Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Continuing to Learn the Local Natives

When you watch a garden, day by day, it can seem like little changes in it, but if you go away for a week or two, when you come back, it's obvious how big the changes are.

The same phenomenon occurs when you walk a wild area regularly.  Greg and I went for a walk on Eglin AFB this morning, following the same trail that Anna and I took almost 2 weeks ago.  We had both dogs with us and only limited time available, so Greg and I didn't walk as far as Anna and I had, but we still got to see quite a few of the same plants, as well as a couple new bloomers.

Some plants are harder than others to identify, even when they are in full bloom. This little cutie caught my eye 2 weeks ago and it was even prettier today, but I still have no idea what it is.  It's about 6-8" tall, found in a sandhill/mixed pine and oak forest along a roughly maintained road.

The big, smooth stem in the foreground of this photo is probably a VERY healthy Smilax shoot;  it's about 1/2" in diameter, to give you a sense of scale.  Whatever it was, it hadn't leafed out yet. Here are some of the blooms from my mystery plant...

...and a closeup of one of the bloom spikes. 

If anyone can help me with the identification, I would be extremely grateful.  I doubt this plant is in the hort trade, as it is much too small to have any sort of visual impact in the landscape, but its daintiness and bright, cheery color appeal to me.

Not too far down the trail from my mysterious, little, pink charmer, we came across this healthy looking Gopherweed, Baptisia lanceolata.

Gopherweed is a horrible name for an attractive perennial, and I can find nothing about the genesis of or the rationale for the name to justify its use. Surely this pleasant plant, especially with its importance to native bees, deserves a pleasanter name!

Anyway, while the flowers aren't particularly showy, the foliage is pretty and the plant shape is nice. Like all Baptisias, Gopherweed is a nitrogen fixer for the soil, so it can be a good plant to have in the garden, especially here in sandy soil country.

Next on our wildflower discovery tour was a repeat specimen from my last visit, a pinewoods milkweed, Asclepias humistrata.  This individual was one of the only pinewoods milkweeds with fully open blooms 2 weeks ago - now it is developing a couple seed pods, but the blooms appear to be almost done.

It will be interesting to see if this plant reblooms, or if a single bloom is all that occurs, since seed will apparently develop.

Beyond the milkweed was a small, but extremely attractive, bloomer who was almost hidden behind a small, fallen branch and some other foliage.

I knew from the shape of the blooms and from the compound leaves that this plant was in the pea/bean family, but I had to come home and look it up to determine its identity.  Even after looking it up, I'm not sure what to call it.  The scientific name is Tephrosia virginica.  That's pretty straightforward.  However, there are multiple common names.  The USDA Plant Database calls it Virginia Tephrosia, so I assume that's its official common name.  It was, however, most commonly referred to as Goat's Rue.  Other common names are Devil's Shoestrings (apparently referring to its long, tough, stringy roots), Catgut, Rabbit Pea, Hoary Pea, Wild Sweetpea, and North American Turkey Pea.  That's EIGHT different common names.  Thank goodness for scientific nomenclature!

I found several other specimens of Goat's Rue further along the trail, including a couple that seemed to be small colonies, but this little individual, nestled by the reindeer moss, was my favorite.

Goat's Rue has a fairly wide range, including most of the eastern U.S., and it appears to have been a well known medicinal plant to Native Americans.  Multiple sources mentioned that its roots contain rotenone, a chemical that has been used as an organic insecticide and as a fish poison.  Probably not a plant to think about munching on.

Providing a sudden change from the spring-like colors of pink, white and yellow that I'd been seeing so far along the trail, the bright scarlet blooms of Red Basil (Calamintha coccinea) actually surprised me.

I thought this plant was primarily a fall bloomer...but apparently it will bloom at least sporadically throughout the growing season.  It's another plant I'm hoping to find a source for and then add to our yardscape - low-growing, gorgeous flowers, evergreen foliage.  The foliage is very fine textured and rather sparse, but I still think the plant is quite attractive, and in full bloom it is quite stunning.

With our truncated walk, we didn't see much wildlife:  tracks of deer, boar, and raccoon, a male towhee, and the lacy spider web....

...of a funnel spider.  The spider, as is normal for funnel spiders, kept herself hidden deep in her funnel, but the web was beautiful - a true, lacy, fairy's handkerchief. 

1 comment:

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

All kinds of new plants to study. Nice to see what you're studying in your new area.