Velvety leaves in a gradation of purple to green, with orchid-like little blossoms. Called deadnettle because even though it looks like a nettle, it doesn’t sting like a nettle. Apparently the flowers, leaves and stems are edible, raw, cooked or dried. Mint family. Native to Europe and Asia.
Purple Deadnettle, Red Deadnettle, Purple Archangel (Lamium purpureum)
The first showy spring flower was Lesser Celandine. (Shot April 20.) There is an occasional brook at Centennial Park in Wellesley, MA, that is enough moisture in this bit of dry valley that a big field of yellow erupts there in spring.
The blossoms follow the sun during the day and close in cloudy or cold weather. The name Celandine is derived from the Greek word for swallow (chelidon), because the early flowering time was also when the swallows arrived (and the flowers faded when they left). It is not native, found throughout Europe and west Asia. Eight petals and leaves that resemble wild ginger. Don’t eat it: “Unsafe in any quantity.” Buttercup family.
This is one of the first wildflowers to appear here after Skunk Cabbage leads the way. (Photo from April 22.) It’s Lesser Celandine to distinguish from Celandine, a larger wild poppy. It follows the sun during the day and closes in cloudy or cold weather. The name Celandine is derived from the Greek word for swallow (chelidon), because the early flowering time was also when the swallows arrived (and the flowers faded when they left). It is not native, found throughout Europe and west Asia. Don’t eat it: “Unsafe in any quantity.” Buttercup family.
Okay, I like wildflowers, but I have to admit, once you start paying attention to the fungi, they are pretty cool visually and they have interesting back stories. Look at this big fleshy thing living on the forest floor! I also confess that so many different-looking fungi are named Sulphur Shelf that I find it hard to be certain if I have this identification right. It’s not like flowers where you can count the petals and observe the leaf structure and you can (usually) get a clear-cut identification.
I saw this and wondered if somebody stuck their gum on there. But no, it’s slime mold! This is the young stage. As it ages, it becomes purplish and then brown and repulsive when mature. Inedible. (As if!) Slime molds don’t penetrate into the wood to draw nutrition. They are more like amoebas which move around on the surface of the wood engulfing bits of organic matter.
This is a case of a shockingly fast-moving invasive, Common Dodder. Last year, it was not in this location, and this year, suddenly it’s draping and strangling a fairly large area — very striking. It looks like a great load of angelhair pasta ladled out on the landscape. But if you look closely, it’s twined tightly around the stems of the host plants.
The first thing we noticed about it is that it has no leaves, and at first, no flowers — just a thin yellow vine. They’re annuals that grow from seeds every year. The seed germinates in the spring and must find a host. The seedlings find a host by slowly waving their stems in a clockwise direction until they feel a plant to grab! They twine on and have specialized “roots” that digest their way through the host’s stem and establish a vascular system between the two plants so that the dodder can suck its nutrition right out of the host (since dodder has basically no chlorophyll and no roots that go into the ground for feeding itself). When the connection with the host is established, the lower part of the dodder dies and there is no connection with the ground at all. And it grows and grabs other nearby plants, usually not killing them but weakening them.
In summer, they put on tiny white flowers and then fruits containing seeds which can lay dormant for up to 5 years, waiting for the right time to pop! The seeds in the ground appear to wait if a good host (they have preferences) is not nearby. (What!?) It’s on the USDA’s list of 10 most problematic weeds.
Alert Flowerophile Donna has contacted the trails commission to let them know (and I did too). We hope they come collect it out of there because it has made such inroads in only one year, I would hate to see the long-term effect on this field full of so many wildflower varieties. Destroy!
Okay, when you’re identifying wildflowers, one clue is the positioning of the leaves: are they opposite each other as they climb the stem? Do they alternate? Or do the leaves encircle (whorl) the stem? It’s easy to see the whorled leaves on this plant, and the distinctive way the flowers radiate from the axils. Can be about three feet tall. Native. Primrose family.
This is not a pretty picture, but at least you can get the idea of what Stinging Nettle looks like — the greenish flowers are on long droopy spikes (racemes) coming out of the axils (where the leaves are attached). Leaves are opposite and coarsely toothed. The stem and the undersides of the leaves have bristly hairs which cause painful stings if they touch your skin. It feels similar to a bee sting and is caused by an acid that covers the hairs. Stinging Nettle has also been used medicinally for thousands of years — stems, leaves, and root. Native, but also common around the world. (Photo taken June 25, 2013)
The young shoots are edible… but when young, there is a highly toxic plant that looks very much like it. So maybe let’s not eat it. Produces little fruits that turn red in late summer. And just to remember — It’s evidently called False because the leaf is similar to Smooth Solomon’s Seal, but true Solomon’s Seal has pendular blossoms. Ruscus family. Native. (Photo taken June 4, 2013)