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.

Fraxinus pennsylvanica


Green Ash is a common, fast growing tree that's widely planted and grows virtually everywhere east of the Rockies. In nature, it's usually found in bottomlands. They get around 60 feet tall with a crown 40 or so feet wide. Because of its wide range, there are many subspecies that exist. This one may be Fraxinus pennsylvanica var. lanceolata because I did not find any pubescence on the underside of the leaves. Ash trees are easily identified by their large compound leaves and coarsely divided branches which are somewhat rubbery or flexible.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chasmanthium latifolium


This is a grass known as Inland Sea Oats. It grows in fairly shady conditions (for a grass) in and around woodlands. Inland sea oats is an attractive native grass that grows anywhere from 2 to 4 feet tall. It spreads quickly and has the capacity to form large colonies making it great for erosion control. In the summer is makes seed heads that droop to the side like oats. In winter the whole plant turns a golden brown color which some people find attractive.

Desmodium paniculatum


Desmodium a large genus of herbaceous legumes. D. paniculatum an upright plant that can be identified by its distinctive seed pods that look like sugar snap peas with anorexia. Notice the flowers turn blue when they wilt.

Erythrina herbacea


Cherokee Bean is an herbaceous perennial member of the legume family native to the Southeast on down into Eastern Mexico. The genus Erythrina is found all over the world in mostly tropical regions with some members growing into trees. E. herbacea stays as a shrub or dies down completely every year. The flower spikes often appear before the foliage. The bright red seeds are decorative but extremely poisonous.

Oxalis debilis


Pink Woodsorrel is an introduced perennial herb tropical America. Members of the genus Oxalis have clover or shamrock-like leaves, with either 3 or 4 leaflets, that arise from underground bulbs. O. debilis can have leaves up to 3 or 4 inches wide and pretty, dainty flowers. It can be found growing in shady conditions and would fit right into a woodland garden if you don't mind it spreading.

Bidens alba


This is a lovely little exotic. It's a composite from the American tropics that may be found wherever people have been. I don't really know how invasive it is, but it does make annoying needle-like seeds that stick to your clothes. It has compound leaves on cane-like stems.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Duchesnea indica


Also known as mock strawberry, it's an introduced species closely related to strawberry (Fragaria) from Asia ("indica" means from India). Mock strawberry is mostly restricted to East Texas and is found growing in old fields. It spreads by making little plantlets like the true strawberry and can be weedy in some areas. The fruit is edible but small and bland (yes, I tasted it). The flowers look like yellow versions of typical strawberry flowers.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Viburnum rufidulum


Rusty black-haw is large shrub/small tree native to the Southeast from Kansas to Florida. It has large (2-4") glossy leaves with rusty looking trichomes (hairs) on the petioles and young shoots. The white flowers occur in flat-topped clusters typical of viburnums. The fruit are black and berry-like. If they aren't eaten by wildlife, they dry up into little "raisins". The leaves turn colors in the fall although the picture I have depicting the fall color was taken in Austin and the specimens in Friendswood may vary slightly.