Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Early Bloomers Have Sprung

 Bloodroot, Twinleaf, Spring Beauty, Pasque Flower, and Trillium catesbaei all flowering.

 Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis. Flowers just starting to open

The leaf always clasps the stem and flower early on to help protect it from strong winds.

They slowly spread by rhizomes sending up a larger clump of stems and flowers each year. Last year there were only 6 flowers, this year there are 10 with a few more yet to open. You can also tell which ones have been open for a day or two and which ones are just getting started by how far up the flower bud is from the leaf. 

 Close up of the inside.

It's hard to believe that I started these from seed. Friends of mine in Missouri say from seed it only takes 3 years from germination to flowering, and as far as ephemerals go they're reasonably fast spreading. Here though in NJ, more specifically the 12" by 12" spot in the front garden where I planted the seeds, they've taken about 5 years from germination to flowering. Actually it was really cute the first year they germinated because the first year leaves are like Bloodroot but for a doll house, like barely an inch tall. I wish I'd taken a picture of them. Then on the following year the produced normal leaves. They've flowers the last two or three years and I can't locate any new seedlings yet but hopefully that will change.

Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla. I watched this thing like a hawk waiting for the flower to open. Sadly they only flower for a maximum of 4 days and if it's not above a certain temp out (I think 68F) they don't open at all. 

Better luck next year with this one. On the up side I accidentally took a picture of an ant. Looks like Tapinoma sessile.

Thankfully when I planted these I bought a flat of them and have numerous other plants scattered about the yard. It amazes me that just being planted a few feet away and they still come up and flower a week apart. Some of them are getting almost the identical amount of sun and water and still aren't going to have flowers open at the same time. Growing these things from seed must be a pain in the ass.

One did manage to open, so far, and still has it's petals but of all our native emphemerals this is the most finicky when it comes to flowering. The petals can fall off the flower after just 4 hours of being open.

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica. I planted about 6 corms several years ago and they've spread all over my little woodland garden. I've even had to transplant them into other situations where they've started to do the same. Online I read they're a common lawn weed but my population hasn't quite gotten that far yet. I'm looking forward to it though.

 The European Pasque Flowers I bought a few weeks ago are growing nicely in the front garden I installed last year. I believe they do flower around this time but won't know for sure until next year.

I grow many Trillium species in the garden. This is the first year one of this species has flowered. Blushing Wakerobin, Trillium catesbaei pusillum. Eventually the flower hangs down below the three main leaves to aim down at the ground.

It's a tiny little plant right now at about 3 inches tall. It's funny reading online they can get up to 8. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

This Week in Anting 04/01/2019 Winter Ants Flying

Sorry about the wind in some scenes. These ants don't mind flying on days with 60mph gusts. Indeed it's probably part of why their swarms gather around trees with large trunks, or shrubs or fences and so on. The males gather around these wind breaks to better establish a swarm that attracts the queens.

I was fortunate enough to get one queen to pose for me quite gracefully for a short while.

I was able to get some great shots of the head and body. 

 And she couldn't have picked a better perch to stand on.

The colors of the log and the green of the background really help show just how pretty this ant is. 

Also surprising was finding this Camponotus subbarbatus queen. It's much to early for them to fly and she looks malnourished. Usually the gaster is twice the size and with more of the yellow bands of color (common in this species) showing! I suspect she must have flown last May and failed to found a colony but managed to survive the winter. I'm going to try and feed her to see if I can get her to rebound.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Pasque Flowers

So I've almost given up on trying to grow the "native" Pasque Flower... which isn't actually native to New Jersey. As much as I would love to grow that one I've never had any luck getting seeds to germinate or plants to grow. My yard just isn't alpine enough to sustain them, perhaps a planter with lots of rocks mixed in with the soil would work? Anyway given that my state has no native Pasque flowers I didn't see the harm in trying out the European one.

This is Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Red Bells'. There are quite a few cultivars available of the European species. Ones with purple flowers seem to be the most common color form, but they also come in Maroon, Red, Pink, White, Violet and so on.

My shipment arrived today with several of the plants already flowering nicely. They were so pretty I thought why not set one down and stage a few photos.

My dog had other plans though. She's a puppy and learns with her mouth still. A moment after this shot was taken the stem was between her teeth. 

No harm done though. Thankfully I was using a point and shoot and able to grab her with one hand and pull her back while taking a few pictures with the other. Not great shots but cute all the same.

I didn't plant any Pasque flower yet, because I'm not certain they can survive the cold yet. Their blooming now might be because they were raised in a greenhouse and I don't want to shock them. The internet is also somewhat lacking photos of them blooming with companion plants to judge when they actually flower. Some plants bloom as early like Crocuses, Bloodroot, and Spring Beauty, while others hold off and flower more in line with most Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths and typical "Easter Bulbs." It's odd no one has images of Pasque flowers blooming with either group... or anything else really.

Monday, February 25, 2019


Alright so earlier I posted the image below of a Witch Hazel which I was happy to have bought from Rare Find Nursery.

It's listed on their site as Hamamelis vernalis 'Amethyst'. H. vernalis is native to the United States but not New Jersey where I live. It's actually a species more common to the Ozark area of the US. (think northern Texas and Arkansas, that general region.) Had I wanted to be a native purist I should have bought the straight true species of H. virginiana which is native to pretty much the entire eastern half of the US and Canada. The thing is H. virginiana flowers in autumn-early winter, while H. vernalis flowers in late winter-early spring which is why I bought the thing. And I know all this information because I made the mistake of posting the image and name in a Facebook group.

The actual posting wasn't the mistake, rather the fact that it was a group specifically for native plants of the northeast. H. vernalis and all it's cultivar incarnations really don't have any place in that group as even I'll admit it's not a true native. My mistake, and in future I'll try not to make it again.

Overall though it got a ton of likes, loves, and wow! (more than 50!) but in the comments one or two people weren't really having it. There wasn't any huge argument or anything like that. It was all quite civil but one comment struck me in particular. They commented something along the lines of "Just Don't" which is really dismissive, and I'll explain why in a moment.

Another comment though went as follows:

"It's a complex hybrid derived from mixed parentage including Hamamelis vernalis and Hamamelis x intermedia. Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids are crosses between Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica) and Chinese witch hazel (H. mollis). Basically not a true native" 
And they might be right. I actually don't know where either the nursery or the person commenting got their information from. Rare Find Nursery certainly sells a whole lot of H. x intermedia cultivars which suggests the plant farm they're getting their inventory from crosses a lot of different species. I'm sure I could inquire as to what makes a cultivar labeled as one species over another or how they control for contamination from one species, but I just don't feel like it right now. It seems like the kind of question that I might get different answers depending on who I ask too. 

The real test though, in my eyes at least, is weather or not it's still used as a host plant to moths and butterflies. 

I've had similar luck planting other things such as a Sourwood tree. Not native to NJ, but still used as a host plant.

 Every other year now I've found at least one Azure butterfly laying eggs  on the tree, and a few caterpillars nibbling at the flowers while being tended to by ants.

A number of these even make it to adulthood. 

I don't believe I'm increasing the range of a species, rather offering an additional host plant for the species that were already here. I see Azures also using the Dogwoods and New Jersey Tea in my yard. (Azures are a complex though so it's unclear if it's just one species doing this or several.)

I'm hoping to do the same thing with Pawpaw trees and Zebra Swallowtails. Pawpaws are just barely native to NJ. There's a population all the way at the north of the state and then a very tiny one along the coast somewhere down south. But overall, Pawpaws are rarely found in NJ. It doesn't even come up on the Native Plant Finder for my area.

Witch Hazel is surprisingly host to a whole lot of species. According to the Native Plant Finder website, Witch Hazels in New Jersey are host to 128 species of moths, including the paddle caterpillar and unicorn which I've always wanted to see in person. This would be way more productive than Sourwood and Pawpaws combine.

For best results I should probably be planting H. virginiana but I see on the range and distribution for a lot of the moths that use it as a host do overlap with H. vernalis's range. It seems more than likely to me that a significant number would use both species as hosts regardless of what state they're in. The Native Plant Finder website does list a few moths that ONLY use H. virginana in NJ but that may be because they haven't had access to H. vernalis. Whatever the case I'm eager to see what, if anything, uses it. I may well turn out that my plant has genes from H. x intermedia in that that block it from being used by our indigenous Lepidoptera but I won't know unless I plant it and see.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel, Hamamelis, is an odd genus of shrubs that flower during the colder times of the year. Depending on the species flowering can be early from November to January to March. It's a popular one to cross breed too because of all the color combinations. Pictured above is Hamamelis vernalis 'Amethyst' which has reddish purple flowers. More commonly though they're a bright yellow with some having varying shades of orange to them, but others are full on red or pink with hints of everything in between. Some are fragrant but not all of them.

'Amethyst' is supposed to be fragrant but it's either very faint or only something that happens on warm days or when the flowers first open. I just bought this one today and haven't really noticed any kind of odor coming from it. I suspect it's a temperature thing though because I was in a greenhouse earlier today that was full of a couple dozen different Witch Hazel varieties, most of which were flowering and labeled fragrant, but I didn't smell anything.  

Flies are the most common pollinator of these plants because of their mostly winter blooming habit. On warm days they emerge from leaf litter and safe hollows in trees and seek out other early flowering plants like Skunk Cabbage. Honeybees also take advantage of these plants for the pollen but only on days above 45F which seems to be the temperature threshold for lots of insects in the winter time.

Size wise they range from small shrubs to small trees depending on the cultivar. Part to Full Sun in a wide range of soil types. I believe they like being on the wetter side of things