One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

Give us a guess in the comments. I’ll be back later to check your guesses.

~~~

This stunning wildflower is Ironweed, named for its tough stem. It’s also pretty hard to dig up the roots and in some places you humans are finding it more on the weedy side of wildflowers–native, but taking over.

Since Vernonia noveboracensis is a member of the aster family, and has all those tiny flowers that put out gobs of seeds, who would expect anything else?

Miz Flora is pleased with the bright color, and Ironweed loves a wet area, so that might help out in a few awkward garden spots. Keep in mind, it’s almost as tall–7 feet–as a Joe Pye Weed, so don’t put it in front of anything small!

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One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Know what this plant is? The butterflies seem to like it.

I’ll check back later for your answers in the comments!

~~~

Maybe this view of the bush in it’s habitat will give an additional hint?

If you’ve guessed that this is a wetland, you’re correct. Like a willow, this bush with the ball-shaped flowers likes its roots wet. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is found in freshwater marshes, swamps and along floodplains in eastern and southern North America. It’s a favorite mid-summer nectar source for butterflies because, like composites, there are many small flowers grouped together. That makes for an easy food stop!

And in local flower-bird relationships…

We have long admired the flowers our neighborhood humans have chosen to plant–with decided favoritism to native wildflowers!

Today, Hickory, Miz Flora and I leaped over to a new garden bed they put in this spring. Miz Flora though it was quite resourceful–though long-overdue–that they split their coneflowers and planted the splits in a new location, adding to the beds.

The plants don’t have the fullness of the original bed, but for only being in six weeks or so, they are doing well. Except…why are some of the flowers missing petals?

“Wait!” Hickory chitters. “I want to save that for mystery day.”

We squirrel-grappled with this–which meant lots of running around tree trunks–but finally I won out…mainly because Miz Flora spoke up!

The petals are being plucked off by finches as they eat the seeds on that side of the flower.

Miz Flora asked: “I want you to pose this question to our regular readers: Have you ever observed finches eat flower seeds while they are most definitely still green?”

We are confused, maybe because squirrels don’t eat green acorns.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a little plant coming up around the neighborhood.

It’s so plain I’m showing close-ups of the leaves and stem as well.

Give me a guess in the comments and I’ll check back for your answers.

~~~

No guesses today? This is a fairly common native plant that most of you humans probably recognize after it’s all grown up–and got it’s roots–or should we say taproot!–in your garden!

Any guesses now?

It’s Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, sprout in spring, monster by summer, sometimes growing to 8 feet tall. And it will return year after year because it’s almost impossible to get that taproot out after it’s grown for a season.

And don’t forget the possibility of reseeding–lots of berries in the fall, that are actually poisonous. They are eaten by a few birds–catbird, cardinal, mockingbird–but for the rest of us, these berries are a no-no.

 Some humans advocate removing pokeweed from populated areas like our suburban yards. If you look for the smooth-edged leaves and red stems, it’s easy to spot pokeweed and remove the entire root when the plants are small.

Yep, when it’s small.

No Mystery Today!

Hey, sorry, I know! But here’s a poison ivy and a Virginia creeper for you to ponder the difference between.

Both vines, both native. Remember, leaves of three let it be!

If you need more practice, here’s a link to our poison ivy-Virginia creeper quiz. Get the answers by clicking on the next post at the bottom of that page…back then we put our answers in separate posts–*facepaw*. You can also search those individual posts in the search box to learn more about each plant.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

While you were out hiking yesterday, did you come across anything as common as these?

By chance do you know the specific type? (I know, all those little flowers look alike, but Miz Flora would be pleased if anyone knows!)

Check in for your answers later!

~~~

Two of our readers agreed these are violets. Yay! Though they’re are thirty-some species of violets in the Eastern U. S., Miz Flora was hoping someone might figure out that they are Canada Violets.

 It is near-to-impossible from photos. Canada violet has white petals with a yellow throat, and the backs of the petals are tinged with violet. Only three of the local violets are white or cream-colored, and none of the others have purple backs. You might check your white violets, but Miz Flora recommends you check more than one blossom and perhaps several times as they are blooming.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

What is this blooming shrub?

Yes, a spring bloomer!

I’ll check in for your answers later!

~~~

We had a correct guess today: this is Itea virginica, or Virginia sweetspire, also sometimes known as ‘tassel-white’ which seems very appropriate!

The one in our original photo isn’t blooming just yet, likely because it’s in a shady spot. But you can see these delicate branches are hosting a good number of spires.

Itea will do fine in partial shade, but it really takes off in a sunny location.

The hanging flowers bloom from the top down for a long-lasting spring bloom, and later form tiny seeds in pods that are opened in the winter by songbirds.

Miz Flora asked me to remind out gardening readers that Virginia sweet spire isn’t just a nursery plant. It does grow wild in Virginia and the east, most commonly in damp areas or along water. But it should do fine in your garden as well, because it’s very hardy. The loosely formed mounds are great for squirrels, chipmunks and birds to hide in. Here’s a bit more information that she liked from the Piedmont Master Gardeners, because not every plant is perfect in every location. Virginia sweetspire might like your garden a bit too much!

May-apples…Hawthorn

What do you know–some common names are correct! The Hawthorn is living up to one of its–May-apple–with the ‘pome’ fruits beginning to ripen now, in May.

We took a look at this small tree’s other names, and we squirrels feel they are just as descriptive of some hawthorn characteristics:

Whitethorn = the blossoms are white, the branches are covered in thorns, as seen in this post.

Thornapple = again, the thorns and the ‘apple’ fruits.

Hawberry = those do look like berries, though scientifically they aren’t. Haw is an old English name for hedge, which these trees would make a mighty fine one of, in our humble opinion, but we understand that this is what people call the fruits over there.