Journal archives for October 2020

October 13, 2020

Fall Phlox: One of Ohio's "Late Bloomers"

Hey there iNatters! Sorry we missed you on here last week. If you follow our park’s Facebook, though, you’ll notice we featured goldenrods in our Wildflower Wednesday post. Here’s a link to it in case you wanted to check it out: https://www.facebook.com/CuyahogaValleyNationalPark/posts/3631310810291175

This week, we’re featuring fall phlox (Phlox paniculata) (also called garden phlox and summer phlox in other regions). Most Ohio phloxes bloom in the spring and summer, but Phlox paniculata is one of our late bloomers. These flowers are out for about a month and a half anywhere between mid-summer and mid-fall. They prefer loamy and fertile soil in partial sun conditions. The best places to find them are on the borders of forest habitats, along trail edges, and even along river edges.

Even though they bloom a little late, the fall phlox still displays that tell-tale phlox-flower shape: a tubular corolla that terminates in five symmetrical petals. These magenta, lavender, or white flowers occur at the ends of plant stems in rounded panicles (or, loose bunches of flowers). The plant’s stem is usually green and hairless with oppositely attached leaves. The leaves are ovate oblong with smooth, sometimes ciliate (or hairy) leaf margins. Below are some photos of fall phlox to help you identify them next time you see some in CVNP!


Photo credits: Lavender fall phlox by Arthur Haines, White and magenta fall phlox (photos 2 and 3) by John Lynch, and fall phlox leaf by Arthur Haines.

Want to learn a little more? Check out New England's Native Plant Trust webpage on Phlox paniculata here: https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/phlox/paniculata/ And check out John Hilty's Illinois Wildflowers page here: https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/savanna/plants/sm_phlox.htm

Take care, friends and family and happy iNatting!

Posted on October 13, 2020 18:41 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 28, 2020

American Witch Hazel: A Spooky Shrub

Hey there CVNP family! Hope you’ve all enjoyed yourselves during these cold and rainy days of late October. I would like to apologize for getting this week’s post out so late; I helped with another week-long tree planting event for Make a Difference Day!

This week, one of our rangers, Rebecca Jones, suggested that we talk about witch hazel, a fitting feature for spooky season! American witch hazel is not a wildflower in the definition of a wildflower being a forb. It’s a shrub or small tree that flowers middle-late autumn. Its native to the eastern half of the U.S. and has quite the history of folklore remedies and uses! Various American Indian groups used witch hazel for a wide variety of ailments; from sore throats and fevers to bruises and back pain. Even today, we might see witch hazel on the shelves of the first aid section at our local drug stores. Witch hazel was also once used in the practice of “well-witching” or “dowsing” in which a practitioner used a forked branch to locate underground water or valuable metals. The origin of dowsing is uncertain, for evidence from ancient groups from Europe, China, and even Egypt display accounts of this practice.

American witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is an understory plant in our forests, growing as a stout bush or an abundantly branched small tree. Its gray branches give it a gnarled and mysterious look during middle to late autumn, when its blooms appear. Its blooms are a golden yellow with twisted, string-like petals that resemble a spider’s legs or a witch’s wild mane. The blooms will curl up when it gets too cold and unfurl in warmer temperatures (relative to the chilling temperatures of fall, that is). Witch hazel is pollinated, often at night, by owlet moths.

The blooms only appear once the shrub’s leaves have turned yellow and fallen for the season. Its leaves are an oval-obovate with wavily-toothed margins. Witch hazel seed capsules resemble a whittler or carpenter’s rustic representation of an acorn. After pollination, seed capsules enter a dormant stage until the following autumn, when the capsules forcibly (and sometimes audibly) expel their seeds up to 30 or 40 feet!

Left: gray bark of American witch hazel, Middle: golden blooms and woody seed pods of American witch hazel, Right: American witch hazel leaves
Photo Credit: John Hilty, courtesy of Illinois Wildflower Guide online


Left: American witch hazel with green leaves, Middle: with yellow leaves, Right: with blooms
Photo Credits: Great Plains Nursery, William Cullina, and Roland Boutwell

This week’s post has been informed by John Hilty’s Illinois Wildflower Guide online, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Peterson’s Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Science World, and the United States Department of Agriculture. Enjoy the rest of your week everyone! Stay safe this Halloween!

Posted on October 28, 2020 14:22 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 19, 2020

Mulleins of Ohio

Hey there iNatters! Welcome to another lovely week of fall weather in Northeast Ohio. This week, we’re featuring mulleins, which are members of the Verbascum genus. Ohio is home to five mullein species: great mullein (Verbascum thapsus), moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria), wand mullein (Verbascum virgatum), orange mullein (Verbascum phlomoides), and purple mullein (Verbascum phoenicuem) (according to USDA PLANTS database). However, only two of these species are found in CVNP: great mullein and moth mullein. In this feature, we will review identifying characteristics of these two species. For the other three species, we will briefly mention some of their outstanding characteristics. Most of the following information will come from John Hilty’s Illinois Wildflower Guide online and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.

Great mullein (Verbascum Thapsus):

Typically, mulleins are biennial plants, meaning one plant’s vegetative life cycle lasts for 2 years. During the first year, mulleins produce just a short rosette of leaves. Their densely hairy leaves are oblong-ovate with either smooth or crenate leaf margins. In a way, most first-year mulleins look like fuzzy heads of lettuce!

Photo credit: Mallory Klein

In their second year, great mulleins grow between 3-7’ tall. The first-year rosette is replaced with a taller plant stalk that terminates in a dense flower spike. The leaves remain a similar shape as in the first year and are alternately attached to the stem. The flowers of great mullein are yellow with five petals. Each flower on the spike will only open for a single day for pollination. If the flower does not get pollinated, it will revert to self-pollination (this process is a form of “delayed selfing”). The longer its flower spike, the lower its chance of self-pollination.

Photo credits: user MPF on Wikimedia Commons, John Hilty

When the colder weather sets in and most of our plants become dormant, mullein leaves will wither off the plant. The flower spike, however, will have produced reddish-brown fruits that persist through the winter. You might see these rods of fruit throughout the cold season.

Photo credit: Jennifer Keir

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria):

Moth mulleins will also produce a low-growing rosette in their first year. Their leaves are still hairy but, unlike great mullein, their margins have deeply rounded lobes.

Photo credit: Pamela B. Trewatha, Missouri State University

In their second year, moth mulleins will grow to 1-3’ tall. Their leaves are alternately attached to the stem, with the lower leaves clasping the stem (looking as though the stem has perforated the leaf) and the upper leaves being sessile (meaning the leaves are directly attached to the stem without a petiole). The leaves also have generally coarsely crenate leaf margins. Moth mullein flower spikes are much less densely packed with flowers than great mullein. The flowers can be yellow or white with pinkish purple centers, due to the brightly colored hairs on the stamens. Each flower has five petals and can be up to five times as large as great mullein flowers (great mullein flowers are usually less than 1” wide, while moth mullein flowers can get up to 5” wide).
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Photo credits: Cecily Myer and MDC staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Because the remaining three mullein species are much less common in Ohio, you will likely be deciding between great and moth mullein when IDing your observations. Wand mullein (Verbascum virgatum) closely resembles moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria). Its flowers can also be yellow or white and their leaf margins are both toothed in some way. However, wand mullein leaves have more rounded teeth than moth mullein leaves and moth mullein leaf tips are often pointed.

Photo credits: Left: moth mullein leaves by Peter M. Dzuik. Right: wand mullein leaves by Barry Breckling

Orange mullein (Verbascum phlomoides) has a dense flower spike, similar to great mullein (Verbascum Thapsus). Orange mullein, however, has larger flowers and its leaves can be wavier and are less oblong than great mullein’s.

Photo credits: both courtesy freenatureimages.eu

Finally, purple mullein (Verbascum phoeniceum) is easy to spot because its flowers are purple or a deep pink color. Purple mullein is popular among gardeners and is coveted for its luscious color.

Photo credit: Purple mullein, courtesy Dave's Garden and Krzysztof Ziarnek, courtesy of wikimedia commons

Thanks for tuning into this week’s feature! Hopefully this will be helpful on your fall and upcoming winter treks. Happy iNatting!

Posted on October 19, 2020 23:04 by mklein1216 mklein1216 | 2 comments | Leave a comment