dirty trees

Tree Flowers

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Welcome to, the website of Bob Klips, a plant enthusiast living in Columbus, Ohio.
If you have botany questions or comments please email BobK . Thanks!
Two Woodland Wildflowers and Two Mosses
April 29, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio

At a rich woods along the Scioto River in southern Delaware County, one of Ohio's most abundant and widely distributed violets is in bloom. This is striped creamy violet, Viola striata (family Violaceae). It is one of the  "stemmed" violets, having leaves and flowers on the same erect stems, as opposed to the "stemless" ones where the leaves are all at the base of the plant, from which also spring forth solitary blossoms on leafless stems (scapes).

Viola striata
Striped creamy violet. April 29, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

Striped creamy violet flowers are bilaterally symmetric, and have the lateral and spurred (lower) petal striped with black-purpled veins, and the lower petal is strongly bearded. Technical note about violoets: the showt flowers we see in the Spring are not the only flowers violets produce. Later in the year, they produce inconspicuous flowers that never actually open to attact pollinators (and thereby effect cross-pollination) because they self-pollinate. Last year I examined these "cleisotogamous" (hidden marriage) flowers of another violet, and too pics whic can be seen here.

Viola striata
Striped creamy violet. April 29, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

In the low foreground of the picture above is a protruding branch with two developing fruits that belongs to a delicate, easily overlooked native annual plant that is common across Ohio. This is wild chervil, Chaerophyllum procumbens, in the parsely family (Apiaceae). Like many members of this most distinctive family, wild chervil leaves are divided and divided again, with ultimate segments that are quite narrow.

wild chervil
Wild chervil. April 29, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

Here's a closer view of the wild chervil inflorescence. Overall, the plant doesn't exactly trumpet the features of its family, but they're there. The Apiaceae is famous for bearing flowers in umbrella-like clusters called "umbels," distinguished by having several to many stalked flowers all attached to the same area of gthe flower axis. That is indeed taking place here, except that there are only a few flowers, and their stalks are quite short. Other Apiaceae features are more clearly on display. Note the inferior ovary (swollen area beneath the petals), the small, pale, separate petals, and the enlarged style base (the "stylopodium") perched in the center of each blossom.

wild chervil flowers
 Wild chervil flowers. April 29, 2010. Delaware, Ohio.

Another key Apiaceae feature diplayed by wild chervil is the fruit type; it is a a "schizocarp." This is a dry fruit that starts out with two single-seeded chambers located side-by-side, that later split apart to be dispersed as individual single-seeded units. Below, see wild chervil in fruit, several weeks after the flower photos were taken. Note the deep longitudinal ridge (commisure) along which the fruit will soon split into the two single-seeded units (mericarps).

wild chervil fruit
Wild chervil fruiting. May 19, 2010.

Nearby, on a limestone bluff, some mosses are engaged in a crucial aspect of plant reproduction --spore production. While members of all groups of plants produce spores, mosses do so in a way that is especially demonstrative, as the spore-producing stage of the life cycle --the sporophyte generation --is little more than a huge spore case perched atop a slender stalk. The sporophyte is attached to, and nutritionally dependent upon, the leafy plant that is its mother. Here's what I guess is Amblystegium varium (family Amblystegiaceae), a small moss that tends to very abundantly produce sporophytes that are large compared to the little leafy gametophytes.

Amblystegium varium
Amblystegium varium on limestone cliff. April 29, 2010. Delaware, Ohio.

Another moss, somewhat larger, is Plagiomnium cuspidatum (family Mniaceae). Its capsules are ripe now, releasing spores. Note the mouth of the capsule is adorned with a cirular array of teeth around its  circumference, the "peristome." Like those of many but not all mosses, the Miniacae peristome is double, consisting of an coarse outer series of 16 triangular-lanceolate teeth (the 'exostome"), and a delicate inner set of feathery segements (the "endostome"). The exostome acts like a valve, as the teeth bend in repsonse to humidity. They spread apart when it is dry, to allow spores to fall out when they are apt to be blown far away, and contract to cover the opening of the capsule when the atmospere is moist. The endostome acts as a sifter, prolonging the time period over which spore dispersal occurs.

Plagiomnium cuspidatum
Plagiomnium cuspidatum capsules. April 29, 2010.

A Purple Trillium, But Not The Purple Trillium
Marion County, Ohio. April 25, 2010

Grrr. Another year, another missed opportunity to go to the "trillium fest" in Hocking County where there is a beautiful trillium I haven't seen since the Reagan administration, "purple trillium, Trillium erectum. Oh well, wait till nest year. But about this time every year, a group of friends get together for a wildflower walk through a rich woods overlooking Alum Creek in Delaware Wildlife Area at the south edge of Marion County, Ohio. The 2010 Wildflower Walk encountered this beauty. It's a purple trillium, but not the purple  trillium. This is (merely) an unusual color form of  "drooping trillium," T. flexipes (Lilicaceae, the lily family). Note that this maroon flower is not simply a flower that started out white and then faded to that color; it's fresh and new, as evidenced by the very recently dehisced anthers.

Trillkium flexipes red form
Drooping trillium. Delaware Wildlife Area, Marion County, Ohio. April 25, 2010.

Most of the plants in this population, and I presume elsewhere in Ohio, are white-flowered like this one.

Trillium flexipes white form
Drooping trillium. Delaware Wildlife Area, Marion County, Ohio. April 25, 2010.

E. Lucy Braun, in The Monocotyledonae (...of Ohio, 1965, OSU Press), explains that flexipes is "The most confusing of the peduncled Trilliums; extremely variable as to color, flower size, peduncle-length, and angle of peduncle --upright to turned under the leaves. The only fairly constant characters are: ovary white or only tinged with purple, sharply angled with decurrent ridges from base to each margin of each recurved stigma (6 ridges); and short, broad filaments less than half length of the creamy white anthers. Plants with nodding flowers have been erroneously referred to T. cernuum, those with long-peduncled erect flowers to T. erectum."

Here are E.'s range maps for these three trilliums.

trillium map
Range maps for some confusing peduncled trilliums, from Braun (1965):
T. erectum ("purple trillium); T. flexipes ("drooping t."); T. cernuum ("nodding t.").

Nearby, the most common of our trillia (trillia?), the large-flowered trillium, T. grandiflorum, flanked by another common wildflower, wild geranium., Geranium maculatum  (Geraniaceae, the geranium family).

trillium and geranium
Large-flowered trillium and spotted geranium. April 25, 2010. Marion County, Ohio.

Nearby, a member of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup family). There are a great many spring wildlflowers in that family. Similar to the Thalictrum thalictroides and Isopyrum biternatum --species that are mainly done flowering now --this wood anemone, Anemone quinquefolia, bears a whorl of 5-parted palmately compound leaves beneath a solitary terminal blossom that is is petal-less (the showy parts are sepals), radially symmetric, and possesses numerous stamens and separate carpels, spirally arranged.

wood anemone
Wood anemone. April 25, 2010. Marion County, Ohio.

Green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica (Oleaceae, the olive family) flowered recently. Tsk, tsk, they're such dirty trees...littering the forest floor with shed clusters of male flowers. A forest snail seems to be getting something from them, as it is feeding off the anthers. Is it grazing on microscopic algae growing on the anthers or some exudate of the ash flowers themselves?

snail on ash flowers
Snail feeding on recently shed cluster of ash flowers. April 25, 2010. Marion, Ohio, USA.

It's intriguing, and depressing in view of their impending virtual extinction, to ponder the ash as part of a food chain/web involving the snail and its predators. (Snails are a major source of calcium for birds.) Here's a video of the snail feeding, classified as an "action flick," no doubt.

Snail feeds on ash flowers. April 25, 2010. Marion County, Ohio.

It has just rained and, doubtlessly helped by the moisture, jelly fungi (a type of basidiomycete) are fairly common on logs here and there in the woods this morning. This one I believe is brown ear fungus, Auricularia auricula. If correctly identified, this is a choice edible, related to the "tree ears" used in Oriental cuisine.

brown ear fungus
Brown ear fungus. Marion County, Ohio. April 25, 2010.

Rattlesnake fern, Botrichium virginianum (family Ophioglossaceae, the grape-fern family) is emerging. Unlike many ferns, which produce spores in minute sporagnia aggegated into clusters beneath otherwise normal leaflets, grape-ferns have leaves that are dimorphic. Each leaf has two distinct regions: (1) a lower portion that is strictly vegetative (thus appearing like a normal leaf), and (2) an upper portion that is wholly devoted to the production of spores (looking granular/globular...the "rattle" of the metaphorical rattlesnake).

rattlesnake fern
Rattlesnake fern. April 25, 2010. Marion, Ohio.

After the hike, we headed back to our hosts' home for brunch. There I saw this. Is it a hybrid between a lichen and some type of pea! No. It's a branch of redbud, a mass-flowering tree that produces flowers along twigs, branches and even sometimes the trunk, which is also the substrate for a foliose lichen in the genus Physcia, perhaps P. stellaris.

redbud and lichen
Foliose lichen Physcia on redbud branch. Delaware, Ohio. April 25, 2010.

Two Thallose Liverworts (and a moss)
Delaware County, Ohio. April 24 & 29, 2010

As part of our "Bringing Nature Home" project, also called the "Roto-till a Chunk of Our Backyard and Plant a Bunch of Weeds" project, the familette went to a terrific nursery that specializes in native plants and picked up a bunch of them. But of equal or greater interest are some bryophytes growing as "guests" in some of the pots alongside the nursery stock.

bryophytes in flower pits
Bryophytes in flower pots. April 24, 2010. Delaware, Ohio.

Here is a moss called Aulacomnium palustre  (family Aulacomniaceae) that is uniquely easy to identify because (circled and labelled using a font called "comic sans" many people find annoying) the sterile stems often bear narrowly triangular asexual reproductive structures --brood bodies, or "gemmae" --in a cluster at the tip of a slender extension of the stem. 

Aulacomnium palustre
The moss Aulacomnium palustre enjoys life in a flower pot. April 24, 2010. Delaware, Ohio.

The specific epithet "palustre" means "of marshes." Well, for a moss associated with wetlands, this specimen certainly is a wimp. The weatherman said it might rain, so the moss stems are hiding beneath umbrellas to keep from getting wet! No, that's not right. The "umbrellas" are a feature of a particularly intricate liverwort also growing in the pots, the famous Marchantia polymorpha (family Marchantiaceae). Specifically, these umbrellas are "antheridiophores,"  stalked platforms of sperm-producing antheridia.

Marchantia polypmorpha
Male antheridiophores of Marchantia polymorpha. April 24, 2010.Delaware, Ohio.

Although Marchantia is the liverwort most often presented in general biology textbooks, and the one to which the group owes its name through a supposed resemblance to the human liver, this is in fact a rather atypical liverwort. It is a thallose liverwort, i.e., one with a ribbonlike body devoid of leaves. Only about 20% of liverwort species are thallose; the others are leafy, easily mistaken for mosses. Below, see another picture of this Marchantia, showing, in addition to the shallowly lobed male antheridiophores, several of their much more deeply lobed female counterparts, the archegoniophores.  

Marchantia polymorpha
Marchantia polymorpha. April 24, 2010. Delaware, Ohio.

Marchantia also reproduces asexually by means of gemmae. These are little lens-shaped groups of cells that can grow into entire new plants. Reminiscent of "bird's-nest" fungi,  the gemmae are  produced in small gemmae cups that splash the gemmae far away when raindrops strike them.

Marchantia gemmae
Marchantia gemmae cups. April 24, 2010. Delaware, Ohio.

A few days later, I encountered another thallose liverwort, Reboulia hemisphaerica (family Aytoniaceae), this one in a more natural setting --a limestone bluff in a rich woods near the Scioto River in Delaware County, Ohio. It appears with several mosses and a chalky-appearing lichen, Leparia lobificans.

Rebouilia hemisphaerica
Limestone bluff with thallose liverwort Reboulia hemisphaerica. April 29, 2010.

Reboulia, like Marchantia and many other thallose liverworts, produces conspicuous umbrella-like female  archegoniophores. However, in this species it is only the female structures that are so loftily elevated. The male gametangia are aggregated into non-stalked dimple-like mounds located just behind the female structures. The male receptacles, which diminish as the thallus-lobe ages, appear only in the most out-of-focus area of  the photo below (labelled), along with an archegoniophore in an early stage of development.

Reboulia hemisphaerica
Thallose liverwort Reboulia hemisphaerica showing stalked archegoniophore. April 29, 2010.

Pin Oak in Flower
Marion, Ohio. April 23, 2010

Apparently the wood of Quercus palustris is used to make marionettes. How else can you explain the name of that Disney character whose nose grew when he lied? Pin oak is a native bottomland tree that, like many such trees (ex: silver maple, American sycamore, sweetgum), does well as an ornamental. It, and many other members of the red oak group (subgenus Erythrobalanus) are in flower this week. This group of oaks has leaves with bristles on their lobes and apex, and acorns that are biennial, requiring two growing seasons to mature.

[Note: another flowering oak (bur-oak), and more bad oak jokes, can be seen here.]

pin oak branch
Pin oak branch. Ohio State-Marion. April 23, 2010.

Like many trees, oak reproduction is characterized by individual plants that are monoecious, i.e., having separate male and female flowers, but with both types on the same tree. Being wind-pollinated, the flowers are inconspicuous, without colorful parts to atttract bees, buterflies, birds, bats, or any other animals with a name that begins with "b." The male flowers, very small and very numerous, aggregated into drooping catkins, are well suited for launching pollen grains into the wind.

pin oak flowering branch
Flwering branch of pin oak. April 23, 2010. Marion, Ohio.

Male oak flowers consist of a calyx that is divided at the base into (usually) 6 segments, above which are 3-12 stamens with elongate filaments and short anthers.

pin oak male flowers
Pin oak male flowers. April 23, 2010. Marion, Ohio.

Oak pistillate flowers, while nonetheless small compared to those of many other plants, are much larger than the male ones and much less numerous. They are solitary or in small spikes, each surrounded at its base by a tightly spiral array of many scales that will eventually become the acorn "cap." Each oak ovary contains 3 cells, each with 2 ovules inside. However, only one ovule per fruit develops into a seed, hence the acorn is a nut, i.e., a one-seeded fruit with a hard bony wall. Each flower is topped by three styles, visible in the photo below.

pin oak female flowers
Pin oak female flowers. April 23, 2010. Marion, Ohio.

The flowers that were pollinated last year are recognizable as little acorns. At the end of this year's growing season they will be mature, and drop off the tree.

pin oak bay acorns
Pin oak baby acorns April 23, 2010. Marion, Ohio.

Heterostylous Hedyotis
Camp Mary Orton
Franklin County, Ohio. April 20, 2010

In northern Franklin County there is a sunny bluff covered with thin soil over shale that is occupied by an interesting assemblage of mosses, lichens, and sparse low-growing herbs. One of the sparse low-growing herbs is Canada bluets, Hedyotis canadensis (family Rubiaceae, the madder family).

Hedyotis canadensis
Canada bluets at Camp Mary Orton. April 20, 2010

Like the more familiar Hedyotis caerulea, this wildflower posseses an unusual mechanism to avoid inbreeding. Called "heterostyly," it's where the flowers come in two types distinguished by their length of the style (the upper portion of the pistil). The long-styled "pin" flowers have short stamens and the short-styled "thrum" flowers have long stamens, i.e., the relative positions of the sexual parts of the flowers are the inverse of one another. A individual plant only bears one type of flower, and pollen from one type of flower isn't able to fertilize flowers of its type. Thus the plants are not merely self-incompatable, but they are incompatable with half the plants in the population! 

Below see flowers from plants of each style morph, dissected by tearing off a corolla lobe to expose the reproductive organs. MOUSEOVER the IMAGE to see an explanation of the flower structure, according to the following: O, ovary that is inferior (epigynous flower type); CA, calyx of 4 sepals; CO, corolla of 4 fused petals; STY, style (the arrow points to the stigma, but is meant to signify the style that connect the stigma with the ovay); STA, stamens, of which there are 4, inserted between the corolla lobes. Note that, in the short-styled (long stamen) flower, it is evident that stamens are "epipetalous" (fused with the corolla); the location of the filament is shown by the dashed line.

bluets heterostyly
Style morphs in Canada bluets.
Left: short-styled ("thrum") flower. Right: long-styled ("pin") flower.

Sharing the bluff with Canada bluets is a fruticose lichen in the genus Cladonia that is only very sparsely squamulose and also is rather branched and tangled, apeing one of the "raindeer lichens." (Raindeer lichens are also in the genus Cladonia, once again, as they were historically, before an interlude when they enjoyed status as their own genus, Cladina).

Cladonia furcata
Cladonia furcata at Camp Mary Orton, Franklin County, Ohio. April 20, 2010.

How to distinguish this tangled mess from a raindeer lichen? It certainly looks like one, to the untrained eye. Two things help. First, there are only three (former) Cladina species in Ohio, none of which happen to look much like this species. Also, Reindeer lichens lack an outer layer --the cortx --that is present on the non-reindeer cladonias. This might be evident in the closer view below of this Cladonia, where the exterior of the thallus is a bit shiny. That's the cortex.

Cladonia furcata
Cladonia furcata at Camp Mary Orton.  April 20, 2010.

Nearby on the bluff is an especially lovely wildflower with a name that is a metaphor --"pussytoes." With leaves that are 3-veined and a bit over 1.5 cm. wide, this is plantain-leaved pussytoes, Antennaria plantaginifolia (family Asteraceae).

Antennaria plataginifolia
Plantain-leaved pussytoes at Camp Mary Orton, Franklin County, Ohio. April 20, 2010.

This is the time of the year when it seems everybody is "mushroom hunting" for that uber-tasty ascomycete, the morel (various Morchella species). Here are several growing on a mulched path through the woods. I considered gathering them, but didn't want to do anything im-morel.

Morels at Camp Mary Orton. April 20, 2010.

Also growing along the path, practically covering a dry decorticated log is another Cladonia lichen. This one has a typical growth form for the genus: a carpet of flakey squamules at the base, from which rise upright podetia tipped with brown apothecia. After much deliberation (and a simple chemical test with KOH that showed no reaction), this was determined to be Cladona cylindrica.

Cladonis cylindrica
Cladonia cylindrica from Camp Mary Orton, Franklin County, Ohio.

Redcedar in "flower"
Delaware, Ohio. April 18, 2010
Redcedar, Juniperus virginiana, is an evergreen tree in the Cupressaceae (cypress family). As a gymnosperm ("naked-seed") plant it does not produce true flowers. It does, however, develop aggregates of stamen-like "microsporangia" and, separately, ovules that develop into seeds. The fact that those seeds are not enclosed within anything is the basis for the "gymnosperm" designation. Contrast that with the condition in angiosperm ("vessel-seed") plants, where seeds are contained in ovaries, eventually developing into fruits. Moreover, Juniperus is the only gymnopserm genus in our flora that is dioecious, i.e., consisting of separate male and female individuals. Redcedar is well known for its "berries" that, of course, are not berries because a berry is a fruit, and only angiosperms produce fruit. Here's a picture taken a few months ago of redcedar, showing the berries that aren't berries.

Eastern redcedar
Eastern redcedar "berries" aren't berries. They're cones.
Photo taken February 15, 2010. Marion Ohio

What are the berries that aren't berries? It's simple: they're  cones. The Cupressaceae are conifers, i.e., "cone-bearing" plants, so the "berries" are equivalent to the familiar pine cone, wherein seeds are produced at the base of scales. Unlike the scales of a pine cone, which are numerous woody, and separate, the juniper seed-cone scales are quite few in number (1-3 pairs), fleshy, and adherent to one another such that the cone never opens. The seed cone is thus indeed "berry-like."

Eastern redcedar is abundant in an old field alongside Alum Creek in Delaware, Ohio. Today, the redcedar trees are in full not-flower. Here's Mrs. Redcedar. Some of her branches bear 1-2 pairs of fleshy pink scales, at the base of which are 1 or 2 whitish ovules. See also a ripe persistent cone from the previous year; note how it corresponds to the current season's not-flowers. The pointy edge of one of the scales is apparent. Wow.

Juniperus virginiana
Eastern redcedar ovulate branch. April 18, 2010. Delaware, Ohio.

Nearby, Mr. Redcedar. Note that he bears, in the axils of leaves near the twig tips, pollen cones each with several pairs of small  umbrella-like scales ("sporophylls").

Juniperus virginiana pollen cones
Eastern redcedar male branches. April 18, 2010. Delaware, Ohio.

Here are studio shots of the same things. First, an ovulate specimen.

Juniperus ovulate specimen
Female Juniper.

...and a male one. Note the pollen cones with several pairs of sporophylls, each sporophyll bearing a few pollen sacs.

Juniper male cones
Male juniper.

Eastern redcedar is used for lining cedar chests, and is a source of wood for pencils. It's also a host for a  fungus called "cedar apple rust" (that would be better called "juniper-rosaceous rust"), a basidiomycete with a complex life cycle that alternates between two hosts --junipers and various members of the rose family such as apple, crabapple, and hawthorn. The spikey ball below is a gall on juniper, the means by which the fungus over-winters. The projecting horns are spore-producing structures. The spores go on to infect the rose family host, causing destructive lesions on leaves and fruits.

cedar apple on eastern redcedar
Cedar-apple rust gall on eastern redcedar. Marion, Ohio. April 15, 2010.

Bellwort Flowers Hide in Plain Sight
Delaware, Ohio. April 18, 2010

talking flowers
There's a fun web site where you can put captions on photos!

Large-flowered bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora, has perfoliate leaves. "Perfoliate" defined: the base of each leaf wraps around, and is fused with, the stem in such a way that it appears the stem is growing through the leaf.

perfoliate-leaved bellwort
  Large-flowered bellwort. Delaware County, Ohio. April 18., 2010.

Bellwort is a very typical member of the Liliaceae (lily family). Being a monocot, it has leaves that are narrow and parallel-veined. The flowers are large showy even though, as if star-struck by the niftyness of the plant's leaves, they seem to be trying very hard to look like tufts of leaves themselves. 

perfoliate bellwort
Large-flowered bellwort flowers. April 18, 2020. Delaware, Ohio.

Bellwort flowers are large and 3-merous, i.e. with flower parts in 3's or multiples thereof: 3 sepals, 3 petals, 6 stamens, and a pistil (gynoecium) composed of three fused parts (carpels). Like most lilies, the sepals are essentially identical to the petals. Hence both of them are termed "tepals."

The tepals are large, and droop over the sexual parts of the flower, obscuring them. To demonstrate pertinent details of the bellwort flowers I first removed a few tepals to expose the stamens, and then removed a few stamens to expose the pistil. Note the 3 styles, indicative of a compound pistil (syncarpous gynoecium) coposed of three seed-bearing units (carpels). 

Uvularia flowers
Large-flowered bellwort flower dissected. April 18, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

Just in case you, like me until about 2 minutes ago, thought that the possesion of perfoliate leaves by a bellwort meant that it was indeed "perfoliate bellwort," U. perfoliata, it turns out that there are two Ohio bellworts with perfoliate leaves. Large-flowered bellwort is a denizen of rich calcareous soil of woods, and quite wide-ranging, whereas perfoliate bellwort is a smaller-flowered species of acid or circum-neutral soil that is decidely eastern in its Ohio distribution, found mainly on the Allegheny Plateau and adjacent Lake Plains.

Here are distribution maps of Ohio bellwort species, from E. Lucy Braun's The Monocotyledonae of Ohio (1967, OSU Press).

bellwort distribution in Ohio
Bellwort distribution maps in "Monocotyledonae of Ohio"

This is Rue Anenome.
True or False?
Central Ohio. Mid-April, 2010.

The buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, is well represented among woodland spring wildflowers. At a visit to a woodland in Delaware County, Ohio on April 15, 2010, this beauty was seen blooming. Note what look like whorled 3-lobed leaves on long stalks, white petal-like sepals, very numereous stamens spirally arranged, and several separate carpels set in the center of a radially symmetric flower with separate parts.

Thalictrum thalictroides
White-flowered buttercup family member. April 15, 2010.
(1) This is rue anenome. True or False? (answer: TRUE)
At a visit to a woodland in Franklin County, Ohio on April 20, 2010, this beauty was seen blooming. Note what look like whorled 3-lobed leaves on long stalks, white petal-like sepals, very numereous stamens spirally arranged, and several separate carpels set in the center of a radially symmetric flower with separate parts.

Isopyrum biternatum
White-flowered buttercup family member. April 20, 2010.
(2) This is rue anenome. True or false? (answer: FALSE)

If you thought these two wildflowers were one and the same, you wouldn't be alone. This lookalike duo has tripped up the best naturalists. These are two strikingly similar little white-flowered woodland herbs: (1) rue- anemone, Thalictrum (formerly Anenomella) thalictroides, and (2) false rue-anenome, Isopyrum biternatum. Here's how to tell them apart.

While the leaves of the two species are arranged quite differently, they are so in a pesky and subtle manner that challenges interpretation. The leaves of rue-anenome are opposite (or whorled). The leaves of false rue-anenome are alternate. That ought to be a slam-dunk, but there's a catch. The stem leaves of both species are ternately compound, i.e., divided into three long-stalked leaflets. These leaflets strongly resemble separate simple leaves because (yikes) the leaves themselves are sessile (stalkess)! Result: both species look like they have whorled simple leaves, but neither of them actually do.

Pics of leaves. On the left, rue-anenome bearing a pair of opposite leaves, each of which is stalkless and divided into three long-stalked 3-lobed leaflets. On the right, false rue-anenome displaying one alternate stem leaf that is also stalkess and divided into three long-stalked 3-lobed leaflets.

Thalictrum thalictroidesIsopyrum biternatum
Leaves of lookalike woodland wildflowers.
Left: rue-anenome. Right: false rue-anenome.

Pics of flowers. The flowers of these guys look very similar, but bear a sharp distinction in their carpels --the female organs that develop into fruits. Both species have an apocarpous gynoecium, meaning that every flower possesses several separate female units each of which develops into an individual fruit. The distinction is that the rue-anenome fruit is a one-seeded non-splitting type called an "achene," while the false rue-anenome fruit is a several-seeded and splits splits along one edge, a fruit type that is a "follicle." That seems helpful if you have a microscope, razor, and tweezers, but what if you don't?

Hooray! The outward appearance of the carpels is quite different. To see this, all you need are eyes that came into existence before the Eisenhower administration, or a simple 10X hand lens. The carpels of rue-anenome are tapered at both ends and are sharply ridged lengthwise. The carpels of false rue-anenome are asymmetric and smooth.

Thalictrum thalictroidesIsopyrum biternatum
Flowers of lookalike woodland wildflowers.
Left: rue-anenome. Right: false rue-anenome.

Pics of whole plants.

Thalictrum thalictroides
Rue-anenome (Thalictrum thalictroides) April 16, 2006. Marion County, Ohio.

Isopyrum biternatum
False rue-anenome (Isopyrum biternatum). May 1, 2008. Franklin County, Ohio.

Thaictrum thalicgtroides
Rue-anenome (Thlalictrum thalictroides). April 15, 2010. Delaware County, Ohio.

Isopyrum biternatum
False rue-anenome (Isopyrum biternatum). May 1, 2008. Franklon County, Ohio.

Little Herbaceous Plants of the City
--Pearlwort, Arabidopsis and Speedwell--
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. April 12, 2010

Pearlwort, Sagina procumbens is a wee little member of the pink family (Caryophyllaceae) that, growing as it does in sidewalk-cracks, seems like it is trying very hard to be a moss. Here's a spot on the OSU campus in Columbus, Ohio where the plant has gained a toehold.

peralwort habitat
Sidewalk crack habitat of a small wildflower, Sagina procumbens.
OSU Columbus, Ohio. April 12, 2010.

Tiny little ruderal plants are usually alien annuals. Not this one! Surprisingly, pearlwort is a native perennial! It's a lot like various chickweeds, but lacks petals entirely. This species of pearlwort  is 4-merous, having 4 sepals, 4 stamens that alternate with the sepals, and a single ovary that splits along 4 lines situated opposite the sepals.

Pearlwort. April 12, 2010. Columbus, Ohio.

Growing on some disturbed ground where ornamental flowers have been planted near the Alumni House named after that fancy basket company is a VIP: Very Important Plant. Mouse-ear cress, Arabidopsis thaliana is a European member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) that is widely naturalized in fields and waste places, especially in sandy soil. Note the basal rosette of leaves, and the sparse simple stem leaves.

Arabidopsis thalliana. April 12, 2010. Columbus, Ohio.

Arabidopsis flowers are small and principally self-pollinating. They develop into fruits that are are long narrow siliques.

Arabidopsis flowers
Arabidopsis flowers. April 12, 2010. Columbus, Ohio.

Arabidopsis is extremely well known, but mostly in the lab. Because it is so easy and quick to grow, it's the flowering plant version of the fruit fly, white rat, and E. coli -- a model organism for genetic and developmental studies. Researchers have developed a great many mutants with which to study the genetic control of development and, more recently, Arabidopsis became one of the first complex organisms to have its genome entirely sequenced. Such a famous and important plant, it's nice to see it roaming free!

Nearby, a colorful little speedwell that I surmise is a European annual named Veronica agrestis (family Scrophulariaceae). It didn't key out very well. The speedwells are elegant little plants. The corolla is 4-parted with wide-spreading petals with only two stamens.

Speedwell, possibly Veronica agrestis. April 12, 2010. Columbus, Ohio.

Confusing Cladonia, Fertile Horsetails, and Flowers.
Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve
Licking County, Ohio. April 11, 2010

Individuals of the fruticose lichen genus Cladonia generally include a cornflake-like "primary thallus" from which may grow upright extensions called "podetia." Podetia may be blunt, pointed, clubbed, or end in a cup. They also may, depending on the species and degree of development, be topped by spore-producing "apothecia." Three species of Cladonia are evident along a path through an open woods at Blackhand Gorge State Nature preserve in Licking County, Ohio.

Here's one that has a primary thallus that is so prominent that didn't notice the podetia for a while. I initially suspected it was a species that rarely or never forms podetia.

Cladonia sobolescens primary thallus
Prominent primary thallus of Cladonia at Blackhand Gorge. April 11, 2010.

Closer examination revealed some podetia that are short and stout, simple, and tipped with brown apothecia. A simple chemical test --applying a drop of dilute potassium hydroxide (KOH) onto a tiny piece of podetium that somehow jumped into my pocket and noting that there was no color change distinguished this as a particular type of  "peg lichen," Cladonia sobolescens (as opposed to a different peg lichen, C. polycarpoides, that changes to dark red when KOH is applied).

Cladonia sobolescens
Cladonia sobolescens (and the moss Pohlia nutans) at Blackhand Gorge.
Note blunt, apothecium-tipped podetia.

Another Cladonia is a bit of a puzzler. It has a sparsely developed primary thallus, but bears abundant podetia that seem "sorediate," i.e., beset with a powdery coating of fungus and algal cells that flakes off readily as a means of asexual reproduction. Moreover, the podetia are thick but pointed, and many of them end in a teeny-tiny brown apothecium. It's an odd combination of characters adding up to confusion for a newcomer to lichenology. Futher chemical tests are in order, someday maybe.

pizzling Cladonia
As-yet-unidentified Cladonia at Blackhand Gorge. April 11, 2010.

A group of closely related cladonias that are appropriately called "pyxie-cups" have goblet-shaped podetia. Again, futher work, including more chemical tests, are warranted. In the meantime, we'll just call them "pyxie cups.

pyxie-cup lichen
Pyxie-cup lichen at Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve. April 11, 2010.

Another organism with a fanciful common name based a resemblance to something is a pteridophyte called "common horsetail," Equisetum arvense. Today, however, it doesn't look very horsetail-ey, as these are special early-appearing "fertile culms" that are unbranched and tipped with a prominent cone-like arrangement of spore-bearing structures. Short-lived, these will wither soon after releasing their spores. The later-emerging, much-branched, wholly vegetative sterile culms that are just emerging now will then be fully expanded. The plant will spend the rest of the growing season assimilating resources, and spreading alongside the railroad track where it is growing.

common horsetail
Common horsetail at Blackhand Gorge. April 11, 2010. Licking County, Ohio.
Note two emerging sterile culms amidst the fertile ones.

The disposition of Equisetum sporangia is a bit intricate. The spirally arranged items are not the spore cases  themselves but are hexagonal umbrella-like "sporangiopores," from the margins of which hang the actual spore cases (sporangia).

Equisetum sporangiophores
Portion of Equisetum strobilus showing hexagonal sporangiophores.
Note sporangia descending from margins.

There are some wildflowers too. It's nice to see the first large-flowered trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum, family Liliaceae) flowers of the year.

large-flowered trillium
Large-flowered trillium at Blackhand Gorge. April 11, 2010.

...and the quite common but nonetheless charming kidneyleaf buttercup, Ranunculus abortivus (family Ranunculaceae), one of the smaller-flowered species. It bears basa;l leaves (not shown in the picture) that are shaped like a kidney, I guess. (Comparing plant parts to mammalian internal anatomy is a bit weird. What's next, pancreas-leaved buttercup?)

kidneyleaf buttercup
Kidney-leaf buttercup.
Blackhand Gorge. April 11, 2010.

Deserving of a bit more attention is  "The Other Graminoid," rushes, in the monocot family Juncaceae. The genus Luzula are the "woodrushes," distinguished from the (slightly) more well-known Juncus rushes by the fact the woodrushes are hairy or cobwebby (Juncus is glabrous), three-seeded (Juncus is many-seeded) and blooms in spring, not summer.

Woodrush at Blackhand Gorge.

Rush flowers are radially symmetric with 3 sepals and 3 petals that look alike (tepals) and having 3 or 6 stamens, and an 3-parted superior ovary that matures into a capsule. Rushes look so much like tiny wind-pollinated lilies (family Liliaceae) that it seems like they should be in fact be tiny wind-pollinated lilies. But alas, they're not. Phylogentically, rushes (order Juncales) are snuggled alongside grasses and sedges (order Poales). So much for commin sense!

ruch inflorescence
Woodrush inflorescence at Blackhand Gorge. April 11, 2010.

Breeches Breached!
Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve
Licking County, Ohio. April 11, 2010

The spring wildflower Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria, family Fumariaceae) has an intricate flower that includes petals extended into nectar-containing spurs. In a study conducted in Iowa and Wisconsin in 1967 and published in the American Journal of Botany in 1970, Walter Macior determined that the regular visitors to the flowers included queen bumblebees and honeybee workers, but only the bumblebees were capable of displacing portions of the petals covering the sexual parts of the flower and thereby effecting pollination. Moreover, one of the two primary bumblebee species in his study area, Bombus affinis, is shorter-tongued than the other, B. bimaculatus, and, unable to extract a large amount of nectar by foraging normally, was commonly observed nectar-robbing by perforating the nectar spur and drinking directly through the opening. (Flowers so "robbed" set no fewer fruit than intact ones because, Macior surmised, the injury to the flowers did not substantially reduce visitation by the legitimate user of the flowers, B. bimaculatus.

The Dicentra blooms here today are perforated, evidence of a crime!

dutachman's breeh flowers
Dutchman's breeches with perforated spurs. April 11, 2010.
Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve, Licking County, Ohio.

Another flower pollinated by bumblebees (but not exclusively by them) is a shrub, prickly gooseberry, Ribes cynosbati, family Grossulariaceae). Ribes, the only genus in its family also includes currants. Ribes is the alternate host for a serious fungus tree disease, white pine blister rust.

Prickly gooseberry at Blackhand Gorge. April 11, 2010.
Sedges in the genus Carex are linear-leaved monocots with inconspicuous wind-pollinated flowers. It's a huge genus, divided into species groups called "sections." The section Montanae consists of small woodland sedges that grow in dense mats . Flowering in early spring, they bear staminate flowers in a single terminal spike separate from 2 or more pistillate ones placed fairly close together, below the staminate spike. The perygnia (a thin envelope that surrounds the single-seeded fruit) is obtusely 3-angled and, depending on the species, may be more or less hairy. Two species in this group are flowering today. Identifications are tentative because mature fruit is necessary for identification.

Carex pensylvanica is a wide-ranging species especially abundant in dry oak woods. It is said to be stoloniferous. I didn't notice that.

Carex pensylvanica
Carex pensylvanica. April 11, 2010. Blackhand Gorge.

The staminate spike is elongate, with dark-bodied, pale-margined scales. The pistillate spikes (three shown here) are located beneath the staminate one. Note the elongate styles protruding from the mouths of the perigynia.

Carex pensylvanica flowers
Carex pensylvanica flowers.
April 11, 2010. Blackhand Gorge.

Another woodland sedge in the same species group (Montanae) is Carex communis. It has wider leaves than C. pensylvanica and is said to be non-stoloniferous.

Carex communis
Carex communis at Blackhand Gorge. April 11, 2010.

A fly is laying eggs in the flower clusters.

Carex communis
Carex communis. April 11, 2006.
 Blackhand Gorge State Nature preserve.Licking County, Ohio

Columbus Ohio. April 11, 2010

As part of the allergy plants photo quest, ash (Fraxinus, family Oeaceae, the olive family) is a plant of interest. There is a row of male ash trees (probably green ash, F. pennsylvanica) on the OSU campus in Columbus, Ohio that are in bloom today. This species is dioecious. Apetalous flowers are borne in dense branched clusters sprining forth from the axils of leaves of the previous season.

ash inflorescence
Staminate ash inflorescence. April 11, 2010. Columbus, Ohio

The individual flowers each consist of two stamens. These haven't opened yet.

ash flowers
Staminate ash flowers. April 11, 2010. Columbus, Ohio.

These flowers are farther along developmentally, and many anthers have split open, releasing pollen.

ash male flowers
Male ash flowers releasing pollen. April 11, 2010., Columbus, Ohio

All the trees here are males, doubtlessly chosen because they don't produce messy fruit. But ha!, the pollen is so profuse that it's littering the area beneath the trees. Tsk, tsk, such dirty trees.

pollen on bike seat
Ash pollen on bike seat. April 11, 2010. Columbus Ohio.

Beech and Birch Flowers
Licking County, Ohio. April 10, 2010
I've been asked to take pictures of plants that cause allergy sufferers to suffer, to be used in a pamphlet to help allergy doctors educate their patients about the plants, and alleviate their suffering. The target plants are the ones routinely included in immunization injections. Most are wind-pollinated plants, including beech and birch. I went hunting for these guys in a setting amenable to photography, Dawes Arboretum in Licking County, Ohio.

Beech (Fagus), oak (Quercus) and chestnut (Castanea) are our members of the Fagaceae (beech family). The family is characterized by having plants that are monoecious (i.e., flowers unisexual but with both types located on one tree), with numerous minute petal-less staminate flowers in catkins or heads, and the  (also apetalous) pistillate flowers solitary or in small clusters enclosed by a set of small bracts. The fruit is a 1-seeded beech nut, an acorn, or a chestnut.

American beech, F. grandifolia, is in full flower today. The genus is distinguished from the other two fagaceaous genera by having its male flowers in heads rather than elongate catkins. The photo below shows a new branch with 5 staminate heads (pale yellow), one pair of pistillate flowers near the tip of the branch (reddish) and a persistent remnant of last year's fruit (dark brown and spiny, at the end of last year's branch).

beeh flowering branch
American Beech flowering branch. April 10, 2010. Licking County, Ohio.

Beech pistillate flowers are in pairs at the end of a short peduncle, subtended and largely concealed by numerous awl-shaped bracts. In the photo below, the slender styles (3 per flower) are visible.

beech female flower
American beech female flowers. April 10, 2010. Licking County, Ohio.

The male flowers, according to the books, have a bell-shaped calyx that is deeply 4-8 cleft, and 8-16 stamens.  However, these feature aren't particularly evident as there a great many of the little flowers packed tightly together. All you see are stamens, many stamens, releasing pollen. Ahh-choo!

beech staminate flowers
American beech staminate heads. April 10, 2010. Licking County, Ohio.

Another wind-pollinated jobaroo is weeping birch (Betula pendula), a European species planted as an ornamental. Members of the birch family (Corylaceae) are, like beech and other members of the Fagaceae, monoecious. However, unlike them, birches present not just the male but also the female flowers in elongate catkins. In the photo below, two staminate catkins are visible drooping at the end of the branch, while three pistillate catkins are upright, each located at a separate node.

weeping brich flowers
European weeping birch flowering branch. April 10, 2010. Licking County, Ohio.

Hackberry Flowers
Columbus, Ohio. April 7, 2010

Hackberry (Celtis) and elm (Ulmus) are Ohio's two native genera in the elm family, Ulmaceae. They can be distinguished by their flowers. Those of elm are "perfect," i.e., hermaphroditic, containing both male and female organs (stamens and a pistil). Here's a picture of an American elm flower taken a few years back showing the fluffy Y-shaped stigma of the pistil spreading out to acquire pollen, in the same flower with a few smallish purple-tipped stamens that recently released pollen.

elm flower
American elm flower. March 27, 2007. Marion Ohio.

By contrast, most of the flowers on an individual Celtis tree are staminate (male only). The so-called "fertile" (fruit-producing) ones, which according to the books may or may not also include stamens, are less numerous. Here's a formal description of Celtis flowers from the best book ever written, H.A. Gleason's The New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, published in 1952 by The New York Botanical Garden.

Celtis text from Britton and Brown

Today the local hackberries, of which there are many, are flowering. Here's an expanding new branch of hackberry at a fairly early stage of floral development. Note that, in accordance with the description above (isn't it nice that the trees read the books?), staminate flowers are indeed abundant and located in small clusters near the base of the twigs of the season, while fertile flowers are scarce, and situated in the upper axils. It's a bit confusing though, as anatomically "upper" axils are positioned beneath the male ones, because the branch is drooping. In the picture below, I've drawn boxes around portions of the stem that bear the different flower types, and then separate images of those areas are presented further (farther?) below.

hackberry inflorescence
Newly emerged hackberry branch, with flowers.
April 7, 2010. Columbus, Ohio.

Here's are zoom-crops of the boxed portions of the image above. First, the male flowers. Each one has 5 sepals ("calyx lobes") but no petals. Thyere are 5 stamens per flower, inserted opposite the calyx lobes.

male hackberry flowers
Hackberry male flowers.

Meanwhile, the fertile flowers present conspicuous elongate recurved-divergent stigma lobes (all the better to catch pollen with, my deary!). These flowers are not, however, unisexual, as there are stamens present, barely visible in the photo, mostly concealed by the sepals. These stamens are not yet exerted but even when they are, they won't stick out as far as those of the wholly staminate flowers because the filaments are shorter on these hermaphroditic blooms.

hackberry fertile flowers
Hackberry fertile flowers.

Some of the branches are at slightly different developmental stages than others. Here's an older-stage one from which  many of the staminate flowers have been shed, leaving only bare peduncle-stumps.

hacberry fflowers
Hackberry branch. April 7, 2010. Columbus, Ohio.

This branch is even farther (further?) along, with the male flowers all gone, and the two fertile ones remaining on the branch fast becoming fruit. The hackberry fruit is a thick-stoned drupe with a thin sweet pulp that, having a nice date-like flavor, makes a pleasant trail nibble.

hackberry young fruits
Hackberry branch. April 7, 2010. Columbus Ohio.

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