Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blogger's Bloom Day: June 2011

This month's Garden Bloggers Blooms Day Post is full of New England natives, doppelgangers, invasive species and oddballs, but between the trivia and the plant ID conundrums there is beauty in every blossom. This beauty is accessible to anyone who stops to take a closer look at the margins of the road. I should also mention that garden showstoppers like peonies, oriental poppies and irises are now also out in full force, stealing the spotlight as usual.
Grasses of all kinds have just finished flowering, evident by strands of stamen with ripened anthers dangling out of seed pods here and there.
Every time I see deep blue lupins, I'm reminded of the mountain passes in British Columbia where they flourish along highways and trails. They always seemed to mirror the colour of the sky and the glacier lakes there. It's a refreshing thought in the heat of early summer.
Milkweed plants (Aslepias syriaca) have now reached their peak height, and fuzzy flower buds have appeared. The plant is edible as a new shoot, but you can also eat the new buds. All parts must be boiled before eating, as the raw sap is slightly toxic. I prefer to leave it to the monarch butterflies, who search for milkweed plants after migrating all the way from Mexico. As habitat for milkweed becomes more and more developed, hundreds and thousands of monarchs must live without this staple part of their diet. It's also a host plant for their larvae.
Annual fleabane (Erigeron annus) is a cheerful addition this time of year in disturbed soil along margins of parks, roadsides, railroad tracks and abandoned land. Although it provides sustenance for all sorts of pollinating insects, recent research has found that the flower produces seeds asexually without pollination.As the common name suggests, it used to be thought that this plant deterred fleas when burned.
If the sunny yellow flowers of silvery cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea) are showing through your lawn right now, you probably have highly compacted, dry soil. Though I found this specimen growing tall in a meadowy area that hadn't been mowed for some time, the perennial can adapt to living in mowed areas by taking on a more prostrate growth habit.
 Native to both the Old World and the New World, this plant has weaved its way through legends and medicine of both cultures and is still found in mainstream medicinal teas today. Its ability to propagate and grow in the least fertile soils, either by seed or by underground rhizomes, can only be matched by those plants available to fix their own nitrogen. Even through the winter, yarrow (Achillea millifoium) maintains greenery at the base and dried seed heads up to six inches tall.
This bird vetch (Vicia cracca) was one of two types of vetch (the other being crownvetch, with more clover-like blooms) to be introduced as a fodder crop for livestock. I found this one doing what vetch does so well in landscaped areas, climbing inconspicuously up other plants, then flowering when it gets to the top.
Bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) fruits are non-toxic, but the rest of the plant can be toxic and narcotic.  It is most at home in fertile garden soil, climbing cultivated shrubs. Some gardeners choose to leave it be, as the two-tone flowers are somewhat attractive.
I've had turns at both loving and loathing this plant. On the west coast, common blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) was the bane of any gardener trying to restore previously neglected land, as it would frequently form thickets of fast-growing canes with sharp thorns. On the other hand, it was a fine way to occupy a summer afternoon as a kid to go down to the bottom of the ravine with the largest bowl from the kitchen and wade through the thicket, picking berries for fresh pie. I don't see as many dense thickets of it where I live now, but this week I spied a few canes in bloom along the edge of the parking lot to one of my favourite hiking trails. It's appearance is quite similar to black raspberry, which has chalky white stems.
The multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) could be mistaken for blackberries while still in flower, but upon close inspection the leaves are much smaller. The plant was introduced in the 1950's by the US Soil Conservation Service as a solution to erosion-prone banks on public lands, but has since been recognized in many states as a highly invasive plant. I found this one growing on the marginal area between a wetland and field.
The dark elderberry fruits that follow these corymbs of white flowers are  popular in local folk recipes for food, beverage and medicine. 
I found this 10ft shrub growing alongside the blackberry in the shade of maple and pine trees, but I have yet to find the name. The flowers are quite similar to elderberry, but the leaves are different and it blooms slightly before elderberry. It seems pretty common around here. Any help?
This one is cultivated not wild, but it seems to demand so much attention at the front of my garden gate that I had to add it. Yesterday I witnessed someone pull over and haphazardly park her car to climb out and take multiple pictures of the tree. The flowers are prolific and eye-catching, but that's not why all the critters and the passing schoolkids love this tree. They're all waiting for the bracts to fall off and the little globes of fruit to turn from green to yellow to red. It gets the name strawberry dogwood by those fruits, which are edible by August. Though as the bracts turn from white to pink, I spotted an eager cardinal already pecking at the centers, checking for ripeness.


  1. Lovely post...I agree about the Lupine...I always think they look prettiest in fields and along the highway...such unexpected beauty!

  2. Your lupins are doing really well - quite lovely. Happy GBBD!

  3. I would like to know the name of the flowers pictured underneath the pic of the elderberry flowers too. I have a bush/tree of them too. Got it about 8 years ago at an arbor day party for free, can't remember the name of it though. This is the first year it has bloomed, it's starting to get berries now


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