Monday, November 30, 2009

Campsis radicans


Trumpet creeper is a rampant, fast-growing vine, native to the Southeast but commonly cultivated eslewhere for its big, showy flowers. Like other members of its family (such as the catalpa tree), the flowers are tube or trumpet shaped. Trumpet creeper can easily scale the height of even the tallest trees and is commonly seen covering telephone poles. The leaves are compound and up to 1 foot in length, and the vine produces large, banana-shaped seed pods in late summer. The vines are perennial and become woody over time, putting them with other lianas such as Berchemia scandens and poison ivy.

Carya cordiformis


I think it's neat to find this tree growing in Friendswood. It's a type of hickory called bitternut hickory. It ranges all the way from southern Canada to East Texas and is typically found in bottomlands and even swamps (it's also called swamp hickory). The nuts of this tree are, as the name implies, bitter and mostly inedible. They look like smallish (around 1 inch in diameter), round pecans with a thin, four-segmented husk. The pecan is actually also a hickory (Carya illinoiensis). The leaves of the bitternut hickory I found were around a foot in length. One distinctive characteristic is the bright orange buds. The specimen I found had been hacked down but I'm hoping to find a nice mature one somewhere as they are supposed to be one of the tallest hickories growing up to 100ft tall.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Forestiera ligustrina


I have to admit, I am uncertain of the species identification of this plant. Forestiera pubescens is the species I'm most familiar with and the plants that grow around here look an awful lot like the the F. pubescens common to Central Texas. However, based on the species distribution and local habitat, this plant is more likely F. ligustrina (aka Swamp privet) which is native to the Southeast.

In any case, this is an understory shrub in the same family as the very invastive Ligustrum. The stems tend to grow at right angles to each other, giving other species of Forestiera the common name "elbow bush". The flowers are yellow and insignificant. I don't know how large this shrub grows as there is not much info on the web. The leaves are about 1 inch in length with a dentate edge. I was lucky enough to find one in fruit.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sambucus canadensis


Elderberry is a large suckering shrub with cane-like trunks growing to 15 feet tall. It spreads underground to form colonies. The American elderberry is sometimes refered to as a subspecies of S. nigra which grows throughout Europe. American elderberry has a widespread range from Eastern Canada to Texas. Although the fruit are mildly toxic when raw, they are used cooked in jams and pies. In spring, the plants produce large, flat-topped inflorescences of white flowers which lead to many shiny black drupes later in summer. The opposite, compound leaves can be identified by little soft spurs that occur the the axils of the leaflets.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Phytolacca americana


Pokeweed is a large herbaceous perennial that dies back in winter and resprouts every spring. It produces large lance-shaped leaves up to a foot long. The plant itself can become very large (8-12 feet) but I've never seen it over 6 foot. By summer, the stems turn an intense red and the plant produces hanging bunches of berries. Although they may look enticing, the berries are poisonous to humans. The young shoots however were eaten in the old days and made edible by boiling in several changes of water.

Conoclinium coelestinum


Mistflower is a native composite found all over the eastern half of Texas. It's a rhizomatous perennial that puts out pretty powder-blue flowers in late summer/fall on 1 to 2 foot stems. It's very similar and related to the common bedding annual Ageratum which is native to South America. The leaves are fragrant when crushed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hypericum hypericoides ssp. hypericoides


This member of the St. John's Wort family is known as St. Andrew's Cross. It's a small shrub, no more than a couple feet in height and diameter. In spring, the young shoots are easily identified by their paired, opposite leaves which grow at right angles to eachother around the stem. They also tend to have a bluish cast to them. In summer, small yellow flowers appear with four petals, creating St. Andrew's Cross.

Callicarpa americana


American beautyberry is a woodland shrub native to the eastern US and also occurs in parts of the Carribean. They typically stay less than 6 foot and have an open form. The large, toothed leaves are deciduous. As the name implies, the main attraction of beautyberry are it's fruits which are bright metallic magenta and occur in tight clusters within the leaf axils. Varieties of this plant have been developed for landscape use.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dicliptera brachiata


This is a less-well-known wildflower that grows in moist, shady forests. It grows around a foot tall. The stems are distinctive in being ribbed and swollen around the nodes. The flowers appear to have only two petals.

Pyrrhopappus carolinianus


This composite flower is one of the most common wildflowers in Friendswood. You see it in fields and roadsides along with pink evening primrose. The flowers are a bright yellow, almost neon, which is hard to capture with the camera.

Juncus effusus


Members of the family Juncaceae are called rushes. They look a lot like grasses but only memebers of the family Poaceae are true grasses. You might also confuse rushes with sedges which are members of Cyperaceae. Like most sedges, rushes grow in and around water. Juncus effusus is a perennial rush whose hollow stems grow up to 3 feet tall. The flower heads appears along the stems. It's native all over the Northern Hemisphere.

Sorghum halepense


You've almost certainly seen this grass before and maybe just didn't know it. Johnson grass is an introduced grass from the Mediterranean. It can be very invasive, making pure colonies of itself along the creeks and in disturbed areas and can be resistant to herbicides. It's fairly large and reed-like, growing up to 8 feet tall, but I've usually seen it at about chest height (5 feet). It can be identified by its broad leaves with white center vein, its large orange seed heads, and prominent ligule (a little growth located where the sheath of the leaf meets the leaf blade).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ilex decidua


One of many native hollies found in the Southeast, this one is known as Possumhaw holly. As the scientific names suggests, it's a deciduous holly which grows to around 8 feet tall. They are very beautiful in winter when their limbs are bare of leaves but covered in red berries. The leaves are an inch or two long with a scalloped edge and have a slightly thick and rubbery feel. Notice how they are arranged on "short shoots" or spurs along the main branch. Like many hollies, Possumhaw is dioecious , meaning it has separate male and female flowers which occur on separate plants. The picture is of a female flower.