I want to encourage you to leave comments. We are amateurs and I'm sure we make mistakes in the identity of some of the flowers. We are photographers first and botanist second. I do hope you enjoy the photography. Click on any picture to make it larger.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bur Cucumber (Sicyos angulatus)

 Gourd family (Cucurbitaceae)

Description: This native plant is an annual vine up to 25' long that develops multiple lanky stems. This vine can climb over adjacent vegetation and fences using its branched tendrils, otherwise it sprawls across the ground. The stems are light green, round or furrowed, and quite hairy. The alternate leaves are up to 8" long and across (excluding the petioles). They are orbicular-angular with 3-5 shallow lobes and their margins are slightly serrated. The upper surface of each leaf is relatively hairless, while the lower surface is finely pubescent, especially along the lower veins. The petiole of each leaf is up to 5" long; it is light green, rather stout, and quite hairy. The leaf blade is strongly indented at the base where it is connected to the petiole. Occasionally, branched tendrils and racemes of flowers occur oppositely from the alternate leaves along the vine. Bur Cucumber is usually monoecious and produces both staminate (male) and pistillate (female) flowers on the same plant. Each staminate flower has a green calyx with 5 teeth, a greenish white corolla with 5 spreading lobes, and a central column of stamens that is knobby at its apex. The teeth of the calyx are short and broad with recurved tips. The lobes of the corolla have a network of green lines on a white background. The staminate flowers are individually about 1/3" across and they tend to bloom in small clusters toward the apex of the raceme. Each pistillate flower has a large ovary that is enclosed within an ovoid fruit about ½" long. The surface of this fruit is covered with sharp spines and long white hairs; it is initially green, but later turns brown. A single style is exerted from the terminal end of this fruit. The pistillate flowers are bunched together in a short raceme; a typical raceme has 3-10 pistillate flowers. The peduncles and pedicels of both staminate and pistillate racemes are green and pubescent. The blooming period occurs from late summer to early fall and lasts about 3 weeks. There is no noticeable floral scent. Each bur-like fruit contains a single large seed that is brown and flattened; this seed is tapered at one end more than the other and it has a rough surface. The root system consists of a shallow branched taproot. This plant spreads by reseeding itself.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, moist conditions, and a fertile soil that is loamy or silty. During hot dry weather, the large leaves have a tendency to droop during the middle of the day, but they usually recover at night if there is adequate moisture in the ground. The seeds germinate after the soil becomes warm.

Range & Habitat: Bur Cucumber is widely scattered across TN. Frequent. Habitats include openings in floodplain forests, moist meadows in floodplain areas, thickets, banks of ditches and rivers, and edges of fields. Moist disturbed areas are preferred.

Faunal Associations: The nectar of the flowers attracts long-tongued bees (including honeybees & bumblebees), Sphecid wasps, Vespid wasps, and various kinds of flies. Wasps are especially attracted by the accessible nectar of the staminate flowers. Some of the bees also collect pollen from the staminate flowers. Because some members of the Cucurbitaceae (Gourd family) have economic importance, their insect pests are fairly well-known. These insects feed on the roots, foliage, stems, or flowers of these vines, which includes flea beetles, Cucumber beetles, Squash beetles, plant bugs, aphids, and moth caterpillars (see the Insect Table for a listing of these species). The spiny fruits of Bur Cucumber can cling to the fur of mammals, which helps to distribute the seeds. Mammalian herbivores usually shun the foliage as a food source. The fruit is inedible.

Photographic Location: Rock Island State Park in TN

Comments: Bur Cucumber is easy to identify once it begins to flower and form fruits. It differs from Echinocytis lobata (Wild Cucumber) by its hairy stems, whereas the latter species has smooth stems. Both of these species produce bur-like fruits, but the fruits of Wild Cucumber are larger (about 2" long) and occur individually, rather than in small clusters. The staminate flowers of Wild Cucumber are usually more showy and occur on longer racemes.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Northern Horse Balm, Richweed, Stoneroot (Collinsonia canadensis L.)

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.

Photographic Location: Rock Island State Park in TN.

A coarse perennial, up to 5 ft. tall, with large, oval, toothed leaves to the top of the stalk, and long, branched, terminal spikes of small, yellow flowers which stand above the leaves. The lower lip of each flower is fringed and extends beyond the upper lip. These flowers have a distinct lemony odor.

This tall wildflower is typical of moist woodlands. Its foliage as well as its flowers have a citronella-like odor. Tea can be brewed from the leaves, and the rhizome was formerly used as a diuretic, tonic, and astringent.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hearts-A-Burstin, American Strawberry-Bush (Euonymus americanus L.)

   My wife Judy and I just got back from a few days camping at Rock Island State Park in Middle Tennessee. It is just a gorgeous park with many stunning waterfalls and scenic trails. I will be posting a few of the many wildflowers we encountered.

Celastraceae (Bittersweet Family)

USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.

Photographic Location: Rock Island State Part in Middle TN.

This airy, deciduous shrub grows 6-12 ft. tall. Its ridged twigs become purplish when exposed to the sun. Pale green flowers with purple stamens have five, distinct clawed petals. Bright green, oval leaves become dark red in fall when bright red fruits open to reveal orange seeds.

The Strawberry Bush is a member of the staff tree or bittersweet family (family Celastraceae), which includes shrubs, woody vines, and mostly small trees.

Curlytop Knotweed (Polygonum lapathifolium)

Curlytop Knotweed (Polygonum lapathifolium) is also known as Curl-top smartweed and Pale smartweed. 

Member of the Buckwheat family.

Stems - To 2m tall, glabrous.  Leaves - Alternate, glabrous, to 30cm long, 6cm wide, typically lanceolate, with impressed veins on the adaxial surface near the midrib. Ocrea not fringed with cilia and glabrous. Inflorescence - Terminal, loose, panicles and axillary racemes. Each flower cluster to 8cm long(tall), 3-9mm thick, nodding.

 Flowers small (2-3mm long),  creamy white to slightly pinkish, dense in cluster.
Bloom Time: July - October
Where Found: Moist soils, disturbed sites, gravel bars, roadsides, and railroads.
Origin - Found in U.S. and Eurasia. Probably introduced in North America.
Notes:  This plant can get quite tall and is easily distinguished by the nodding racemes of the panicle. The leaves sometimes have a dark splotch in the center.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sericea Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata)

Sericea Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) is a member of the Bean or Pea family. Plant grows to 36" tall with leaves alternate, compound, and 3 thickish oblong to elliptic leaflets. Flowers: white with purple veins occur in the leaf axils. 

Bloom Time: August - September. 

Where Found: Introduced from Asia. Planted on roadsides and escaped to areas outside the original plantings. Also found in dry woods, barrens and fields throughout the eastern U.S. and are frequent in TN, though less prevalent in West TN. 

Notes: Lespedezas are commonly planted to improve soils because they act as nitrogen-fixers and are also used for hay. Eleven species are known in TN.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Prairie Golden Aster (Heterotheca camporum)

Prairie Golden Aster (Heterotheca camporum) is a robust taprooted, coarsely but often thinly hairy perennial herb, from 16 to 40" tall with slender creeping rhizomes as well as a taproot. 

Leaves are alternate, more or less lance-shaped, to 3" long and 0.8" wide, mostly entire, but sometimes with a few small sharp teeth. The disks are from 0.5 to 1.0" wide and yellow. The 21 to 34 rays are yellow about 0.4" long. 

Bloom Time: August - September. 

Where Found: Fields and roadsides. A praire species of the Midwest, recently introduced into the southeastern U.S., Middle and East TN. 

Notes: Golden Asters have been placed in three genera: Chrysopsis, Heterotheca, and Pityopsis. They have been reclassified several times, and even for the trained botanist, it is a taxonomically difficult group. Golden Asters may be identified in various manuals by a number of different names. 
 Photos taken: Lock 5 in Wilson County.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beggar-Ticks (Bidens frondosa)

Beggar-Ticks (Bidens frondosa) is a smooth annual, 24-48" tall; leaves are stalked and compound with 3-5 toothed leaflets; generally 8 green bracts surpass the yellow-orange rayless disks; achenes with a pappus of 2 barbed awns. 

Bloom Time: August - October. 

Where Found: Damp waste places throughout the U.S. and TN.  

Notes: The genus Bidens is from the Latin bis, meaning "two" and dens, "teeth" in reference to the bristled awns of the fruit. Plants in the Bidens genus are called Bur Marigold, Beggar-Ticks, and Harvest Lice (referring to the barbed fruit, some of which have 2 curved awns, similar to an antennae). 

Doesn't this plant appear to have "leaves" as ray "flowers"?

Photos Taken on Tomlinson Road in Wilson County. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Slender Dayflower (Commelina erecta)

Slender Dayflower (Commelina erecta) is a perennial herb, 12-36" tall, from thick, fibrous roots; slender, erect, jointed stems, often branched, frequently weaken and arch or fall as the summer progresses. Leaves: alternate linear to lanceolate, 2-6" long; bases form white-hairy sheaths around the stem. 

Flowers: Showy, 3 petals, upper 2 petals pale blue (rarely pink), 0.4 - 1.0" long; lower petal white, much smaller; borne on slender pedicels protruding from a folded spathe (leaf-like bract); spathe edges fused for about the lower 1/3; several spathes near the stem tip; each flower opens for 1 morning only. 

Bloom Time: June - Frost. 

Where Found: Dry soil, often along forest borders and roadsides. Scattered over the central and eastern U.S. In TN, throughout the Central Basin, thinly scattered elsewhere.

Notes: Spiderworts and dayflowers are quite similar, except that the spiderwort flowers are never in spathes, and their 3 petals are uniform in size and color. Many dayflower species are used in herbal medicine, made into tea to treat sore throats, colds, urinary infections, and intestinal irritations. The roots of the Slender Dayflower are edible.

Photos taken on Johnson Road, Wilson County.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow (Hibiscus laevis)

Mallow family (Malvaceae)

Description: This native perennial plant is 3-6' tall, branching occasionally. The stems are round and hairless. The alternate leaves are up to 6" long and 4" across (excluding the petioles). They are divided into 3-5 pointed lobes (cleft) and serrated or crenate along the margins. Leaves with 3 lobes resemble a medieval halberd because the middle lobe is much larger than the 2 sides lobes. Leaves with 5 lobes have the shape of a maple leaf. Some of the leaves may be unlobed, and either sagittate, ovate, or broadly lanceolate. These leaves are hairless, and they have long slender petioles. The upper stems terminate in either a solitary or small cluster of flowers. Each flower is up to 5" across when fully open, consisting of 5 rounded petals, a columnar reproductive structure, and a green calyx with 5 triangular lobes. The petals are white or light pink. The reproductive column consists of whorled stamens and a divided style at its tip. The throat of the flower is usually purple or purplish pink. Around the base of the calyx, there are several narrow bracts. The blooming period can occur from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about a month. Each flower lasts only a single day. The rather large seeds are silky-hairy and irregularly shaped – they tend to be flat-sided and kidney-shaped, but this is not always the case. The fine hairs can be white or brown. The seeds are light for their size, and probably distributed by movement of water. The root system consists of a taproot. This plant spreads by reseeding itself.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, fertile soil, and wet conditions. Flowers require exposure to sunlight to open up properly. This wetland species doesn't like to dry out.

Range & Habitat: Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow has been observed in most areas of Tennessee, mainly west. Occasional.

Habitats include marshes, swamps, muddy shores of rivers and ponds, and soggy islands in the middle of rivers or ponds. It is not often found in highly disturbed areas, and doesn't compete well against the invasive Salix interior (Sandbar Willow).

Faunal Associations: The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract bumblebees and oligolectic Emphorine bees that prefer visiting the flowers of Rose Mallows and similar species. In this latter group of bees, are [Close-up of Leaf] such species as Melitoma taurea (The Mallow Bee) and Ptilothrix bombiformis. The caterpillars of the butterfly Strymon melinus (Gray Hairstreak) feed on the flower buds and seeds, while the caterpillars of Pyrgus communis (Checkered Skipper), the moth Eudryas unio (Pearly Wood Nymph), and the butterfly Vanessa cardui (Painted Lady) feed on the foliage. Unfortunately, the troublesome Popillia japonica (Japanese Beetle) is quite fond of the foliage and flowers of Rose Mallows and similar species. Deer and livestock will eat the non-toxic foliage of native Hibiscus spp. readily. However, the introduced shrub, Hibiscus syriacus (Rose-of-Sharon), which is often planted in yards, is apparently more resistant to browsing by deer than the native Hibiscus spp.

Photographic Location: Long Hunter State Park in Middle TN.

Comments: Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow has large beautiful flowers that can be seen from a distance. The other native Rose Mallow in Illinois is Hibiscus moscheutos (Swamp Rose Mallow). Sometimes the flowers of Swamp Rose Mallow are somewhat larger in size and can span 6-8" across. Some authorities consider Hibiscus moscheutos moscheutos and Hibiscus moscheutos lasiocarpus to be different species, but they both have hairy undersides on their leaves and hairless seeds. In contrast, Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow has hairless leaves and hairy seeds! An older scientific name for this species is Hibiscus militaris.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mad-Dog Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Mad-Dog Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is an erect perennial herb 1-2 ft. tall, from slender rhizomes, the solitary stem freely branched, smooth or hairy in lines. Leaves: opposite, ovate, or narrowly ovate, 1-3" long, with a rounded bases and pointed tip, toothed, pinnately veined, petioled. Flowers are blue or pink, very small (0.4" long), the tube nearly straight; 2-lipped corolla, lower lip longer than upper; borne in numerous, axillary, 1-sided racemes, 1-4" long, the flowers are often paired. 

Bloom Time: July - September. Where found: Moist to wet areas over much of the U.S. and Candada. Throughout TN, usually in small populations. 

Notes:  The leaves of this plant were made into tea that was once used as a folk remedy to treat rabies. A potent tea was also used as a sedative, nerve tonic, and antispasmodic for a variety of nervous conditions, including anxiety, epilepsy, and insomnia. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Virginia Ground Cherry (Physalis virginiana Miller)

Family: Solanaceae

Branched perennial from 1 to 2 ft tall with short hairs on the stem. The leaves are ovate to narrowly Ianceolate, toothed or entire, from 1 to 4 in. long with stalks from 0.4 to 0.8-in  long. Flowers are yellow, the base of the lobes marked with brown, from 0.5 to 0.75-in. wide. The fruiting calyx is spreading-hairy, sunken at the base, 5- angled, notably longer than thick. The berry is orange.

Photographic Location: Sycamore Ridge Ranch in Middle TN.
 Frequent. Dry woods and fields. Found throughout TN. U.S. range from CT to MN south to AL and AZ. Jun-Sep.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Angular Ground Cherry (Physalis angulata)

Angular Ground Cherry (Physalis angulata) is a smooth, highly branched annual, 12-36" tall. Leaves are alternate, ovate to lanceolate-ovate, 2-4" long, irregularly and coarsely toothed. Flowers are yellowish, not dark in the center, broadly bell-shaped, about 0.5" wide, 5 shallow lobs; fruiting calyx is sunken at the base and smooth, about as wide as long, typically purple-veined and 10-ribbed. 

Bloom time: July - September. 

Fruits are pulpy or mealy berries with numerous seeds, enclosed in a lantern-like, papery calyx. 

Where Found: Filed, roadsides, and open woodlands. A southern U.S. species extending north to VA, IL, and KS. Thinly scattered across the western 2/3 of TN. 

Notes: Nine species of ground cherries are found in TN, all fairly similar in appearance with yellow, bell-like flowers, usually solitary, and often brown at the corolla base. 

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare L.)

Family - Asteraceae

Stems - To 2m tall, erect, from fibrous roots and rhizomes, purplish, carinate, simple or branching near apex, herbaceous, fragrant, glabrous.

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate below to sessile above, to -30cm long, 15-16cm broad, deeply pinnatifid to pinnately divided. Lobes serrate, punctate, glabrous. Leaf tissue on rachis also lobed (toothed) and punctate. Leaves fragrant.

Inflorescence - Dense terminal corymbiform arrangement of flower heads. Peduncles glabrous.

Involucre - 1cm in diameter, 5-6mm tall, cupulate. Phyllaries imbricate, 4mm long, -2mm broad, glabrous, with scarious margins, blunt to obtuse at apex and often erose.

Ray flowers - Absent.

Disk flowers - Disk to +/-1cm broad. Corolla tube whitish-yellow, glabrous, +?-2.3mm long, 5-lobed. Lobes acute, .2mm long, yellow. Stamens 5, adnate at base of corolla tube. Anthers yellow, .8mm long, connate around style near apex of corolla tube, included. Style bifurcate, slightly exserted. Achene white in flower, 1mm long, glabrous, 5-angled. Pappus absent or a minute crown. Receptacle conic.

Photographic Location: Sycamore Ridge Ranch in Middle TN.

Flowering - July - September.

Habitat - Meadows, fence rows, prairie margins, fields, roadsides, railroads, cultivated.

Origin - Native to Eurasia.

Other info. - Tansy has been used in the past as a remedy for many ailments. The plant is quite toxic and causes abortions and even death in most mammals.
Grown as an ornamental, the plant is quite striking but has a tendency to get "leggy" and fall over at maturity. Hybrids and cultivars exist which have better growing habits.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Beefsteak Plant (Perilla frutescens)

Beefsteak Plant (Perilla frutescens) is an erect, branching coarse, aromatic annual 12-36" tall. Leaves are opposite, ovate, 3-6" long, often reddish purple, coarsely toothed, tapering at the base to a long petiole. Flowers are white or purplish, about 0.2" long, 5 short, rounded corolla lobes; 4 stamens; hairy calyx tube has upper lip with 3 teeth, lower lip with 2 teeth; calyx is shorter than corolla, but elongates in fruit; borne in 1-sided racemes, 2-6" long, terminal or from upper leaf axils. 

Bloom time: August - September. Where found: Introduced from India. A weed of roadsides and waste places over most of the eastern U.S. Throughout Tennessee. Typically, the scent of this plant helps you identify it immediately.

Notes: This plant is also called Rattlesnake Weed, for the dried seed cases that rattle. The name Beefsteak Plant refers to the reddish purple leaves, which can be used as a condiment to season meat. Ingesting large amounts can cause fluid on the lungs. In herbal medicine, the leaves were made into a tea to treat abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, coughs, fever, and coughs, fevers, and colds. An application of fresh leaves rubbed on a wart for 10 to 15 minutes a day can remove a wart in 2 to 6 days. The seeds are a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid. 
Photo taken on private property in Wilson County.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eyebane (Euphorbiaceae nutans)

A member of the Spurge Family, Eyebane is an annual with stems to 32" tall that are usually ascending above and erect below. Older plant parts are usually smooth, but younger parts often have a single line of soft short hairs. 

Leaves from 0.4 to 1.4" long, are opposite, oblong or oblong-ovate, conspicuously unequally toothed around the margin. 

Clusters of reddish flowers on short stalks terminate the branches or sometimes arise from the leaf axils. 

The true flowers which are invisible to the naked eye lie within floral cups (cyathia). In the margin of the cup are 4 glands, each with a pinkish or white petal-like extension, responsible for the visible "flower." A single 3-lobed seed capsule projects out of the cup.

Bloom time: June through October. Where Found: Lawns, gardens, and waste areas. Found throughout TN.

Marsh Fleabane (Pluchea camphorata L. DC.)

Annual or short-lived perennial from 1 to 5 ft tall with a camphor-like odor. Leaves are alternate, lanceolate to elliptic or ovate, sharply toothed, petioled, to 6 in. long. The inflorescence is densely flowered and usually round-topped. Flower heads, from 0.1 to 0.2-in. wide, are pink and without ray flowers.

Photographic Location: Cedars of Lebanon State Park.

Frequent. Wet woods, marshes, ditches. Found throughout TN (except far eastern counties), and in the U.S. from DE to S OH to E OK south to N FL and TX.


Other common names are Stinkweed and Camphorweed. The genus name is in honor of Pluche, a French naturalist of the 18th century.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wild Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint’s Latin name, Mentha piperita, comes from the Greek Mintha, the name of a mythical nymph thought to have metamorphosed into the plant, and the Latin piper, meaning pepper. It is one of the world’s oldest medicinal herbs, and is used in both Eastern and Western traditions. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures used the herb in cooking and medicine. Peppermint is currently one of the most economically important aromatic and medicinal crops produced in the U.S. 

Mentha piperita. It is thought to be a natural hybrid between spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica). The plant is a perennial, 50-60 cm (3-4 feet) high. The square stems are usually reddish-purple and smooth. The leaves are short, oblong-ovate and serrate. The flowers are purple-pinkish and appear in the summer months. The plant has runners above and below ground.

Where found: Europe, Canada, and the US. 

Photo taken in Lebanon (Wilson County) next to a stream.

Tennessee Sunflower, Eggert's Sunflower (Helianthus eggertii)

Helianthus eggertii is known only from the Interior Low Plateaus (Highland Rim and Pennyroyal Plain) of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama where it occurs in barrens habitat. Currently, 123 populations are scattered throughout the plant's range . These populations contain hundreds to thousands of ramets. Threats to this species are fire suppression, conversion of the habitat for other uses, exotic plant invasion, right-ofway maintenance, and herbivory. The plant is known to respond positively to management activities including burning and mowing. Herbicide applications (using appropriate procedures) may also be beneficial in eliminating invasive species.

One of the largest populations of Eggert's Sunflower is on Arnold AFB in Tullahoma TN. 

Photographic Location: Cedars of Lebanon State Park.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bouncing Bet, Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)

A smooth, colonial perennial herb, 12-24" tall, spreading by rhizomes. The leaves are opposite, smooth, ovate to lanceolate, 2-4" long and 1/2 as wide. The flowers are pink to white, 1" wide, 5 slightly notched petals are spreading to reflexed; inflorescence is a dense cluster of flowers at the top of the thick-jointed stem. 

 Bloom time: June - September. 

Where found: introduced from Europe. Waste places, fields and along roadsides and railroad beds throughout the U.S. and most of TN. Large, showy clumps of flowering plants are common. Notes: Saponaria is from the Latin sapo, for "soap", referring to the soapy lather that forms when the leaves and roots are crushed and mixed with water. A poultice can be made and applied on poison ivy rash, acne, boils, eczema, and psoriasis. Native Americans used the poultice for boils and spleen pain. Plants of the Saponaria genus contain saponins, which are poisonous.

Photo taken: Ford Road in Wilson County.

Western Yarrow (Achillea millefolium L. var. occidentalis DC.)

Alternate Names: Woolly yarrow

Photographic Location: Sycamore Ridge Ranch in Middle TN.

General: Western yarrow is a member of the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family that is commonly found in natural and disturbed habitats throughout the western U.S. It is a self-incompatible, insect-pollinated species occurring as native forms that may differ in chromosome number.

Conservation: Western yarrow is an early successional species that readily establishes on disturbed sites. It is recommended for adding species diversity in native seed mixtures for rehabilitation of disturbed sites such as rangelands, mined lands, roadsides, park and restoration areas, prairie reconstruction projects, and farm bill program conservation plantings. Secondary use is for ornamental application in pollinator friendly, low maintenance, or naturalized landscapes.

Forage: Western yarrow is a food source for bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and deer. Sage-grouse, especially chicks, and other upland birds rely heavily on the foliage of western yarrow as a food source. Sage-grouse chicks also benefit from eating the insects associated with yarrow. In Montana, domestic sheep and goats derive approximately 40 percent of their summer diet from western yarrow, while it constitutes 20 percent of cattle and horse diets (Reitz and Morris, 1939). The leaves and flowers contain volatile oils, alkaloids, and glycosides that are considered toxic, but the plant is seldom overgrazed and eaten in large enough quantities to be harmful to foraging animals.

Ethnobotanic: Native Americans used western yarrow for many purposes, such as a tea to cure stomach ailments, a poultice on infected wounds, and as a mosquito repellant.

Weediness: Western yarrow is not to be confused with the introduced, invasive plant, common yarrow (Achillea millefolium var. millefolium). Common yarrow has origins in central Asia, the European continent, and the islands of Scandinavia. It is considerably different from western yarrow in that it has a much taller stature, aggressive vigor, and weedy characteristics. Common yarrow also initiates a later sequence of flowering and seed ripening. Western yarrow is a common component of western rangelands and only under definite conditions of overgrazing and disturbance could it become locally abundant. Yarrow is seldom regarded as a problem weed except on heavily disturbed, arable sites with favorable environmental conditions.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Western Sunflower (Helianthus occidentalis)

Aster family (Asteraceae)

Description: This perennial wildflower consists of a rosette of basal leaves up to 1½' across, from which a flowering stalk develops that is 2-4' tall. The blades of the basal leaves are 2-7" long and 1-3" across; they are oval to ovate in shape and their margins are smooth (entire) or serrulate with sparse small teeth. The blades of basal leaves usually have rounded bottom and blunt tips. Their upper blade surfaces are medium green and rough-textured, while their lower surfaces are light green. In addition to their central veins, the basal leaves have 1-2 pairs of lateral veins that originate from the bases of their blades. The slender petioles of the basal leaves are 1-4" long and light green. The flowering stalk is light green to greenish red and glabrous to hairy; it is mostly naked, except for 1-2 pairs of opposite leaves below and a few alternate leaves above. The blades of opposite or alternate leaves are 1-3" long and ¼-¾" across; they are lanceolate or elliptic in shape and usually smooth (entire) along their margins. The blades surfaces of these leaves are similar to those of the basal leaves, while their petioles are either absent or up to ½" long.

The flowering stalk terminates in 1-12 flowerheads that are usually arranged in a panicle. The peduncles of these flowerheads are ½-6" long. Individual flowerheads are 1½-2½" across, consisting of 8-22 ray florets that surround numerous disk florets. The petaloid rays are yellow and oblong to elliptic in shape. The tiny disk florets have tubular corollas that are yellow and 5-lobed. Around the base of each flowerhead, there are several overlapping phyllaries (floral bracts). These phyllaries are 5-7 mm. long, light green, linear-lanceolate in shape, and ciliate along their margins. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall, lasting about 1 month for a colony of plants. Afterwards, the fertile disk florets are replaced by achenes about 3-4 mm. in length. These achenes are broadly oblongoid and somewhat flattened in shape; they have a pair of scale-like awns that are early-deciduous. The root system consists of a narrow taproot with shallow rhizomes. Vegetative colonies of plants are sometimes produced from these rhizomes.

Cultivation: The preference is full sun, mesic to dry conditions, and sandy soil. This wildflower will also adapt to partial sun and rocky soil. On deep fertile soil, it is not competitive with other species of plants. This is one of the less aggressive Helianthus spp. (sunflowers).

Range & Habitat: The native Western Sunflower is thinly scattered across TN. Habitats include upland sand prairies, sandy hill prairies, upland sandy savannas, limestone and sandstone glades, sandy areas along railroads, and sandy abandoned fields. This sunflower is usually found in higher quality habitats where the original ground flora is still intact.

Faunal Associations: The pollinators of Western Sunflower are probably similar to those of other sunflowers that grow in relatively open areas. This includes such insects and long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, miscellaneous flies, and occasional butterflies.  Other insects feed on the foliage, bore through the stems, feed on the florets and seeds, or suck plant juices from sunflowers. In addition to these insects, the caterpillars of such butterflies as Chlosyne gorgone (Gorgone Checkerspot), Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot), and Vanessa cardui (Painted Lady) feed on sunflowers, as do the caterpillars of many moths .

The seeds of wild sunflowers are a nutritious source of food for many birds, including the Mourning Dove, Eastern Goldfinch, White-Winged Crossbill, Bobwhite Quail, and several species of sparrows . The seeds are also eaten by the Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrel, mice, and voles. White-Tailed Deer and other hoofed mammalian herbivores browse on the flowering stalks and leaves of sunflowers. Because the Plains Pocket Gopher prefers many of the same habitats as the Western Sunflower in Illinois (open sandy habitats that are well-drained), it likely feeds on the roots, foliage, and seeds of this sunflower in some areas of the state.

Photographic Location: Cedars of Lebanon State Forest in Middle TN.

Comments: Because of its prominent basal leaves and nearly naked flowering stalks, the Western Sunflower has a very distinct appearance among Helianthus spp. (sunflowers). It resembles a petite Silphium terebinthinaceum (Prairie Dock), however the seeds of this latter wildflower are produced by the ray florets, rather than the disk florets. Also, the basal leaves of this latter wildflower are more toothed along their margins, more erect, and much larger in size. In spite of its distinct appearance, the Western Sunflower can form both natural and artificial hybrids with several species of sunflowers. One of these hybrids, Helianthus × cinereus, has Helianthus mollis (Downy Sunflower) as the other parent. The common name of this species, Western Sunflower, is somewhat misleading, because it isn't native to the western United States. Instead, its distribution is centered in the upper Midwest.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Small Red Morning Glory (Ipomoea coccinea L.)

Family - Convolvulaceae

Stems - Vining, twining, twisting, herbaceous, glabrous to sparsely pubescent at the nodes, to 3m long, angled.

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate. Petioles to +6cm long, glabrous to sparsely pubescent, with an adaxial groove. Blades cordate, ovate, acute to acuminate, entire to coarsely toothed, to 10cm long, 6cm broad, typically glabrous but with papillose hairs near the base by the petiole.

Inflorescence - Axillary, cymose clusters of +/- 8 flowers on long peduncle. Peduncle to +/-9cm long, glabrous, angled, twisted. Pedicels to +/-1.5cm long, glabrous. A pair of bracts of opposing bracts subtending each division of inflorescence. Bracts to 3mm long, 1mm broad, acuminate, glabrous, reduced upwards.

Flowers - Corolla salverform, to -3cm long, red and orange red. Expanded limb to 2cm broad, red on the margins, orange internally, glabrous. Tube orange, glabrous internally and externally. Stamens 5, exserted, adnate about 6mm above the base of the corolla tube. Filaments whitish-orange, glabrous but with retrorse papillose glands near the base. Anthers yellow, 1.2mm long. Style 1, exserted beyond stamens, white, glabrous. Ovary superior, yellowish, glabrous, 4-locular, 4-seeded, 1.3mm long, 1mm in diameter. Placentation axile. Ovary subtended by whitish nectary. Stigma globose, tuberculate-papillose, white, 1.3mm in diameter. Sepals 5, distinct, aristate. Base of sepals unequal, expanded, 3-4mm long, +2mm broad. Arista to 4mm long, slightly bulbous at base. Calyx accrescent.

Flowering - July - October.

Photographic Location: Sycamore Ridge Ranch in Middle TN.

Habitat - Low, moist ground, stream banks, thickets, waste ground, disturbed sites, railroads, roadsides.

Origin - Native to tropical America.

Other info. - This vine produces small yet striking flowers which are like a beacon to butterflies. All parts of this plant are poisonous. The plant can be aggressive if given the right conditions. It is a fairly common species in the habitats mentioned above and is found mostly in the eastern 3/4 of Tennessee. Frequent.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Velvet-Leaf (Abutilon theophrasti Medic.)

Family - Malvaceae

Flowering - June - October.

Habitat - Cultivated fields, waste ground, disturbed sites, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to India.

Photographic Location - Sycamore Ridge Ranch in Middle TN.

Other info. - This introduced weed can be found throughout Tennessee. The entire plant is covered with short, soft trichomes and the plant is commonly called "Velvet-leaf." It is most commonly seen along disturbed roadsides and in unkempt cultivated fields. In fact, the Syngenta corporation in North Carolina is developing varieties of corn which produce an herbicide specifically targeted against Abutilon.
The Chinese used (use) the plant for many ailments such as fever, dysentery, and stomachaches. In experiments it has been shown to be a depressant. Velvetleaf has been grown in China since around 2000 BCE for its strong, jute-like fibre to make cordage, thread, nets, and woven bags.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Yellow Nut Sedge (Cyperus esculentus)

Sedge family (Cyperaceae)

Description: This native perennial sedge is ½–2' tall and unbranched. The central stem is erect, 3-angled, and mostly covered by the sheaths of the leaves. The leaves tend to congregate toward the base of the plant. The leaf blades are up to 1½' long and 1/3" across; they are light green and glabrous, spreading outward from the stem. There is a conspicuous channel along the central vein of each leaf blade, especially the larger ones. The leaf sheaths are whitish green, closed, and hairless; sometimes they become pale red toward the base of the plant. The central stem terminates in an umbel or compound umbel of floral spikes; the size and shape of the umbel is rather variable (on larger plants, it is usually several inches across). Each umbel has 1-3 sessile spikes and 6-10 non-sessile spikes on straight branches of varying length. At the base of each umbel [Spikelets & Leafy Bracts] or compound umbel of spikelets, there are several leafy bracts of varying length; the largest bract is usually longer than the inflorescence. Each floral spike is about 2-3" long, consisting of 4 ranks of spikelets along its central stalk (or rachis). The central stalk is flattened and narrowly winged. The spikelets are perpendicular to this stalk and about ½–¾" long. The spikelets are yellow to golden brown, narrowly linear, and flattened in shape; they consist of 10-30 florets and their scales. The overlapping scales are appressed or slightly spreading along the length of each spikelet; each scale is 2.0–3.0 mm. in length. Each floret has a white tripartite style and yellowish brown anthers; the tips of the styles are curly. The blooming period occurs from mid-summer to early fall. Pollination is by wind. The florets are replaced by small achenes that are 1.0–1.5 mm. long, oblongoid or oblongoid-obovoid, and flattened. The shallow root system is fibrous, rhizomatous, and tuberous. The white rhizomes have a slightly segmented appearance from the brown margins of their outer membranes; the rhizomes are connected to small globoid tubers up to ½" across. Young tubers are white, while older tubers are covered by a brown outer membrane; they are usually found within 6" of the ground surface. Vegetative colonies of plants are often produced from the tubers and their rhizomes.
Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, wet to mesic conditions, and a friable soil containing fertile loam, silt, or sand. This sedge can spread aggressively where the ground is bare and moist. It can inhibit the growth of other plants by depleting the soil of nitrogen. Vegetative growth occurs primarily during the warm weather of summer because of the C4 metabolism of this species. Temporary flooding is tolerated.

Range & Habitat: Yellow Nut Sedge occurs in every county of TN and is quite common. It is native to both North America and South America, as well as Eurasia and Africa. Habitats include prairie swales, swales in open woodlands, sedge meadows, edges of ponds, sand flats and mud flats in wetlands, gardens and lawns, poorly drained areas of fields, ditches, and waste areas. Disturbed moist areas are preferred.

Photographic Location: Sycamore Ridge Ranch in Middle TN.

Faunal Associations: The caterpillars of the moth Diploschizia impigritella bore into the stems and leaf sheaths of Yellow Nut Sedge. Its spikelets and tubers are eaten by the Canada Goose and various dabbling ducks, including the Northern Pintail, Green-Winged Teal, Blue-Winged Teal, and Mallard. The Canada Goose also feeds on the foliage of Yellow Nut Sedge. Its foliage is also edible to cattle and other mammalian herbivores, while pigs and squirrels eat the tubers.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Long-Bracted Tickseed Sunflower, Ozark Tickseed Sunflower (Bidens polylepis)

Aster family (Asteraceae)

Description: This native annual or biennial plant is 1-4' tall, branching occasionally. The green or reddish stems are slightly hairy. The opposite compound leaves are oddly pinnate, dividing into 3-7 slender segments. Each compound leaf is up to 8" long and 4" across, and is much broader at the base than toward the outer tip. The leaflets are slightly ciliate coarsely dentate, or cleft into shallow pointed lobes. At the ends of major stems, or from the axils of upper leaves, from 1 to 3 compound flowers (flowerheads) can develop. A plant will often have several of these flowers in bloom at the same time. Each daisy-like compound flower is about 2" across, and consists of 8-10 yellow ray florets surrounding numerous golden yellow disk florets. Each compound flower is subtended by 12-20 involucral bracts that are each about ¾" long, coarsely ciliate, and rather contorted. The blooming period occurs from late summer to early fall and lasts about a month. The flowers are slightly fragrant, which becomes quite noticeable in a large colony. The dark brown achenes are rather flat, rough-textured, and have a central longitudinal ridge. Each achene is about 1½–2 times long as it is wide, with two tiny awns at the top that are barely visible. This contrasts with other Bidens spp., which have 2-4 awns that are long and conspicuous on the apex of each achene. The root system consists of a shallow branching taproot.

Cultivation: The preference is full sun and wet to moist conditions. The soil should be rich in organic material. This plant is easy to grow, but tends to be aggressive at a disturbed site that is sunny and moist. It can form large colonies by reseeding itself. This species of Bidens appears to be more tolerant of hot dry weather than many others.

Range & Habitat: Widespread in TN. Aug-Oct. Habitats include moist black soil prairies, gravelly seeps, ditches along railroads and roadsides, muddy fields, and miscellaneous waste areas. It usually occurs in or around poorly drained areas that are prone to standing water, or near sources of more or less permanent water. Disturbed areas are favored because of reduced competition from deep-rooted perennial plants.

Faunal Associations: The flowers are popular with many kinds of insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, and beetles.  The seeds are eaten by small rodents and various birds, including the Ring-Necked Pheasant, Bobwhite, Swamp Sparrow, and Purple Finch. The foliage is eaten occasionally by the Cottontail Rabbit. Even though their awns are tiny, the achenes of Bidens polylepis can cling to the the fur of animals or clothing of humans; this is largely because of their rough edges. Small rodents may carry the achenes to their dens some distance from the mother plant.

Photographic Location: Sycamore Ridge Ranch in Middle TN.

Comments: This is one of the prettier and more drought tolerant Bidens spp. that occasionally strays from wetlands to moist prairies.