Skip to main content

Some botanical beauties

Flowering plants are quickly giving up the ghost, and we're entering a LONG period of dormancy. Those of us with a penchant for botany go through a real dry spell in winter, pining for the return of another spring and flowering things. One of the last groups to throw in the towel are gentians, and they are, as a rule, things of exquisite beauty.

The following photos were all taken in Ohio, and most of these gentians can bloom into October and in at least two cases, November.

Bottle Gentian, Gentiana andrewsii. Large fuzzy bumblebees pollinate this one. Research has shown that it is the bumblebees of advanced intellectual abilities that successfully enter the flower, as access is a bit of a trick.Dumb bees stick with easier plants (I am not making this up).

A jaw-dropper by any standard, the Small Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis virgata (formerly G. procera). This one grows in alkaline prairies and fens, and is one of the most beautiful flowering plants, anywhere.

Looking as if spun from a bolt of cobalt silk, a Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis crinita, unfurls. This one prefers clayey bluffs and banks that are wet and seepy. The above photo was taken at an absolutely spectacular shoreline bluff along Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio. There are several thousand gentians there.

One of my personal favorites is the rugged Stiff Gentian, Gentianella quinquefolia, which prefers dry barren sites. There may still be a few flowers hanging on here and there. The prairies of Adams county in southernmost Ohio are good places to see this species.

The rather homely Yellowish Gentian, Gentiana alba, is a rarity, known from a handful of scattered sites in southern Ohio. Like all gentians, it has its charms upon close inspection, and what it lacks in looks it can make up for in sheer robustness. I have seen giants towering to several feet in height, and capped with a half-dozen of the odd baglike flowers.

Last, and decidedly least, is the rare Sampson's Snakeroot, Gentiana villosa. This is the last of our gentians to bloom, and I'm sure there are still flowers. I've only seen it a few times, and the first discovery I made of Sampson's Snakeroot was in early November. To be fair, it often does look a little better than the plant in this photo, which was taken a few weeks back in Shawnee State Forest. Droughty conditions seem to have stunted flower development, but even under the best of conditions it really doesn't measure up to the others in the looks department.

Comments

rebecca said…
I wonder if there are Bottle Gentians here in Georgia - a couple weekends ago when I was up in the mountains I saw a flower that looked just like that and had no idea what it was. Thanks for the clue!
Jim McCormac said…
Yes there are, Rebecca, but not the species in my blog post. Probably it was Soapwort Gentian, Gentiana saponaria, that you saw. Google that one up and check it out.
Elaine said…
We have a whole field of Fringed Gentian back of our summer place in Michigan's Upper Peninsula growing in a dolomite/limestone environment. I believe they are on the endangered plant list there.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…