Monday, April 10, 2017

Bloodroot and Blue Hepatica

The patch of Bloodroot in the front garden had a few more flowering plants come up. You can see how leaf grasps the stem to help keep it safe. They only lasted three days this year, the Twinleaf actually lasted longer! 

If I ever get more Blue Hepatica I'll be sure to plant it around the Bloodroot. The combination of the big white flowers of Bloodroot and the small ones of the Hepatica would be a nice combination. Though I don't think they could be mixed together very much as the Bloodroot would likely shade the Hepatica out... though the Hepatica is evergreen...

Hepatic flowers for a longer time and slowly changes color. Pictured here is the same flower as the one above it, but a day sooner. You can see how they start to fade over time.

My second Blue Hepatica has more flowers on it this year than it did last. Neither is in good shape but hopefully this is sign they're starting to establish. When they were all planted in the front yard they did start to reseed.

The majority of my plants have either white or pink flowers to them. Which I'm pretty sure are also the ones that reseed regularly as they tend to have far more flowers. They're pretty but I can only take so many white flowering plants. Need something to break up the monotint especially with such a large clump of Stonecrop right next to them which will turn into a carpet of white flowers in a week or two. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Eastern Comma on Native Plum

I found an Eastern Comma on my Native Plum today.

Polygonia comma is a species literally named for it's two C or   ,    shaped marks on the underside of it's rear wings. A similar-looking species, Polygonia interrogationis is known as the Question mark because of a break in the C shape, making them look more like question marks.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


A few years ago I threw a packet of Bloodroot seeds out in the front garden. I dug a little trench and planted them, and two years later I started to see very tiny leaves poking out of the ground. One leaf per plant. They remained this small size for two more years and then suddenly one or two made the jump to a great big leaf more typical of the species. 

This year three of those plants have decided to flower which is great, but also I'll say so far none of the others have emerged... of the whole seed packet maybe only three have survived. What's odd though is that last year one may have flowers because I found one with a seed head. But this one plant has yet to emerge, whereas the three I see flowering today I didn't even notice last year and I find this to be odd. Perhaps rodents or something are making off with the young shoots before the plants have a chance to grow?

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is in the poppy family. The flowers only produce pollen and don't have any nectar or floral oils of note. So you'll never see Bloodroot Honey being sold unless someone is grinding up the root and physically mixing it in with the honey, which begs the question, why?

The flowers to the true species the true species are short lived, lasting about three "good" days. If the flower stays closed due to rain or it being too cloudy, it doesn't seem to count towards the three days. I believe there are cultivars which bloom slightly longer which tend to be "double flowering" but this term is a little tenuous. 

All three of my Bloodroot plants are technically "double flowering" because they have more than 8 petals, which is what you find in established plants in the wild. No plant wants to be "double flowering" because it means they're producing more petals instead of reproductive structures, and thus won't make as many seeds. Plants do this when they're not getting the right nutrients or enough of them in the soil. It's the plant's way of cutting its losses, but can get to the point where they don't have any reproductive structures at all. 

This isn't restricted to Bloodroot. A flame Azalea I bought at Lowes actually came that way, very likely because in the 7 years it takes a nursery to grow a shrub to a sell-able size it wasn't fertilized enough. The following year it flowered normally though so it may have been stressed. 

So clearly "double flowering" is a nutrient issue... yet there are cultivars that are reliably "double flowering." This is because the plant likely has a mutation which hinders it's own ability to take in certain nutrients. This also means this cultivar can't be propagated by seed. That's not to say that they don't produce seeds, rather and the inability to take in certain nutrients is likely from a recessive gene, so the plant has to be reproduced by cuttings or division of the roots. 

Coming back to my Bloodroot plants, hopefully their rhizomes get a chance to spread out and grow into a nice sized clump. Ants actually disperse the seeds to these plants, so hopefully I'll get to play around with that later this year. This is the main reason I'm growing this and several other native ephemerals.

In the past, I've bought Bloodroot plants as bare roots. These grew the first year and flowered, but sadly something came along and ate all of them. Which is annoying. I've noticed with several species though that plants started from seed tend to fair better and aren't devoured by wildlife as much.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


 Twinleaf is flowering, Jeffersonia diphylla.

One of the most fleeting of our spring wildflowers, they only bloom for between 8 hours to 2 days, and that's it for the year!

This one plant in particular is flowering sooner than other ones in my yard, likely because it's positioned in full sun and not in a place where leaf litter piled up. I don't bother to remove the leaves from my gardens and use them as a natural mulch; even so, they still tend to gather up or blow out in places. Twinleaf plants that are only a few feet away from this one have only just pushed out of the ground.

Pollination has always been an issue for this species. The flowers basically open with the pollen anthers touching the stamin so they almost always self pollinate. I'd love to test out and see if cross pollination would increase the size of the elaiosome packets on the seeds but rarely get more than one individual plant flowering.

Just a few feet away, other Twinleaf plants are just emerging. Clearly I should have put them all as one clump instead of spreading them out as I did. You wouldn't think 3' would make that much of a difference in bloom time but for this species it does. The slightest difference in sun exposure and leaf litter greatly effects when they emerge. And for a species with such a short flowering time, it's an issue. 

This one is just coming up with it's bud and likely won't even flower for another week or two. By then the first plant will have faded.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This Week in Anting 03/23/2017

Ants in Order of Appearance: Formica pallidefulva, Tetramorium caespitum (species e.), Ponera pennsylvanica, Lasius interjectus.

Focusing on the Lasius interjectus a bit. I was surprised to see these under the stone because other species like Aphaenogaster rudis and Camponotus castaneus were no where to be found under the rocks and logs I usually find them on. Apparently L. interjectus is a bit more cold hardy than I gave them credit far though it's not surprising as the related L. claviger has queens which spend the winter wondering out of the nest.

You can sort of make out her one of their root aphids producing dew. (This was directly in the middle of the stone they were under so I don't think I squished it.)

I chanced upon a worker with a curious gaster (abdomen) which has a large white patch in it. As you can see in all my other photos, this is not the norm.

Most likely it's just full of honeydew and the crop (social stomach) is positioned oddly inside the ant. Though other possibilities include a parasitic nematode, the worker was born with ovaries and is readying to produce eggs, or maybe I'm just seeing things.

The Twinleaf plant featured in the video a few days ago, Jeffersonia diphylla. I'll be sure to take pictures when it opens.