Monday, July 1, 2013

Late June Blooms: June 15 and 22

As summer progresses, MLBS experiences an explosion of ferns! Most flowering plants, with a few notable exceptions (see below), rely on sunlight and the process of photosynthesis to produce sugar for food.  Imagine life as a small wildflower amidst this thick blanket of ferns, trying to eek out a living with only the occasional glimpse of sunlight peeking through.  
Conopholis americana fruits
Monotropa uniflora flower
One way to avoid competing for sunlight is to simply not require sunlight at all!  Such is the case with bear corn (Conopholis americana), which is now in fruit, and indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), which we saw in bloom for the first time this year around June 20. They do not contain chlorophyll (a condition termed "acholorphyllous") and thus are not capable of making their own food.  Instead, they parasitize roots of other plants such as oak trees to gain nutrients.

Late June is a perfect time of year to enjoy the lovely white plumes of flowers on Galax urceolata and Amianthum muscitoxicum (fly poison), both of which are now on full display in our woods.  Both of these plants have racemes: flowers are arranged along a single unbranched axis, have short stalks (pedicels), and open from the bottom up.  
Galax urceolata flowers 
Galax urceolata leaves 
Amianthum muscitoxicum

Rhododendron calendulaceum
Medeola virginiana

Other beautiful late-June blossoms include the aptly-named flame azalea (R. calendulaceum), a shrub with bright orange flowers, and indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana), an herb with much smaller but equally interesting flowers that nod below its foliage.

False hellebore (Veratrum viride) is a large, showy herb with yellow-green flowers in bloom at the top of Spring Road.  It stands at up to 1.5 m high, so it's hard to miss!  In our population at MLBS, the branches of the inflorescenses droop significantly rather than simply spreading or standing erect as is common in many eastern populations.
Veratrum viride 
Veratrum viride

Most of the Bloom Blog has focused on herbs and occasionally shrubs, but late June brought several vines in flower as well, including Smilax spp. (greenbrier) and Dioscorea villosa (wild yam). Complete species lists coming soon!

Our next walk is July 6th.  We will be led by David Darnell, President of the New River Valley chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society. July 13 there is NO What's in Bloom walk scheduled.  Instead, we invite you to join us that afternoon for the renewal of a favorite tradition--the Mountain Lake Biological Station Open House!  It's a great, family-friendly opportunity to enjoy the mountain, meet our scientists, and learn about what we do.  In the meantime, get outside and botanize!

All photographs copyright J. Jones. 

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