Friday, February 28, 2014


Securigera varia
Ahh, good old Crownvetch.

According to the University of Missouri Extension:
"Crownvetch is particularly adapted to road bank stabilization and erosion control. At the present time this seems to be one of the best uses for the plant."

On the other hand, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation Vegetation Management Manual:
"Crown vetch is a serious management threat to natural areas due to its seeding ability and rapid vegetative spreading by rhizomes.  This aggressive exotic is now widespread along roadsides, from where it may become a serious invader of Missouri's natural areas."

Sigh ...

Crownvetch does have a pretty flower
Crownvetch is relatively easy to identify with a close look at the flowers and leaves

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Packera glabella
Butterweed is a plant that looks like an alien invasive species, but is in fact native to Indiana, mostly southern Indiana.  It looks invasive because if there is a wet spring when the farmers don't get out to plow early, Butterweed will fill the wet parts of the field with bright yellow flowers.  It's actually quite spectacular.

There are a multitude of bright yellow flowers in the spring

The stem is hollow and green or reddish green with longitudinal veins
The leaves are quite irregular and generally look somewhat ragged
A typical lower leaf
The plants tend to grow in wetter soils

Grasshopper sparrow singing from the top of a Butterweed!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Common Boneset

Common Boneset
Eupatorium perfoliatum
Common Boneset was a favorite medicinal plant of the American Indians, although not for setting bones.  It was used for aches and fevers.  The name "Boneset" was derived from the use of the plant for a severe type of flu called "Break Bone Fever".  The bones don't break because of this flu, but they feel like it.

The species name, perfoliatum, means "through the foliage" in Latin.  Quite a number of plants have this species name because it describe a unique feature where pairs of leaves are joined together around the stem giving the impression that the stem is going through the leaf.

This Eupatorium looks similar to the other Eupatoriums ... Thoroughworts and Bonesets, but easily distinguished because its leaves wrap around the stem.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ebony Spleenwort

Ebony Spleenwort
Asplenium platyneuron
Who doesn't like Ebony Spleenwort?  It's got a cool name, it's a neat little plant that grows in nice places, easy to identify and the sori are often present underneath the leaves.  The sori hold the spores and will ultimately release them to ride the wind and populate new places.

I tend to spot it in upland wooded areas, but it also likes rocky habitats, which are not common in northeast Indiana.

As far as the name, notice that the stem is a very dark "ebony" color.

Underside of the leaf showing the sori (and some sort of long-legged insect)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny
Lysimachia nummularia
Creeping Jenny has another, perhaps more common, name of Moneywort.  The name Moneywort comes from the leaves, which are the size and shape of coins.   The use of "wort" as a suffix in plant names comes from the Old English word, "wyrt", which just means plant.  Therefore Moneywort means "Money Plant".

As far as the name "Creeping Jenny", there is some speculation that it refers to the fact that it was once used as an herbal remedy for "chinne" cough (whooping cough).  The name would have originally been "Creeping Chinne", but morphed into "Creeping Jenny" when people no longer knew what "chinne" was.

This plant can often be identified just by the leaves. They are roundish, opposite and close together. They have a sort of leathery shiny look.
The flowers are scattered intermittently along the stem, sometimes many and sometimes few.
Creeping Jenny forms mats along the ground. A boon to ground cover lovers and a bane to ground cover haters.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Disc Mayweed

Disc Mayweed
Matricaria discoidea
You've probably never heard of Disc Mayweed, although there's a good chance you're familiar with its other name, Pineappleweed.  Pineappleweed is a good name for it, since it smells just like a pineapple when you crush it between your fingers.

You've probably seen this plant, but not have taken notice.  It's quite common in driveways and between the cracks of sidewalks.  It's rather short and unassuming.

The original range is the Pacific Northwest and northeast Asia.  It is possible that it was originally brought to North America by the Amerindians.

Another name for this plant is Wild Chamomile.  It is edible and can be made into a tea that helps with insomnia.

Disc Mayweed has finely divided, feathery leaves.

The flowerheads are quite distinctive, although the flowers themselves don't amount to much.

Field Pepperweed

Field Pepperweed
Lepidium campestre
What can you say about pepperweed other than the seeds can be ground up and taste peppery.  I suppose the seeds of every plant in the world have been ground up at some time to see how they taste, and the pepperweed's seeds were the most like peppercorns (Piper nigrum - Piperaceae).

Pepperweed has the shape of a bottlebrush.  To distinguish it from other bottlebrush-looking plants, look closely at the pods and leaves.  The leaves clasp the stem.

Field Pepperweed has the shape of a bottle brush
The pods are small and disk shaped
The leaves clasp the stem
Where there's one, there are generally many
Closer look at the flowers

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dames Rocket

Dames Rocket
Hesperis matronalis
Dame's Rocket is one of those beautiful plants that is alien and somewhat invasive.  By invasive, I mean that it is found in great, colorful clumps in ditches along roadsides, an area that is pretty much only populated by alien invasives.  So, it apparently out-competes other invasives.

Colors vary from white to pink to lavender to purple
It is a pretty flower
It has the typical pods of plants in the Mustard family - Brassicaceae
Linear, small toothed leaves and hairy stems

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Garden Yellowrocket

Garden Yellowrocket
Barbarea vulgaris
Garden Yellowrocket is a cool name for a rather weedy plant.  Another name is Bittercress, presumably because the leaves are edible, yet bitter.

This plant is an alien from Eurasia.  It's quite common and prefers disturbed areas and "waste places", which are quite common.

The basal leaves are a key to identifying this plant. They have only 2-8 lobes whereas Early Yellowrocket (Barbarea verna) has more than 8.
A whole field of Yellowrockets in the springtime is quite colorful.
Garden Yellowrocket is in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae, and has four petals like all the rest of them.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass

Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass
Sisyrinchium angustifolium
This pretty little iris is found in moist fields and prairies.  It's not uncommon in the right habitat.  The problem is finding the right habitat.

There are 86 species of Sisyrinchium listed in the USDA Plants database.  Obviously the plant taxonomists really enjoyed working with this plant.

Of the 86 species, only 4 are found in Indiana and only 2 in northeast Indiana.  The other species is White Blue-eyed Grass which, lo and behold, has white flowers.

The plant is quite simple. For this species, look closely and see that the lower part of the stem is winged.
It has a pretty little delicate flower, which makes it a favorite among wildflower enthusiasts.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird's-foot Trefoil
Lotus corniculatus
Bird's-foot Trefoil is one of those plants that is planted on purpose, but then escapes and becomes a bit of a nuisance.  It is planted in cattle pastures to add a nice legume to the pasture mix.  It grows better in poor soils than alfalfa and doesn't cause bloat, whatever that is.

It's a pretty flower, especially up close.  It blooms from spring to fall.  A lot of people like it and in northeast Indiana it seems to be confined to poorer soil, i.e. roadsides.  I don't see many native species along roadsides, so it isn't really competing with our natives, just other foreigners.

Bird's-foot Trefoil can grow in extremely rocky places
In northeast Indiana, they're extremely common along roadsides
Note that the leaf has 5 leaflets, with two of them at the base of the leaf stem
Another leaf/leaflet view
Seed pods
The flowerheads are arranged in a peculiar half-circle

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sessileleaf Ticktrefoil

Sessileleaf Ticktrefoil
Desmodium sessilifolium
Sessileleaf Ticktrefoil is a prairie plant.  It's been described as somewhat rare.  The only place I've seen it is in prairie restorations where it has be planted and is doing well.  Of course, I don't get to pristine prairies much ... there aren't many in Indiana.

The peculiar thing about Ticktrefoils is their pod, which has it's own word - loment.  A loment is a kind of pod that is pinched between each seed so that they can break apart easily.  The pod has little velcro-like hairs that help it stick to an animals fur. As the animal wanders around, the seed sections break apart and fall to the ground, thus dispersing the seeds.

Pods - "Loments"
This species is separated from other Ticktrefoils with long thin leaves by the fact that stem of the leaf is very short, almost missing
Some pictures of the flowers show them to be much more sparsely situated along the stem than this
Sessileleaf Ticktrefoil plant