Sunday, August 31, 2014

Black Medick

Black Medick
Medicago lupulina
This is the last day of August, another month gone by; two thirds of the way through the year. I should have done a snazzier plant than Black Medick for this milestone, but that's what you get. All plants aren't snazzy!

Black Medick isn't the most highly desirable plant.  A Google search shows about half of the sites refer to it as a weed and have recommendations on how to get rid of it.  It's not native to North America and grows well in lawns and patios.

It looks like a clover but is closer related to Alfalfa, being in the same genus.  It's actually rather difficult to differentiate between this and some of the Trifolium "Hop Clover's".  I've seen all sorts of descriptions of the lengths of the leaflet petioles and tips at the ends of the leaflets, but the sure way to tell is to find the fruit, which is distinctive for Black Medick.

Fruit structure
Grows nicely within cement cracks

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Black Mustard

Black Mustard
Brassica nigra
There are three species of mustard that are used to make mustard, the condiment.  Mild white mustard is made from Sinapis hirta, yellow mustard is Brassica junca, and hot black mustard is made from this plant, Brassica nigra.  If you memorize this, then you will know more about mustard that 99.9% of the world and can really impress people at parties. :-)

I've never had black mustard, it's more of a middle eastern mustard, but I might try it.  There is plenty of this stuff growing around.  It's not native to Indiana but seems to do quite well in disturbed areas. It's a large plant that is quite noticeable along some roadsides.

 It can grow in large colonies

The seed pods are less than an inch long and grow close to the stem
The lower leaves are larger than the upper leaves

Friday, August 29, 2014

Curly Dock

Curly Dock
Rumex crispus
Curly Dock is a very common plant in my neck of the woods, northeast Indiana.  It's not native, in fact it is considered "noxious" per the Biota of North America website.  This website gets its info from somewhere else, although I'm not sure.

You see, Indiana, along with most other states I'm sure, has a law regarding noxious weeds.  The law is fairly complicated in that it regulates seed sales as well as control of noxious weeds on personal property.  There are several different listings of noxious weeds depending on which part of the law it pertains to.  Curly Dock only made it on one list that restricts the percentage of seeds allowed to be found by inspectors in any batch of seeds that are for sale.

Indiana also has another law regarding the destruction of noxious plants on personal property.  Did you realize that you could be in contempt of the law if you allow certain plants to even grow on your property?  For instance, if you allow Canada Thistle to grow and flourish on your land, you could be fined $500 a day until you get rid of it!  Just about anybody with land in a rural area of Indiana could be found guilty of that law!!  To add to the injustice, the township trustee that has allowed this to happen can also be found guilty and also fined $500 per day.

I have never heard of anyone in my county of being fined by, or even being informed about, the law regarding the "Destruction of Detrimental Plants".  Indiana has a lot of laws that sound good to the person writing them, and the legislator passing them, but not to the people enforcing them or the people affected by them.

This plant is easy to spot in the fall and winter!
Curly leaf, hence the name
The flowers are small and don't amount to much

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bitter Dock

Bitter Dock
Rumex obtusifolius
Bitter Dock is one of those plants that inspires a lot of emotion.  Some people love it, some hate it.  It depends on your point of view.  Some farmers/ranchers hate it.  Ladies that want to dye their blouses yellow love it.  I've even seen it referred to as one of the more ornamental species of dock, even though it doesn't look like much to me.  It's also edible and medicinal.

The broad leaves help identify this species of dock
Whole plant

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Asiatic Dayflower

Asiatic Dayflower
Commelina communis
This is a very pretty delicate plant that likes to grow around my compost heap.  It's closely related to spiderwort.  The blooms come and go during the day, hence Dayflower.  And guess what, it's native to Asia!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blackberry Lily

Blackberry Lily
Belamcanda chinensis
The Blackberry Lily is really a flower garden plant in Indiana that occasionally escapes Luckily my wife has planted some in our garden and so I got some nice pictures.

The seed pods look like blackberries, hence the name
The leaves are very thin, giving the foliage an attractive and interesting look for the flower garden

Monday, August 25, 2014

Poison Hemlock

Poison Hemlock
Conium maculatum
Poison Hemlock may be the most famous poisonous plant.  In ancient Greece, it was the method of choice for the death penalty, Socrates being the most famous of the victims.  Shakespeare referred to it in his works and it is often mentioned in literature and movies when an insidious mention of poison is needed.

It is said that eating 6-8 fresh leaves would be enough to kill a man.  It seems rather unlikely that a man would eat that many leaves, but it is certainly dangerous to grazing animals.

It is not native to North America but is quite common.  I have found it in abundance at Eagle Marsh in northeast Indiana.  It has been suggested to remove it from there due to the danger, but I don't think it has been done.  I doubt that anyone would bother eating it, and brushing up against it wouldn't cause any problems.  They do have an intensive program of spraying for invasive plants at that nature preserve, so it may have been sprayed because of it's invasiveness.

I doubt that many people would even recognize it if they saw it.  It looks like every other Apiaceae.

The leaves are double pinnate and fernlike in appearance
Note the purple spotted stem
It's a fairly tall plant, 3-7 feet tall

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Longstyle Sweetroot

Longstyle Sweetroot
Osmorhiza longistylis
There are two species of Osmorhiza in Indiana which look quite similar and can be confusing since each of them are sometimes called Sweet Cicely.  The USDA Plants Database gets around this by not calling either one Sweet Cicely.

In any event, the best common name for this species is Aniseroot, or Sweet Anise, since it smells like licorice.  The other identifying trait is that the styles (those skinny hairs that stick out of the middle of the flower) are longer than the petals.  They persist and stick out of the seedpod as its forming.

The styles stick out of the pods
Toothed, compound leaves. Crush them and they smell like anise.
Whole plant
Smooth stem

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Golden Zizia

Golden Zizia
Zizia aurea
I have this plant, more commonly known as Golden Alexanders, growing profusely in my restored prairie. Apparently it's fairly common in native prairies and I can see why.  It faithfully comes up year after year and doesn't seem to be bothered by the takeover of Canadian Goldenrod and some of the other "weeds" that are fighting my prairie plants.

For some reason, the alternate common name of this plant is Golden Alexanders, as if it was more than one Alexander. I Googled all day and couldn't find out why.

On an interesting note, this plant earned the distinction of being the 2012 North Carolina Wildflower of the Year!  Cliff Clavin would have loved Google.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wild Parsnip

Wild Parsnip
Pastinaca sativa
Wild Parsnip is the same species that you will find in the produce section of your local grocery.  It is closely related to the carrot, which is the same species as Queen Anne's Lace.  Like the carrot, the cultivated variety has been selected over the years to produce a more useful root for the kitchen.  Of course it hasn't caught on like the carrot, but it's still good.

Wild Parsnip is not native to North America but is quite common in Indiana.

Note the grooved stem
It can grow in big patches

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Common Cowparsnip

Common Cowparsnip
Heracleum maximum
I don't have a lot of experience with Common Cowparsnip, having only seen it in one place in Allen County, Indiana.  I can say that it is a very large plant, as tall as I am, and it was found in a nice woodland.

It is native to Indiana.  It is claimed that the Native Americans would dry the stem and use them for straws and make them into flutes.  It must have a very hard stem like Evening Primrose.  They also ate parts of it, and used it for medicinal purposes.

It's not a very common plant, found only in the northern part of the state.

If I find a good stand of it, I'll try making a straw or a flute and let you know how it goes.

Typical umbel flowerhead of the Apiaceae (Carrot) family

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Greater Burdock

Greater Burdock
Arctium lappa
Anyone that has a long haired dog knows what Burdock is.  Anyone who has ever used Velcro knows what Burdock is.  The seedpods are the tangliest things on earth.  I'm sure that wild animals carry them around on their fur until they go and die somewhere and their decaying bodies provide nutrition for the growing plants.

I wonder why Burdock's haven't taken over the world.

Note that the petals don't stick up past the bracts

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lesser Burdock

Lesser Burdock
Arctium minus
So you're going along and you see a plant and decide that it's Burdock and you think you're pretty smart and satisfied that you can add another plant to your list, but then you flip through a field guide and find out that the taxonomists just weren't happy with it and decided to make up two kinds of Burdock in Indiana, Lesser and Greater.

They're practically indistinguishable.  Rather than trying to describe the differences on this blog, here's a link that has a very detailed description.

Lesser Burdock has hollow stems, Greater does not
The flower petals of Lesser Burdock stick out beyond the bracts, Greater does not