One More Fumitory

 

Monday morning I went out to shoot a very special plant (like I did with white trout lily the previous week), and was surprised to find a large number of short-spurred corydalis growing with it (more on the other plant next time).

Also known as yellow corydalis, yellow fumewort, yellow fumitory, and yellow harlequin, Corydalis flavula is a small annual forb, growing to about a foot tall and bearing flowers in racemes. The flowers are about a quarter to a half inch long.

C. flavula is in the Papaveraceae, closely related to the Dicentra species I wrote about a few days ago. Like other species in the fumitory sub-family, it has two very short sepals, two inner petals, and two outer petals. One of the outer petals is spurred and one isn’t. The leaves are typical of the fumitories as well, compound with lobed leaflets, giving a ferny look to the plant.

This might be an example of a disymmetric flower, with two perpendicular planes of symmetry. So help me I’m tempted to go find one and dissect it, because I’ve never been able to get a detailed enough photo. Disymmetric or no, it certainly is complicated.

I’m not sure how many species of Corydalis are found in Maryland. BONAP shows only C. flavula present, while Maryland Biodiversity Project lists one other but has no records for it, and USDA PLANTS shows two others. C. flavula ranges from northern Florida to New York, and west as far as the eastern Great Plains. It’s threatened in Connecticut and Michigan.

Squirrel-Corn

After all the research into the borage and waterleaf families I was looking forward to writing a short little something about this odd yet charming spring ephemeral. Then I went to verify a few facts and saw references to both the fumitory family (Fumariaceae) and the poppy family (Papaveraceae).

Oh, no. Not again.

Short version: pretty much the same thing happened with these two families as with the other two. The interesting thing, to me, is that fumitory-type flowers look absolutely nothing like poppy-type flowers, while the borage and waterleaf flowers (eg Phacelia and Cryptantha species) look an awful lot alike. But then, classification is based on phylogeny, not morphology.

At any rate, flowers previously placed in the fumitory family do have similar features, namely two very small sepals and four petals in two pairs, the outer pair being somewhat squashed and spread-out looking. The symmetry is either bilateral (one plane of symmetry) or disymmetric, meaning there are two planes of symmetry, perpendicular to each other.

Other flowers in the Papaveraceae look like, well, poppies, with radial symmetry.

Back to squirrel corn. In Maryland it’s found in a few parts of the Piedmont and all the physiographic provinces to the west. It’s close relative Dutchman’s breeches is more widespread, in most of the state except parts of the Coastal Plain. A third species, D. eximina, is found in Prince George’s, Montgomery, Allegany, and Garret counties, and is listed S2/threatened. I haven’t seen it yet, but I really want to, because it, too, has funny common names: turkey corn and wild bleeding heart.

Other fumitory-type flowers found in Maryland include one species of Adlumia, three types of corydalis, and one (alien) species of Fumaria. The popular garden ornamental bleeding hearts (formerly Dicentra spectabilis, currently Lamprocapnos spectabilis) is native to Asia.

Dutchman’s breeches with green foliage

A large patch of the forest floor near the white trout lilies is carpeted in the finely dissected foliage of squirrel corn and Dutchman’s breeches. I’ve noticed that the latter species has a consistent medium green color, while the former is somewhat bluish (glaucous). But less than a mile away, near Plummer’s Island, there’s a stand of the two Dicentra species growing together where the foliage is indistinguishable. I’ve heard that other native plant enthusiasts have observed the same thing, and that some have observed the opposite. Not sure what to make of that, except that it isn’t a reliable way to distinguish the two species. You have to see the flowers. (Or the corms, but I don’t advocate digging up plants growing in public lands.)

squirrel corn with glaucous foliage

Dutchman’s breeches seems to bloom about a week or so before squirrel corn, at least in the Potomac Gorge. It’s close to done now, but squirrel corn should still be blooming.

A note about common names

Timothy Coffey in his well-researched The History and Folklore of North American Wildflowers (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994) gives common names for about 700 species of plants. Many of these names are probably historical and no longer used, but if you’re interested in such things it’s a fun resource. The following list is from the book.

Dicentra canadensis: colicweed, ghost-corn, Indian-potatoes, ladies-and-gentlemen, lyre-flower, stagger-weed, turkey-corn, turkey-pea, white-hearts, wild-hyacinth

Dicentra cucullaria: bachelor’s-breeches, boys-and-girls, breeches-flower, butterfly-banners, colicweed, dicentre à capuchon, eardrops, flyflower, girls-and-boys, Indian boys-and-girls, kitten-breeches, leather-breeches, little-blue-stagger, little-boy’s-breeches, monkshood, pearl-harlequin, soldier’s-cap, stagger-weed, turkey, white-eardrop, white-hearts.

I know one woman who calls D. cucullaria Dutchman’s-britches.

Consanguinity?

Yesterday’s post had a quote about twinleaf being distinct from Sanguinaria and Podophyllum. All three have their similarities, especially in the flower, which in each case is large and white with numerous petals. Twinleaf is in the genus Jeffersonia, which has only two species, while both Sanguinaria and Podophyllum are (currently) monotypic genera. The latter is represented by P. peltatum, mayapple or maypop, which like twinleaf is placed in the barberry family (Berberidaceae). The former is represented by S. canadensis, bloodroot, which is in the poppy family (Papaveraceae) and blooming now in the Maryland piedmont. I’ll write about maypop once they’re blooming and I can get some pictures.

Bloodroot is a perennial plant that forms colonies from the rhizome, so more likely than not if you find one, you’ll find others nearby. The roots contain a reddish-orange sap, hence the name Sanguinaria, which means bleeding. The plant stands a little less than a foot tall, with a single multi-lobed basal leaf that emerges with the single flower stalk; while still young the leaf clasps the stem, but as the flower fades it opens fully. Although it doesn’t have the mirror-image symmetry of the twinleaf, you can see why early botanists might have considered the two closely related. (Until fairly recently, taxonomy was based largely on flower and fruit morphology.)

The flower can be large (up to three inches in diameter), with eight or more petals, two sepals, numerous stamens, and a single pistil.

Bloodroot is one of the spring ephemerals, and has a wide native range, occurring in some areas to the west of the Mississippi River but primarily east of it, from northern Florida north into Canada. It’s listed as exploitably vulnerable in New York and special concern in Rhode Island.

Icelandic or Arctic?

Papaver radicatum
arctic poppy, rooted poppy
Icelandic: melasól
Papaveraceae

If you’re a gardener or flower enthusiast of any sort, you’re probably familiar with Icelandic poppies, popular in the florist trade. These are not Icelandic poppies. They’re arctic poppies.

Because the two common names seem to be tossed around with abandon, I’m going to stick with the Latin here. P. radicatum has four subspecies (according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System), which may explain why I found conflicting data from various sources. Some claim the species is endemic to Iceland. Others claim it’s endemic to Norway and Sweden. And still others say its native range includes Iceland, Jan Mayen, and North America (Greenland, Canada and the US). Probably what’s going on here is each of the subspecies is endemic or native to a particular area.

I can’t say which subspecies this is, but for sure it’s P. radicatum: the hairy leaves and stem are the signs. This species is found in the western and eastern regions of Iceland, with a few scattered occurrences elsewhere. I saw it in the Westfjords near the waterfall Dynjandi, and in the Snæfellsnes penninsula. In the US it can be found in a few counties in the Rocky Mountain states (and in Alaska).

As for the so-called Icelandic poppy of the florist trade, that’s P. nudicaule (or P. croceum in some older sources). It’s hairless – nudicaule means “naked stem”. This species is not native to Iceland, but rather to North America. Sources disagree on its range, though. BONAP shows it as a native in part of eastern Canada only, while USDA shows it as a native in Alaska, Utah, Colorado, and Virginia, and introduced in parts of western Canada.

We did see Icelandic poppies in Iceland:

 

They grow there in gardens.

 

 

 

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still life with poppy

Craters and Poppies

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Ubehebe Crater, in the northeastern part of Death Valley National Park, is a beautiful and fascinating geological feature, the remains of a volcanic explosion that happened only 300 to 800 years ago (estimates vary).  The crater is about half a mile wide and 600 feet deep, and there’s a trail that circumnavigates the top.

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The area is covered in cinders and colorful gravel and only very few plants. Actually it was a great place to get specimen photos, since the plants grew so sparsely, and almost always well apart from each other.

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I was poking about, alternately admiring the flowers and gaping at the geology, when (yet another) yellow flower caught my eye.
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This is Mojave gold poppy, aka desert poppy, Eschscholzia glyptosperma (Papaveraceae).  I saw maybe half a dozen of them in a small area between the parking lot and the viewing area at the top of the crater. Note the elongated seedpod above the flowers in the photo to the right.

Apparently this poppy is common across the Mojave desert, but I didn’t see them anywhere else during my trip.

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Variations on a Theme: Dicentras

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Dicentra cucullaria
Dutchman’s breeches or britches

 

 

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Dicentra canadensis
squirrel-corn

 

 

 

Both of these low-growing spring ephemerals can be found in rich, moist woodlands. Both have finely cut blue-green foliage, but as you can see from the pictures the leaflet lobes of Dutchman’s breeches are a little rounder and closer together, while those of squirrel-corn are more linear and open. The flower shapes are also slightly different, the former having two pointed lobes at the top, the latter having two rounded lobes.

These two plants are placed in the Fumariaceae (fumewort family) by some authorities.  Other authorities consider this group a sub-family (Fumarioideae) of the Papaveraceae (poppy family).

There are seven native species of Dicentra; three can be found on west coast and three on the east coast, while Dutchman’s breeches can be found on both (but not in the mountain states or desert southwest). Squirrel-corn is threatened in Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire and endangered in New Jersey.

Of the three east coast species, the third, called wild bleeding heart or turkey-corn, is threatened in Maryland.  I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing it in the wild.