Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Few Observations for Today

Now that I'm back at this, I'll try to choose a few things each day to focus on when I'm in town.  The temptation to write about everything that's happening all at once is great, and choosing just 2 or 3 things is terribly difficult given how many things I'm not choosing...

One of the most noticeable things out on the trails today isn't one of the many flowers blooming, but these hawkweeds that are done doing so.  This photo doesn't convey what makes these seedheads so noticeable -- their size.  Each globe is about 3 inches in diameter, a perfect sphere of parachute seeds waiting for the wind.  The plants are 2 to 3 feet tall, so at this time of year, they hang above most of the surrounding foliage. 
The flowers are all but finished blooming... there were hundreds of seedheads and this was the only bloom I found still in the flowering phenophase:

Astute observers will notice the similarities in flower and seed structure to its cousin the dandelion.  These yellow hawkweeds are also not native, but they don't colonize lawns and gardens the way that dandelions do, and in my world they don't cause a problem -- though some would disagree.

Bindweed, on the other hand, most definitely causes issues.  These morning glory relatives are problematic weeds in the garden world... the flowers -- whether the smaller, white variety on the left or the larger pink variety on the right -- grow from these skinny, string-like vines.  They wind around and around plant stems, making themselves inextricable from the desirable plant.  Often, I end up sort of following the vine down tot he ground and pulling it out from the root, and just leaving the vines wrapped around the other plants to die there, as they presumably will with no connection to the earth.
Bindweed is just one example of where, sometimes, I hate knowing things.  I mean, in general I like knowing about the natural world and what's what, and I don't think I fall prey to the pitfall of mistaking naming it with knowing it.  (Many people, I find, once they learn the name of a species, check it off some sort of list as a plant or animal that they know, and they're done with it.  No more to learn, no more observations needed.  Of course, the name tells you very little about the species... doesn't tell you what eats it or what it eats, what niche it holds, how it reacts to wind, the patterns in its veins, or what light makes it look the lovliest, or any one of a million things you can learn about something beyond its human-given name... but I digress.)  My actual point was, there was a time in my life whan I could have looked at those flowers and just seen beauty.  I remember (long ago) a time when a buckthorn forest was an awesome place to hide or play or build forts or follow deer trails.  Now I tend to see the problems in every landscape, and I can't get past the negative impacts.  A lot of people just look out at the field and it's green and waving in the wind and there are colorful flowers and it's beautiful, and I just can't divorce myself from the knowledge I have to not see what's problematic.  Ah, well... I guess when I see a place with a balanced native community, I appreciate it all the more.

I can't end on a nasty note, so here's a lovely indigo, displaying the typical branching pattern of Baptisia alba (white false indigo), which stands out in the prairie.
We typically see three species of Baptisia in this area, and they are all early blooming (with the white being the last).  Cream wild indigo (B. bracteata) blooms first... it's probably finished now, though there was a ton of it in Rollins Savannah just a couple of weeks ago.  It's got a much different habit, arching toward the ground and therefore never getting tall.  The flowers are creamy in color (thus the common name) and larger than the other species and have the typical irregular shape of legume flowers.  (Being legumes, all three species are nitrogen-fixing, and therefore do great things for the soil in the prairie!)

The next to bloom is the blue false indigo (B. australis).  These are almost finished blooming (and some have started to form their seed pods, which are pretty cool) but I found some still in flower.  The blue indigos gow quite tall, where they're happy, form a big closter that looks like a small shrub. 
(See how I did that?  Got to write about three plants for the price of one!)
Until tomorrow, then...

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