Queen Anne’s Lace

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Queen Anne’s Lace earned its common name from a legend that tells of Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) pricking her finger and a drop of blood landing on white lace she was sewing.

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Its flowers are small and have five white petals that form umbrella-shaped clusters that are between two to five inches in diameter. Often, one to several dark purple flowers appear in the center of each cluster.

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Although common along North America’s roadsides, this plant is native to temperate regions of Europe and southwest Asia, and naturalized to North America and Australia.

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This flower’s Latin name is Daucus carota and domestic carrots are a cultivar of a subspecies of this plant. Early Europeans cultivated Queen Anne’s Lace and the Romans ate it as a vegetable. American colonists boiled and ate its taproots.

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Queen Anne’s Lace’s flower clusters start out curled up and eventually opens to allow pollination. Over time, as the flower matures, the cluster curls inward forming a cup-like bird’s nest when it goes to seed at the end of the season. This flower can grow to over three feet tall.

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Its feathery leaves resemble those of the domestic carrot. Queen Anne’s Lace is found in fields, meadows, waste areas, roadsides and disturbed habitats. It is very hardy and thrives in a dry environment.

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This plant is also known as Wild Carrot, Bishop’s Lace, Bee’s Nest, Bird’s Nest, Devil’s Plague, Lace Flower and Rantipole.

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Round-leaved Sundew

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I don’t usually think of Ohio when I think about carnivorous plants, but we have two types in Wooster, this one and the Pitcher Plant.

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The insect-eating lifestyle of the Round-leaved Sundew makes this plant a fascinating species. The round three-quarter inch leaves have sticky, tendrils with droplets of “dew.” This tempts unsuspecting prey.

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The main habitat for this plant is bogs and their acidic habitat doesn’t provide enough nutrients., so it catches and eats insects.

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Round-leaved Sundew’s droplets are very sticky and this traps insects; when the presence of its stuck prey it detected, its leaf curls inwards to engulf it.

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Its scientific name is Drosera rotundifolia. The term “droseros” is Greek for “dewy” and refers to the moist, glistening drops on the leaves. The term “rodundifolia” means “round leaves.”

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Though tiny and easy to overlook, this is a really cool plant to encounter in the wild.

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Birds-foot Trefoil

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While driving around northeast Ohio, it seems that this small perennial flower is lining just about every roadway.

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Birds-foot Trefoil belongs to the same family as pea and bean plants. Its showy, pea-like flowers are only about a half an inch across.

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This plant was introduced from Europe as a cultivated forage crop. It is widely planted for erosion control along newly built roads.

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Although its flowers start out as a bright lemon yellow, over time they can turn red-orange with age.

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Birds-foot Trefoil common name refers to its seedpods, which when grouped together look like a bird’s foot and are slender and purple. Five leaflets are present, but with the central three held conspicuously above the others, hence the use of the name “trefoil.”

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This plant can survive fairly close grazing, trampling, and mowing. Birds-foot Trefoil is most often found in sandy soils. It flowers from June to September and is a source of nectar for several different kinds of butterflies and bees.

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This plant is also known as Bloomfell, Cat’s Clover, Crowtoes, Eggs and Bacon and Birdsfoot Deervetch.

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Wild Potato Vine

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While hiking in a Pine Barrens habitat in coastal Maryland, the flowers of what looked like an over-sized Morning Glory caught my attention.

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Wild Potato Vine is a twining plant which features heart-shaped leaves and funnel-shaped white flowers that are 2 to 3 inches across with maroon centers.

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This plant gets its “potato” namesake because its large, tuberous roots can be roasted and eaten. Some of the tubers can reach 30 inches long, be 5 inches thick and weight over 20 pounds.

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Wild Potato Vine habitat includes upland woods, the edges of prairies bordering woodlands, thickets, stream-sides and disturbed ground, like railroad and highway borders.

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It is host to Long-tongued Bees, Bumblebees and Digger Bees as well as nectar-seeking butterflies and moths. Tortoise Beetles, the the Sweet Potato Flea Beetle and the Sweet Potato Leaf Beetle feed on its leaves.

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Wild Potato Vine is also known as known as Man of the Earth, Manroot, Wild Sweet Potato and Wild Rhubarb.

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Poison Ivy

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While visiting southern Illinois, I had several instances when I came across this plant, which belongs to the same family as mangoes and cashews. All three of these types produce urushiol, the compound that causes an itchy rash.

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Every part of the Poison Ivy (leaves, stems and roots) is poisonous, so not only should it not be touched, it should not be burned. With burning, the urushiol becomes volatilized in the smoke and you can get it in your lungs, which is very dangerous and can even lead to death.

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Scientists speculate urushiol evolved as an antimicrobial defense agent. Birds, deer, squirrels, reptiles and insects are not affected by it. In humans, contact with Poison Ivy causes a reaction known as a cell-mediated immune response. The rash it causes is a result of your immune system attacking its own skin cells.

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Poison Ivy fruit, called drupes, are an important food for wildlife. Over 60 types of birds eat Poison Ivy berries. Deer and insects eat the leaves.

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“Leaves of three, let it be; berries white, take flight” is a familiar saying to help identify and avoid Poison Ivy, though its characteristics are very diverse and change in different habitats.

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This plant often follows civilization, cropping up in disturbed sites like cut banks, roadsides and old fence rows. It prefers woodland borders and clearings and shuns the dense forest. Despite its common name, it is not a true ivy.

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For those who are allergic to the plant, its benefits are often overlooked. Poison Ivy is an early colonizer, often taking hold in areas disturbed by humans and it begins the slow process of rebuilding the landscape. It requires very little nourishment or moisture and it attracts and sustains a variety of wildlife.

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Multiflora Rose

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This is an unavoidable invasive species that I encounter on my northeast Ohio hikes. It is native to eastern Asia, and naturally found in China, Japan and Korea.

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In the 1950′s, it was common to plant Multiflora Rose as a “living fence,” which was more permanent and economical than a wire fence. These days it is common in uncultivated fields, fencerows and open woods.

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This is a perennial shrub with arching, thorny stems that climbs over other plants, reaching up to 15 feet tall and forming dense thickets. It’s flowers are often in clusters and may be pink or white; they tend to bloom here in Summer.

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Typically, they have seven leaflets per leaf, but can they can also have between five and eleven leaflets. The two-inch long leaflets are oval and sharply toothed.

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Their small, bright red fruit, referred to as “rose hips,” develop in the Summer and remain on the shrub through the winter.

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Multiflora Rose spreads aggressively, both by rooting canes (the ends of branches that root when coming in contact with the ground) and by seeds dispersed by birds and wildlife.

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This is a very difficult plant to control. A plant may produce a million seeds per year, and the sseds can remain viable for 20 years.

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This plant is also known as Baby Rose, Japanese Rose, Many-flowered Rose, Seven-sisters Rose, Eijitsu Rose and Rambler Rose.

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Common Bladderwort

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While hiking along the Cuyahoga River, I encountered this very widespread species within the United States and throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It is usually overlooked by nature enthusiasts, but is a common sight in wet ditches and wetlands across the state.

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Bladderwort is a carnivorous species many have learned about in their junior high/middle school science classes. Small bladders are inflated sacs that are triggered to ensnare tiny aquatic organisms. The bladders are scattered in the leaves, which is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Common Bladderwort.

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The bladders also fill with air to keep the plant afloat during the flowering period and fill with water to sink the plant when it goes into dormancy.

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Up to 20 bright yellow one-half to three-quarter inch snapdragon-like flowers form at the top of a stout reddish green stem, emerging up to 8 inches above the waterline. The flowers have finely articulated red veins.

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This plant is free floating and has no roots. Although the commonly held view is that the bladders of bladderworts are for capturing and digesting microorganisms that provide the plant with nutrients, bladders more often have been observed to contain communities of microorganisms (bacteria, algae, and diatoms) living in the bladders, not as prey, suggesting that the bladders may also, and perhaps more importantly, serve to establish mutually beneficial relationships with some microorganisms.

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Virgin’s Bower

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Walking along the Cuyahoga River, I frequently see this flowering vine, which belongs to the same genus of a popular garden plant, Climatis, though this wildflower’s petals are much smaller.

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Its flowers are in delicate round clusters and quite intricate. It is one of over a dozen species residing in the eastern United States.

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The leaves of Virgin’s Bower are 3-part and sharply toothed. Its square-stemmed vine is often seen growing over fences or shrubs along riverbanks. This native plant is most often found in damp settings, such as along stream banks or in floodplains.

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Virgin’s Bower is an aggressively growing vine which can climb to heights of 10–20 feet by twisting its leafstalks. After the flowers are polliniated, their feathery plumes look like a work of art.

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Some other common names for this plant are Devil’s Darning Needles, Devil’s Hair, Love Vine, Traveler’s Joy, Wild Hops, and Woodbine. Whatever you call it, it’s a fine wildflower to come across in late Summer and early Fall.

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Wild Leek

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Walking along Chippewa Creek in Brecksville Reservation, I noticed an unusual looking flower – Wild Leek. The flowers form in sphere-shaped clusters.

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Its preference is dappled sunlight during the Spring when the leaves develop, while during the summer considerable shade is tolerated as the leaves have withered away. .

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The presence of this species is a sign that the original flora of a woodlands is still in intact. Its flowers attract various kinds of bees, including masked bees, honeybees, bumblebees and mason bees.

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This woodland wildflower is somewhat unusual because its foliage has withered away by the time the flowers bloom. Both the foliage and flowers are attractive; the latter help to brighten the gloomy corners of woodlands during the summer.

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Blue Vervain

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This is a neat and distinctive plant that I sometimes come across in fields at this time of year. It is a slender, but erect wildflower that grows up to 5 feet tall.

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Blue Vervain habitats include riverbottom prairies, moist meadows in floodplain woodlands, soggy thickets, borders of rivers and ponds, marshes, ditches, fence rows and pastures. It adapts readily to degraded wetlands and other disturbed areas.

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It is a member of the mint family so it has a square stalk and opposite branches. The flowers of Blue Vervain attract many kinds of long-tongued and short-tongued bees.

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This plant has a use for humans as well; it is an anti-spasmodic herb and muscle relaxer. Blue Vervain has been used to soothe and repair damaged nerves. There’s a lot of reasons to like this graceful plant once you get to know it.

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