Tag Archives: wildflowers

Late Spring Flora

Finally the weather is warming and the flowers are popping out. Time to get outside and look for spring flora! You can find wildflowers in the woods, at the pond or along a stream, in the dunes, or maybe even in your back yard or neighborhood. Here are some native wildflowers in bloom to look out for in May and June.

In the Woods

One of the best places to see an abundance of spring flora is in moist hardwood forests with sugar maple, basswood, ash, and red oak. These are often on slopes and along streams. More acidic forests or drier forests dominated by pines, black or scarlet oak, huckleberries, and blueberries tend to have a less-diverse spring flora. These are common on rocky soils, ridgetops, sandplains (like Long Island or Saratoga). Below are some common wildflowers to look for in either of these types of forests.

Wood anemones (Anemone) are named after the Greek word for “wind”. They have five white petals, divided leaves – shaped kind of like an outstretched hand – and start to bloom before the trees are fully leafed-out. Believe it or not, these are actually related to buttercups!Wood anemone S Young NYNHP1

Bellworts (Uvularia spp.) are common woodland flowers in our parks. They have delicate bell-shaped flowers with six pale yellow petals. There are three common bellwort species in NY state: large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) that likes nutrient-rich or calcareous soils, perfoliate bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata), and sessile-leaved bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia). The latter is the most common across the state and is also known by the name “wild oats.”

Large bellwort Steve Young NYNHP1

Our native dogwoods (Cornus spp.) have white to pink flowers and include one flowering tree species, several shrubs, and one non-woody (herbaceous) wildflower species. Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) grows low to the ground, but its flowers look just like those of the flowering dogwood tree (Cornus florida). They may even be blooming at the same time. Dogwoods are identified by the curving veins on the leaves, and flowers with four white or pink bracts that look like petals.

Bunchberry Steve Young NYSNHP1

Shrubby dogwood Gregory Edinger NYNYP1

In Wetlands, Ponds or Streams

Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) is an easy one to spot because it grows in big clumps or sometimes in large patches. It is always in wet spots, either along slow streams or in open or forested wetlands or seeps. Like the anemones above, this too is in the Buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family.

Marsh marigold Steve Young NYNHP1

Canada lily (Lilium canadense) grows in somewhat open forested wetlands and wet thickets — habitats that are often harder to see from trails and boardwalks. This beautiful lily is widespread across the state, but not nearly so common as marsh marigold.

Canada lily Timothy Howard NYNHP.1jpg

In June, start looking for water lilies in vegetated ponds. We have several native pond lilies, including this stunning White pond lily (Nymphaea odorata) and several yellow pond lilies (Nuphar spp.). Water lilies often serve as landing pads for insects like bees, beetles, damselflies, dragonflies and frogs often hide in the water nearby. You may see some of these critters if you approach slowly and quietly; it’s a good way to keep kids interested too.

White pond lily Kimberly Smith NYNHP1

Sunny Spots from High to Low: Outcrops, Shorelines, and Dunes

Some plants need a lot of sun and can tolerate extremes of heat, wind and/or drought. Here are some of those rugged spring wildflowers to look for:

On rocky trails and summits in the Palisades and Hudson Highlands Parks and elsewhere, look for the pale, yellow flowers of bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera). Bush honeysuckle is one of our native honeysuckles and it attracts many pollinators. It is much less common than the non-native honeysuckles, so a little harder to find and often overlooked.

Bush honeysuckle Gregory Edinger NYNYP1

Find a rocky outcrop, rocky lakeshore, or streamside outcrop anywhere in the state and you may find this delicate looking flower: the Bellflower or Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). You can find it on the rocky shorelines of Lake Ontario in Wehle State Park or other Thousand Islands Parks, on streamside outcrops in the Finger Lakes or Whetstone State Park gorges, or on the rocky summits and slopes of parks like Minnewaska, Hudson Highlands, or Taconic State Parks. This is the bellflower you are most likely to see, but there are native and non-native lookalikes (though usually not in these open rocky spots).

Harebell-bellflower J Lundgren NYNHP1

How about on the sunny dunes of Long Island? Have you ever seen Beach heather (Hudsonia tomentosa) in full bloom? It grows in gray-green mounds on the dunes and sports its tiny but profuse yellow blooms in June. Visit duneside trails at Jones Beach, Hither Hills, Napeague, or Orient Beach State Park. Remember to stay on trails to protect this fragile ecosystem. Local native bees take advantage of this food source.Beach heather Steve Young & Kimberly Smith NYNHP

What’s in a name?

Did you know that every plant (and known organism) is given a unique scientific name? Those are the names in parentheses above. The scientific name consists of a genus followed by a species name like Lilium (genus name) + canadense (species name) = Lilium canadense. While there may be few different plants referred to as Canada lily, or someone might call this plant a meadow lily or wild yellow-lily, the scientific name of Lilium canadense refers to just one kind of plant. So, biologists and landscapers and other people working with plants or animals will use the scientific names when they want to make it clear exactly what species they are referring to. You will see these names in the wildflower guides (books or websites) noted below.

The scientific name also helps to see what species are related — organisms with the same genus name are closely related. So Lilium canadense and Lilium superbum are closely related because they are both in the Lilium genus. Common names are not reliable for this purpose. For example, the white water lily is not a close cousin of the Liliums, as it is in a different genus (Nymphaea). In fact these two kinds of “lilies” are in completely different plant families, the Liliaceae and the Nymphaceae, like distant branches on the family tree.

Both called lilly Timothy Howard and Kimberly Smith, NYNHP

TO LEARN MORE:

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb. Paperback. 1989. The standard field guide for flora in the northeast. Relies on flower structure so takes a little more time to learn, but includes more species than Peterson’s guide.

Peterson Field Guides, Wildflowers – key by color and shape. Great for the casual observer, or if just starting out, try the Peterson First Guide to Wildflowers.

Go Botany – a great online plant key to flora of New England, but includes most of plants you will see in New York.

NY Flora Atlas – the most current taxonomy, atlas, see what is native or not, rare or common, links to other sources.

NY Flora Association – information about field trips, classes, “Learn 10” programs for all levels, calendar of botany field trips and events across the state, links to other information on flora.

NYNHP Conservation Guides – These provide descriptions of the Natural Communities in New York – different kinds of forests, wetlands and other habitats. Use Advanced Search to find what types are in your county. Each Guide gives a few examples of where you can see it and some characteristic plants.

Post by Julie Lundgren, State Parks Ecologist with New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP).

Images by NYNHP 2018; may be used with permission only.  http://www.nynhp.org

Plants for Our Pollinators

New York State Parks is abuzz with excitement for pollinators.  From June 20-26, we celebrate both National Pollinator Week and New York State Pollinator Awareness Week.  Our local bees, butterflies, moths, birds and other pollinators are to thank for most of the food we eat, as well as for many of the trees and flowers we enjoy every day.  As these animals go from flower to flower to drink nectar, they accidentally carry sticky pollen from the anthers to the stigma, the male and female parts of flowers.  This fertilizes the eggs, which grow into seeds and fruits that we enjoy.

One of the ways you can show appreciation for these fantastic pollinators is to get out to natural areas in State Parks and enjoy the native flora.  You can also explore native plant gardens and learn more about using native plant species in your own backyard to attract pollinators.  Last year we paid homage to a few of our favorite New York pollinators.  This year, let’s have a closer look at some of the plants and the pollinators that visit them.

Just as pollinators come in all shapes and sizes, so too do the native plants that they enjoy.  Different plants attract different types of pollinators.  Look for all kinds of flowers in the woods, wetlands, meadows, gardens or orchards and you are apt to see some pollinators at work.  Below are some of the native pollinators and flora found in State Parks, with photos from the NY Natural Heritage Program.   NYNHP works in partnership with State Parks (OPRHP) to assess and conduct inventories of natural areas in state parks and helps to protect habitats that support common and rare species alike, including these important pollinators.

Cutleaf toothwort
Pollinators emerge as soon as there is nectar available for them to feed on. This native wildflower, cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), was blooming the first week of April. Photo by J. Lundgren, NYNHP.
Pink Lady Slipper
Pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) bloom in June and are pollinated by various kinds of bees. Photo by T. Howard, NYNHP.
wild geranium
A Juvenal’s duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) feeds on wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), a common native wildflower of woods and openings. Photo by K. Perkins, NYNHP.
Azure Butterfly
The more showy spring azure butterfly emerges early in the spring and can be seen flitting about sunny trails and open areas. Photo by M. Adamovic for NYNHP.
Goldenrod
Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) are one of the most effective pollinators. You can see how the pollen sticks to its fuzzy body as this bee feeds on the nectar of this native goldenrod. Photo by J. Lundgren, NYNHP.
Ragwort
A Pearl crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos) feeds on ragwort (Packera aurea) that grows along river shores and wet areas. Photo by J. Lundgren, NYNHP.
Bedstraw
Moths help pollinate too. Though most moths prefer night, this one is a daytime moth, seen here feeding on bedstraw (this one is non-native, but we have some native bedstraws too) and moving the pollen around in the process. Look for this native moth, the Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) in meadows with flowers from May to July. The caterpillars feed on grasses, so unmown meadows can provide everything this moth species needs year-round. Photo by J. Lundgren, NYNHP.
NE Aster
In late summer and fall, the bright colors of asters and goldenrods are especially attractive to bees and many other insects. The native New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) blooms from August to September. This one is being visited by the Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens). There are many species of bumblebees, but this one is by far the most common in the state, so the one you are most likely to see. Photo by J. Lundgren, NYNHP

Whether you are a hiker, gardener, farmer, or food-lover you can enjoy and support our local pollinators!  Maintaining natural areas, meadows or gardens with a variety of plants can help to sustain all the life stages of a wide range of insects from bees to butterflies.

If you are interested in creating a backyard oasis for native pollinators, look for plants that are native to your area of the state and, if possible, grown near where you live.  Consider planting different types of flowers; gardens with an array of flowers blooming at different times provide food for a variety of pollinators throughout the season.  Look for white, yellow or blue flowers to attract bees.  Red tubular flowers attract hummingbirds (bees don’t even see red).  Butterflies prefer bright flowers, particularly reds, oranges, and purple (like fall asters).  Moths are attracted to white, purple, or pink flowers with strong, sweet scents, especially those emitting a scent at night.  See resources below on pollinators and native plants in your area.

State Parks is celebrating pollinators at these events across the state:

Clay Pit Ponds State Park – Time Tuesdays, June 21 @ 10am

Learn about our native pollinators by making crafts, playing games, and socializing with other toddlers! Parent or care giver is required to stay. Ages 1-3 (flexible).  Please call (718) 605-3970 ext 201 for more information.

Saratoga Spa State Park – Butterfly Walk Friday, June 24 @2:00pm

Did you know restoring a habitat is like building a neighborhood?  Come enjoy a light hike at the Karner Blue site and learn what butterflies live in the same neighborhood as the Karner Blue butterfly.  Please wear hats and sunscreen.  You may want to bring binoculars or a magnifying glass to see butterflies up close.  This program is appropriate for ages 7 and up.  Registration is required.  Please call 518-584-2000 ext. 122. This program is free.

Thacher Nature Center – Honeybees Are Buzzin’, June 25 @ 2pm

Summertime brings flowers and a hive packed with activity! Come and learn all about honeybees as you view the colony in our indoor observation hive. See the busy workers, the specialized drones and the ever-important queen bee in action! Learn how to dance like a bee, and view the world from a bee’s perspective. Afterwards, take a walk to observe our honeybees at work in the gardens. Please register by calling 518-872-0800.

Letchworth State Park – Butterfly Beauties, June 26 @ 2pm

Study the beauty and composition of hundreds of dried butterfly specimens representing most of the world’s butterfly families. Dozens of local and New York species, as well as those found in the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, are specially noted. Butterfly structure and local natural history will be featured in two new butterfly videos. This is an excellent primer for the Butterfly Walk on July 9th. (Look for details in the upcoming summer issue of The Genesee Naturalist.) All workshops meet in the Conference Room in the Visitor Center and Regional Administration Building located in Letchworth State Park.  Please call (585) 493-3680 for more information.

Ganondagan State Historic Site – Planting for Ethnobotany Workshop Saturday, August 6, 2016 @9:00am-11:00am

Participants will help plant native plants in the Green Plants Trail and the Pollinator Grassland at Ganondagan.  Ages 8 and up. Registration Required.  Please call (585) 924-5848 for more information.

For more about pollinators and native plantings:

 General Information

Confronting the Plight of  Pollinators

Gardening and pollinator information

— New York’s famous apple orchards would be naught without our beloved pollinators 

New York State Parks Native Plant Policy

 New York State Flora

— Have a plant to identify? Try GoBotany

Native plants for pollinators, by region

Please note, some of the plants listed in this resource are native to the ecoregion but not to NY state. Please check the NY Flora Atlas to confirm which are native to New York before choosing your planting list.

NY Flora Atlas – list of plants known in NY and which are native or not

Pollinator Identification Tools

— Have a bug to identify? Try BugGuide

— Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation Northeast Region Pollinator Plants

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Post by Erin Lennon, OPRHP and Julie Lundgren, NYNHP

Happy Second Birthday Nature Times!

 

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In this second year of Nature Times we have gotten to know snapping turtles, carnivorous plants, black squirrels, and Sammi, Trailside Museums’ 36 year old bald eagle.  We’ve learned how trails are mapped, how a flock of sheep and goats have become one of State Parks’ 21st century mowing crews, and ways to explore State Parks on foot, in kayaks, on snowmobiles, and on frozen lakes. The stories have featured all kinds of work that State Parks staff and volunteers do throughout the year to help preserve and protect some of New York’s unique and exceptional places. These range from protecting sand dunes on Lake Ontario and old-growth forest at Allegany, to creating native grasslands at Ganondagan State Historic Site, and monitoring invasive species infestations and removing invasive species both on land and water.

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We mark this second birthday with 61 new followers and over 24,000 page hits!  And we thank the 32 staff, interns, and partner organizations who have shared their passion for State Parks through the blogs that they have written. We also want to recognize our partnership with the New York Natural Heritage Program who helped in initiating this feature and continues to provide support.

We look forward to continuing our celebration of State Parks in the months to come in Nature Times.  Hope to see you soon at one of our Parks or Historic Sites!

Happy 1st Birthday, Blog!

It is NatureTimes’ first birthday and it is spring! So get outside and celebrate, the snow will soon be melted and signs of life are appearing all around. Dust off your nature guides and your binoculars, get on your boots, and get out to a park near you. Last year, we posted some images of wildflowers that are the first to appear. Check that out – see how many you remember (hover over the photo to see the name). Here are some other flora and fauna to look for in the coming month.

To date, the Nature Times blog has 97 followers and 15,102 page visits. Thank you for keeping up with us, and be sure to tell your friends and family!

Post by Julie Lundgren, NYNHP.

 

 

 

 

Harbinger of Spring: Skunk Cabbage

Walking in the woods this spring, especially in wet areas, you may notice these popping up through the snow. On closer inspection you will notice that it is, in fact, a plant! What you are seeing is the large spathe of the Skunk Cabbage plant. This plant has a very interesting flower structure and strategy for pollination.

Let’s learn about the flower structure first: The large fleshy hood is called the spathe; which encloses and protects the club-like spadix. The spadix is the surrounded by tiny flowers.

spadix
Diagram by Lilly Schelling.

Skunk Cabbage is one of the first wildflowers that emerge in spring. This is possible because the plant produces heat, thereby melting the snow around it. The coloration of the spathe varies from greenish to purple, often accompanied by spots or stripes. Two color variations are depicted below:

lilly photo
Photo by Lilly Schelling.
kelly photo
Photo by Kelly Starkweather.

Notice how the plant on the right resembles the look of raw meat, and if you smelled it you would notice a rather pungent skunky odor; hence the name Skunk Cabbage! These characteristics attract flies which pollinate these plants. You can experience the intense smell by scratching the leaf next time you see this plant in the woods.

Skunk Cabbage can be found in many of our state parks in swamp or wetland habitat. Though the plant has the “Cabbage” in name, it is not edible. The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals that cause a painful burning sensation in the mouth when consumed. Even boiling the leaves does not rid them of all the irritating crystals.

Post by Lilly Schelling, OPRHP.