Some thoughts abouts plants in Pennsylvania and anywhere else we travel

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Muhlenberg Botanic Club of Lancaster, PA

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All photographs copyright by Mike Slater unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Most elegant flowers!

"And now for something completely different"

Since makes doing little voluntary polls incredibly easy, just for fun I am starting a little contest for the most elegant flower. I plan on posting 5 pictures at a time in each draw. After five contests I will will put the winners up against each other. I may continue the contest further if there is any interest. Suggestions for future contestants are welcome.

I would like this to be a subjective judgment by each voter of the intrinsic elegance of each species or variety, not necessarily a judgment of beauty (which in my opinion is not necessarily the same as elegance) nor a judgment of my photos. The selections are all mine for now with a mix of wild and garden flowers. Everyone is welcome to participate.

~ The voting list is on the left side of the blog~

1-Zephranthes grandiflora

2-Heteranthera dubia

3-Calopogon tuberosus

4-Iris sibirca 'Gulls Wing'

5-Arisaema heterophyllum

I will keep the voting open for a week or so. Check backfor the 2nd draw soon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Weevil eats Mile-a-minute vines!

There is an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday about the biological control program for Mile-a-minute vine (Polygonum perfoliatum)

A minute Weevil Rhinoncomimus latipes has been extensively tested to be sure it will only eat the mile-a-minute plants (I hope it is well enough tested!) and has been released in this area.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said:

"At last count, more than 66,000 weevils have been released at 61 sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia."

"A week and a half ago, Judy Hough-Goldstein, of the University of Delaware, stood before a group of experts at an invasive-plants conference at the University of Pennsylvania, providing an update on R. latipes. The prognosis was good.

"A lot of plant mortality this year," she said. "Go, weevils!"

Either way, not even the most optimistic think the weevil will expunge mile-a-minute from the landscape. The idea is to restore balance.

"It's kind of like an arms race," Dionigi said.

Best-case scenario: The weevils will knock back mile-a-minute and then, with few host plants, decline themselves. Then the weed will gain ground, but soon the remaining weevils will proliferate. And so on."

Further extensive reading which includes :
Releases of R. latipes in Maryland
USDA Aphis - environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact
have been prepared by the Animal

and Plant Health Inspection Service relative to issuing a permit for
the environmental release of the nonindigenous weevil Rhinoncomimus
latipes Korotyaev (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), a potential biological
control agent of mile-a-minute weed (Polyganum perfoliatum). Information about Mile-a-minute and other potential biological controls 

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Muhlenberg Botanic Club upcoming Meetings

September 20, Thursday 7:30 p.m. at the North Museum on the campus of F&M College in Lancaster:
This is our annual fall plant exchange and slide show. We now have a digital projector at our disposal for anyone who has digital pictures to show. Native resolution: 1024 x 768. There will be a brief board meeting before the regular meeting.

Anyone who who like to announce in advance what plants the can bring/expect to bring please e-mail me and I will share it by e-mail with the membership. I will post the list of what we expect to bring very soon.

October 18, 2007 Mountain Wildflowers of UTAH, Mike Slater
Muhlenberg Botanical Club 7:30 pm at the North Museum on the Campus of F&M University.

Muhlenberg Botanic Club upcoming Field Trips

September 22, Saturday: Nottingham County Park 10:00 a.m.
150 Park Road, Nottingham, PA 19362 (610-932-2589). Located 4 miles south of Oxford off Route 1 Bypass in southwestern Chester County, this 651-acre park sits atop an outcropping of serpentine stone greater than one square mile in size, making it one of the largest serpentine barrens on the East Coast. Go into the park entrance, turn right, and meet at pavilion 6. This trip consists of a long walk in and out, so be prepared to carry your lunch with you to eat on the trail. Trail rating: moderate. Leader: Tim Draude (717-393-7233)

October 7, Sunday: 10:00 a.m.State Game Lands 156 and Penryn
We will examine this poor soil plant community, which will hopefully include fringed gentians. After lunch we will walk in the Penryn power cut, looking for asters and goldenrods. Trail rating for the power cut: moderate, about 1 mile in length.
At the intersection of Rtes. 501 and 322, turn left (west) onto 322 and travel approximately 3 miles; meet at the parking lot on the left along Rt. 322. Be aware that the lower entrance to the lot has been blocked off. Leader: TBA

A very cute little native Goldenrod

A very cute little native goldenrod is found along the lower Susquehanna river growing in crevices in the schist bedrock. It is now called Solidago simplex ssp. randii v. racemosa (USDA Plants Link). The name is almost longer than these plants are tall. I would expect that would be bigger when not growing in a tiny crack in a rock but I do want to try growing it in a trough or rock garden.

This species is on the PA endangered species list as this is the only place it is found. It is on the list under the name:

Solidago spathulata DC. var. racemosa (Greene) Gleason Sticky Goldenrod
status: Endangered
Variety racemosa grows from Tennessee to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and it is considered threatened or endangered in many states. Other varieties of Solidago simplex ssp. randii grow as far west as Lake superior.

Sticky Goldenrod grows on the flood scoured bedrock where competition is reduced along with many relict prairie species like Big-blue-stem, little blue-stem, Indian grass and Veronicastrum virginicum.

This habitat is called (from Maryland's DNR):
(Big Bluestem - (Yellow Indiangrass) Temporarily Flooded Herbaceous Alliance)

"Concept: This alliance includes scoured riverbank 'prairies' in northeastern and southeastern United States, which may be called 'riverside prairies,' 'linear prairies,' 'rivershore grasslands,' or 'scoured riverine bluff prairie.' In addition to the nominal species, examples may also contain Schizachyrium scoparium, Chasmanthium latifolium, and/or Panicum virgatum, any of which could be locally dominant. These grasslands may be associated with dry cobble riverbanks and lakeshores, as well as flood-scoured, acidic or calcareous bedrock exposures associated with major rivers. This includes riverine gravel/cobble bar 'prairies' along the upper Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee; scour areas along high gradient sections of major rivers, such as in gorges in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and possibly farther west; and scoured limestone bluffs along the Duck River in Tennessee's Central Basin."

I took these pictures on friday when I took my Sister and Brother-in-law from Texas to see the unusual habitat where this wonderful little plant grows.

I have showed pictures of Solidago simplex ssp. randii v. racemosa in habitat to Rock Gardening friends from the Rocky Mountain area and they are struck by the similarity to Solidago multiradiata growing above the tree-limit in the central rockies.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Our yearly visit to Chanticleer Gardens

Today Jan and I went to pay our yearly visit to Chanticleer Garden with Dick and Ann Rosenberg for company. As always we had an enjoyable time seeing new plants, admiring the garden plantings and wonderful plant combinations and seeing friends who work there whom we know through the Rock Garden Society. We were warmly greeted at the entrance by Laura Aiken and we chatted briefly with Yvonne England and Joe Henderson.

There was a very light drizzle when we arrived but it stopped as we got out of the car. The fine drops elegantly decorated many of the flowers and leaves.

Pictures in sort of in the order shown (The pictures are fighting it out and don't want to go where I want them to in this post tonight! I will continue the fight tomorrow. )(I'm winning, I think)(I WON!):

1) A Chanticleer (a Rooster)

2) Looking into the Teacup Garden

3) The Teacup Garden

4) Monarda punctata

5) Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa'

6) Rhododendron prunifolium

7) Russelia equisetiformis

8) Liatris squarrosa

9) Cuphea sp.

10 ) Selaginella braunii
(Which has been hardy for them for 5 years)

11) an Anigozanthos sp. (Kangaroo Paw) flower

12) Sporobolis
heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed) near the Ruin Garden.

13) Pseudogynoxis chinopodioides (a climbing composite) on a large Agave sp. in the Tea Cup Garden.

14) Tweedia caerulea
, 3 pictures Flower leeaf and seedpod showing it is in the Milkweed Family, Asclepidae. In the Tea Cup Garden.

15) Cotinus sp. (
Smoke Tree)

16) A very large flowered Aristolochia sp.

17) a red-veined Swiss
Chard Leaf

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Viola conspersa (Dog Violet)

Viola conspersa (Dog Violet) and related "Stemmed" blue violas from Eastern North America

Our friend Kim Blaxland who is especially interested in Viola species e-mailed me today to ask me about Viola conspersa plants that we have seen. It seems there is some question whether this is just an upright form of another species and should be lumped with Viola labradorica*/V. adunca v. minor.

Viola conspersa is a relatively upright plant with light blue flowers and leaves scattered up the stem. While the other species have their stems prostrate on the ground.

She asked especially about what kind of rocks and what the soil pH would be. I think I usually have seen V. conspersa on soil derived from diabase (an intrusive igneous rock which usually give rise to circumneutral soils) here in Berks County, PA

The pictures of Viola conspersa here are mine. The first two are from PA State Gamelands #52 (north of Churchtown, Lancaster Co. and south of Maple Grove in Berks Co.) They are growing among and in crevices of diabase boulders along Black Creek. (Kim just e-mailed me and said of the first picture "Lovely photo of V. conspersa! Shows the spurs well, also the purple leaves persistent from the previous year compared with the color of the new spring leaves ."
The last three pictures are from Middle Creek WMA and are in the wet meadow on sandstone derived soils that I though were acid.

If anyone can tell us about locations for Viola conspersa and what kind of soil they are growing in and the parent rock the soil derived from that information would be appreciated.

Kim wrote:

Harvey Ballard, violet expert from Athens Ohio, who wrote the Violaceae treatment in the Flora of Pennsylvania has said that Viola labradorica and Viola adunca v. minor are conspecific and that they merge into Viola conspersa . By Viola labradorica I do not mean the purple-leafed violet of cultivation that is actually Viola riviniana purpurea. I mean the real Viola labradorica as it occurs in Newfoundland, Labrador, Greenland, and high mountains on the Gaspe Peninsula and northern Maine.

I am studying these three species in the NE to try to justify continuing to recognize Viola conspersa as a distinct species.

The stems of V. conspersa do lie down horizontally after flowering, and in autumn the plant will produce new short upright stems in the center from the rhizome.

The two differences I have worked out between V. conspersa and V. adunca v. minor are:
1. Stipules of former are wide lanceolate with very feathered margins, latter narrow lanceolate and either entire or few short teeth/divisions on margin.
2. Rhizome horizontal for former cf. vertical for latter.

V. conspersa does not grow at Shenk's Ferry does it? I've never seen it there. It would be very interesting to test the soil pH at some of these places. Maybe I need to buy a pH meter.

It was interesting writing the descriptions for you, comparing V. appalachiensis with the other three species made me realize that the only differences between them is that V. appalachiensis has rounder leaves, horizontal stems and finer longer peduncles.

The three species, V. adunca minor, V. labradorica and V. conspersa all have vertical stems, its just that those of V. labradorica are much shorter.

Viola adunca v. minor and Viola labradorica both occur on limestone. Viola labradorica reaches a maximum height of only three inches. I saw it growing in shallow depressions in the flat coastal limestone peninsulas at the NW tip of Newfoundland, sheltering for protection from the severe winds. Under these extreme weather conditions it is not surprising that it is so small. Viola adunca v. minor grows taller, to 5-6 inches, in light woods, for example on the Bruce Peninsula, NW of Toronto in Canada. All the morphological characters of these two species are the same except for the overall size. Several stems and a few basal leaves arise vertically from the top of the rhizome. Cauline leaves are evenly distributed up the stems. Leaves are reniform to cordate, stipules entire or with only a few teeth, flowers pale mauve on peduncles from the axils of the leaves on the stem. Fine hairs are on the inside of the lateral petals. The head of the style is bent into a hook with fine hairs on the side near the stigmatic opening. The spur at the back of the lowest petal is tapered, 4-5 mm long. Viola conspersa is usually about the same height as Viola adunca v. minor, flowers are of a similar color but usually slightly larger. The leaves have slightly more cordate bases, and the stipules have more feathered margins, but there do not seem to be enough obvious major differences in morphology to separate these species. However, I have only seen Viola conspersa growing on diabase and sandstone.

Another interesting stemmed violet is Viola appalachiensis that occurs on the Allegheny plateau in western Pennsylvania, also growing in alkaline soils. It grows as a mat forming ground cover because the stems creep horizontally on the ground surface, though usually not rooting from the nodes. The leaves are small and round to reniform. Light mauve flowers are borne from the leaf axils but well above the leaves on tall delicately thin peduncles. The petal spur is tapered and about as long as the three species mentioned above

Two additional notes: 1) V. conspersa x V. striata hybrids thrive where soil has been limed (Dick Lighty pers. comm.) and a note about Diabase soils from NC.
2) Soils derived from the diabase rock (Iredell on uplands and Wilkes sandy loam at the base of the slopes) are quite different from typical Piedmont soils that are acidic or sour soils with a low pH. Soils derived from diabase rocks are basic, or sweet, with a high pH. Sweet soil is ideal for certain kinds of plants typically found in other regions of the United States, particularly in the prairies of the Midwest.

*by the way, as Kim mentions the Viola labradorica wth purplish leaves in cultivation is invariably NOT correctly named. It always turns out to be a selection of Viola riviniana, a European species.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Some Grass Flowers at the Muhlenberg Meadow

Some interesting grass flowers seen on the Muhlenberg Botanic Club walk to the Muhlenberg Meadow at Lancaster County Central Park

Today five of us braved the very light rain to stroll through the Muhlenberg Meadow. Tim Draude talked about the planting he and other club volunteers did about 10 years ago to crate the meadow and the volunteer work that is done to keep out trees, shrubs and invasive weeds. Many flowers were in bloom, you can see the list of plants at the meadow here.

I particularly enjoyed looking closely at grasses in bloom which I think are intricately beautiful. Here are pictures of the flowers of two of our large native grasses at the meadow. Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern Gamma Grass) is related to corn, Zea mays, and has separate male flowers above the female flowers as corn does. In this case yellow stamens and fuzzy purple pistils.

I took some pictures of Sorgastrum nutans (Indian Grass) in bloom with its noticeable yellow stamens and didn't realize the female parts of the flowers were visible until I got home and downloaded the pictures to the computer. The visibility of the cute little fuzzy-white pistils was a pleasant surprise.

Everyone who gets a chance should visit this lovely meadow with an amazing number of plant species native to Lancaster County. I plan on posting some more pictures from the Muhlenberg Meadow later this week. You can see some other people’s pictures of the meadow here.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Blue Lettuce Day

A Blue Lettuce Day Aug 17, 2007

(Lactuca floridana that is!) plus two other new plants!

(Pictured above, from top to bottom, Pellaea glabella, Asplenium trichomanes, Ludwigia hexapetala*, Lactuca floridana a 7 foot tall plant and a close-up of the flower)

Yesterday Tim Draude and Joan King came up from Lancaster to the Reading area in Berks County to look at ferns and wildflowers with me. I wanted to show them the nice, easily accessible, cliff/wall ferns at Gring's Mill County Park and Gibraltar Aqueduct, including Pellaea glabella ssp. glabella, Pellaea atropurpurea, Asplenium platyneuron, Asplenium trichomanes, Woodsia obtusa and get confirmation of the id. of Cystopteris tennuis. All the ferns were in fine shape and easy to study.

In addition I was hoping that with their sharp eyes and knowledge of native plants they would spot interesting plants with which I was unfamiliar. Not only did we find three very nice species of native wildflowers that I didn't know, They were three that neither Tim nor Joan had ever seen! They had been looking for two of the species for a while though.

At Gring's Mill in a soft muddy area next just upstream from the mill in a wet area (no standing water now after the relatively dry weather we have had but we had to be a little care of the soft mud) next to a large patch of Iris pseudacorus and mixed in with a Sagittaria species was a large patch (over 50' in diameter) of a bright yellow five-petaled flower on soft-hairy, two foot stems that none of us were familiar with. After looking in a field guide we decided it was probably Ludwigia peploides but when we keyed it out in “Gleason and Cronquist” we determined later that with upright, fuzzy stems it was Ludwigia uruguayensis (Water primrose) now subsumed into Ludwigia hexapetala.

It will be interesting to see if that is the name it stays under when the 2nd edition of “the Plants of Pennsylvania” comes out, which I hope will be very soon. This is probably introduced from the southeastern states, but is native to eastern North America as well as south America all the way to Argentina. Both species have records in the “Atlas of the Flora of PA” in the Reading area. This beautiful and impressive plant, Water-primrose, looks like it might be invasive but there aren't many stations for it in the atlas and we only saw it in the one large patch, there we no stragglers in the nearby wet spots.

*I know it only has 5 petals, either the botanist who named it couldn't count, or it has sometimes has six petals or the type specimen was so bad the petals couldn't be counted properly.

The second new plant we found was along a country road in the red Triassic sandstone area south of Birdsboro. Tim said: “That looked like a blue lettuce.” as were driving and I turned the car around and we went back to lookI was indeed a wonderful tall blue flowered lettuce, Lactuca floridana, which none of us had ever seen. The plants (at least a dozen of them in bloom) were about 7 or 8 feet tall with clear blue flowers and with each black seed attachetd to bright white pappus (the "parachute"). The flowers look like small chicory flowers and they were almost as dark blue The inflorescene is rather large and the flowers are spread out so it is not a really conspicuous plant, but it is the nicest wild lettuce species I have seen. There were many first year plants around of this biennial species so the population seems to be reproducing well, but it is near a driveway where it would only take two minutes with a weed-eater to eliminate the population.

Then we went to the Birdsboro Reservoir and had a pleasant walk though the wood and up to the lake discussing/puzzling over several Desmodium species (tick-trefoils) and Helianthus decapetalus/H. tuberosus (Thin-leaved sunflower/Jerusalem artichoke hybrid possibilities. At the lake we spotted a small group of three foot tall, white flowered, Eupatorium species which looked very stiff, with wide round toothed leaves. They appeared to be different from species we were familiar with. It is similar to E. sessilifolium but keyed out to be Eupatorium godfreyanum in “Gleason and Cronquist” which is one of the putative parents of this species of hybrid origin. This is not a showy plant but it is not quite OBIO. (of botanical interest only!)

This is a plant which Tim had been looking for on the islands below Holtwood Dam in the Susquehanna River where it has been reported in the past but it is not shown in the “Atlas of the Flora of PA." Since this plant is not officially present in Pennsylvania (but is found in NJ and MD) We will have to do a little more research but it looks promising!

------Update-8/19/07------Pictures Added 8/21/07
After some m,ore checking and comparison and keying we have concluded that it is Eupatorium pilosum, which has been found in this part of Berks County according to the "Atlas of PA Flora".
This is still a new plant for me!