Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Get Aboard The May-flower

It's that time of year again. May brings a peak in spring wildflower species. What is different this year is the fact that Ohio colleges switched to the semester system, so I am not used to being off during the month of May. While doing a bird survey in the Hocking Hills, and visiting Wahkeena, I decided to bring the camera to see what I could find. Before I start making comments on certain plants, here were a few common ones.

Large Toothwort, Cardamine maxima (diphylla).

Golden Ragwort, Packera (Senecio) aurea.

Butterweed Ragwort, Packera (Senecio) glabella.

Cynthia, Krigia biflora.

Bluets, Hedyotis (Houstonia) caerulea.

Symplocarpus foetidus. Skunk Cabbage in leaf.

Dwarf Iris, Iris cristata.

Robin's Plantain, Erigeron pulchellus.

Forget-Me-Not. This particular hairy species is not native, and probably Myosotis scorpioides.

Another non-native species commonly forming mats in lawns is Bugle or Carpet Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans.

There are also many introduced species of Speedwells found in disturbed sites and yards. Due to their size, they can be a tough group to work with, and many are not found in a typical field guide. Three things I look for; are the flowers long or short stalked, terminal or blooming in the axils, and are the leaves opposite or alternate.

This is Slender Speedwell,Veronica filiformis. The flowers are long stalked, often with one white petal. The leaves are opposite, rounded, and have slightly toothed or wavy margins. The leaves remind me of the mint Gill-over-the-Ground. This is a delicate species that usually loses its flowers when handled.

While the leaves of this are similar to the previous species, it's a much more rigid plant. These flowers are half the size of Slender. They are white with blue stripes, short stalked, and clustered in a spike. This is Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Veronica serpyllifolia.

Here's one I found last year, the Southern Wood Violet, Viola hirsutula. Look for this in upland situations, especially under Hemlock trees. The leaves are hairy and give the appearance of a more gray color. The veins are lined in purple.

Here is a common species throughout our area, the Long-spurred Violet, Viola rostrata. What if you find a violet similar to this, but with a spur only half as long?

Here is an example of one such species.

These have an average length spur, petals two-toned in color, and with a very prominent beard in the center.  Their look seems to match the Dog Violet, Viola conspersa. The thing is, that species doesn't occur in southern Ohio. So I sent them off to the violet man again, Harvey Ballard. Just like last year, these came back as Braun's Hybrid Violet, V.  x brauniae. It's a cross between the Pale and Long-spurred Violet (striata and rostrata). It's the most common hybrid violet in Ohio, and occurs wherever Pale and Long-spur grow together.

Here's another attractive violet that I thought was just a variant of sororia, the Common Blue Violet. Thanks again to Harv for verifying that. This "partial albino" has the blue deep into the throat, and closely resembles the often cultivated Confederate Violet (form priceana), but that plant has more gray than blue in the center. I mentioned a lot about violets last year in May on my Hockling Hills posts.

I travelled through several areas in the Hocking Hills looking for Red Trilliums, Trillium erectum. I searched high and low in places I was told had populations in the past. I could find none. One spot in particular had thousands of these plants blooming. I dismissed them as the Drooping Trillium, T. flexipes. Drooping Trillium does NOT have to have its flowers below the leaves.

The more I examine these, the more I'm changing my mind. These look more like the white form of Red Trillium. The distinguishing factor is suppose to be the dark red ovary found on erectum. But look at the color variation in the center of these three. I am leaning towards sticking with Red Trillium, and I welcome comments from anyone who sees any other key features.

As a side to this flower post, I was walking along Ash Cave looking for Warblers, and came across this thrush hopping in front of me. I don't have a zoom or telephoto, but couldn't resist trying to sneak up on this guy with the macro lens. I would have got even closer if it wasn't for its mate coming along and chasing him off the path. This is the Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus. It doesn't have enough spots, or orange on the back for a Wood Thrush, has too much orange for Gray-cheeked or Swainsons, and too many spots for a Veery.

All of those thrushes pass through here. Hermits usually keep going to Canada, but have been known to nest here in these Hemlock forests. Hermit Thrushes have even been seen here on Christmas Bird Counts in December.

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