Tag Archives: Ozarks

The Problem With Trees

Trees are plants. They bloom. My botany project, a Dent County Flora, needs pictures of these trees.

Each of the plant entries requires several pictures. For trees this includes the winter bud, the bark, twigs if there is something special about them, the tree, leaves, flowers and fruit.

The problem with trees is their height. At five foot and change, I don’t have much height. Trees tower over my head.

bark of a shingle oak tree
Tree bark is the easy picture to get of a tree. It doesn’t matter if the tree is in a crowd of other trees. The trunk is in easy reach. And the bark helps in identifying the tree. This particular shingle oak is an old friend. It grows at the base of the hill pasture and has gotten steadily bigger over the almost thirty years I’ve known it.

I’ve never been much of a tree climber. I’m not about to learn now. That leaves me staring up at the things I want pictures of.

One solution would be to cut some trees down. This is not the solution I want to use. First because I don’t want to cut down three trees (one for winter buds, one for flowers and leaves, a third for the fruit) of each kind. Second because I don’t use a chainsaw any more.

Another solution is to find the same trees being used as yard trees in town. I suppose this is cheating in a way. However, I definitely find the trees out in the wild before I resort to this solution.

the problem with trees is reaching the bud of a shingle oak tree
Leaves are a favorite way to identify a tree. Unfortunately leaves are not reliable in the winter as many trees drop them in the fall. Oaks don’t easily drop their leaves, but they shrivel up and get torn off by the wind. guide books to winter trees go by the bark and the winter buds. Each kind of tree seems to have a unique winter bud arrangement. Notice the arrangement of these buds. Each is covered by scales to seal out winter weather. Luckily these buds are within reach with my hooked walking stick.

Still another approach is to find young trees with branches within reach. As I have an eight foot walking stick with a hook in the end, this young tree can be fairly tall. I can reach up ten to twelve feet easily to snag a branch and pull it down as long as it is supple and long enough to get down into grabbing distance.

This last method works well for winter buds, leaves, twigs. If I am lucky, it works for flowers and fruit. Most of the trees like to put their flowers up high, out of reach.

The main problem with trees is their height. Once I solve that one for a particular species, I’m left with two others. One is getting to the tree at the right time to see the flowers and fruit. The other is identifying the tree correctly which can be a big problem with hickories and oaks.

Ozark Woods Winter Greens

Looking over at the hills with their bare trees in browns and grays, it’s easy to overlook the winter greens. To see these, you have to go out walking.

These greens grow in the woods all year. Most of the time they are in deep shade under the tree canopy. Now that canopy is gone and these tiny plants can show off.

Where do you look for these winter greens? One place is on the ground where they show off some of their many shapes.

moss and lichen group on the ground of the Ozark woods show winter greens
How many different kinds of mosses and lichens do you see? This makes it easy to understand why some people study these plants. Unfortunately for me, they thrive when the weather is cold and I would rather spend most of my time inside by the wood stove keeping warm.

Mosses are among the first plants to grow on land. They have no roots, only tiny threads holding them to the ground or the rocks or the trees depending on where they happen to grow.

Don’t think moss and assume it’s all the same. Some moss looks like tiny cedar seedlings. Other moss forms tiny green tails. Still other moss coats rocks with soft green fur. There are many shapes and sizes, if you seek in different habitats.

mosses and lichens in Ozark woods
Ozark woods ground lichens come in so many forms. This branched type is spongy, although the lichen is stiff. The moss is growing up in columns getting ready to ‘bloom’ which is putting up spore capsules.

Accompanying the mosses are the lichens. These aren’t really plants. They are a partnership of a fungus and algae. The fungus provides the shape. The algae living in the fungus provides the color.

These too come in a variety of shapes and grow in many places. There are the foliose lichens that often coat rocks with flat tongues usually gray in color. Forming clumps mixed in with mosses on the ground is a branched lichen. This shape likes to coat honey locust branches. Orange lichens grow on black walnut trunks.

foliose lichen on rock
Sometimes a single foliose lichen is on a rock and forms a circle of flat tongues. Usually there are several on the same rock and they collide with each other.

The soldier lichen puts up little clubs topped with brilliant red. Still others have green cups.

Like the mosses lichens have no roots and are easily knocked loose from the ground. Step carefully while exploring the hills seeking these winter greens. They are as varied and lovely as the wildflowers that will tower over them when spring comes back to the Ozarks.

Revisiting summer Through Wildflowers

The trees on the hills are bare gray skeletons. Vultures have flown south replaced by juncos from the north. I am spending part of the winter revisiting summer through wildflowers.

This past summer was amazing here for wildflowers. The roadsides, hills, pastures and riverbanks were full of plants I recognized and many I didn’t. My camera got a workout.

Time is finite. Downloading hundreds of pictures takes a lot of it. Trying to identify unfamiliar flowers takes a lot of time too.

beggar tick or tick trefoil flowers, genus Desmodium, look like little pink slippers
Long stems hang out lined with little pink slippers. Some kinds have eyespots, Some are three quarters of an inch long, others barely a quarter inch. All make flat triangular seed pods covered with fuzz to stick to anything walking by. These are the members of Desmodium, the beggar ticks or tick trefoil flowers.

Some groups of wildflowers are difficult to sort out. Sunflowers and beggar ticks are cases in point. So I dump them into an Unknown category.

Now the wildflowers are gone for the winter. My camera is used less in a month than it was used during some summer days. Instead I am revisiting summer through wildflowers as I sort through all of those pictures and try to identify those many unknowns.

revisiting summer through wildflowers like Deptford pinks
Deptford pinks are not large, barely half an inch across. It’s their vivid pink color that is remarkable. They were brought over from Europe and have made themselves at home along roadsides and in fields. The plants are tall, thin stems, but the flowers top them for months.

Several years ago I planned a Dent County Flora. I had lots of pictures and even started looking up and writing about many of the 2000 or so plants growing wild in Dent County. Except I am not a botanist, only an avid amateur. The project languished.

Then I came across “Missouri In Flight” and saw a way to reshape my botany project.

Forget the botanical descriptions I almost understand. Instead I can focus on my pictures. And the pictures can be as much about what I see as beautiful about a flower as an illustration of the flower.

Bull thistle flower with butterfly and bumblebee
Thistles are thorny plants, often big and leggy, so people cut or mow them down. Leaving one or two is worth the space as birds from hummingbirds to finches and insects including dusky skipper butterflies and bumblebees visit the flowers for nectar and the seeds for food.

Wildflowers don’t exist as garden subjects, pristine in their shapes and colors. They exist in the world with pollinating visitors, herbivores taking bites out of them, spiders and others using them as hunting grounds. And these make it into some of the pictures.

The best reasons for doing the Dent County Flora project are: having an excuse to go out hiking; taking pictures; and revisiting summer through wildflowers all winter.

Ice Storm Brings In New Year

Rain begins to fall after temperatures drop to freezing or a degree lower. Each drop freezes onto whatever it hits. This is an ice storm.

Ice deceives us as we don’t really realize how dangerous it is. Ice coating branches adds weight and rigidity. A quarter inch of ice breaks small branches. A half inch can shatter a tree.

ice coating on a tree after an ice storm
A thin coating of ice turns trees into crystal sculptures after an Ozark ice storm. This coating was barely a quarter inch. Ice is heavy. A thick coating will break the branches.

A quarter inch of ice on the ground turns everything into a skating rink. Feet fly out from under you.

These things are used in “The Carduan Chronicles” as the ship accumulates ice creating drag and increasing weight and bringing the ship down. The slipperiness of ice shows up in several other adventures.

ice and snow on a twig
An ice storm is a rain storm when the temperatures are freezing or a degree below. The rain freezes onto whatever it hits. It forms frozen drops below the twigs.

The ice does look pretty. Trees and bushes look made of glass. A breath of wind makes the ice tinkle. The hills are covered with light gray trees. If the clouds break letting sunlight through, the gray turns to gleaming white.

It takes a lot of heat to melt ice. One of the investigations in “The City Water Project” looks at this. The air temperature can climb to a few degrees above freezing and the ice stays on the trees, fences and other objects, but melts on the road making walks safe.

fox sparrow on icy branch
Birds like this fox sparrow puff up to keep warmer. The air trapped under their feathers acts like insulation. This sparrow is watching for a chance to join the crowd at the bird feeder to get some calories to burn for body heat.

Another aspect of an ice storm is the quiet. It’s like the hush in a snowy landscape. Unless a breeze moves the branches, sound is swallowed up. All I heard walking out across the pastures was the creek rushing over its gravel bed.

Once the temperature stays up in the mid thirties for a few hours, the ice begins to fall. It becomes dangerous to stand under electric lines or trees as chunks slip off and fall. Being hit with a piece is being hit with a rock.

Ozark road after an ice storm
The clouds have thinned so the ice turns into white crystal on the trees lining an Ozark gravel road.

One advantage to this ice storm bringing in the new year, is being able to stay at home. Looking out the windows at the ice coated landscape lets me admire the beauty until the ice finally melts escorting the ice storm into the past.

I am offering a free pdf copy of “Goat Games” to 4-H leaders. Contact me about it.

An Ozark Foggy Morning

Big rainstorms dropping three inches or more leave everything soaked including the air. In late fall into winter the clouds clear and the temperatures drop giving the Ozarks a foggy morning.

This morning was white with frost as the temperature had dropped below freezing before rising back to forty. The frost vanished into dew and moisture. This made the fog much thicker than usual.

I walk to the barn. The moisture in the air is cold and damp. It seems to seep through my jacket and moistens my face.

This dense fog erases the hills. Even the trees along the creek vanish into ghostly shadows.

bluebird on a foggy morning
It is November. I saw the bird in a tree across from the barn and zoomed in for a picture. I was very surprised to see a bluebird as I thought they had moved south for the winter.

I spend time standing in the barn door looking out at the swirls of fog. As the sun rises, the fog changes from blue gray to white gray. The sycamores at the bend of the creek take shape. A sudden break in the fog lights them up for a moment.

A deep breath is full of sharp dampness. I long to be out walking across the pastures. This morning chores must come first as there are two more new November kids to tend to.

This morning becomes a race between the goats and the sun. Since most of them are dry and expecting spring kids, I have time to look out at the fog impatient with the goats picking their ways daintily through their oats. I sprint to the house to grab the camera.

old stumps on a foggy morning
These stumps were old when we moved here. Twenty-five years later they are finally disappearing into the ground. They look so interesting with their shapes touched by mist. This picture is used in “My Ozark Home”.

An Ozark foggy morning doesn’t last long. Walking out across the pastures in the fog, seeing the trees loom up against it, listening to the quiet is a morning treasure.

This morning the sun won. The fog was suddenly gone leaving blue sky studded with clouds.

An Ozark foggy morning can come any season although the fog is usually thicker in late fall. Perhaps next time I can make it out to the fields and hills before the fog vanishes.

See the Ozarks in different seasons and weather in “My Ozark Home“.

Beautiful Country “Hillerman Country”

Lately I have been reading through the Navajo mysteries by Tony and Anne Hillerman. What I wish I had done first was opened the cover to “Hillerman Country” by Tony and Barney Hillerman, a look at some beautiful country.

Hillerman Country by Tony and Barney Hillerman
Sized as a coffee table book, the photographs by Barney Hillerman in the book are magnificent. The commentary by Tony Hillerman is interesting. Navajo country is awesome in color, vistas, shapes and making a person face how insignificant a human being is in this natural setting.

The book has commentaries about various places around the area. There are excerpts from the mystery series. All of it is trying to help others see what the Navajos have known for centuries: Desert the area may be, but it is truly beautiful in its colors, its immensity, its shapes.

I have been in Navajo country. It was long ago and some of the memories of this beautiful country are dim now. And, beautiful as they are, the photographs in “Hillerman Country” don’t really convey what it is like to be there.

beautiful country in Glacier National Park
Taken in July,1972 this view of the Rockies in Glacier National Park is stunning. It’s hard for a picture, no matter how good, to convey the sense of size when the landscape is so big.

That is true for anywhere. The United States has many spectacular places and more people should take the time to visit them. To fully find their beauty, turn the smart phone off.

My Ozark hills are not spectacular in the way the redwoods or Navajo country or Yosemite are. Yet I can find some of the beauty on them I found in those places.

beautiful country in the Ozarks
I used this long view of the south pasture in “My Ozark Home” as it shows how lovely the Ozarks can be in the summer time.

You have to stand there and let the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feelings seep inside of you. If you are thinking about how to tell someone else about the place, you can’t do that.

The experience is unique to you. Even if someone is standing next to you, it is still unique to each of you. Beautiful country speaks to each of us differently because we are different.

Those differences don’t make one person’s experience better or worse, more or less valid than another’s. Recognizing that we are each unique helps us create a better society.

There is another very valuable resource in “Hillerman Country.” A map spreads across two pages.

In “Song of the Lion” Bernie says the morning prayer to the dawn. It asks to be allowed to walk in beauty. That is a prayer all of us, no matter where we live, should relate to. Perhaps if we aspired to walk in beauty in how we see our world, ourselves and each other, we can find the peace so many of us search for.

See some of why I find my Ozark hills beautiful country in “My Ozark Home”.

Fall Into Winter Begins

Nature really has only two seasons in the Ozarks. One is growing season. The other is winter. Now the Ozarks is waiting to fall into winter.

Most plants still look green. Looking carefully there is a yellow cast hiding under that green. The few cold nights have turned some plants like the dogwoods to fall colors.

fall into winter foliage and color
Leaves are turning red as sunflowers and asters bloom. The growing season will continue until killing frost turns the plants black one morning.

Wait a minute. Isn’t fall another season? It is for people. For plants it is still part of the growing season as they busily make seeds and store sugars and starches down in their roots for the coming winter.

Green chlorophyll doesn’t photosynthesize well in cooler temperatures so the anthocyanins take over. These come in colors other than green.

For turkeys, deer, squirrels and other such creatures the fall into winter means an abundance of seeds and nuts to gather. They don’t care about colors in the leaves, only in eating and hiding enough of this bounty to survive the winter.

deer waiting to fall into winter coat
Still in the golden brown summer coat this young white tailed deer stands in a patch of sunlight along the road debating whether to flee. The notched ear indicates this one has had a close call in the past. She needs to learn to flee from people fast as hunting season opens soon.

The deer are putting on their dark brown winter coats. The raccoons are retiring up into the hills.

Birds are more mobile. Many of them are following the warmth south. One by one the hummingbird feeders are being cleaned and stored. Migrants are stopping by to stock up on sunflower seeds for extra energy giving us a chance to see some new birds.

The usual residents are ignoring the feeder as they load up on other delectables. This excepts the morning doves who leave standing room only on the feeder in the morning.

The turkey vultures are gathering and soaring in lazy circles as they drift south. The goldfinches have shed their gold feathers and are dull green now.

River oats
One of the easiest grasses to identify, the flat seed clumps are unique. At the end of the growing season they dangle glowing gold in the sun and tremble in the breeze.

The winter visitors haven’t arrived yet. These are the juncos, various sparrows and titmice.

The days are getting short. The temperatures are warm all day and cool at night. All it will take is a good rain and the Ozarks will fall into winter.

Meander through the seasons in photographs in “My Ozark Home.”

Garden Zipper Spiders

Some kinds of spiders survive all year. Others like garden zipper spiders begin as tiny spiderlings in the spring, grow all season and die at frost leaving behind, if they are lucky, a case full of eggs to hatch the next spring.

Each egg case releases a cloud of minute spiderlings too small to capture insects. Hay fever sufferers are miserable in early spring when the trees bloom releasing clouds of pollen, but tiny spiders depend on this pollen to survive. Pollen is rich in protein and other nutrients and easy to catch in tiny webs.

As the surviving spiderlings grow, they begin to capture insects for food. The bigger the spider, the bigger the insects their web can catch. By late summer garden zipper spiders are an inch long and easy to spot dressed in deep black, vivid yellow and white.

A new web is spun each morning. A spider tends to stay in the same area unless no food seems available there. Watching a spider spin a web is interesting.

The big spiders are all females and nearly blind seeing little more than light and dark. The web is spun by feel.

garden zipper spiders are web builders
The cephalothorax or head and body region of a garden zipper spider has a woolly look to it. The abdomen is deep black and yellow. The signature zipper is below the spider.

First the spokes are put up. Then the spider starts from the outside and puts the sticky spiral silk down attaching it to each spoke. Garden zipper spiders finish by putting a thick zigzag both up and down from the center.

The spider takes up position behind the zipper and waits. When an insect lands in the web, she races out to subdue and eat it.

Male garden zipper spiders are much smaller than females and don’t spin webs. They hunt for web of females and begin the hazardous task of wooing and mating. They tap out a message on the strands to announce their presence.

garden zipper spider
This garden zipper spider is getting ready to lay eggs. The abdomen gets bigger until it dwarfs the rest of the spider. From the underside a zipper spider is black and yellow.

If the female is interested, the male can advance and mate. Otherwise or even after mating, he can become dinner.

The female’s abdomen gets very large. One day she spins a tear drop shaped egg case and fills it with eggs. Securing it in a hidden sheltered spot those eggs will wait for spring to hatch into next season’s garden zipper spiders.

Meet more spiders in both “Exploring the Ozark Hills” and “My Ozark Home.”

Walking My Ozark Hills

Walking my Ozark hills has been a real joy for many years now. They provide inspiration for some of my posts, comfort when things go awry, relaxation on lazy afternoons.

Watching the goats out in the pasture the other day reminded me of some people who wanted to buy some goats one year. I warn people to set up a day when they will come by so I can keep the goats in.

walking my Ozark hills can be challenging
This Ozark hill is very steep. All those leaves hide gravel, holes, fallen branches and other hazards. Only an emergency will get me to go straight up this hill.

These people were expected in the morning. Instead a vehicle pulls up the afternoon before. They were out driving and thought they would drop by to see the goats.

using a goat and deer path for walking my Ozark hills
Goat paths are often easy to follow. They angle along most of the way up then fan out leaving me scrambling the last third of the way. One hazard of following a goat path is being taller than they are. There are times I must detour around fallen trees they walk under or over.

I knew where the goats were. They were on top of the hill. Walking my Ozark hills had long since taught me to respect them. I warned these people about how steep they were. They insisted they were in shape and would enjoy a little hiking.

hillside gravel
Loose gravel is an accident waiting to happen. My Ozark hill is covered with the stuff. It shifts underfoot. It slides down taking my foot with it. Hill climbing shoes must have good tread.

We set off across the bridge and out along the side of the hill. I knew from previous times the far end was an easier way up. They kept pace until we started up the hill.

This hill is steep, stair steep without the stairs. It is covered with loose gravel that rolls under foot. It is a steady climb of a couple hundred feet or more.

lichen and moss on rock
Larger rocks are covered with folious lichen and moss. This is interesting to look at. It is dangerous to assume such rocks are securely embedded in the hill. The bigger ones are. The smaller ones often aren’t.

We got to the top of the hill. The goats looked us over and decided to move over to the next hill. A cascade went past down the hill and up the next hill.

The people watched the goats go by. I asked if they wanted to follow the herd. They declined. They would be back in the morning as previously arranged. I heard panting as we went down the hill.

looking at the creek walking my Ozark hills
Steep as the hill is going up, don’t look down. The creek flows along much of this particular hill. The path can run on the edge of the slope down. There are places where one slip on the gravel will land me in the creek. So far I’ve only slid down five or six feet before stopping. It does get scary at times.

Walking my Ozark hills never seemed that bad to me, at least not going up. I tend to follow the goat trails and set a steady pace. It’s good aerobic exercise.

The hard part is coming back down. Some parts are done tree to tree or sitting down and sliding. Who needs a roller coaster when I have my hills?

Enjoy my Ozark hills in My Ozark Home.

Unhappy Goat Snow Days

My Nubian goats are spoiled. Dairy goats in general seem that way, or so I hear. They hate to get wet or tromp through the snow. They like to go out romping. Snow days are tough on them.

The first day wasn’t too bad. My herd is smaller now and has plenty of room in the barn to argue among themselves. Standing around with enough hay in the troughs to replace their bedding is fun too.

Nubian goat herd on snow days

Snow is still covering most of the ground. Still my Nubians look out from under their door cover blanket hoping I will open the pasture gate. Somehow I must be able to give them their pasture back minus the snow. I wish I knew how. They need the exercise. Mobbing the milk room door is not exercise for them, only frustration for me.

Even Augustus didn’t mind the first day. He is lonely now without Gaius around. He liked having the herd stay around all day.

Day two wasn’t so fun. The goats have plenty of hay to eat. They are bored with hay. Acorns are tastier. New hay doesn’t appear often enough.

Water is another complaint. The buckets don’t arrive often enough. Of course, the goats can’t be bothered to get drinks when they do arrive. New hay is on the agenda, then water. I am supposed to wait around until they are ready.

Nubian buck Augustus on snow days

Nubian buck High Reaches Silk’s Augustus has room in his pen, just not enough. By day 3, he is ready and eager to get outside and run. Unfortunately the snow is not leaving and he is stuck watching the world go by.

Exercise is important. The goats chase each other around in the barn. There is one bench and the thunder of feet going over it is almost continuous. I’m glad I got it repaired last week.

Augustus is tired of snow days. His pen is big enough for a short time. Two days is too long. He wants out to play too. His brand of playing is not appreciated by the does.

Up north the snow days lasted for months. This herd would go nuts. Luckily for my herd Ozark snow days last only a few days.

The storm should pass tonight. The sun will start melting the snow tomorrow. By the next day the goats will be ready to race out the gate churning up the mud as they buck and bounce their way out to find those acorns.

Enjoy raising goats? Try Dora’s Story.

Changing Climate Gardening

I’ve had a garden here for twenty-five years. It was very small the first few years. It’s grown and changed over the years. It has always been challenging, but gardening in this time of changing climate is hard.

Ozark springs are normally short, warm and wet. I skipped cold weather crops like cabbage and broccoli.

The last two years spring has been long, cold with frosts, wet and miserable. This is great for cabbage and broccoli. So I put some in.

changing climate lets cabbage grow in winter

The mulch keeps the ground from freezing. The biggest problem with it is cold and wet rotting roots, but that hasn’t happened this winter. Normally even cabbage and turnips are done in December. This winter they are still growing in January.

Except.

The plants were growing well, looking great. The temperatures went up into the eighties, humidity to match and no rain. Both crops rotted.

Lots of people put in their tomato plants when the weather is still cool thinking they will get a head start. The plants languish.

I prefer to wait until the weather is warm and settled as my plants will catch up quickly because they are happy.

Except.

Tomato plants do not like eighties and nineties with hot sun. They hunker down refusing to grow, blossom or set fruit. Even providing shade doesn’t help much.

Fall into early winter has been a good time for lettuces and cabbage. Changing climate has winter confused. My plastic protections must be taken off for days, then put back on.

broccoli survives winter in changing climate

Broccoli takes a lot of cold, but not twenty degrees and under. That hasn’t been a big problem this winter. The plants are growing slowly under makeshift plastic shelters. Maybe I’ll have broccoli this spring.

The seed catalogs are sitting on my kitchen table. I want to put a seed order together. The changing climate must affect what I grow. I need to try some new crops. Crops that can tolerate drought, heat and weeds.

Maybe I should start growing more of the edible weeds. The changing climate doesn’t seem to devastate them. Perhaps I will cut back on the lettuce and other tame greens and expand into more wild greens.

However, tomatoes, okra, winter squash and bell peppers stay in the garden. These are the joys of summer eating. These make winter menus so much better.

Where are those seed catalogs?

My Ozarks Home

This year will make twenty-five years for me here in the Ozarks. I have been looking through photographs and reminiscing about my Ozarks home.

A photograph is flat. It can’t show anyone the smells, feel or sounds of being out walking in the Ozarks. A photograph does trigger my memories of when I took the picture. Words can try to add depth to that picture.

stumps in mist on my Ozarks home

This pile of stumps was at the base of the hill pasture when I first saw the pasture, relics of when the pasture was cleared sometime in the past. They are slowly disappearing.

One of the wonderful things about living here in the Ozarks has been the opportunity to go out walking away from people and their noises. There are still times when such noise is not heard here.

I read how many people, especially young people must have their digital devices, must share their every experience right then. I pity them.

Leaving those devices behind lets me think my own thoughts, see things in my own way, get in touch with myself.

spider on web

Late summer and early fall is the time of large spiders. These orb weavers favor pathways stretching their web from one side to the other. They are almost invisible. The first warning is focusing on a large spider hanging at eye height just before stepping into the web.

My local library had a book display for those wanting to learn yoga or mindfulness or other stress reduction technique. Walking the hills and pastures of my Ozarks home does this for me. Even better is sitting still in a special place looking up the hill or down to the creek, listening to the wind, the water, the birds and the insects.

I do take one digital device with me out on my walks. My camera. I take pictures not so much to share with others as to let me revisit my walk other days. This is wonderful on those cold, cloudy, dreary days of winter.

Most of my pictures are of the plants for my botany project. Some of these are beautiful. Many others are of my goats, chickens and cats.

my Ozarks home creek

The creek runs the length of the place. In some places it is narrow and runs quickly. In others, like here, it spreads out into broad pools.

Then there are those from around the hills and pastures. They range through the seasons. They are panoramas and close ups. Each has a story to tell about being here at my Ozarks home.

As I looked through my photographs, I did come to want to share them with others, to show others why my Ozarks home is so special. Slowly a book is coming together. I plan to have it finished by this fall.

Christmas Fern Polystichum acrostichoides

Lace and ferns seem to go together. Fern fronds like on the Christmas fern have such graceful arches, a great mound of green. I went around the curve of a hill and found a wrinkle where water runs after a big storm lined with large ferns. It became a favorite place to go just to admire these beautiful plants.

 

Polystichum acrostichoides Schott

June to October                                           N                                 Family: Dryopteridaceae

Christmas fern sori

Sporangia: A fertile leaflet has a double row of circular sori under it. These have 64 tiny ball-shaped spores under them. The spores well and turn brown as they mature turning the entire underside of the leaflet an orange brown.

Christmas fern leaf

Leaf: Each compound leaf has twenty to thirty pairs of leaflets arranged alternately. Each leaflet has a prominent ‘thumb’ sticking up near the petiole. A long, single leaflet tips the petiole. Each leaflet has forked veins and toothed edges. Many of the fronds have the usual leaflets half way up then have a series of smaller, more triangular leaflets. These are the fertile leaflets with sporangia under them.

Christmas fern petiole

Stem: Clumps of petioles come up from various places on the rhizome. Each green petiole is grooved. The base has hair-like brown scales which look like scattered hairs higher up. The petioles can be two to three feet long.

Christmas fern fiddlehead

Fiddlehead: These appear in early spring. They are light green, an inch across and covered with silvery scales that look like hairs. These turn brown as the frond unrolls past them.

Root: The perennial root is a rhizome.

Habitat: This plant prefers light shade and moist places. It is common on the slopes of ravines and wet weather water courses.

 

Christmas Fern

Christmas fern plant

In the fall Christmas Fern leaflets turn dark green, become shorter and lie flat on the ground. These fronds stay green all winter. They were gathered and used as Christmas decorations giving the fern its common name.

During the spring and summer, Christmas ferns are among the showiest Ozark ferns. They can form large linear colonies along fold on hillsides where rain water gathers. They line the slopes of ravines and higher sections of ravine floors. They like moist areas but not wet ones.

The ‘thumb’ on the leaflets is a definite identification when coupled with the thick, green petiole. Ebony Spleenwort also sports these ‘thumbs’ but has a thin, wiry petiole and is much smaller.

Christmas ferns are available commercially. They are easy to grow in the right places. They grow well in pots.

Winged Sumac Rhus copallinum

I suppose many people would chop down the winged sumac on the hill. We do now and then when it gets too tall and thick. But the hill there is too steep to do much else, the sumac is pretty especially in the fall and the praying mantises love it for laying their eggs. So the sumac stays.

Rhus copallinum L.

June to July                                                  N                                 Family: Anacardiaceae

winged sumac umbel

Flower: Branches end with terminal clusters of flowers forming a drooping cone. Each yellowish white flower is tiny, an eighth of an inch across with five petals and five stamens. The calyx under the flower has five triangular lobes that spread out.

winged sumac flowers

Leaf: The alternate leaves are compound with seven to twelve leaflets. The first pair of leaflets is the shortest and they get bigger as they go toward the tip and can reach three inches long. The center stem is winged. The edges are smooth. The leaves are not hairy.

winged sumac leaf

Stem: New stems are hairy. Older stems lose the hairs and become woody with a smooth gray bark dotted with lenticels or raised spots. The stems often branch forming leggy shrubs. Most are five to six feet tall, but can reach 20 feet.

winged sumac under leaf

Root: There is a perennial taproot and rhizomes.

winged sumac bark

Fruit: The single seeds have a red, fleshy coating and are hairy. The red darkens over the winter, if the seeds are not eaten.

winged sumac bud

Habitat: This plant likes sunny, drier areas such as prairies, old fields and roadsides.

winged sumac berries

Edibility: Fresh berries can be steeped. The tea must be filtered to remove the hairs.

winged sumac in summer

Winged Sumac

Dwarf Sumac, Shining Sumac

winged sumac in fall

Early in fall Winged Sumac turns brilliant, glowing scarlet. As it tends to form large colonies, this can be quite spectacular to see. Over the summer the colony is dark green.

There are several sumacs. This one is easy to identify by the winged stems joining the leaflets.

When the flowers open, the air hums from the many insects moving between the clusters. The flowers are too small to see unless you are very close. From a distance the cluster changes from green to off white. The flowers are very engaging to the insects as you can get close enough to examine the flowers without disturbing the busy plying of the bees, wasps, flies and beetles.

The tea from the berries has a slightly lemony taste. The tea is often called Indian Lemonade, although the Indians called it Quallah. It is good plain or sweetened. It does have to be filtered as the hairs are small and stiff and ruin the drink. A good measure is two cups of berries per quart of hot, not boiling, water. This can be adjusted to taste. Dried berries (not old berries off the bushes) can be used.

Enjoy more about the Ozarks in Exploring the Ozark Hills, a book of nature essays and photographs.

Thimbleweed Anemone virginiana

Thimbles are still around, but many people don’t know what they are now. Still, thimbleweed seed capsules don’t really look like my thimbles. They have so many little hooked beaks sticking out. That would never do in sewing as the material would snag.

Anemone virginiana L.

June to August                                                         N                     Family: Ranunculaceae

thimbleweed flower

Flower: Each stem has a single terminal flower. There are five greenish to white sepals and no petals spreading out to three quarters of an inch across. The sepals have a narrow base, flare out and taper to a shallowly lobed tip. There are three lobes. The edges curl upwards. The center of the flower is a mound of green pistils surrounded by a base of stamens.

thimbleweed side flower

Leaf: Most of the leaves are basal. A single whorl of two or three leaves occurs about half way up the stem. Each leaf is deeply lobed into two or three sections sometimes seeming to divide the leaf into leaflets. Each lobe has two or three shallow lobes. The edges have large, coarse teeth. The lobes and teeth have sharp points. The leaf is on a long petiole with scattered hairs.

thimbleweed leaf

Stem: A single stem or several grow up from the root to a height of one to two and a half feet. It is unbranched although second stems can go up from the single whorl of leaves. The stem is round, green with scattered hairs.

thimbleweed under leaf

Root: The perennial root is a rhizome.

thimbleweed stem

Fruit: The mound of pistils increases in size and can approach an inch long, half that wide. It is thimble-shaped and each pistil sticks out as a little beak. In fall the seed head becomes a mass of wooly hairs attached to the tiny seeds.

thimbleweed fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers light shade and good soil. It is drought tolerant, but prefers moister conditions. It grows along roads, in ravines, along streams and in open woods.

thimbleweed open fruit

Thimbleweed

thimbleweed plant

Although the basal leaves of the Thimbleweed are large and distinctive, the plant often goes unnoticed until the tall stems go up and the flowers open. The leaves are a study in threes: three leaves in a whorl, three large lobes per leaf, and three shallow lobes in each large lobe.

The flowers can be mistaken for no others. The flower sits atop the stem with white sepals spread wide. Since the stamens are long and numerous, they give the flower a bushy look.

For weeks after the sepals have fallen away, the thimble remains. It gains in size. For those who learned hand sewing, a thimble was essential to protect the index finger from the needle. The thimble of the Thimbleweed is the right size and shape.

In the fall the thimbles become a fluffy mass. This generally begins on one side of the thimble and spreads until the entire thimble breaks apart. The wind pulls the mass apart as separate seeds fly away.

This is an interesting plant and easy to grow once established. Several of them would make nice foci in a shady bed. The plants do like some open ground around them.

Long Leaf Bluet Houstonia longifolia

It’s easy to overlook the long leaf bluet flowers in the spring as they are small, the plants are small and delicate. Once spotted, that delicacy makes them easy to identify and worth watching for in other places.

Houstonia longifolia Gaertn.

April to July, rarely fall                             N                                 Family: Rubiaceae

Long Leaf Bluet flower

Flower: Irregular clusters of flowers branch out of stem tips. A few flowers open randomly at a time. Each flower has a stalk as long as the flower, about half an inch. The flower has a cup-shaped, green calyx with four teeth around the base. The flower is a half inch long tube that splits into four or five lobes that spread out flat a quarter inch across. This flower can be white to purplish pink and is covered with hairs. A flower may be a pistillate one having a pistil and shriveled stamens or have several stamens and a shriveled pistil.

Long Leaf Bluet side flower

Leaf: There can be a basal rosette, but this is usually gone before the plant blooms. Opposite leaves line the branches. More small branches of leaves come from the leaf axils. Each leaf is green, half to an inch long and less than a quarter inch wide.

Long Leaf Bluet leaf

Stem: Each crown puts up numerous stems. The stems are green with four angles, branches and can reach ten inches tall. The upper branches have terminal flower clusters.

Long Leaf Bluet under leaf

Root: The perennial root is a crown with fibrous roots.

Long Leaf Bluet stem

Fruit: The seed pod is a globular, two sided capsule with several seeds in each side. This turns brown and dries so the capsule splits to release the seeds.

Long Leaf Bluet fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers sunny, drier places and can be common in prairies, open woods, pastures and roadsides.

 

Long Leaf Bluet

Slender-leaved Bluet

Long Leaf bluet plant

Walking along this plant catches attention due to the number of flowers on it. Long Leaf Bluets are a leggy plants. Everything about them is slender, the leaves, the stems and the flowers.

The stem is less than an eighth of an inch in diameter. The leaves are about an eighth of an inch wide. The flowers are a quarter of an inch across. This leaves the plant looking delicate and leggy although it’s less than a foot tall.

The flowers usually look light pink to white. These show up well against the dark green leaves. The many clusters are full of buds so lots of flowers open each day.

Long Leaf Bluets are moving into rock gardens. They are easy to grow from seed and return bigger every year. They are not fussy about soil and don’t mind a bit of dryness.

New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus

This is one wildflower I overlook until I smell the flowers. This is strange as New Jersey Tea is a big plant. The ones I see are often overshadowed by surrounding, bigger plants and tend to spread wide instead of getting tall. it is a plant worth looking for.

Ceanothus americanus L.

May to November                                       N                                 Family: Rhamnaceae

New Jersey Tea flowers

Flower: Branch tips are surrounded by clusters of white flowers. Other clusters come from leaf nodes. Each flower is barely a quarter inch across with 5 sepals, 5 petals, 5 stamens and a pistil on a stalk, all white. The flowers are fragrant.

New Jersey Tea flower umbel

Leaf: Leaves line the stems and are mostly alternate, but can be opposite. Each leaf is egg-shaped on a short petiole. Three big veins go out from the leaf’s base. The tip is rounded. The leaf is dark green with scattered hairs on top and light green with prominent veins and short hairs on the bottom.

New Jersey Tea leaf

Stem: Multiple stems come up from the root. They branch and can reach three feet in height. The stems start out light green turning yellowish and becoming woody especially at the base as they get older. The younger stems are hairy.

New Jersey Tea under leaf

Root: This perennial has a taproot.

New Jersey Tea stem

Fruit: There are 3 seeds inside a three lobed pod. These turn brown and dry when ripe splitting open to eject the seeds forcefully enough to travel several feet.

New Jersey Tea Fruit

Habitat: This plant likes sunny places. these can be drier areas such as prairies, fields, roadsides and edges of woods.

Edibility: Many animals eat this plant. The leaves can be dried and used for tea. It has historical medicinal uses.

 

New Jersey Tea

Wild Snowball

New Jersey Tea plant

Walking along the rich, sweet scent of New Jersey Tea alerts the walker to the presence of the plant. It is easy to spot with its white flower clusters looking like a stockpile of snowballs waiting to be used.

Shortly before the revolutionary War, the colonists boycotted English tea. This was a popular beverage. The leaves from this plant were used as a substitute for tea giving it the common name of New Jersey Tea.

The plant can be fairly large, reaching three feet tall and as much or more side. The foliage is attractive. It does convert some nitrogen into useable form.

The flowers are present for several months although the clusters are fewer in number and look a little ragged as the season progresses. The seed pods are interesting to look at as the clusters of them are as big as the flower cluster they replace.

Once established, the plant increases in size each year. It is drought resistant.

Pale Leather Flower Clematis versicolor

Finding and photographing a Pale Leather Flower vine in bloom can be challenging. Finding is the easy part as it is fairly common in places it likes to grow. Photographing can be difficult as the vines are often mixed into other vines such as virgin’s bower, yellow passion flower, cat briar and wild yam.

Clematis versicolor Small ex Rydb

May to June                                                  N                                 Family: Ranunculaceae

pale leather flower side flower

Flower: The flower is on a long stalk from a leaf node. It is formed from four sepals fused together in an egg-shape with the large end attached to the stalk. The small end opens up with the ends of the sepals curling out and back. The upper end of the flower is purple. the lower end is white or greenish white. A mass of stamens is inside the flower surrounding several pistils.

Pale Leather Flower flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves have long petioles and can be single or compound with 3 to 5 leaflets. All leaves or leaflets have smooth edges. They form a long oval with a short, tapered, rounded tip. There is a midvein. The other veins form a net lighter in color than the dark green leaf. The underside is light green.

pale leather flower leaf

Stem: Young stems are green and twine around anything nearby. Older stems turn reddish and woody. The stems are ridged. The vines can be fifteen feet long and generally bunch up over another plant rather than running the entire length. The stems put out numerous branches.

pale leather flower under leaf

Root: The perennial root is a rhizome.

pale leather flower stem

Fruit: A ball of seed pods, each like a tall hat with an extra long peak, contains the seeds. These mature and break open the now dry pods to spread a long fluffy line out to get caught by the wind.

pale leather flower fruit

Habitat: This plant likes shady, moist places such as open, low woods and ravines as well as roadsides near these places.

 

Pale Leather Flower

Leather Flower

pale leather flower plant

Pale Leather Flower vines spread across low growing vegetation and fences. It’s rare for them to go up into trees. The vines can twine but often only sprawl.

The flowers are easy to spot on vines growing along the roads. A single vine can have dozens of flowers on it. The flowers are unusual in both shape and color compared to other plants growing nearby.

Pale Leather Flower is available commercially. The leaves are a nice shade of green. The vines would grow well on a trellis or wire fence. The flowers bob and dance in any breeze on their long stalks. The seed pod groups are interesting to look at.

Yellow Giant Hyssop Agastache nepetoides

Yellow Giant Hyssop is a strange looking plant. I noticed it as a tall candelabra scaffold of branches tipped with bottle brushes. This second year of looking at it is bringing out the skeletal beauty of the plants.

Agastache nepetoides Kuntze

July to September                                       N                                 Family: Lamiaceae

Yellow Giant Hyssop flower

Flower: Each branch is tipped with a flower spike. The individual flowers have green cup, 5 pointed lobed calyxes. They are in dense whorls on the spike. A few flowers open each day seemingly at random. The flower is tubular, less than half an inch long with rounded lobes at the end. Two lobes are on top. two lobes are on the sides. A single wider lobe forms a lower lip. The flower is listed as yellow but is usually creamy white, turning yellowish as it ages. there are four stamens and a pistil split at the end.

Yellow Giant Hyssop flower spike

Leaf: Leaves are opposite with long, up to two inches, grooved petioles. The leaves are twice as long, up to 6 inches, as wide with coarsely toothed edges. The leaf top is green with indented main veins. The under side is light green and covered with short hairs.

Yellow Giant Hyssop leaf

Stem: One main stem can reach 7 feet tall. A few branches go off oppositely from about half way up the stem. All the branch stems arch out then straight up. The stems are square, have four sharp angles, are light green, feel scratchy and are stiff.

Yellow Giant Hyssop under leaf

Root: The perennial root is fibrous with rhizomes.

Yellow Giant Hyssop stem

Fruit: Four seeds develop in the base of each calyx. they turn deep brown when ripe.

Yellow Giant Hyssop seeds

Habitat: This plant likes light shade and good soil with adequate moisture. It grows in open woods, along streams and roads.

 

Yellow Giant Hyssop

Yellow Giant Hyssop plant

Yellow Giant Hyssop might seem hard to miss because it is so tall. It is easy to overlook because the plants are so open. The flower spikes are long but only a few flowers, all short, open at a time so the spikes can appear to be thick branch tips. The color of Yellow Giant Hyssop is a medium green that blends into a background often much more colorful with brown-eyed Susans or boneset or white snakeroot.

Once noticed, Yellow Giant Hyssop catches the eye every time it is in the vicinity. As there are rhizomes, established plants can be part of small colonies.

The stems feel hard and stiff. They are brittle. The branches snap off the main stem, if pulled down a short ways. The main stem can be snapped off by the wind and the remaining part will send up a new main stem and branches.

I see these plants most commonly along the roadside. They can grow in open areas as overgrown pastures but are more common under trees along ditches.

Spearmint Mentha spicata

So many items come with spearmint flavoring: gums, mouthwash, chewing tobacco, candy and more. All this flavoring comes from a plant that now grows worldwide, first as a crop, then as a naturalized citizen.

It’s fun to come across this plant and easy to identify it due to the smell. You can chew on a leaf, but beware it’s potency.

Mentha spicata L.

June to October                                           I                                   Family: Lamiaceae

spearmint flower

Flower: Flowers occur in spikes at the ends of branches. These spikes can reach several inches in length. The individual flowers are in whorls around the spike. Each white, pink or lavender flower is tube-shaped with five lobes at the open end and a five l pointed lobed calyx around the base. Four stamens are spaced around and lie along the tube. A single pistil with a split tip sticks out of the center of some of the flowers.

spearmint umbel

Leaf: Opposite, sessile leaves have numerous teeth with their pointed tips bent toward the leaf tip. The leaves are longer than wide, darker green on top than underneath and have indented veins giving them a wrinkled look. The tops have no hairs although there may be a line of hairs along the midvein on the under side. Whole or crushed the leaves have a strong, minty odor.

spearmint leaf

Stem: The green stems have four angles and are squared. They often lie prostrate but can grow erect up to two feet tall. There are usually no hairs on the stems. Every leaf node can put out roots.

spearmint under leaf

Root: The perennial root is fibrous with rhizomes.

spearmint stem

Fruit: The plant spreads vegetatively through rhizomes and rooting at leaf nodes. Some of the flowers do produce seeds with four tucked into the calyx of the flower.

Habitat: This plant prefers growing in shallow water in full sun along stream banks, springs and ponds.

Edibility: Spearmint is used as a flavoring in many foods and medicines. The leaves can be used for and in tea.

Spearmint

spearmint plant

Spearmint is smelled before it is seen. The minty odor surrounds the patch and crushing the leaves increases it many times.

Much of the time Spearmint grows low to the ground, less than a foot high. It likes to grow in four or five inches of water. The plants grow so densely, few other plants grow in the area covered.

When conditions are favorable, Spearmint spreads aggressively. Most of the spread is due to rooting at the leaf nodes. The rhizomes can grow out a foot or more putting up new branches every few inches. Since the rhizomes are below the ground a little, they withstand drought and cold weather.

Spearmint is used for various foods such as mint jelly or in mint icing. The leaves make a strong tea. The crushed leaves are supposed to have an antiseptic effect. The tea is used to soothe the stomach.

A leaf can be picked and chewed on. The intensity builds quickly spreading around the mouth. It soon is like a strong mouthwash.

Too much of the juice can be toxic.

Giant Ragweed Ambrosia trifida

Every year I watch the giant ragweed start to grow. It lines the road. It surrounds the barn. It fills the barn lot and adjacent pasture. Its population gains every year.

The pollen spikes start growing. They get six to ten inches tall lined with green balls. When the green balls open, releasing pollen into the air, the boxes of tissues get set out around the house.

By mid September the spikes are only brown stalks. The pollen is gone for the year. Now the seeds scatter across the ground promising a new, bigger crop of giant ragweed next year.

 

Ambrosia trifida L.

July to September                                       N                                 Family: asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

giant ragweed male flowers

Male flowers

Flower: There are separate male and female flowers. The male flowers are in hanging bundles on a spire. One main and several auxiliary spires can come from the tips of each branch. The female flowers are tucked into swirls of bracts at the base of the spires. The flowers are wind pollinated.

giant ragweed female flowers

Two female flowers

Leaf: Opposite leaves are rough, green on the upper side, slightly paler on the under side and covered with very short hairs. Many of the leaves have three lobes but can have five or none. Main veins run out each lobe. The leaves have long petioles that can be winged. each leaf can reach twelve inches long and eight inches wide.

giant ragweed under leaf

Stem: The thick, ridged stem can reach 12 feet in height. It has branches. The stems are light green, rough to the touch, stiff, hollow and have lines of short hairs. The bases of tall stems thicken, become woody and can be three inches in diameter.

giant ragweed leaf

Root: The annual roots are fibrous around a taproot.

giant ragweed stem

Fruit: The seed is tan with an ovate base. the top has a main rounded spike surrounded by a ring of lower, rounded lobes.

giant ragweed fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers full sun, good soil and moisture. It is not particular and grows in a wide variety of places especially disturbed ground and pastures.

Edibility: Cattle, goats and deer eat giant ragweed. The seeds have a tough coat but can be eaten.

 

Giant Ragweed

Great Ragweed, Horseweed, Buffalo Weed

giant ragweed plant

Giant Ragweed is considered a noxious weed in some states. it does tend to form dense colonies once established in an area. It is the most abundant ragweed.

The plants are annuals and produce lots of seeds. These germinate in mid to late spring. The seedlings grow rapidly often in dense stands, many of which die from the competition.

Although, under ideal conditions, Giant Ragweed can to 12 feet with stalks three inches in diameter, tough enough to require a saw to cut them, many times the plants are cut or grazed or mowed off. The plants then put out new branches quickly reaching two to three feet and blooming. Even six inch plants will put up single spires.

As are other ragweeds, Giant Ragweed is wind pollinated. Each plant produces tremendous amounts of pollen. This is a major cause of hayfever in late summer.

Bees still visit Giant Ragweed male flowers to gather pollen. They may knock some pollen down on the female flowers, but do not visit them. They leave the pollen spikes heavily laden.

Archeologists find caches of Giant Ragweed seeds at various sites. The seeds are tough but do contain edible oils. Few birds can eat them due to the tough shells.

Spreading Aster Symphyotrichum patens

When blue daisies like the spreading aster begin to bloom, fall is close behind. This aster is common along the roads now along with Drummond’s Aster, Azure Aster and New England Aster.

 

Symphyotrichum patens G.L. Nesom

August to October                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Astereae

spreading aster flower

Flower: Flower stalks grow out of leaf nodes. They can branch and tend to be long and slender. Each one has a single flower head at the end. The cup holding the flower has numerous, small, pointed, hairy, green bracts with purple tips. These lie smoothly but make a jagged top of the cup. Sticking out of the cup are 15 to 20 rays lying flat and making a flower head almost two inches across. The rays are blue to purplish blue and often lighter on the first half and deeply colored on the outer half. The central disk flowers are yellow.

spreading aster side flower

Leaf: Only stem leaves are present when the plant blooms. These alternate leaves are sessile and have two projections that clasp the stem and a tapered, slightly rounded tip. The edges have no teeth or lobes. Both top and bottom are covered with short hairs which go around the leaf edges too.

spreading aster leaf

Stem: The branched stems can reach four feet. They attempt to grow upward, but usually curve down toward the ground. The green stems are hairy.

spreading aster under leaf

Root: The perennial root is both rhizomes and thickened fibrous roots.

spreading aster stem

Fruit: The seeds are purplish brown footballs.

spreading aster seeds

Habitat: This plant likes full to partial sun growing in pastures, open woods, glades, prairies and along roads.

 

Spreading Aster

Purple Daisy

spreading aster plant

There are several blue to purplish blue daisies blooming in late summer into fall. Spreading Aster can be identified by the leaves clasping the stems and the hairiness of the stems.

These blue asters are among the first blue aster to bloom along the roads. The two to three foot long stems arch over the ground with several long flower stalks sticking out. the flowers open one or two then several at a time.

Smaller butterflies such as buckeyes, red admirals and skippers visit the flowers.

Once the flowers are pollinated, the rays wither. The seeds develop and brown with the threads sticking out of the enclosing cup. There can be buds to blooms to seeds on the same plant at the same time.

Although small, the flowers are delicately pretty. The plants are fairly drought tolerant. Seeds are available from a variety of sources.

False Buckwheat Fallopia scandens

Every year the false buckwheat vines grow up over the front porch railings and part way up the posts. They stay as the vines are attractive all summer into fall. Frost kills them but they are easy to pull off and dispose of, no thorns, stickers or burs.

 

Fallopia scandens Holub

June to November                                       N & I                           Family: Polygonaceae

false buckwheat flower

Flower: Racemes or sprays of flowers 2 inches to 8 inches long stick up from the leaf nodes. The greenish-white flowers form whorls around the flower stalk. Each flower has two inner and three outer petal-like tepals. The outer ones are winged.

false buckwheat leaf

Leaf: The alternate leaves are dark green on top, light green underneath. They are mostly heart-shaped and on petioles which get progressively shorter as the leaf gets further along the vine.

false buckwheat under leaf

Stem: This vine can reach 20 feet long. The stem twines. It is round or ridged, green turning red with age, hairless or with hairs on the ridges. A tan sheathe surrounds the stem at each leaf node.

false buckwheat stem

Root: The perennial fibrous roots get fleshy.

Fruit: The small, black seed is inside the outer three winged tepals which fuse around it. The winged seeds hang down on the flower stalk.

false buckwheat fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers partial shade but tolerates full sun as long as the soil is good and enough moisture is present. It’s found along roads, yards, pastures, edges of woods, along streams and in prairies.

 

False Buckwheat

Crested Buckwheat

false buckwheat plant

False Buckwheat is one of those plants found worldwide. There are varieties of it so the population is partially the native one and partially an imported variety. The plant is not concerned and grows abundantly under the right conditions.

Numerous vines come from the rootstock. These cover the ground and any object or plant they encounter. The vines can be thick enough to blanket and smother these objects. They look light weight but are heavy enough en masse to bend small plants or saplings to the ground.

The flowers are small but make up for this with their number. The winged seed pods are pretty. Since the vines bloom for two to three months, they make pretty plants for growing on trellises.

False Buckwheat is an aggressive grower and seeds freely. The roots are persistent. In areas where the vines are mowed frequently, they will eventually die out.

Autumn Sneezeweed Helenium autumnale

The sneezeweeds are often one of the last entries in a wildflower guidebook under yellow flowers. They don’t bloom until fall is starting. Autumn Sneezeweed is easy to spot in wet areas.

 

Helenium autumnale L.

August to November                                   N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

autumn sneezeweed flower

Flower: Upper leaf nodes and branch tips put out flower stalks that thicken just under the flower head. The numerous sepals are light green, threadlike and curve upward around the center disk. Up to 20 triangular ray flowers surround the central disk. The rays range from yellow to orange and have three lobes on the outer edge. They stick straight out or slope away from the central disk. The central disk is a globular mound of yellow tube flowers.

autumn sneezeweed side flower

Leaf: Alternate leaves are sessile looking like they are part of the stem going off because of the wings. The leaves are long with a single midvein. Many, especially lower leaves have teeth. The surfaces have a dotted appearance due to tiny glands on them.

autumn sneezeweed leaf

Stem: One or several main stems grow up to 5 feet tall branching about half way up. The pale green to whitish stems are squared off and have green wings descending down from each leaf.

autumn sneezeweed stem

Root: The perennial roots are fibrous and shallow making the plant vulnerable to drought and fire.

Fruit:

Habitat: This plant likes very moist conditions preferring sunny edges of spring wetlands, ponds, creeks and lakes.

Poisonous: The plant contains a bitter lactone and can be toxic to grazing livestock.

 

Common Sneezeweed

Autumn Sneezeweed

autumn sneezeweed plant

Autumn Sneezeweed is a late blooming sunflower. It doesn’t open until the asters do, then blooms until autumn frosts drive most plants into dormancy for the winter.

This is an easy plant to identify. First, it likes growing in or near water. I find it around lakes and in wetlands.

Second, the flowers are so distinctive. No other yellow flower has the blunt triangle rays with lobes on the wide end. And the center is a pompom. For autumn Sneezeweed, the pompom is yellow.

Insects pollinate sneezeweed. The pollen doesn’t blow around making people sneeze. Where did the name come from?

Years ago Indians dried the plant. The dry leaves and flowers were crumbled in powder and used as a cold remedy snuff. This is sniffing pinches of powder. This caused sneezing.

Any of the sneezeweeds are bitter and avoided by livestock. Autumnal Sneezeweed is not a problem in any but low, wet pastures. In these it can grow in dense stands and be a problem.