Journal archives for September 2020

September 09, 2020

The Cosmic Law Between Travelers and Beggartick Seeds

Hey there iNatters and welcome to beggartick week! Around this time of year, Ohio becomes a sea of yellow and we would be remiss not to mention some of our least favorite golden nuggets: Beggarticks (also known and Spanish needles and bur marigolds).

While these blooms are brilliantly bright, we might think of their seeds as annoying atrocities. Beggarticks form seeds called achenes, which are dry fruits containing only one seed. Achenes are cool and all, but beggartick achenes sport 2-4 barbs that help the seed latch onto any passerby that brushes against it. Has anyone ever been on a late summer/early fall hike and gotten back to your car or house and discovered a bunch of small seeds stuck to your socks? Yea, those are probably beggartick seeds.

A wise person once told me, you can’t always change the situation you’re in, but what you can change is how you choose to react to it. So, we can choose to pluck those seeds off in annoyance and chuck them as far away as humanly possible. Or, we can smile and realize that we are acting out a cosmic law between plants and animals. Just as bees and butterflies suppose they are minding their own business as they gather pollen and nectar, so too have we galivanted among the wildflowers and been unknowingly tasked with spreading their seeds. So, next time you’re plucking those achenes off your socks, imagine yourself in line with our dutiful Ohio pollinators making the next generation of wildflowers possible.

A total of 9 beggartick species live throughout Ohio. Beggarticks are members of the Bidens genus, which is divided into two groups: those with showy flowers and those with inconspicuous flowers. In this journal post, we’ll talk about Ohio’s five most abundant beggarticks: Devil’s beggartick (B. frondosa), tickseed beggarticks (B.aristosa), nodding beggarticks (B. cernua), marsh tickseed (B. trichosperma), and purplestem beggarticks (B. connata). This week, I will keep identification remarks short and simply link you to Jonh Hilty’s Illinois Wildflower Guide and other similar webpages, which contain plenty of helpful identification information! As always, I will also be referring to my handy Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide

Devil’s beggartick (B. frondosa):
This is Ohio’s most abundant beggartick flower. Devil’s beggarticks do not display a showy flower. They often have hairy, purplish stems with compound leaves with 3-5 lanceolate leaflets.

Credit: Ernie Marx, courtesy Eastern Colorado Wildflowers

Tickseed beggarticks (B.aristosa):
Tickseed beggarticks have showy flowers with hairy, bright purple stems. Tickseed beggartick leaves are also compound, but its leaflets are often pinnate or bipinnate (meaning they are can be further lobed or subdivided).

Credit: Famartin, courtesy Wikimedia Commons, and Peter Friedman

Nodding beggarticks (B. cernua):
This Bidens has a showy, nodding flower. Nodding beggarticks have purplish stems with sessile, oppositely attached, lanceolate-ovate leaves with lightly toothed margins. As the fall season fades, nodding beggarticks leaves often become tinged with purple.

Credit: G.D. Bebeau

Marsh tickseed (B. trichosperma):
The marsh tickseed is a showy Bidens flower that is easily mixed up with Bidens aristosa. The most noticeable difference between the two are their flower bracts: B. aristosa has outwardly-curled bracts, while B. trichosperma has straight, blunt-tipped bracts.

Left to right: B. trichosperma plant, B. trichosperma leaves, B. trichosperma flower bracts, and B. aristosa flower bracts.
Credit: Peter M. Dzuik, Katy Chayka (x2), and JK Marlow

Purplestem beggarticks (B. connata):
Purplestem beggarticks do not have showy flowers. This Bidens plant will have a hairless, light green to purplish stem. The leaves on B. connata are lanceolate and sometimes have one or two lobes near the base.

Credit: John Hilty, courtesy of Illinois Wildflowers (x2)

Hopefully this post and its resources are helpful on your achene-filled hikes these next few weeks! Keep on keeping on iNatters!

Posted on September 09, 2020 01:11 AM by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 14, 2020

The Sneakiest Orchid of Them All

Hey there CVNP-goers! Hope you’ve all been enjoying yourselves and this lovely, cool weather. Anybody out there partaking in one of NE OH’s classic Fall Hiking Sprees?

One of my colleagues shared this sweet-looking genus with me called Spiranthes or the Ladies’ Tresses. These delicate cuties are out and blooming right now and I know everybody loves a good orchid, so I figured it’d be a cool one to feature! However, when we’re talking about our precious orchids, we must be careful. Orchids are a sensitive species subject to theft by sellers and collectors.

Our ladies’ tresses, though, have been relatively safe from orchid thieves because most people don’t realize that they’re orchids. Ladies’ tresses aren’t bright and showy like a typical orchid. Although, one could argue that their spiraling flower spikes are, nonetheless, captivating.

Ladies’ tresses have basal leaves that are either grass-like or egg-shaped shape. They’ll produce one flower spike bearing small, white, tubular flowers. The spike usually blooms from the bottom up. Ohio hosts 11 Spiranthes species, 5 of which have been reported in CVNP. The three most common species that we will discuss today are oval ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes ovalis), Great Plains ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum), and slender ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes lacera). Below, we’ll talk about their identifying characteristics. Most of my information will come from my trusty Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, John Hilty’s amazing Illinois Wildflower Guide online, and the North American Orchid Conservation Center.

Oval ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes ovalis):

Oval ladies’ tresses have 1-2 smooth, basal leaves that are usually lanceolate in shape. Sometimes, this plant also bears alternately attached leaves that ascend its flower stalk. The flower stalk can be 3-12” tall. It is hairless at the bottom and gets hairy as you ascend the stalk. Flowers are attached to the stalk tip in a double spiraled spike. The white flowers are tubular, curved, and nodding. Many bee species visit this flower for nectar and herbivores will eat the leaves for food. These plants prefer light shade or sporadically lit patches in moist to well-drained woodlands and swamps.

Credit: Jim Fowler (for photos 1 and 2) and Jen Modliszewski.

Great Plains ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum):

Great Plains ladies’ tresses bear 2-3 basal grass-like leaves. These leaves will wither before the flowers begin to bloom. Great Plains ladies’ tresses flowers can be white, cream, or yellow in color. They sit on the hairy flower stalk in a tight spiral with petals curving upward. The labellum (or the orchid’s modified petal, often called a lip or beard) curves downward with an often yellow-colored center and wavy edges. You’ll find this flower in dry to moist grasslands and fens.

Credit: Katy Chayka (first and third photos) and Peter M. Dziuk

Slender ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes lacera):

Slender ladies’ tresses have 2-4 basal, egg-shaped leaves. Its flower spike is a tight spiral of small, nodding, white flowers. Slender ladies’ tresses are easily identified by the small green dots that adorn the labellum

Credit: Dave Taft, Gerald C. Williamson, and Gary Van Velsir.

If you have a passion for orchid conservation, you should check out NOCC: The North American Orchid Conservation Center. They have tons of cool resources about orchid conservation:

Have fun out there this week, everybody! Stay safe and make sure you have a plan for your visit!

Posted on September 14, 2020 11:39 PM by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 21, 2020

Symphyotrichum: The American Aster Genus

Happy Monday iNatters! Hopefully your weekend has left you refreshed, reinvigorated. This week, we noticed that our beloved asters are beginning to bloom in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Asters are arguably one of our most precious fall wildflowers in Ohio.

To be clear, we are not talking about the entire Aster family, Asteraceae. We are talking about the American aster genus, * Symphyotrichum*. As a side note, you may know these species as members of the Aster genus. However, scientists have recently split Aster into multiple smaller genuses. The largest genus from these splits is our American aster genus, Symphyotrichum, which contains asters from both North and South America.

Ohio is home to about 30 American aster species, 13 of which have been documented in the park. In this post, we will go over identifying characteristics of our 5 most common American asters: New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), common blue wood aster(Symphyotrichum cordifolium), calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum), smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve), and hairy white oldfield aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum).

American aster leaves get smaller from the base to the top of the plant and leaf shape can vary along the plant’s height. It’s important to note the size of the plant and to observe the leaves on the entire length of the plant! Additionally, American asters have composite flowers, meaning their flower heads are an amalgamation of many disk (reproductive flowers that make up the central circle of American aster flower heads) and ray flowers (the petal-looking flowers on the edges that attract pollinators). In this explanation, we will mention the color variations of both!

New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae):

You’ll find New England asters in fields, damp meadows, and shoreline habitat. They have hairy stems with alternately attached leaves. Leaves are lance-shaped and clasping (meaning the leaf base partially surrounds the stem). The inner yellow to golden disk florets are surrounded by those signature purple to deep violet ray florets we all know and love!

Credit: The Cosmonaut and davecz2, both courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Common blue wood aster(Symphyotrichum cordifolium):

Common blue wood asters prefer to live in woods and thickets. Their stem is usually hairless but will sometimes have sparse white hairs. The stem is branching with alternately attached leaves. The lower leaves are heart-shaped or ovate with serrate edges and long leaf stalks. The upper leaves become more lance-shaped and the leaf stalk is less noticeable. The ray florets can be a light blue or light purple color. The central tubular disk florets start out a cream to yellow color and turn purple to magenta with age.

Credit: both David G. Smith, courtesy

Calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum):

Calico asters can be found in field and edge habitat. This plant branches and often leans to one side. Its stem is green to red with white hairs. The alternately attached leaves are lance-shaped near the bottom of the plant with teeth in the middle of the leaf’s length. The leaves become more linear toward the top of the plant. The white ray florets surround the tubular disk florets that start out a pale yellow and become brown or magenta with age.

Credit: Thomas G. Barnes and Katy Chayka.

Smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve):

The smooth blue aster has a smooth and hairless stem with clasping, alternately attached leaves. The leaves are oblong-ovate in shape and get smaller as you ascend the plant. The leaf edges are often smooth but can sometimes be sparsely toothed. The ray florets on this plant can be light purple to light blue. The central disk florets will start out a pale-yellow color that fades to magenta and then brown over time. You’ll find smooth blue asters in dry fields and open woods.

Credit: Arthur Haines, John Hilty, courtesy of Illinois WIldflowers

Hairy white oldfield aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum):

The Hairy white oldfield aster prefers field, meadow, and roadside habitat. Its leaves are alternately attached to its hairy stem. The lower stem, however, turns a reddish brown and loses hair with age. Its leaves are lanceolate-elliptic shaped (a leaf shape resembling two elongated parentheses next to each other). While the lower leaves sometimes have teeth near the tips, the upper leaves will have smooth margins. The white ray florets will surround yellow, magenta, or red-brown disk florets.

Credit: John Hilty, courtesy Illinois Wildflowers and Katy Chayka

If you have questions about American asters or notice a detail I’ve missed, please add it to the comments below! As always, I have used my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and John Hilty’s Illinois Wildflowers online guide for the above identification tips. Enjoy your fall aster hunting. I can’t wait to see all of your lovely observations!

Posted on September 21, 2020 05:49 PM by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 28, 2020

Great Blue Lobelia: Lobelia siphilitica

Happy Monday everyone. Hopefully you all had an enjoyable weekend! Did anybody celebrate National Public Lands Day this Saturday? I didn’t celebrate yet, BUT I will be celebrating all week with our week-long habitat restoration events! If you’re interested in participating, visit CVNP's website here: Registration is required for ALL participants. If slots are full, keep an eye out for potential events later in October!

I’ve been noticing these dashes of blue on the ground on my runs, bike rides, and hikes through the park. I originally dismissed them as either ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) or blue bugle (Ajuga reptans) (both pictured below). However, I know those blooms came and went in late spring/early summer.

Credit: ground ivy by Thomas Kent and blue bugle byTim Chandler

Finally, I stopped to take a good look and lo’ and behold, our great blue lobelias are in full bloom! These blooms add a perfect bluish-purple contrast to all of the yellows, purples, and whites that make up Ohio’s fall fields of wildflowers. So, for this week, I just wanted to give some identification tips for this wonderful gem of a plant. As always, my identification tips are coming from Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and John Hilty’s Illinois Wildflower Guide online.

Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica):

In addition to the great blue lobelia plant, CVNP is home to three other members of the Lobelia genus: cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis, we should be nearing the end of this flower’s bloom time), Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata, which should be blooming for another month or so here!), and pale-spiked lobelia (*Lobelia spicata*which should have finished its blooming period about a month ago).

Most great blue lobelias are around 1’ tall, but some can reach about 4’. They are unbranched and have alternately attached leaves with serrate leaf margins. The plant’s bluish-purple flowers are found toward the tip of the plant. These blooms have two lips: the upper one is split into 2 lobes, while the lower one is split into 3. You’ll likely find these beauties in lower-lying, wet habitats. Some good examples are wet prairies, thickets, swamps, and floodplains.

Credit: Eric Hunt and John HIlty (for second and third photos)

Hopefully this feature is helpful during your next visit to CVNP! For more detailed information, here is the link to John Hilty’s page on great blue lobelia:

Enjoy your week out there, iNatters! Can’t wait to see your cool finds!

Posted on September 28, 2020 10:43 AM by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment