There was an article in EntomologyToday recently about new data which shows Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) harbors the Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) which carries Lyme Disease. I have a good friend who suffers from the ravages of Lyme Disease, and I’ve other friends who also have been affected by this horrible disease, so I thought this would be a good story to investigate. [Read more…]
I’ve written about Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) before. But because I, like many others, find them so fascinating, I can’t help but write about them again. I love the many colors they show us so early in the dreary spring weather. The various shades of blue and pink and white, and their bright green, smooth, almost like velvet, leaves. How can one not love them!
Hopefully this lovely photo brings you good thoughts for the start of a great Memorial Day weekend celebration — a weekend to remember those who have sacrificed so much to give us the freedom we enjoy, and hopefully are not now letting slip away….
Jack-in-the-Pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) are such unusual looking plants, but you can’t help but love the way they stand so erect, hiding the jack inside. Jacks are that special shade garden specimen because of their unusual appearance. Its flower looks like a “Jack” in a pulpit. They can grow anywhere from 1 to 3 feet tall. Typically, the older they are and the richer the soil, the larger the plant. They like rich, damp soil. Some tolerate even wetter areas like bogs and stream banks. This native grows in the eastern half of the United States.
The green flower, called a spathe, is shaped like a hooded pulpit. It often has green or maroon strips for added color. The spathe gently folds over the “Jack” which is a stout column inside called a spadix. This column has a rounded top and is covered with many tiny flowers.
Although there are male and female Jacks (dioecious), their spadix is covered with tiny flowers containing both male and female parts. It is pollinated by fungus gnats (flies) who are attracted to a slight fungal odor given off by the spath. The gnats are looking for a place to lay their eggs. In so doing they provide the pollination needed for the Jack-in-the-Pulpits to propagate. The tricky part is navigating between the male and females Jacks. The male Jacks provide an escape route for the gnats, but the females do not.
After pollination, the tiny flowers on the spadix wither and eventually turn into the prettiest bright red berries. The berries, as they ripen, turn into mush containing up to five seeds. So although the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant is a corm (bulb) which sends out shoots to produce new plants, it also grows from a seed. It requires cold-stratification to germinate. See How to Germinate Native Seeds by Prairie Moon Nursery for more details on cold-stratification.
In my research, I found very little about animals that eat the seeds of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit, although I did see reference to birds and turkeys. It seems the juice of the berry is irritating and the berries themselves are poisonous and also irritating — perhaps this defense is the reason why so few critters munch on it.
I do know, however, in my own woodland, I rarely get to see the seeds ripen completely because they are eaten by something.
Another sign of spring has shown itself in my little woodland. It is the plant known as Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and is native throughout the temperate regions of the United States east of the Mississippi. It was first found in Canada, hence it’s Latin species name.
The genus name Sanguinaria, comes from the Latin sanguis meaning ‘
The species is hermaphrodite which means it has both male and female reproductive organs. It grows in rich, light sandy and medium loam well-drained soil.
When the Bloodroot emerges in early spring, “the stem, leaf, and bud all come up together. The bud is protected by the leaf, which is carefully wrapped around what will become the delicate flower.
The blossoms have no nectar, but the large petals and brightly colored centers attract insect pollinators. Bloodroot is typically pollinated by bees, which transfer its pollen to other flowers. Ants then disperse the mature seeds. A large distribution of Bloodroot within a localized area is indicative of the work of one ant colony, which has been gathering and storing seeds for many years.
If the plant blossoms too early in spring when it is still cold, bees will not be available to assist in pollination. Instead, Bloodroot will eject pollen from its sacs in an effort to hit the stigma of another plant. Like many ephemerals, Bloodroot is able to produce seed independent of insect assistance.” (St Olaf College)