Saturday, July 2, 2011

trillium seeds, jack-in-the-pulpit seeds, and man bumpers

Time for some Queen Anne’s Lace! (Daucus carota) See the little going-to-be-purple flower in the center? I’ll zoom in:
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This one’s going to be fun.
Just-like-that, our milkweed flowers are opening up.
Yes, this plant is kinda lying down. I might have hurt it when I was rescuing the hillside from the bur cucumber the other day. I hope it’s OK…
I like this flower idea. Are the pink bits that are dipping toward the center, stamens? … OOOH, I just stumbled onto a website that explains how the milkweed flower works. It’s complicated. To sum up: the flower is “bisexual”, in that the anthers (the end bits of the stamens - think boy bits) and the stigma (think girl) are actually fused together. Those pointy pink things are called “horns”. And the way pollination happens…let’s just say that the milkweed flower is a death trap for smaller insects. Literally. Gulp. Let’s move on.
The wild roses are pregnant. That brown thing sticking up? That’s the stigma. At the bottom of it is the ovary, which as you can see is swollen up with developing rose goodness. The brown wormy things are the drying up stamens. Roses: so romantical.
As usual, we’re on our way to the mailbox here. On the way, I ran into our neighbor. By this point, I was drawing near some excitement I forgot to share with you yesterday – some caterpillar action amongst the False Solomon Seal berries (aren’t you thrilled? You will be.) I described this to Sean. He looked at me somewhat skeptically. Undeterred, I went over to the berries in question and got this picture right away:
This is a half-inch long creature having a meal. I showed it to him. He was duly impressed. A few minutes later, on my way back, I came across two others, a different kind, with spots:
You can see the chunk that’s already been eaten out of the right-most berry. It’s a good thing the False Solomon Seal plants crank out so many berries, given how tasty they apparently are. They’re not fully ripe yet – by the end of summer, they’ll be bright red – so it’s not like the larvae will be pooping out viable seeds. I said larvae: because naturally, doesn’t that look like a caterpillar? No, sports fans, that’s a sawfly larva. (Good lord, the people at are incredible.)
But in the meantime, Sean and I got into a conversation with his brother-in-law. We admired the latter’s truck. Check out these man-bumpers. They’re pipes:
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We alternated discussing man- truck things, like the advisability of having doors:
…and flowers.
They were pretty excited to hear that there are a lot of jack-in-the-pulpits around this year. They each remembered encountering them as kids, and being aware that they are rare and protected. It became apparent that one reason they hadn’t noticed any recently is because their brains, upon seeing the three leaves of the flower, automatically figured it was poison ivy.
An understandable confusion, no? I’m pretty sure these are first-year jack-in-the-pulpits. Just guessing.
I pointed to where, just a few feet away from where we were standing, there were three jacks. We went over for a look-see. I found one whose flower pretty had much rotted off a couple of weeks ago.  It was still lying there. I figured, it’s rotted off, it’s fair game for dissection.
Aw, man, it WAS fertilized. I wonder if the seeds can still develop, without access to living tissue connecting them to rest of the plant…?
Unlike the False Solomon Seal, the blue cohosh around here hasn’t been as successful. The places where you’d expect to see berries have never had berries – those gaps are not because somebody ate them. They never developed.
I bushwacked up the hill to get back to the house. The light was pretty dim, and my trusty point-and-shoot had some trouble getting focused close-ups, so apologies, but it’s worth it:
…this is a trillium seed! Ain’t it grand?
Here’s a not-false Solomon’s Seal. I can’t find the one along the driveway that I chronicled all along earlier in the spring. Gulp.
But a fine day, overall.

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