A Brief Look At Gonolobus Anglepods and Matelea Spinypods

Seed pods can serve as a handy adjunct to identifying our two genera of North Carolina Milkvines, particularly in late summer and fall, when the vines are no longer in flower, and caterpillars have ravaged the foliage.  Often the only thing left in the fall is a lonely pod or two on a ragged vine.

Both Gonolobus and Matelea have seed pods so unique that they serve as their common names.  Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus is called Eastern Anglepod and Matelea decipiens is called Deceptive Spinypod.

The Gonolobus anglepods have five sides, each separated by a distinct ridge.  The pods are asymmetrical with the sides being unequal – either narrow or wide.  See below.

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus Anglepod

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus
Eastern Anglepod

Below are unusual “twin” anglepods.    Notice that the ridges are minimal  on the anglepod on the left, giving it a smoother look.

Gonolobus subersosus var. suberosus Twin Anglepods

Gonolobus subersosus var. suberosus
Twin Anglepods

These anglepods measured about four inches long and an inch or a little more wide.  Most had very pronounced angular ridges, as the one below.

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus Anglepod

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus
Anglepod

The spinypods of Matelea decipiens are covered with small knobs that eventually become prickly when the pod matures.  Below are a series of photographs depicting the growth and gradual maturation of Matelea spinypods.    In the first photo below, note that a few of the flower petals still remain on the swelling fruit.

Matelea decipiens Very Young Spinypods

Matelea decipiens
Very Young Spinypods

 

Matelea decipiens Early Spinypod

Matelea decipiens
Early Spinypod

 

Matelea decipiens Spinypod

Matelea decipiens
Spinypod

As the pods mature, they become increasingly elongated, often assuming a shape like a spindle.

Matelea decipiens Spinypods

Matelea decipiens
Spinypods

Matelea decipiens Spinypod

Matelea decipiens
Spinypod

The final photograph below shows the mature spinypod compared with the anglepod of Gonolobus.  The darker contrast background shows that the ends of the knobs have finally hardened into prickly spines.  This spinypod measured 5 and 1/2 inches long.

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus Anglepod, above Matelea decipiens Spinypod below

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus Anglepod, above
Matelea decipiens
Spinypod below

The spinypods of Matelea decipiens and Matelea carolinensis are virtually indistinguishable from  each other.    M. decipiens  was used due to the higher number of pods that happened to be available this year.

Herb Amyx

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Briefs: Apios americana and Portulaca oleracea

Apios americana – Groundnut

Summer is the peak season for flowering vines in North Carolina.   Best known are the many species of brightly colored morning glories, and the beautiful passion flowers and butterfly peas.   Although it is quite common, Groundnut is one of the lesser known summer flowering vines.   It generally grows along the margins of rivers, streams and lakes, often draped over shrubby vegetation.  Its common name gives no hint of its flowers, and is based on the underground tubers the plant produces – tubers which are high in protein and nutrients, and were commonly eaten by Native Americans and early settlers.

Usually only the outside of the flowers, with their odd, pink shades of color, are visible.

Apios americana Groundnut Flowers

Apios americana
Groundnut
Flowers

Approaching the flowers is often difficult due to their location near the water’s edge.   And the flowers themselves only open fully for a few hours a day.  But if all goes well, the unusual form and deep, rich colors of the open flower can be observed.

Apios americana Groundnut Flower Close Up

Apios americana
Groundnut
Flower Close Up

Groundnut is a member of the pea and bean family, the Fabaceae.  It differs from most of its relatives in having five to seven leaflets rather than three.  This makes distinguishing the vine from its relatives easy, even when the flowers are not present.  Below a leaf with five leaflets and the bean-like pod of the fruit can be seen.

Apios americana Ground Nut Pod and Leaflets

Apios americana
Ground Nut
Pod and Leaflets

Portulaca oleracea– Common Purslane

Portulaca oleracea, which is the largest wild portulaca in North Carolina, is usually considered an exotic weed, but there is some evidence for nativity, at least in part of its range.  It is considered common and widespread in North Carolina, but is strangely absent from Wake and  surrounding counties on distribution maps.  The photos in this article, however, are from Wake County.    The succulent leaves are flat, smooth and glossy.  This portulaca can be found growing in gardens, disturbed soils, sandy soils, and, in this case, a stony water mitigation area.  The typical plant form is shown below.

Portulaca oleracea Common Purslane Plant Form

Portulaca oleracea
Common Purslane
Plant Form

Portulaca oleracea is a very late summer annual that grows and blooms quickly.  Its yellow flowers only open in full sun, and sometimes don’t open completely even then, as seen below.  It is easy to identify when blooming, as it is the only portulaca in North Carolina that has flat leaves and yellow flowers.

Portulaca oleracea Common Purslane Flowers

Portulaca oleracea
Common Purslane
Flowers

Growth radiates from a central taproot; the stems do not root at the nodes.   The prostrate growth habit can create mats that form a large circle up to two feet across.  But in this case, the huge mat pictured below actually measured three and one-half feet across. It was the largest plant in the mitigation area.

Portulaca oleracea Common Purslane Plant Form

Portulaca oleracea
Common Purslane
Plant Form

Although Portulaca oleracea is known to be drought resistant, the huge size of the plant pictured above did not serve it well.  Above average rainfall through late June and July aided rapid growth .  But the plant did not survive an extended period of extreme heat and drought in August.

Herb Amyx

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The B. W. Wells Association Holds Its Annual Meeting September 18th at Rock Cliff Farm

The 2016 Annual Meeting of the B. W. Wells Association will be held at  Rock Cliff Farm, B. W. Wells State Recreation Area, 1630 Bent Road, Wake Forest, North Carolina, on Sunday Afternoon, September 18, 2016, 12:30 pm to 4:00 pm, Rain or Shine

Barbecue lunch will be furnished by Jimmy and Alice Ray.  Our guest speaker will be Brian Bockhahn, who was formerly the Park Ranger at B. W. Wells State Recreation Area, and is now Regional Education Specialist for the NC Parks.  Brian will be speaking on The Educational Future of Rock Cliff Farm: Planning and Goals.  There will also be election of board members at a brief business meeting.  Come and bring guests and new potential members.

***************

Bertram Whittier Wells was a pioneer ecologist and botanist.  He was a historically important figure as a proponent of studying plants as part of a natural community rather than as isolated individuals.  His book, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina, published in 1932, has become a classic work on the natural history of North Carolina.

One example of the many plants he studied is a flowering vine that Dr. Wells called “Wild Bean”.  It is a wiry, spindly vine with an odd but beautiful pink flower.   The scientific name of the vine is Strophostyles umbellata, and it is now often called Pink Fuzzybean.

Strophostyles umbellata Wild Bean Flower

Strophostyles umbellata
Wild Bean
Flower

Wild Bean is a member of the pea/bean family, the Fabaceae.  It has a very long, wiry flower stalk, and leaves typical of the bean family, with the leaf divided into three leaflets.  See below.

Strophostyles umbellata Wild Bean Plant Form

Strophostyles umbellata
Wild Bean
Plant Form

Dr. Wells mentioned that when the flower began to age, the color would gradually fade into green.   The flowers from this particular population fade into a creamy yellow first, as seen below.

Strophostyles umbellata Wild Bean Fading Flower

Strophostyles umbellata
Wild Bean
Fading Flower

Fertile flowers of Wild Bean produce pods that look a lot like green beans.

Strophostyles umbellata Wild Bean Flower and Pod

Strophostyles umbellata
Wild Bean
Flower and Pod

During his retirement years at Rock Cliff Farm, Dr. Wells compiled a list of 320 wildflowers he had found there.   That leaves many  more stories to tell.

 

Herb Amyx

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Consider the Lowly Hedgehyssop, Gratiola viscidula

Gratiola viscidula (Short’s Hedgehyssop) is common and widespread in North Carolina, often found along pond and lake margins, and wetlands.   Despite its widespread distribution, it is easily overlooked due partly to its small size (rarely reaching 12 inches in height), and to its habitat.   It has a fondness for very wet, even partially submerged areas , and so is often found where walking is difficult.  It has become popular as an aquarium plant, and can remain submerged for long periods of time.

A cluster of small plants is illustrated below.

Gratiola neglecta Mud-hyssop Clustered Plants

Gratiola viscidula
Short’s Hedgehyssop
Clustered Plants

Important characteristics that separate Gratiola viscidula from other members of its genus are the clasping leaves, the long flower petioles, the dense, glandular puberulence of the stem, and the three to five teeth along each leaf margin.  Initially this plant was thought to be Gratiola neglecta, as the two are very similar.  The factor that helps most to separate them is the shape of the base of the leaf.  G. neglecta has a base that tapers to the stem attachment, while G. viscidula has a clasping base.

The plant form is  pictured below.

Gratiola neglecta Mud-hyssop Plant Form

Gratiola viscidula
Short’s Hedgehyssop
Plant Form

The next photo is a closer look at the heavy glandular puberulence of the stem, the flower stems, and the flower bracts.  Another common name for Gratiola viscidula is Viscid Hedgehyssop since the glandular puberulence gives the plant a clammy or sticky feel when touched.  This characteristic is shared by several other closely related members of the genus, especially Gratiola neglecta, the Clammy Hedgehyssop.

Gratiola neglecta Mud-hyssop Glandular Pubescence

Gratiola viscidula
Short’s Hedgehyssop
Glandular Puberulence

The flowers open mid to late morning.  The petals are white and the centers yellow.

Gratiola neglecta Mud-hyssop Flowers

Gratiola viscidula
Short’s Hedgehyssop
Flowers

Closer views of the flowers.

Gratiola neglecta Mud-hyssop Flower

Gratiola viscidula
Short’s Hedgehyssop
Flower

The flowers of Gratiola viscidula have five petals but two are often fused together.

Gratiola neglecta Mud-hyssop Flower

Gratiola viscidula, Short’s Hedgehyssop
Flower

Plants in the Gratiola genus are conventionally called hedgehyssops, a colorful name said to originate in England, the land of hedges.

Lindernia dubia, the False Pimpernel, is a small wildflower that is sometimes confused with Gratiola viscidula and neglecta.  It often appears in similar clustered colonies, has small flowers on very long petioles, and has a very similar habitat and distribution.  It also has  a penchant for mud and disturbed soil.  A colony of False Pimpernel is shown below.

Lindernia dubia False Pimpernel Colony

Lindernia dubia
False Pimpernel
Colony

There are a number of ways to distinguish the two wildflowers in the field.  Lindernia dubia has  only a single pale lilac flower at each leaf axil, while Gratiola viscidula has two white flowers at each axil.  G. viscidula  has a round, densely puberulent stem, while L. dubia has a smooth, square stem.  They both bloom at the same time.  Below is a closer view of Lindernia dubia.

Lindernia dubia False Pimpernel Plant Form

Lindernia dubia
False Pimpernel
Plant Form

In spite of their similar appearance, they are not closely related.   Gratiola viscidula is in the Plantain family, the Plantaginaceae, while Lindernia dubia is in the Linderniaceae, a family so new that it has no common name yet.

Herb Amyx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eastern Sampson’s Snakeroot, Orbexilum psoralioides, Gets a Helping Hand

Eastern Sampson’s Snakeroot, Orbexilum psoralioides, is a native, Southeastern wildflower that blooms in mid to late summer.   It is considered uncommon in the Piedmont of North Carolina, but common  in the Coastal Plain.  Its clusters of flowers, called racemes, are carried high by a very long flower stalk called a peduncle.  The long peduncle plays an important role in identifying this species.  So much so that it was incorporated into the previous scientific name, which was Orbexilum pedunculatum var. psoralioides.    As seen in the photo below, the peduncles raise the flowers above the lower undergrowth, making them much more visible.

Orbexilum psoralioides Eastern Sampson's Snakeroot

Orbexilum psoralioides
Eastern Sampson’s Snakeroot

Stages of the bloom can be seen on each individual raceme.   The youngest flowers are at the top, with budding flowers gradually opening into full bloom in the middle.  The spent flowers that are starting to develop fruit are toward the bottom of the stalk.

Orbexilum psoralioides Eastern Sampson's Snakeroot Flower

Orbexilum psoralioides
Eastern Sampson’s Snakeroot
Flower

A closer view of the budding and blooming flowers shows a typical appearance common to members of the Fabaceae, the Pea family.  Each flower has 5 petals.  The easiest to see in the photo below are the banner, which looks like the brim of a hat, and the two lateral wings perpendicular to the banner.  These are best seen on a single flower at the lower center of the picture.  The keel petals are hidden behind the wings and can’t be seen.

Orbexilum psoralioides Eastern Sampson's Snakeroot Close View of Flowers

Orbexilum psoralioides
Eastern Sampson’s Snakeroot
Close View of Flowers

Another important identifying characteristic of Sampson’s Snakeroot is its very narrow, trifoliate leaves.

Orbexilum psoralioides Eastern Sampson's Snakeroot Narrow, Trifoliate Leaves, Another View

Orbexilum psoralioides
Eastern Sampson’s Snakeroot
Narrow, Trifoliate Leaves

The Helping Hand:

Eastern Sampson’s Snakeroot is a fire adapted species, once found associated primarily with Longleaf Pine forests in the Southeast and with open spaces, like prairies.  It benefits now, along with many  common species, from the clearing and prescribed burns used to restore Piedmont prairie and savannah habitats  in North Carolina’s Durham and Granville Counties.   While the habitat management is aimed at preserving and protecting rare plants, all native flora and fauna benefit.

Herb Amyx

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Central Carolina Milkvines: Gonolobus suberosus, Matelea carolinensis, and Matelea decipiens

Milkvines, as their name implies, are members of the milkweed family, the Apocynaceae, known for their white, milky sap.  They are herbaceous, twining vines with broad, opposite, ovate (often heart-shaped) leaves.  In Central North Carolina these native perennials are often found in power lines, at the edge of woodlands, and climbing fences along roadways.

The least known and recognized of the group is Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus, whose common names are Eastern Anglepod or Angularfruit Milkvine .    Although the vines can be several meters long, the flowers are not showy and do not occur in large clusters, but are scattered  in small groups, often covered by the leaves.  To a passing observer, they just look like nondescript vines.  The photo below shows the typical appearance of a Gonolobus flower, which has a dark blue center with green on the perimeter of the petals.

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus Eastern Anglepod Flower

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus
Eastern Anglepod
Flower

An unusual color variant is sometimes seen, with the green of the flower replaced by yellow.  Just the small addition of a brighter color makes the vine much easier to spot and identify.  See below.

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus Eastern Anglepod Vine

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus
Eastern Anglepod
Vine

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus Eastern Anglepod Flower Color Variant

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus
Eastern Anglepod
Flower Color Variant

Matelea carolinensis, Carolina Spinypod or Maroon Carolina Milkvine, is common and widespread in North Carolina.  The foliage is much more open in this species, and the dark maroon, clustered flowers call attention to the vine.  The flowers of Matelea carolinensis have wide, reflexed petals.

Matelea carolinensis Carolina Spinypod Flower

Matelea carolinensis
Carolina Spinypod
Flower

There are several, unusual color variants in Matelea carolinensis also, and these are seen much less often than the yellow Gonolobus.  Pictured below are flowers that are a yellow- tinted light maroon color.

Matelea carolinensis Carolina Spinypod Light Maroon/yellow Flower

Matelea carolinensis
Carolina Spinypod
Light Maroon/yellow Flower

Another color variation is a creamy yellow.  This plant was near the one featured above.

Matelea carolinensis Carolina Spinypod Creamy Yellow Flower

Matelea carolinensis
Carolina Spinypod
Creamy Yellow Flower

Matelea decipiens, Deceptive Spinypod or Oldfield Milkvine, is the third member of this group, far more uncommon in North Carolina than the other two, although it is frequently seen in Durham and Wake Counties over mafic rock.  Mafic rock is rich in magnesium and iron.  The primary way that it can be distinguished from M. carolinensis is by the form of the flowers.  In Matelea decipiens, the flowers have ascending, somewhat ribbon-like petals that are narrower at the base than those of M. carolinensis.

Matelea decipiens Deceptive Spinypod Flowers

Matelea decipiens
Deceptive Spinypod
Flowers

Matelea decipiens Deceptive Spinypod Flowers

Matelea decipiens
Deceptive Spinypod
Flowers

Although distinguishing the three milkvines is primarily dependent on their flowers, it is possible to differentiate Gonolobus from the  two Mateleas by differences in their leaves.  Below are the typical heart-shaped leaves of  Matelea carolinensis.  The leaves have a light green color and the surface is soft and fuzzy.

Matelea carolinensis Carolina Spinypod Leaves

Matelea carolinensis
Carolina Spinypod
Leaves

Gonolobus leaves are a darker green and the  surface is  irregular and crinkled.  The leaf is elongated into a spade shape rather than a heart shape.  The largest leaves have pronounced basal lobes that sometimes overlap.

Gonolobus suberosus Eastern Anglepod Leaves

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus
Eastern Anglepod
Leaves

The leaves below are placed side by side for better comparison, Matelea carolinensis on the left and Gonolobus on the right.

Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus Eastern Anglepod Leaves

Matelea carolinensis and Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus
Carolina Spinypod and Eastern Anglepod
Leaves

Matelea carolinensis and Matelea decipiens can not be distinguished from each other by leaf shape.  In fact, at times the flower structures themselves can be difficult and ambiguous.  In mixed populations, intermediate forms can be seen, and changes in flower morphology can be seen among flowers on the same vine depending on whether they are on the lower or upper parts of the vine.  There is a possibility that taxonomists will soon be taking another look at their classification.

Herb Amyx

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Round-lobed Hepatica and Hooked Buttercup – Contrasts in Form and Color

Anemone americana, the Round-lobed Hepatica, is one of the best known and most popular early wildflowers in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina.  While appreciated for its blue flowers, it is also known for its colorful evergreen foliage.  The wide leaves have three rounded lobes with smooth margins.  Old leaves wither and die in the early spring, generally after the bloom, as new leaves appear.    The shape never changes throughout the year, and no new leaves are added after the early spring.  Leaf colors do change, as will be illustrated in the following pictures.

Below is a typical Round-lobed Hepatica in bloom.  The leaves are a deep green with many  showing various degrees of purple coloration, characteristic of older leaves.

Anemone Americana Round-lobed Hepatica Plant in Bloom

Anemone americana
Round-lobed Hepatica
Plant in Bloom

The photo below illustrates the reaction of a Round-lobed Hepatica to a late winter prescribed burn, which destroyed the older leaves and burned most of the litter around the plant.  In this case, flowers and leaves are unfurling simultaneously.  Note the dense hairs on the flower and leaf stems, and on the flower bracts.  The prescribed burn took place two weeks before this photo was taken.

Anemone americana Round-lobed Hepatica After a Prescribed Burn

Anemone americana
Round-lobed Hepatica
After a Prescribed Burn

New leaves are a bright, vivid green, matching the color of many of the surrounding herbaceous plants.

Anemone americana Round-lobed Hepatica New Leaves

Anemone americana
Round-lobed Hepatica
New Leaves

Below, in a late winter photo, leaves have darkened and purple colors can be seen starting on one leaf.

Anemone americana Round-lobed Hepatica Older, Darkened Leaves

Anemone americana
Round-lobed Hepatica
Older, Darkened Leaves

Some leaves turn almost completely purple in late winter.

Anemone americana Round-lobed Hepatica Purple Leaves

Anemone americana
Round-lobed Hepatica
Purple Leaves

Adjacent to the plant in the preceding photo, were several unusual Round-lobed Hepaticas that were purple with only very faint variegation.

Anemone americana Round-lobed Hepatica Purple, Non-variegated Leaves

Anemone americana
Round-lobed Hepatica
Purple, Non-variegated Leaves

Another common name for Anemone americana is Liverleaf.  The leaf below illustrates the color, variegation patterns, and shape that reminded the early naturalists of liver, which also has three lobes.

Anemone americana Round-lobed Hepatica Leaves Resembling Liver

Anemone americana
Round-lobed Hepatica
Leaves Resembling Liver

Ranunculus recurvatus, the Hooked Buttercup, is a relative of the Hepaticas in the Buttercup family, the Ranunculaceae.  Contrary to the Round-lobed Hepatica, the Hooked Buttercup changes leaf shape throughout its development, but does not change color.  The two generally bear no resemblance to each other, but they do cross paths when the Hooked Buttercup goes through the three-lobed leaf stage during its development.

Recently, an unusual population of R. recurvatus was found along a stream bank.  These plants had a darker green color than normal, and heavy variegation.  At a distance, these plants could have been mistaken for Hepaticas, but a closer look revealed that they were R. recurvatus.   See below.

Ranunculus recurvatus Hooked Buttercup Variegated Leaves

Ranunculus recurvatus
Hooked Buttercup
Variegated Leaves

Ranunculus recurvatus Hooked Buttercup Variegated Leaf

Ranunculus recurvatus
Hooked Buttercup
Variegated Leaf

The Hooked Buttercup begins its development as a small, nondescript leaf or group of leaves, that resemble many seedling plants.

Ranunculus recurvatus Hooked Buttercup First Leaves

Ranunculus recurvatus
Hooked Buttercup
First Leaves

The next group of leaves to develop have the typical color and show a three-lobed division, with the cleft between the lobes becoming deeper as leaves continue to be added.

Ranunculus recurvatus Hooked Buttercup Three-lobed Leaves

Ranunculus recurvatus
Hooked Buttercup
Three-lobed Leaves

Ranunculus recurvatus Hooked Buttercup Three-lobed Leaves

Ranunculus recurvatus
Hooked Buttercup
Three-lobed Leaves

Small, yellow flowers appear on the mature plants.  As leaves continue to be added, the lobes become longer and thinner.  A number of small, developing plants can be seen at the bottom of the photo below.

Ranunculus recurvatus Hooked Buttercup Mature Plant

Ranunculus recurvatus
Hooked Buttercup
Mature Plant

The Hooked Buttercup gets its name from the tiny hooks that appear on the fruits as they are formed.

Ranunculus recurvatus Hooked Buttercup Hooked Fruits

Ranunculus recurvatus
Hooked Buttercup
Hooked Fruits

Ranunculus recurvatus Hooked Buttercup Hooked Fruit

Ranunculus recurvatus
Hooked Buttercup
Hooked Fruit

Both Anemone americana and Ranunculus recurvatus are native plants, and both prefer moist hardwood forests.  R. recurvatus especially likes streamsides and riversides, while A. americana prefers a more upland location.    Although its flowers are individually very small, when large populations of  R. recurvatus occur along streams, the collective yellow flowers are easily visible.

Herb Amyx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment