recent molecular phylogenetic* studies have placed it back in Phrymaceae, with about 209 other species to keep it company.

While researching, I found this description from a text published in 1847:

“I. PHEYM A Zfnn. aman. 3 p. 19et gen. n. 738 . Garin, defrucl. 1 p. 3 6 3 I. 7fl. Lam. illuslr. t. 516 , non Forsh. — Leptostachy a Milch. gen. 11 . Calyx tubulosus, 5-nervis, bilabiatus, labiis post anthesin ronniventibus , superiore tripartito laciniis subulatis apice reduncis, inferiore brevissimo bifido. Corollas tubo labium calycis superius acquante, limbo bilabiato, labio superiore emarginato, inferiore majore trilobo , fauce nuda. Stamina inclusa. Ovarium oblongum. Stylus filiformis; stigma brevi ter bifidum , cruribus anguste lamellaribus. Caryopsis calyce inclusa; pericarpio membranaceo , 5-nervi, stylo persistente terminato, semini adnato. Semen cavitatemi pericarpii omnino implens. Reliqua ut in charactere ordinis. — Genus slructurà et patria perinsigne , a nonnullis cum Priva, maxime alieno, confusimi, fructu jam a Gasrlnero eximie explorato.”  [Digital Library]

Sadly, I don’t read Latin, though I’m good enough with cognates to get parts of it.

Lopseed is found from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic, in the United States and Canada, and also in California.  It is considered possibly extirpated in Maine.


*phylogeny is the evolutionary history of an organism
in molecular phylogeny DNA sequences are analyzed to determine evolutionary relationships among organisms

Flower of the Day: Southern Agrimony

aka harvestlice, aka swamp agrimony (Agrimonia parviflora); Rosaceae (rose family)


I know, I know, you were expecting a picture of a flower.  This species of agrimony has small yellow flowers, about 1/4″ wide at most, that are very typical of the rose family. It’s another example of medium-sized plants with long, spiky inflorescences and itty bitty flowers (like vervain, jumpseed, lopseed).

I like this plant for the sound of the name, which comes from the Greek for “poppy”. But really, it’s about the leaf.  Is that not a fascinating leaf?  Shown above is a single, pinnately compound leaf, with 17 primary leaflets and about 30 secondary leaflets.  Nevermind about the flowers, I just love the plant:

20140807-DSC_0090  Okay, here are some flower pics:

20140806-DSC_0126This one is actually a different species: common agrimony (A. gryposepala).  Leaf is not nearly as nifty: 20140721-DSC_0484 Southern agrimony flowers are similar to common agrimony flowers: