Sunday, April 26, 2020

It’s The Little Things

The shelter-in-place orders/recommendations keep me largely at home these days. Instead of traveling away on field trips to see Georgia’s beautiful flora, I stay at home and wonder about the tiny flowers so long overlooked. Some of these tiny things are in my yard while others are ones that I have found on walks through the area.

Wild slender basil (Clinopodium gracile)
Take a walk with me through a week’s worth of tiny flowers and the journey of discovering them. I’ll start with a small pinkish one that got some discussion last year, might have been identified—I can’t remember now—but which popped up in my neighbor’s yard again this year.

It was clear that it was a member of the mint family (once you got out the hand lens or your reading glasses to see!).  Someone in a Facebook plant group identified it as Clinopodium gracile, slender wild basil. It is a non-native perennial that is very low-growing.

A white-flowering plant on the side of the road was the next puzzle. It looked very much like it would be in the Apiaceae family and my first thought went to Osmorhiza  (sweet root or sweet Cecily). However, I could not get it to match up (neither the flowers nor the foliage matched). I posted a photo on Facebook and my friend Jane provided the name: hairy-fruit chervil (Chaerophyllum tainturieri), a native annual plant (and yes, in the Apiaceae family so I got that part right!).

Chervil (Chaerophyllum tainturieri)
Developing fruits on chervil

On the same roadside, cheek-by-jowl with the chervil, was another tiny, white-flowering annual which I already knew: beaked corn salad (Valerianella radiata). I recognize it by the almost square look to each set of 4 (sometimes 5) tiny flowers (best perceived if you step back a bit, hence the photo below). I can only imagine the critters that feast off the abundance of tiny seeds that these two annuals produce.

Beaked corn salad (Valerianella radiata) with
yellow Medicago lupulina (non-native black medic)

So, with Osmorhiza on my mind, it was a complete surprise to find a small cluster of white flowers on the edge of the stream in my wooded area. Could it be? Yes, it is! Based on range, it would appear to be the species Osmorhiza longistylis. I love to find new things on my property.

Sweet root (Osmorhiza longistylis)
Osmorhiza longistylis

Back to the weedy roadside, a super tiny purple flower had me puzzled. Up close (and I mean with a hand lens!), the flower was very much like a buttonweed (Diodia) or a bluet (Houstonia). An email to my friend Richard brought a quick answer: field madder (Sherardia arvensis), a non-native annual in the Rubiaceae family—which explains the resemblance to the buttonweed and bluet since they are in the same family.

Field madder (Sherardia arvensis) can be prolific!

A favorite native annual is also just now starting to bloom in lawns. More foliage than flowers, this tiny geranium (Geranium carolinianum) has small, pale lavender flowers. Like its bigger cousins, this flower is often called cranesbill because of the appearance of the seed capsule.

Carolina geranium (Geranium carolinianum)

Be safe, folks, and be curious! Several years ago I wrote about other small flowers you might find growing in your lawn in spring. You can read that blog here.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Noontime at the Oasis

Why go at midnight when you can’t even see the plants? Besides, the Oasis is closed at midnight. I’m talking about the Native Oasis Botanical Garden in Fayetteville, GA, of course. It is part of the grounds of Nearly Native Nursery there. I went recently about mid-day and thoroughly enjoyed exploring all the blooms this time of year.

My favorite: hairy spiderwort (Tradescantia hirsuticaulis) in a sea
of green & gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)

Even during this pandemic, responsibly-distanced people are welcome to visit during business hours (9-6, Wednesday through Saturday). The owners have created charming areas to showcase both sun and shade plants. As a permanent garden, they are able to illustrate how fully grown, in-ground plants will look and perform. Here are just a few of the beautiful things in bloom that day.

They are still selling plants too!

The garden and the nursery flow together like an old friend's house

Two pygmy fringe trees (Chionanthus pygmaeus)

A magnificent spread of Solomon's plume (Maianthemum racemosum)

Their blooming collection of baptisia starts with Baptisia alba 

The lesser known Baptisia bracteata was gorgeous in bloom

Baptisia spaerocarpa coming up through a chair, with old seedpods

Looks like poison ivy but it's wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata),
host plant for giant swallowtail; with a coral honeysuckle bloom

I think they are the hairy spiderwort capital of Georgia;
all colors can be found and they pop up like 'weeds'

This buckeye (Aesculus) was gorgeous!
The native smoketree (Cotinus obovatus)
was in bloom

Points to those of you who got the reference to Maria Muldaur's 1974 hit 'Midnight at the Oasis.'

Sunday, April 12, 2020

More from the Quarantined Home Front

An overwintered pipevine emerged yesterday
I’m not keeping track of what day it is, but we’re still here, hunkered down against the spread of the coronavirus. With this being the busiest plant season of the year, the count of cancelled activities is downright depressing: plant sales, meetings, workshops, field trips, and even simple visits with friends at their gardens! I know a lot of us are grateful to have our gardens—and even a chance to tackle some of the tasks we’ve set aside in busier times.

I've been thoroughly enjoying the new blooms each week. Spring really is magical for the amount of floral goodness that gets pumped out over 4-6 weeks. The azaleas were the show-stopper for me this past week—the fragrant blooms of both the Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens) and the Florida azalea (R. austrinum) were much appreciated every day. The bright blooms of what I think is a natural cross between R. canescens and R. flammeum fooled my husband into thinking our dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor, located just behind the azalea) had some special flowers!

Rhododendron canescens

Rhododendron austrinum 'Earl's Gold'

A natural hybrid of R. canescens and R. flammeum (Sabal minor behind it)

I probably spent most of my time this week very close to the ground, exploring lawn flowers and weeds. In recognition that people are spending more time outside, several Facebook pages have been posting regular pictures of natural things (birds, plants, insects) that are visible now. My contributions have been roadside flowers and lawn weeds (including the dreadful Youngia japonica that I mentioned 3 weeks ago). I sure hope that this moment in history brings a lasting affection for being outside on a more regular basis.

Potentilla canadensis on left; non-native  Duchesnea indica on right

Native Krigia virginica (dwarfdandelion) with regular dandelion for comparison

Bigseed forget-me-not (Myosotis macrosperma)
Oxalis violacea (woodsorrel)

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Froggy Out The Window

Hyla cinerea (back yard)

The green tree frog is our state amphibian in Georgia – Hyla cinerea. That doesn’t necessarily make it common so I was thrilled to find one in the backyard last fall. We do have gray tree frogs fairly regularly but not these green ones. I have seen 3 more this spring and two of them are hanging around this week. 

One is visible out my back window and the other is visible from the front window. It appears the one in the back has laid eggs in a deep saucer full of water that was nearby (thanks, rain). Since then she has been hunkered down in a pot, tucked under old leaves. I’ll be watching those eggs to see if anything develops.

I hope these are frog eggs!

The front frog stayed in a tall azalea for several days. I found another deep saucer and put some rain water in it and set it nearby. That evening, I found her hanging out in the water like it was a hot tub. I can’t tell if she laid any eggs so perhaps she didn’t.

Hyla cinerea - front yard

During this time of relative isolation, it sure is nice to have an extra bit of nature to share our digs. I like to think that not using pesticides plus our usage of native plants contributed to making them feel at home. I love our yard!

The eyelids of the frog reflecting the porch lights

Front yard frog takes a dip