Twinleaf

01 Twinleaf_7234

This is a wildflower that I noticed not because of its blossom, but rather due to its fruit, which resembles a green acorn. I came across it last Summer and went back in April of this year to see its flowers.

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Twinleaf’s large, conspicuous blooms feature eight snowy-white petals which drop within a day or so. This plant is a perennial and often forms small colonies.

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This wildflower features long-stemmed, blue-green leaves up to 6 inches long, which are deeply divided into two lobes that give the appearance of being two separate leaves, hence the common name.

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Its unusual seed pods are on stalks that have hinged lids that open to drop shiny, brown seeds for ants to scatter.

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This showy wildflower’s scientific name, Jeffersonia diphylla, commemorates our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who was a great naturalist and once president of the American Philosophical Society, which by the late 1700’s was the country’s leading scientific organization.

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Unlike many of Ohio’s Spring wildflowers, Twinleaf is not a true spring ephemeral, as its leaves remain green and actively produce chlorophyll throughout summer. It tends to grow in the rich, damp soils of deciduous forests.

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This neat plant is also known as Helmet Pod, Ground Squirrel Pea and is enjoyable to encounter on my northeast Ohio hikes.

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Giant Wakerobin

01 California Common Scorpion_5814

While hiking along a woodland creek, I noticed this California species of spring-flowering perennial plant. It is found in the Pacific Coast Ranges and in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.

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Giant Wakerobin’s large, showy, solitary, three-parted flowers rise directly out of the leaves; its flower color is variable, but is most often dark red to white. Its leaves, which are up to 6 inches long and 5 inches wide, are in whorls of three and often mottled with dark blotches.

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It prefers a shady habitat and is clump-forming, growing to 12 to 18 inches tall. The plant often seen in wooded or streamside situations (or both). It is a classic Spring wildflower, in that it blooms from Spring until early Summer, when there are very few leaves on trees, allowing it to get the light that it needs.

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Trilliums use a strategy called myrmecochory for seed dispersal. A white, fleshy appendage on the seed tip is a nutrient-rich food packet that attracts ants. Ants carry seeds to their colony up to one mile away, feed the packet to their larvae, and discard the seeds, effectively planting them.

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Not only is it an interesting plant, Giant Wakerobin is an incredible beauty and a welcome sign of Spring.

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Pacific Hound’s Tongue

01 Western Hound's Tongue_6163

This is a distinctive wildflower that I sometimes encounter on my April visits to California. It is native to western North America, where it grows in shady areas in woodland and chaparral.

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Its flowers change color, perhaps telling pollinators whether a specific flower is worth visiting for pollen and nectar. Bees can see blue colors, but not reds. Immature pink flowers may signal to bees, “Not ready; move on;” the mature blue flowers, “Ready for pollination;” and the fading blue-purple of the aging flowers, “I’m done, don’t bother.”

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Pacific Hound’s Tongue Hound’s grows from a heavy taproot and is an early-blooming perennial plant that supposedly gets its name from the resemblance of its leaf shape to that of a dog’s tongue.

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Known scientifically as Cynoglossum grande, the shape and rough texture of the leaves are described in the genus name, which is derived from the Greek – “cynos” for dog and “glossa” for tongue. The species name, grande, means showy (or big).

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Pacific Hound’s Tongue is in the same family as the Forget-Me-Not, which its blooms resemble. Its flowers attract native bees and hummingbirds and is an occasional larval host plant for moths and butterflies.

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According to folklore, a piece of hound’s tongue placed in one’s shoe will protect from being barked at by strange dogs!

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Yellow Sand Verbena

01 Yellow Sand Verbena_2477

While exploring Point Reyes National Seashore, this low-to-the-ground plant with striking yellow flowers caught my eye. It is native to the west coast of North America, from southern California to the Canada–United States border.

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Most members of this genus have pink or purple flowers, but those of this species are bright yellow, making it easily recognizable.

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Yellow Sand Verbena grows on beach dunes and sand dunes of coastal bars and river mouths along the immediate coastline. It is an important plant in helping to stabilize dunes to resist erosion.

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It bears attractive neatly rounded heads of small, bright golden flowers. The individual flowers have no petals; rather, they are composed of yellow bracts forming a trumpet shaped around its stamens.

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This plant is seen exhibiting psammophory, a method by which plants save themselves from herbivores by attracting sand to themselves, making them difficult to be eaten.

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Yellow Sand Verbena’s leaves are succulent-like, in common with many other coastal plants and are about as long as wide, growing on short, thick stalks. Its roots are edible and traditionally eaten by the Chinook Indians.

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A member of the Four O’clock Family, this wildflower is also known as Coastal Sand Verbena.

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Nuttall’s Linanthus

01 Nuttall's Linanthus_1646

While hiking on Mount Charleston in southern Nevada, I noticed the small flowering plant growing close to the ground.

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This member of the Phlox Family is a sweetly aromatic, clump-forming perennial with a round mound of stems clad with a distinctive whorled foliage.

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Native to much of the southwestern United States, it lives on dry, open or lightly wooded, often rocky slopes from the foothills to well up into the mountains.

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Nuttall’s Linanthus’ flowers are very similar to many other members of the Phlox Family. They are white or pale cream in color, about half an inch across and have five unnotched petals, centered on a yellow tube.

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This species was named in 1870 from a specimen collected by famed botanist and Harvard teacher, Thomas Nuttall.

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Seaside Daisy

01 Seaside Fleabane_3459

While on the Pacific Coast in April, I came across this cool-looking plant. This wildflower is native to the coastline of Oregon and California where it grows on beaches, coastal bluffs and dunes.

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Seaside Daisy is a low-growing perennial, which forms a cushion of semi-double, lavender-to-pink flowers adorned with yellow centers.

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This plant blooms for months from mid-spring until late summer, when its blossoms almost cover its leathery foliage of thick, spoon-shaped, blue-green leaves.

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Its Latin name is Erigeron glaucus. The name erigeron is from the Greek eri meaning “early” and geron meaning “old man,” referring to the fact that the flowers bloom in spring, then turn gray like hair.

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This fine plant is also known as Seaside Fleabane and Beach Aster.

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Blue Witch

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This is an evergreen shrub up to three feet high and wide, displaying purple flowers about one inch in diameter. It can be found in chaparral habitat and low-elevation oak woodlands in California and parts of Baja California and Arizona.

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It has bright purple or blue frilly flowers with thick yellow anthers at the center. The flowers close into spherical buds overnight. Its dark gray-green oval-shaped leaves grow on hairy green stems. All parts of the plant are toxic to people and some animals. However, it is very attractive to insects.

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Though the main bloom period is spring and summer, some flowers will occur for most of the year. When a Blue Witch flower finishes blooming, it bears small round green fruits which turn purple when ripe and resemble tiny eggplants.

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While beautiful to look at, it is also a tough shrub which can grow in rocky and clay soils and springs up in areas recovering from wildfires or other disturbances.

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This plant is also known as Purple Nightshade, Purple Witch and Parish’s Nightshade – it was neat to encounter it while hiking on Mount Hamilton during my visit to California.

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Silver Bush Lupine

01 Lupine_4351

While exploring Mount Hamilton in north-central California, it was hard not to notice this colorful purple wildflower.

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This plant grows in the hills and valleys of the Golden State. It requires good drainage and needs little water once the roots are established.

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When Silver Bush Lupine blooms, its flower is light blue to purple on three- to twelve-inch stalks. Its foliage is silver with a feathery texture.

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Not only is it beautiful, but this plant performs a valuable function. It is a member of the Legume Family and has nitrogen-fixing nodules on their roots.

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As a result, they are important for soils, as they can take nitrogen from the air and “fix” it into the ground for the purposes of plant growth and prosperity.

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Like other perennial shrubs, Silver Bush Lupine can live for many years.

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Giant White Wakerobin

01 Giant White Wakerobin_5197

This spectacular wildflower was easy to spot in the overcast, rainy Pacific Northwest forest. This largest and showiest type of trillium is frequently cultivated in wildflower gardens.

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The species is endemic to the western United States, ranging from west central California through Oregon to Washington. It is found in diverse habitats, such as the moist slopes of mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, among shrubs, thickets and along stream banks and river beds.

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This plant has an elegant appearance in low-growing clumps of large green leaf-like bracts and brilliant white flowers. Scientifically known as Trillium albidum, this is a very long lived genus, with some species known to live for multiple decades. In the wild, most species take 7-10 years to produce flowers from seeds.

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Giant White Wakerobin’s seeds are mainly dispersed by ants, which transport the seeds to their homes in order to consume part of the seed coat. This plant also spreads underground through rhizomes.

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As its common name suggests, it is one of the earliest blooming of California native flowers and a herald of spring.

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Dutchman’s Breeches

01 Dutchmans Breeches_5546

I recently saw this wildflower while hiking the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in northeast Ohio. This native plant is common throughout the eastern United States and also occurs in the Pacific Northwest, though it is less common there.

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Dutchman’s Breeches blooms in the early Spring from March to April. Its flowers are white to pink and resemble a pair of pantaloons hanging upside down. It has one or more finely compound leaves that make the plant appear fern-like.

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The flowers are pollinated by early bumblebees, which have tongues that are long enough to tap the nectar. Unlike the closely related Squirrel Corn, its flowers lack fragrance.

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This plant’s seeds are kidney-shaped, with a faint net-like pattern. Each one has a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. Dutchman’s Breeches is just one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory.

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The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes and then put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate.

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Dutchman’s Breechess can be found in deciduous forests, especially along gentle slopes, ravines or ledges along streams. This species most often occurs in original woodland that has never been plowed under or bulldozed over. It’s abundance in such places can be highly variable.

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It has several common names, depending on which part of the country you find it in. “Bleeding Heart” is one, due to its sometimes pink flowers. Another common name is “Little Blue Staggers,” derived from its ability to induce drunken staggering if cattle graze on it, due to the narcotic and toxic substances it contains.

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