Sunday, April 29, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
This delicate annual features fruits that are nearly uniformly wide from the base to apex. I used no coin for perspective, but the petals average only 3-4 mm long, and the hairy basal rosette is approximately the size of a dime. The small, inconspicuous nature of this species, its early bloom time, and its often unremarkable habitat conspire to hide its presence from the botanical community, and it appears likely there are more populations in Michigan waiting to be discovered. Exploration of sandy, gravelly kames, eskers, and moraines in southern Michigan is warranted, particularly areas that feature red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana), common juniper (J. communis), and prairie grasses.
This wide-ranging species is apparently secure in most of its range, but the species is generally rare in the eastern portion of its range, and is considered possibly extirpated in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Approximately 12 populations have been documented in Michigan (Michigan Natural Features Inventory data).
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Do you recognize this little weed? Feel free to identify it or just take a guess! Photographed in St. Joseph County, Indiana on April 19, 2012.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Dense colonies of lupine are required to sustain the Karner Blue, but in the modern landscape sandy oak savannas and sand prairie remnants become shady oak woods all too soon due to fire suppression, and lupines often get shaded to death.
Photographed in Starke County, Indiana on a south-facing, dry sandy bank in the Kankakee River country, near the northwest 1/4 of the state.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Did you ever notice there are two kinds of Woodland or Timber Phlox? I sure didn’t, but whenever I spend time in the field with Scott Namestnik, he points out things I’ve been walking past for decades without noticing. The distal end of the petals can rounded or notched, as shown below.
"Once in a while, spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. " John Muir
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Collinsia verna has been collected from 13 counties in southern Michigan:
My experience over the past 16 years suggests C. verna continues to decline in Michigan, although I lack quantitative data to substantiate these observations. The population at Russ Forest fluctuates year-to-year, and fares best along wide, seasonally wet trails through rich mesic forest dominated by sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia). In 2010, the species was locally abundant, putting on the best display I had observed since 1996. The situation at Dowagiac Woods is another story. This sanctuary is unique in that its extensive population of Collinsia verna was apparently the impetus for its acquisition and preservation in the 1980s. My first couple visits in the mid-late 1990s were rewarded with acres of low, wet forest carpeted by this species, a remarkable but unfortunately short-lived attraction. By the early 2000s, the population of of blue-eyed-Mary at Dowagiac Woods had declined to a fraction of a percent of its previous numbers. The once aptly-named Blue-eyed Mary Trail, a short loop in the southwestern corner of the forest, is now bereft of its namesake. A few lonely stems appear each year at the margin of the forest along the roadside, reminders of the former spectacle that attracted naturalists and other aesthetes from the surrounding region. Even in the core forest, blue-eyed Mary is now apparently restricted to a few small, local refugia in the floodplain of the St. Joseph River. Numbers have not recovered since the initial decline, and it is unlikely many visitors now or in the future will leave the sanctuary impressed with the displays of blue-eyed-Mary. Theirs is an impoverished sanctuary.
So, why is Collinsia verna declining, and is there anything we can do about it? To some degree, the story of blue-eyed-Mary parallels the stories of many of our other spring flora, which are being battered by a combination of stressors. At Dowagiac Woods, the vicinity of the blue-eyed-Mary trail now exhibits a peculiar lack of leaf litter, and most other wildflower species that were once abundant in the area are now eliminated or reduced to depauperate, often sterile specimens. Deer browse and earthworms, which consume the moist duff that supports so many spring wildflowers, may be culprits here. Invasive plant species, especially garlic mustard, have also increased in this area since the 1990s, likely facilitated by deer and earthworms. Elsewhere in the forest, lush displays of spring wildflowers remain, and it is more difficult to pick up on ecological factors that may be responsible for the decline of C. verna. Maturation of the forest canopy and increased shading, lack of microsite disturbances that prevent or reverse encroachment by aggressive perennials, and a decline in pollinator diversity and numbers, perhaps driven (at least recently) by the application of nicotine-based pesticides (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imidacloprid_effects_on_bees), may also be factors in the decline of this and other native spring wildflowers. Susan Kalisz and colleagues have found that C. verna seedbanks are short-lived, making the species vulnerable to relatively rapid extirpation if reproductive success is poor and if new colonization events do not occur. This may explain the decline and disappearance of blue-eyed-Mary in small, isolated woodlots, as noted in many former Kalamazoo County sites, and its persistence in larger, more contiguous blocks of habitat such as Russ Forest.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Numerous synonyms for this species exist, including Anemone patens, Anemone patens var. nuttalliana, Anemone patens var. wolfgangiana, Anemone ludoviciana, Anemone multifida, Pulsatilla patens, Pulsatilla ludoviciana, and Pulsatilla hirsutissima. I would try to explain the nomenclature of this species, but there doesn't seem to be much agreement by botanists on what to call it, as discussed on the Southwest Colorado Wildflowers webpage.
At first, I wasn't sure that this was the same species and variety that we have in the Chicago Region, but upon checking, I found out that it is. Its range is centered in the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, into Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. It can be found in prairies and open woods.
From the photograph above, you can see where the common name of Wild Crocus comes from. Other common names for this species include Prairie Crocus, Prairie Smoke (not to be confused with Geum triflorum, one of its associate species in hill prairies in the Chicago Region), Cutleaf Anemone, and Pulsatille.
So I sat, watching Pasque Flower blossoms blow in the gentle breeze, but instead of in the smog of a Chicago suburb, in the clean mountain air of Colorado. It doesn't get much better than that.
I hope to be able to find the time to post more photographs from my Colorado trip both here and at Through Handlens and Binoculars soon, but the way this spring is going, I can't guarantee it. Shoot... I hope to find the time to get caught up on posting some of the Indiana photos I've taken this spring!
As interesting as these flowers are, because of their color, they are often overlooked. I had walked past several flowers at eye-level before noticing those in these photographs. As is often the case with flowers that are this color, an unpleasant odor is emitted by the flowers, leading to them being pollinated by insects such as carrion beetles, carrion flies, and fruit flies.
Notice how the naked (scaleless) buds open directly into the leaves - a characteristic used in winter to identify this attractive clonal tree of the primarily tropical family Annonaceae. Pawpaws can be found in rich mesic forests throughout the eastern half of the United States.
In these photographs, the paired flowers have a look that reminds me of wedding bells.
In 2009, the Pawpaw was designated as the state native fruit of Ohio. This must have had something to do with the colossal collapses of late by my Buckeyes in major sporting events... if not the fact that the fruit of Aesculus are poisonous whereas those of Asimina triloba are delicious. Good luck collecting Pawpaw fruits in the summer, though... the raccoons and deer often feast on them before we have a chance.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Photographed at Bendix Woods County Park in St. Joseph County, Indiana, where this plant occurs by the thousands! http://www.sjcparks.org/bendix.html.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
I have lots of pictures of this plant already, but how could I pass up another chance? Photographed April 4th, 2012.