Images of the day

Jul. 18, 2021

Miner's lettuce indeed. But if you're not a miner tromping around western mountains, you might call it spring beauty. It certainly looks different than the spring beauties we're used to here in the East, but it is in the genus. And miner's did indeed eat it. The early growth makes a good salad, more rarely a potherb. Indians also partook, and used the plants medicinally for external applications like poultices and eyewash. Miner's lettuce grows on shores in AK, AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY, and BC. The species has been reported from NH and GA, but it is not clear if those introductions have become established as part of their flora. Beal Gardens, MSU, 5/28/19. Miner's lettuce family, Montiaceae.

Jul. 17, 2021

Snowberry comes in two varieties. The western one is a robust shrub with lots of flowers and fruit. The eastern one is more modest, with fewer flowers and white berries. Western ones were formerly a popular landscape shrub. They may have fallen into disfavor because the berries are poisonous. Snowberry was used by Native Americans to treat just about any ailment you could think of. They sometimes called it ghostberry, and kept it around infants to keep ghosts away. Preventive medicine! The eastern variety is present on Maxton Plains, and is well adapted to extreme habitats. Well adapted, but small. This is a belly image, because I had to be prone to get the shot. Snowberry grows in AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, IA, ID, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY, AB, BC, MB, NB, NF, NS, NT, ON, PE, QC, and SK. Chippewa Co MI, 6/20/21. Honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae.

Jul. 16, 2021

Small skullcap is a little thing. There on Maxton Plains it was only a few inches tall. It was tucked in among the small impoverished tufts of grass. If this hadn't been pointed out, it might very well have been missed. The flowers are hardly a half inch long. It's small but tough, specializing in survival on rocky mineral laden habitats. Small skullcap grows in AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI(T), MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV, MB, ON, and QC. Chippewa Co MI, 6/20/21. Mint family, Lamiaceae.

Jul. 15, 2021

Why don't we just call this rockwort? And today the rocks are as much the subject as the plants. Those rocks are part of an alvar. Alvars are areas where the bedrock has been exposed by glacial activity and erosion. At the north end of Drummond Island is an alvar called Maxton Plains. It's a couple thousand acres left exposed by the last glaciation. As the ice receded it left bare rock under what would be Lake Huron. Then the absence of that weight allowed Miichigan the slowly rise, and Maxton Plains was born. As the water receded more scouring occurred. Now it is an area of exposed rock or thin soil, much of it without trees. In this image, the areas between bits of gravel are bedrock. The area places extreme demands on plants that would live there. There's not much food or water, and lots of minerals in what is available. Rock sandwort is one of the tough little bits of life that grow in the most extreme spots. These flowers are not much over a quarter inch across. It can be found in rocky areas in AK, AL, AR, CT, DE, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TX, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, MB, ON, and QC. Chippewa Co MI, 6/20/21. Pink family, Caryophyllaceae.

Jul. 14, 2021

This may be called balsam groundsel, balsam ragwort, or northern ragwort, depending on where you are. It was probably the native flower we saw most often on the Botany Club foray to the Upper Peninsula. It was rarely out of sight. This species is the most variable in Packera. Numerous populations have been split into separate species, and numerous varieties have been described. But characteristics overlap, and none of those separations are consistent across populations. Balsam can be found mostly in open sandy or gravelly ground in AK, AL, CA, CO, CT(E), DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NH(T), NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, SD, TN, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY, and across CAnada. Lenawee Co MI, 5/26/11. Aster family, Asteraceae.