Forests and Meadows Flower Late June

BTNF_Mung_AspenMead_6.14.16_1_5x3.jpgThe number of fresh flowers is overwhelming hiking up Old Pass Road, Ski Lake, Munger Mountain and other trails with aspen groves and coniferous forests intermingle with meadows. The range of sun and shade, moisture and soils provides opportunities for a diversity of wildflowers to find their niche. Some plants are generalists, others are specific in their growing needs. All have evolved pollination techniques which are fascinating to observe and underground connections which we can only imagine.

Connections above and below ground:

B_GeraVisc_fl_SkiLk_62613

Sticky Geranium – Geranium viscosissimum – is wide open to pollinators.  The nectar guides lead to a central column of anthers and pistil.

Sticky GeraniumGeranium viscosissimum – is common everywhere right now. The saucer-shaped flowers formed by 5 petals are wide open to a variety of pollinators. Look closely at the nectar guides that lead to a central column comprised 0f anthers and stigmas. These male and female parts mature at different times to avoid self-pollination. Petal color varies from almost blue to deep pink, to almost white. All parts of the plant have sticky “glandular hairs” which present a gooey forest defense for tiny crawling predators.

GeraRich_habfl_YNP_7711_1crpsm

Richardson’s GeraniumGeranium richardsonii – looks very similar to Sticky Geranium but is white and grows in moist sites.

GeraRich_st_GrdVwTr_7813_1_crpsm

Both species have sticky hairs that serve as a gooey forest of defense against tiny invaders.  The hairs of Richardson’s Geranium are purple-tipped.

Lupines are lurking…quite obviously…under conifer trees—lodgepole pines at Signal Mountain, Douglas firs along Ski Lake Trail. The “palmately” divided leaves and the pea-like flowers (later pods) are two definitive ID features for lupines, overall.

A_LupiArg_habfl_MWrd_62514_2Q2_5x3

Silvery LupineLupinus argenteus – is found most frequently in forests vs. Silky Lupines are found commonly in sageflats. Lupines can grow in, and even improve, low nutrient soils.

A_LupiArgeRub_flcu_SigMt_61613_Q21sm

Silvery Lupine flowers look like miniature garden pea flowers. The banner which folds back at the top is smooth. The two side petals–the wings–hide the two “keel” petals inside. Within are 10 anthers and one pistil.  The pistil will become a pod.

Silvery Lupine flowers have smooth backs to their banners. The banners are held at a <45 degree angle to the wings and keel. Insects land on the “wings”, and while pushing into the center of the flower for pollen, the “keel” drops, revealing anthers which press pollen onto the insect’s belly. On the next flower visit, the stigma may tap pollen off the bee’s belly. Seeds will form inside a growing pod…like peas in a pod.

1024px-Robinia_pseudoacacia_root_nodules (1)

Root nodules form in legumes, including lupines. They harbor bacteria which fix nitrogen from the air, passing it on to plants for growth. Photo: wiki commons

All plants need nitrogen. Gardeners add nitrogen to flower beds and lawns. For centuries, farmers have grown alfalfa, clover, beans, and other legumes to improve conditions for crops. Lupines, like many legumes, form nodules in their roots to protect nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The bacteria have a safe haven to “fix” nitrogen from the air (N2), which is plentiful in soil pores, and convert it into a form usable and essential for plant growth (NH3). Dying lupines, in turn, add nitrogen to the soil in a form that all other plants can use. Thus, lupines are beneficial to our forests and sagebrush lands.

Pedulcaris bracteosa

The 3-4′ tall stalks of Fernleaf Lousewort or Wood BetonyPedicularis bracteosa – is growing in shady aspen groves.

Fernleaf LousewortPedicularis bracteosa – stands up tall in aspen groves and shady meadows. The leaves are large and finely dissected. Pale yellow flowers spiral up 3’ stalks.

A_PediBrac_flCU_SigMt_61613_1sm

Flowers of louseworts are designed to fit specialized pollinators. Here you can see the stigma poised to tap pollen off the back of a visiting bee as the bee searches for nectar deep within the flower.

Louseworts have a variety of pollination strategies: the flowers of each species have evolved to fit specific pollinators. The lower petals are fused to serve as landing pads, and the upper petals shield the male anthers and female stigma. When the right-sized bumblebee comes in for a landing, the anthers will deposit pollen. On another visit, the stigma will stick out and relieve the bee of its burden.

Another point of interest: Fernleaf Lousewort parasitizes Engelmann Spruce for certain compounds: pinidinol, specifically. Why? Who knows?

LiguFili_flhab_TetPsTr_7413_1Med

Fern-leaf LovageLigusticum filicinum – is beginning to flower. Note the large delicate leaves and umbels of white flowers.

Another tall wildflower bearing lacy large leaves is Fern-leaf LovageLigusticum filicinum, of the Parsley Family.   It is beginning to bloom in aspens groves near Munger Mountain and in meadows by Two-Ocean Lake. Umbels (remember umbrella ribs) of tiny white flowers are spreading high and wide.

LiguFili_flbug_PassTr_71714_1_5x3

Many insects step from flower to flower in Fern-leaf Lovage, which collectively give perches and treats to all sizes of flies, beetles, and bees. Look for shiny rings of nectaries below the two stigmas–the reward the insects are looking for.

The highly pungent and flavored root of this plant is called Osha in herbal medicine and was used by many groups of Native Americans for infections.

Osha

Osha root is very pungent and powerful. It has been used for generations of native peoples for medicine.

OsmoOcci_flhab_LSR_6312_2_5x3

Westerm SweetrootOsmorhiza occidentalis – has tiny yellow-green flowers in umbels, and a divided leaf.

Also in the Parsley Family, Western SweetrootOsmorhiza occidentalis – has similar features to Ligusticum. The flowers are in umbels and the leaves are divided—looking a bit like parsley leaves.

OsmoOcci_fr_DeaC_62215_2psCrpSm

Sticky Geranium – Geranium viscosissimum – is wide open to pollinators.  The nectar guides lead to a central column of anthers and pistil.

Already, plants are forming elongated ½” fruits which have a licorice flavor.  Plants create  chemicals for defense (toxins) or attractants (perfumes). While many Parsley Family species are tasty and beneficial to us, others are deadly, such as Water HemlockCircuta maculata.

Two Opposite Pollination Strategies:

Two members of the Buttercup Family are flowering now in forests. One is spectacular, the other easily overlooked. These two family members have evolved very different strategies for survival.

B_ThalOcci_habflM_SkiLk__62613_1

Western MeadowrueThalictrum occidentale – is a delicate looking plant in shady forests. This plant is in full (male) flower.

Western MeadowrueThalictrum occidentale – is wind pollinated. As with many wind-pollinated plants, the flowers are almost invisible to us. Wind doesn’t see, so the plant does not provide a showy display, as it would if it were insect pollinated. Male pollen grains need to land on female pistils to make fruits and seeds. Preferably the pollen comes from a genetically different plant for long-term diversity and adaptation of the species.

A_ThalOcci_FlM_PhlLk_6413_2Q2_cpsm

Dangling male flowers of Western Meadowrue scatter pollen grains upon the wind.

A_ThalOcci_FlFm_PhlLk_6413_1acrpsm

Pink stigmas of female flowers of Western Meadowrue – stretch wide to catch pollen grains.

ThalOcci_fr_WallyWld_6.14.16_1a_crp_5x3

Fruits of Western Meadowrue.

To assure cross-pollination, in this species male flowers are on separate plants from the females. Look for many anthers dangling out in the wind. Nearby, hopefully, are female plants with flowers with stigmas reaching wide to catch the wind-scattered “balls” of pollen. With luck, and it is luck!—the male pollen is caught by feathery female stigmas and fruits and seeds can form.

Surprisingly found in the same family, the very showy  Colorado ColumbineAquilegia coerulea – is found in moist shade where its white petals and sepals stand out.

Aquilegia flavescens

Columbines have five flaring white sepals, 5 petals that form “spurs” with nectar at the bulbous ends, many anthers, and 5 pistils. This is Colorado ColumbineAquilegia coerulea.

Vashti Sphinx Moths (left image – from Wikipedia Commons) are  specialist, nectar-seeking pollinators of Colorado Columbines. Nectar is held deep in the petal spurs, which only this species can reach: the moth hovers and uncurls and extends its proboscis inside to the sweet energy reward at the end.  Research has shown that Sphinx vashti visits columbine populations with longer spurs than populations visited  by White-lined Sphinx moths or Hummingbird Moths – Hyles lineata (right image – from Wikipedia). Furthermore, blue variations of Colorado columbine with shorter spurs are associated with bumble bees seeking pollen as well as nectar. Both flowers and pollinators are specialized with in the same plant species.

Symphoriocarpus oreophilus

Mountain SnowberrySymphiocarpus oreophilus – is the host plant for caterpillars of Vashti Sphinx Moths which pollinate Colorado Columbines. The shrub is in flower now.

A Big Year for Tiny Orchids

CalyBulb_FlHab_Many_SlgCrTr_6.7.16_1a_Q1_5x3

Many people have reported seeing Coralroot and Calypso Orchids this spring. A few have come upon Twayblades. Orchids comprise the largest family of plants in the world. Researchers are exploring how specialized pollinators and mychorrizal relationships may be driving species diversification, but overall little is known about these plants, including the species here in Jackson.

All CoralrootsCorallorhiza spp. – are dependent on association with fungi for survival, as they do not have any chlorophyll. Their knobly, twisted rhizomes (underground stems) are connected to mycelia threads of gilled Russula mushrooms, which are in turn connected to nearby trees that provide carbohydrates. Coralroot stems are reddish to yellow (never green) and do not have leaves.  Flowers are small with variable markings, depending on species and varieties.

CorrMacu_fl_WalWld__612115_1CrpSm

Spotted CoralrootCorallorhiza maculata – is variable in its decoration. However 2 lobes on either side of the base of the lowest petal (lip) and a bump (spur) under the throat of flower help in ID. All-yellow forms with white lips are also present–some say these are albino forms.  None have chlorophyll.

Very little is known about coralroot pollinators—maybe bees?—which visit the flowers, expecting a “reward” of nectar or pollen.  In any case, the pollinators leave duped and carry only a load of a pollinia (sac with thousands of pollen grains) which it cannot reach.

If the pollinator is fooled again, the next flower will receive the pollinia and can produce thousands of very fine, dust like seeds. Spread by wind, the tiny seeds depend on the right species of fungus to be in the soil where they land. It’s amazing to see any orchids at all!

CorrStri_infl_TrCrk_6.23.16_2_crp_3x5

Striped CoralrootCorallorhiza striata. The striped petals direct hapless pollinators down a dead end. In exploring for a reward of nectar, the pollinator presses upon the yellow wad of pollinia on the end of the “column”, which sticks to its back.  However, there is no nectar!  If  it is fooled again, it visits another flower where the pollinia sticks to a perfectly sized stigma.

Two other Coralroots: C. mertensiana and C. wisteriana can be discovered in conifer forests as well. Details of differences include design of stripes and spots, length and shape of petals, and bumps on the inferior ovaries.  Insects can tell the difference in species, even if it hard for us to do so.

Calypso Orchid or Fairy SlipperCalypso bulbosa – is one of a kind. There are no other species in the genus. Young queen bumblebees are attracted to the fragrant, elegant flowers. However, they do not receive any reward for their time and soon learn (yes, insects learn) not to visit this species again. However, if a queen does visit another flower, she delivers a wad of pollen which can stimulate thousands of seeds in the single fruit capsule. The plant has been pollinated without its expending any extra resources on nectar.

CalyBulb_fl_CacCrk_52312_1_5x3

Calypso OrchidCalypso bulbosa – is alluring to inexperienced bumblebee queens. However, after a visit or two, they learn there is no reward for them and cease to visit.

The paired green leaves of twayblades (Neottia/Listera spp.) indicate that this genus can manufacture its own food. Four species of twayblades are listed in Teton County. These photos are of Western Twayblade – now called Neotiia banksiana, formerly Listera caurina, It is found in the northwest but is listed only in Teton County for Wyoming.

While all our wildflowers deserve protection, please never pick an orchid…their existence is precarious enough.

While hiking, ponder the remarkable life passing by your boots. Take a moment to look closely at the unfurling flowers and developing fruits and seeds. What pollinators are flying and crawling about? What micro-organisms are living in the soil that provide us with such colorful displays above? Enjoy the questions, even if we don’t know the answers, yet.

BTNF_ColeCrk_AspenG_6.23.16_1_5x3

Aspen grove along Cole Creek Trail, Bridger Teton National Forest.

Frances Clark, Wilson, WY

June 28, 2016

P.S. Watch out for Stinging Nettles – Urtica dioica – along the trail. Plants can be 4′ tall and have opposite, egg-shaped, 3-4″ toothed leaves.  Flowers are tiny and male and females are on different plants.  Transparent needle-like hairs on stem and leaves are filled with liquid. When brushed, the tip of the hair breaks open and ejects a liquid that stings like a red ant bite. Ouch!

 

Advertisements

Jackson Hole Flowers in Early June

With unseasonably high temperatures this past week, spring flowers are developing fruits and summer flowers are blooming strong throughout the southern end of Jackson Hole. These same species will have encores over the next week or so in the northern valley and into Yellowstone National Park.

Here are some of the most common and obvious wildflowers blooming in sagebrush dominated flats and hillsides.  We hope you will enjoy learning some plant names and how flowers are designed to attract pollinators. Enjoy the amazing diversity and beauty of plants.

TNP15_AntFl_vwBTBut_52915_1_5x3

Yellow composites:

Arrow-leaf BalsamrootBalsamorhiza sagittata – is the big showy “composite” seen on hillsides and sageflats right now.  The large flower heads illustrate the typical features of the Aster or Sunflower Family.  This is one of the largest flower families in the word with 1000s of intriguing variations which have evolved for success.

A_BalSag_FlCU_CurCan_6711smWeb

A cross-section of a Arrow-leaf Balsamroot flower head.

Around the outside of the so-called flower head, bright yellow “petals” are actually individual “ray” flowers with five fused petals flattened to one side. The “disc” flowers in the center are tiny flowers with 5 connected yellowish petals forming a flared tube.  Above each, a dark column of anthers wraps around an emerging stigma which arches into two parts, ready to capture pollen from visiting pollinators. (Note the outer disc flowers are in full bloom, the inner are still in bud.)  Hairy, silvery bracts surround the flat platform or “receptacle” holding the many individual flowers. (If this is too much information, just have fun looking closely!)

2. A_NER_BalsSagHab_52013_1Q2_5x4sm

Arrow-leaf Balsamroot has one flower head on each 1.5’ stem. The large leaves are arrow-shaped with silvery hairs and arise from the base of the plant.

Don’t confuse Balsamroot with the soon-to-flower Mule’s EarsWyethia amplexicaulis.

WyetAmpl_flCU_191GrosVrd_71111_1v

Mule’s Ears have large, deep yellow flowers with smooth bracts, and 12-18″ oval, deep green leaves which can grow along the stems. They grow in heavier soils than Balsamroot.

Western GroundselSenecio integerrimus – has several yellow flower heads with both ray and disc flowers on single stems. The plants usually grow to 8-12”.   SeneInte_habfl_RKO_5.28.16_2_3x5

SeneInte_flst_AntFl_5.27.16_1a_3x5

In Groundsels, bracts are all the same length – like a palisade fence – and are black tipped.

SeneInte_stCU_AntFl_5.27.16_1_crp_3x5

Along with these other features, cobwebby hairs on leaves and stem provide definitive ID of Western Groundsel.

At first glance, three other composites look like Common DandelionsTaraxacum officinale. They grow about 6-8” (or more) tall and have showy yellow heads with only ray or “ligulate” flowers. Look closely at bracts, number of flower heads, and the location and shape of leaves.

The fruits are very helpful in understanding why the taxonomists separate these genera. However, we have to wait until they ripen.  Practice by looking at dandelion fluff and fruits.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Common Dandelion has all “ligulate” or “ray” flowers. Notice the leaves are all at the base (basal).

TaraOffi_flside_YNP_6.9.16_1_crp5x3

Note the two rows of bracts in Dandelions: bracts of the outer row fold down, those of the inner row are upright. Bracts are very helpful clues in ID of look-alike composite flowers.

False DandelionAgoseris glauca – also has only one head per plant. The bracts are variable. Leaves are all at the base or “basal.” Three varieties with different leaves and hairiness to the bracts are a challenge to botanists.

AgosGlau_fl_AntFl_71111_med

Mountain DandelionAgoseris glauca – looks very much like a dandelion, but look closely….

AgosGlacG_flCU_DMansB_52113_1Med

Mountain Dandelions have tidy, upward pointing bracts around each flower head. Some bracts can be hairy or smooth, depending on variety. Leaves vary, too.

Nodding Microseris Microseris nutans – is very similar to the above, but again look closely: there is often more than one flower per stem or plant and buds typically nod. Leaves are mostly basal, but one or two may attach to the stem, as well.

MicrNuta_habfl_BTTh_61514_4Q2_3x5

 Observe how  Nodding Microseris differs from the other species. Note the nodding buds.

Coming into bloom are several species of HawksbeardCrepis sp.

2a.CrepcfAcum_habfl_AntFl_63013_1bQ2_3x5sm

HawksbeardsCrepis sp. – are robust plants found in sageflats. The leaves bunch at the base but also grow up the branching 8-16” stems. The leaves are often sword shaped and variably pinnately toothed, lobed, or dissected.

2b.CrepModo_fl_AntFl_52814_1crp180Q2_3x3sm

In Hawksbeards, the number of flower heads varies, as does the number of individual ray flowers per head. Some species have stiff hairs,which can be black. All these features are used for ID the 3-4 species common in Jackson Hole.

Don’t miss the blues:

Low or Nuttall’s LarkspurDelphinium nuttallianum – has been blooming for a while. It attracts queen bumble bees, solitary bees, and in some places hummingbirds as pollinators.

2.A_DelpNutt_Hab_AntFl_51712_2a_5x3sm

Nuttall’s Larkspur is still blooming strong.

2b.A_DelpNutt_FlCU_AntFl_51613_1aQ2_5x3_sm

Larkspur flowers are intriguing: 5 deep blue-purple sepals flare out at the sides. The upper sepal forms a long tube behind called a “spur.” Four petals are designed to guide the pollinator into the center of the plant. The two white upper petals are stiff and sport blue “nectar guides.” Each of these petals extends back into the sepal spur and holds nectar as a reward for savvy pollinators. The lower two hairy blue petals flop down, shielding the anthers while also providing landing pads for insect pollinators.

At the right time, anthers shed pollen upon pushy pollinators. The pollinators, after a drink of nectar, fly off to a similar flower and with luck (for the plant) knocks the transported pollen onto the three receptive stigmas. Pollination and, hopefully, the formation of seeds has begun!

Mountain BluebellsMertensia viridis/oblongifolia – often grow on grassy slopes and amidst sage plants. Pollinators – bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds – are attracted at first to the curved bunch of pink and blue flowers.

A_MertObl_FlCU_JosRdg_2614_2acrp180sm

Pollinators zero in on individual blue flowers, where they hang or hover while reaching down the tube for nectar. Watch the color changes of the flowers as they ripen and then fade in the course of pollination and for what insects show up!

Long-leaved PhloxPhlox longifolia – grows taller and looser than earlier blooming white phloxes which are mat forming, such as Hood’s and Many-flowered Phloxes.

9b.PhloLong_fl_AntFl_51712_1b_5x3sm

Flowers of Long-leaved Phlox range in color from white to pink to bluish. The are often 4-6″ tall with 1″ leaves.

PhloLong_FlCU_Schw_8.16_1_x53

A beguiling fragrance attracts small flies, bee flies, and butterflies to the bluish to pinkish 5-petaled flowers. Only the insects with just the right length mouthparts can reach down the long tube to nectar deep within. Coincidentally, the flower is pollinated.

Other dashes of color:

Prairie SmokeGeum triflorum – is a member of the Rose Family. The leaves are about 4-6” long, and are “pinnately” (like a feather) dissected–looking “fern-like (although ferns are a whole different order of plants). Leaves cluster plentifully at the base of the spreading plants.

GeumTrif_Flhab_AntFl_52814_1crpmed

Prairie Smoke has many divided leaves and stalks dangling three flowers (hence the botanical name “triflorum“).

GeumTrif_FlCU_YNP_6.6.16_1a_Q2_crp3x5

Five fused maroon sepals (with extra bracteoles) surround the pale yellow petals of Prairie Smoke. Together they protect many anthers and pistils inside.

GeumTrif_frCU_BNR_6.2.16_1a_Q1_5x3

After pollination, each of many pistils mature into feathery fruits, to fly off in the breezes. The heads look like a “bad hair day.” Many fruits together provide the “prairie smoke” effect.

Puccoon, Stoneseed, GromwellLithospermum ruderale – is a robust plant in the Borage Family.

LithRude_habfl_antFl_52613_2_5x3

Flowers of StoneseedLithospermum ruderale – are held in the axils of the 1-3″ linear leaves on 1-2′ stems.

LithRude_fl_MWrd_5.27.16_1a_5x3

The pale yellow flowers have a delicate lemon-like fragrance, worth bending down for a  sniff. They attract bumblebees, hawkmoths, solitary bees, and flies.

LithRude_frSt_RKO_81813_3Q2_4x3sm

Later, flowers will form white fruits with very tough seeds inside…hence the botanical name, which translates into “stone seed.”  The seeds are readily predated by deer mice.

Many peoples have used this plant for a variety of medicinal purposes, a reason why it has so many common names.

Three particularly abundant species:

Wyeth Biscuit RootLomatium ambiguum – with its wide spreading “umbels” of tiny bright yellow flowers is still growing in abundance at the Sawmill Pond Overlook and along the inner park road.

LomaAmb_habfl_BTTh_61514_1web

Wyeth Biscuit RootLomatium ambiguum – grows along dry, disturbed road sides in the park.

LomaAmbi_habfl_MWRd_5.16.16_2a_Q2_5x3 copy

The tiny bright yellow flowers are in umbels (think umbrellas) typical of the Parsley Family. The leaves are dissected into at least 9 segments of various lengths and width. Note the swollen leaf bases.

LomaAmbi_Rt_SpauBayRd_6811_1Q2_3x5

The tuber-like roots were eaten by Native Americans and are sought after by rodents and bears.

It is easy at first to confuse Wyeth Biscuit Root with its more obscure relative. Nine-leaf Spring Parsley – Lomatium simplex var. simplex – has pale yellow flowers and leaves dissected into 9 long, thin segments of equal width and length.

LomaSimp_lfstfl_DmBar_5712_2Q2_5x3

Note the grayish 9-parted leaves and the pale yellow flowers (which will spread into wider umbels) on Nine-leaf Spring Parsley.

Western ValerianValeriana occidentalis – appears in almost every habitat – grassy hillsides, near wetlands, and sage flats.  While some promote Valerian as a sleep aide, it contains very toxic chemicals.  Plants develop such chemicals for defense.  Always research carefully any “medicinal” herbs.

ValeOcci_Fl_GameCrk_5.24.16_1_crp_5x3

Note the tiny flowers of  Western Valerian.  In the field, observe how the clusters are held in an “candle-arbor like” arrangement.

ValeOcci_Flhab_GameCrk_5.24.16_3_crp_3x5

Leaves on the stem are opposite and pinnately compound.  Those at the base are usually undivided ovals.

Bright white Field ChickweedCerastium arvense – is found often in disturbed habitats.

CeraArver_FLCU_MWOL-5.28.16_1Q2_crp_5x3

Each petal of Field Chickweed is notched at the tip. Can you count the number of anthers and styles in the center?

CeraArve_lfAxil_YNP_6.6.16_1_Q2_crp_5x3

The sharp-pointed, needle-like leaves are opposite on the 6-8” stems and often have extra leaves in the axils, which help distinguish it from Bering Chickweed – C. beeringianum – of subalpine and alpine habitats.

Many more flowers are in bloom on dry knolls and hillsides and in relatively moist forest edges. And new flowers will continue to bloom in the flats.  We will post additional information soon.

Frances Clark

Wilson, WY – June 10, 2016

P.S.  Of particular note at this moment of writing, is the phenomenal amount of pollen being shed by Lodgepole Pines (and perhaps other conifers.)  The photo taken in the Lamar Valley three days ago is representative of what is happening all around us now.

YNP16_Lamar_Pollen_6.6.16_1_crp_5x3

Pine pollen looks like a fire starting in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley on June 6, 2016. Expect a big cone year in fall 2017.

PinuCont_BrMale_YNP_6.9.16_1_crp_5x5

In this photo, the stack of male pine “cones”  will soon shed thousands of pollen grains upon the wind and, with lot of luck, pollen will land on separate female cones.  However, pine seeds be ripe until 18 months from now. The green female cone shown here is from last spring’s pollen event.