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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Plants of My Street Part 1: Flowers

Even with a return to gray, dreary weather and while feeling unwell, I still want to get outside at least a little each day. So, this week I've turned my eye even closer to home by taking short plant walks down my street with the goal of identifying as many species as I can. This is the first in a series of posts about my discoveries, and since its spring even though its drizzly out we'll focus on flowers.

This is my favorite shot of the bunch, a close-up of a scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius). They're beautiful bad they're horribly invasive and wreak havoc on my sinuses.

In the same family as the dandelion (Aster), this is a type of groundsel (genus Senecio).

Miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is a bizarre but common little plant. It gets its name because Gold Rushers ate it to stave off scurvy. It is indeed edible and still collected by some.

It took me a while to identify this little guy as naked broomrape (Orobanche uniflora), a parasitic herb that steals its nutrients from saxifrages and stonecrops, among others.

Red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) is a beautiful native shrub that has several cultivated varities in addition to this wild type.

When I came across these distinct flowers, I immediately recognized them as member of the borage family, Boraginaceae, thanks to my vascular plant diversity class days. It's a forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.). My field guide reports two very different stories for the name: one, that it was "worn to retain a lover's affection", and two, that it was named for the "nauseating taste it left in one's mouth". I think I prefer the former.

This project finally got me to identify this common plant that I see just about everywhere. I knew it was a member of the mint family by its square stem but never remembered to look up more about it. It turns out it's called self-heal or heal-all (Prunella vulgaris) for its widespread use in native and herbal medicine. [Edit July 09 - turns out this is purple dead-nettle, not self-heal]

Another member of the pea family, common vetch (Vicia stavia).

The ubiquitous common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

Hairy rockcress (Arabis hirsuta). As with most of my identifications, I'm fairly confident in the genus but not 100% sure of the species. My field guide pictures the most common one and lists other similar varieties with characteristics, but with many taxonomies undefined anyway the plant world is a perfect example of how many shades of gray there are in the definition of a species.

Finally, two species of geranium that are considered weedy, but I actually think both of them are quite nice. This is Robert geranium (Geranium robertanium), a name so old it is no longer known which Robert it refers to.

And this is dovefoot geranium (Geranium molle), so named because its lobed petals look like dove's feet. I love the creative eye involved in the name of so many plants and flowers.


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hate to say it Monika but you seem to have been stealing all our plants! herb robert grows as a 'weed' in the garden here, dove's foot is on the roadside verge round the corner, next doors lawn is covered in self heal, common vetch is in the meadow at the park where Frank walks...only your broomrape looks out of kilter...It's a small world the northern hemisphere botanically speaking



Unknown said...

Nice series and I consider your first discover the best image.

Monika said...

Dave - More like you brought all your plants over here! As I've been reading more about it, about 35% of our natural flora are actually ornamental cultivars from Europe that have naturalized. It's interesting to discover just how convoluted botanical history is.