Skunk cabbage (Lysichiton spp.) 
Skunk cabbages are found in western and North American and in eastern Russia. The American species has bright yellow flowers in early spring, while the Asian counterpart has white blooms. Both develop huge cabbage-like leaves after the flowers have faded. The blooms have an unpleasant odour (reminiscent of feces and/or corpses) to attract flies – hence their common name. 
(via: Kew Gardens)
* Also, skunk cabbages will actually create a small amount of heat when they emerge in early spring. They can be seen melting the snow from which they emerge in late winter/early spring. Insects are known to take shelter in the warm spathe of the inflourescence, at night, presumably to keep warm. 
For a look at the Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, from eastern North America, click here.  - Paxon

Skunk cabbage (Lysichiton spp.)

Skunk cabbages are found in western and North American and in eastern Russia. The American species has bright yellow flowers in early spring, while the Asian counterpart has white blooms. Both develop huge cabbage-like leaves after the flowers have faded. The blooms have an unpleasant odour (reminiscent of feces and/or corpses) to attract flies – hence their common name.

(via: Kew Gardens)

* Also, skunk cabbages will actually create a small amount of heat when they emerge in early spring. They can be seen melting the snow from which they emerge in late winter/early spring. Insects are known to take shelter in the warm spathe of the inflourescence, at night, presumably to keep warm.

For a look at the Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, from eastern North America, click here.  - Paxon

Help Us Help Monarchs:  PROJECT MILKWEED
Returning Essential Wildflowers to America’s Landscapes
Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.
To help offset the loss of monarch breeding habitat, the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (published in 2008 by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation) recommends the planting of regionally appropriate native milkweed species. However, a scarcity of milkweed seed in many regions of the United States has limited opportunities to include the plants in regional restoration efforts.
To address this seed shortage, the Xerces Society launched Project Milkweed, with support from the Monarch Joint Venture, a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, and private foundations. In collaboration with the native seed industry, the USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, and community partners, Xerces is producing new sources of milkweed seed in areas of the monarch’s breeding range where seed has not been reliably available: California, the Great Basin, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida…
(Read more/Take action:  Xerces Society for Invert. Conservation)
___________________________________________
photo of Monarch Butterfly on the flowers of the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) by Derek Ramsey

Help Us Help Monarchs:  PROJECT MILKWEED

Returning Essential Wildflowers to America’s Landscapes

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.

To help offset the loss of monarch breeding habitat, the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (published in 2008 by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation) recommends the planting of regionally appropriate native milkweed species. However, a scarcity of milkweed seed in many regions of the United States has limited opportunities to include the plants in regional restoration efforts.

To address this seed shortage, the Xerces Society launched Project Milkweed, with support from the Monarch Joint Venture, a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, and private foundations. In collaboration with the native seed industry, the USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, and community partners, Xerces is producing new sources of milkweed seed in areas of the monarch’s breeding range where seed has not been reliably available: California, the Great Basin, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida…

(Read more/Take action:  Xerces Society for Invert. Conservation)

___________________________________________

photo of Monarch Butterfly on the flowers of the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) by Derek Ramsey

Spiderlilies (genus Hymenocallis) 
… are native flowers occurring in damp habitats throughout the southeastern United States. Their distinctive spidery flowers, which give them their common name, are often fragrant. Some species may bloom as early as March in the southern parts of their range. They grow from bulbs, and may occasionally be found for sale among other bulb-grown species like tulips or daffodils. 
They are members of the Amaryllis Family (Amaryllidaceae), which also contains other familiar spring bulbs like daffodils or snowdrops (both native to Europe). The most widespread is Northern Spiderlily (H. occidentalis), which grows as far north as southwestern Indiana. This image is of Spring Spiderlily (H. liriosme), found through the central southeast. photo by Sweetbay (sweetbay103.blogspot.ca)
(via: Peterson Field Guides)

Spiderlilies (genus Hymenocallis)

… are native flowers occurring in damp habitats throughout the southeastern United States. Their distinctive spidery flowers, which give them their common name, are often fragrant. Some species may bloom as early as March in the southern parts of their range. They grow from bulbs, and may occasionally be found for sale among other bulb-grown species like tulips or daffodils.

They are members of the Amaryllis Family (Amaryllidaceae), which also contains other familiar spring bulbs like daffodils or snowdrops (both native to Europe). The most widespread is Northern Spiderlily (H. occidentalis), which grows as far north as southwestern Indiana. This image is of Spring Spiderlily (H. liriosme), found through the central southeast.

photo by Sweetbay (sweetbay103.blogspot.ca)

(via: Peterson Field Guides)

darksilenceinsuburbia

odditiesoflife:

This 3200 Year Old Tree is So Massive, It’s Never Been Captured in a Single Image…Until Now

It takes a special kind of tree to have a nickname like “The President”. The giant sequoia stands 247 feet tall and is an estimated 3,200 years old. The trunk measures 27 feet across and, between the base and the highest peak, there are an estimated two billion needles.

Until now, the tree had never been photographed in its entirety. A team of photographers from National Geographic worked with scientists from California’s Sequoia National Park to try to be the first.

It took an intricate set of pulleys and levers to scale the tree, which one scientist argues is the largest in the world (if you take into account width). After stitching together 126 separate photos, we are left with this mind-blowing portrait of “The President” captured in a single photo for the first time.

dendroica

likeafieldmouse:

Monotropa uniflora

"Also known as the ghost plantIndian pipe, or corpse plant. 

Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, more specifically a myco-heterotroph. Its hosts are certain fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees, meaning it ultimately gets its energy from photosynthetic trees. Since it is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can grow in very dark environments as in the understory of dense forest. It is often associated with beech trees. 

The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.

The plant is sometimes completely white but commonly has black flecks and a pale pink coloration. Rare variants may have a deep red color.”

The Blotched Hyacinth Orchid - Dipodium punctatum is an orchid native to Australia. This leafless mycoheterotrophic (parisitizing underground fungi, notice that the plant isn’t green, as it doesn’t need chlorophyll) plant is often found in protected shady positions in dry forests or woodlands and can grow to 40–100 cm (16–39 in) in height.
Photograph: Benjamint444                                            via: Wikipedia

The Blotched Hyacinth Orchid - Dipodium punctatum is an orchid native to Australia. This leafless mycoheterotrophic (parisitizing underground fungi, notice that the plant isn’t green, as it doesn’t need chlorophyll) plant is often found in protected shady positions in dry forests or woodlands and can grow to 40–100 cm (16–39 in) in height.

Photograph: Benjamint444                                            via: Wikipedia

libutron
libutron:

It Looks Like a Fungus But It Is Not a Fungus
Despite having the common name of the Maltese mushroom, Cynomorium coccineum (Cynomoriaceae) is in indeed a plant, one very strange and holoparasitic.
As holoparasite, Cynomorium coccineum has virtually no chlorophyll, thus being unable to photosynthesize to live on its own, so this plant spends most of its life underground (it is a geophyte) as a form completely parasitic of other plants.
The Maltese mushroom grows in dry, rocky or sandy soils, often in salt marshes or other saline habitats close to the Mediterranean coast.
When not blooming, the Maltese mushroom is simply a rhizome, an underground stem, attached to the roots of its host plant through especial cup-like appendages called haustoria. It is a root parasite and has no root system or leaves. After the winter rains, it blooms in late spring. A dark-red or purplish slow-growing inflorescence emerges from the soil on a fleshy, unbranched stem (most of which is underground) with scale-like, membranous leaves that in reality do not function as such. Its inflorescence grows to 15–30 cm long with many minute scarlet flowers, which may be male, female or hermaphrodite in some cases.
The Maltese mushroom was already known to both Arabs and Chinese people from the early Middle Ages period. Not only it has been known and collected as survival food in times of famine but it was also known for a wide range of medicinal properties and thus used to treat a variety of symptoms and disorders. 
The Latin term Cynomorium comes from dodder in Greek “kynomorion”, and the latin word coccineum is due to its vivid scarlet color.
[Read more]
Photo credit: ©Ori Fragman Sapir   (Wadi Malha, Jerusalem, Israel)

libutron:

It Looks Like a Fungus But It Is Not a Fungus

Despite having the common name of the Maltese mushroom, Cynomorium coccineum (Cynomoriaceae) is in indeed a plant, one very strange and holoparasitic.

As holoparasite, Cynomorium coccineum has virtually no chlorophyll, thus being unable to photosynthesize to live on its own, so this plant spends most of its life underground (it is a geophyte) as a form completely parasitic of other plants.

The Maltese mushroom grows in dry, rocky or sandy soils, often in salt marshes or other saline habitats close to the Mediterranean coast.

When not blooming, the Maltese mushroom is simply a rhizome, an underground stem, attached to the roots of its host plant through especial cup-like appendages called haustoria. It is a root parasite and has no root system or leaves. After the winter rains, it blooms in late spring. A dark-red or purplish slow-growing inflorescence emerges from the soil on a fleshy, unbranched stem (most of which is underground) with scale-like, membranous leaves that in reality do not function as such. Its inflorescence grows to 15–30 cm long with many minute scarlet flowers, which may be male, female or hermaphrodite in some cases.

The Maltese mushroom was already known to both Arabs and Chinese people from the early Middle Ages period. Not only it has been known and collected as survival food in times of famine but it was also known for a wide range of medicinal properties and thus used to treat a variety of symptoms and disorders. 

The Latin term Cynomorium comes from dodder in Greek “kynomorion”, and the latin word coccineum is due to its vivid scarlet color.

[Read more]

Photo credit: ©Ori Fragman Sapir   (Wadi Malha, Jerusalem, Israel)

mypubliclands

mypubliclands:

It seems appropriate on national plant a flower day to share Wilderness Wednesday photos of flowers blooming

… on one of the 221 Wilderness Areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The U.S. Congress designated the Table Rock Wilderness in 1984, and it now has a total of 5,781 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Oregon and is managed by the BLM.

A remnant of a lava flow that once covered this region along the western foothills of the Cascades, the “fortress” of Table Rock stands at 4,881 feet above the northeastern portion of this small Wilderness. On this steep and rugged terrain you’ll find a quiet forest of Douglas fir and western hemlock, with noble fir at higher elevations and crowds of rhododendron on many of the upper slopes, an island of old growth in an ocean of forest development. At least two endangered plants bloom here: Oregon sullivantia and Gorman’s aster. Deer and elk wander about in winter, and the northern spotted owl has been spotted among the old trees.

From four trailheads, about 17 miles of trails give access to the Wilderness. A relatively easy hike from Table Rock Road will take you up the Table Rock Trail to the sweeping vista from the summit of Table Rock, where the land falls suddenly away in basalt cliffs on the north face. From this high point, Mount Rainier looms far to the north, Bull of the Woods Wilderness beckons from the east, and the Willamette Valley spreads out to the south.

See more photos on the BLM Oregon Flickr Site: http://bit.ly/PtnIEf

Mysterious Underwater Circles Explained
by Thomas Sumner
The truth behind the mysterious underwater circles that periodically appear off the coast of Denmark has been discovered, and sadly it doesn’t involve aliens, fairies, or the fabled lost city of Atlantis.
In 2008, a tourist snapped photos of several large dark rings that appeared near the white cliffs of Denmark’s island of Møn in the Baltic Sea. The circles, several as large as a tennis courts, sparked numerous theories of their origin—some more outlandish than others. In 2011, when the formations reappeared, scientists discovered they were actually round bands of marine eelgrass, similar to rings of mushrooms known as fairy rings.
Because eelgrass usually grows as continuous underwater meadows, scientists were still baffled by the rims of lush eelgrass with barren cores. Now, researchers say they at last know the rings’ true cause. The scientists found large amounts of toxic sulfide built up in the muds where the eelgrass grows…
(read more: Science News/AAAS)
photos: Jacob T. Johansen; (inset) Ole Pedersen

Mysterious Underwater Circles Explained

by Thomas Sumner

The truth behind the mysterious underwater circles that periodically appear off the coast of Denmark has been discovered, and sadly it doesn’t involve aliens, fairies, or the fabled lost city of Atlantis.

In 2008, a tourist snapped photos of several large dark rings that appeared near the white cliffs of Denmark’s island of Møn in the Baltic Sea. The circles, several as large as a tennis courts, sparked numerous theories of their origin—some more outlandish than others. In 2011, when the formations reappeared, scientists discovered they were actually round bands of marine eelgrass, similar to rings of mushrooms known as fairy rings.

Because eelgrass usually grows as continuous underwater meadows, scientists were still baffled by the rims of lush eelgrass with barren cores. Now, researchers say they at last know the rings’ true cause. The scientists found large amounts of toxic sulfide built up in the muds where the eelgrass grows…

(read more: Science News/AAAS)

photos: Jacob T. Johansen; (inset) Ole Pedersen

Bristlecone pine   Some of the bristlecone pines found in the White mountains of California are over 4500 years old. A specimen known as The Old Man, is 4676 years.  Bristlecone pines receive very little water and food throughout the year: average annual rainfall in the White mountains is less than 30 centimetres, and the trees stand on dolomite, a form of limestone that contains few nutrients.  To survive on this ascetic diet, Pinus longaeva invests very little energy in growth. As a result, they’re quite small despite their immense age – the tallest bristlecone is just 18 metres in height – and the trees’ girth increases by just 0.25 millimetres a year.  “It shuts down all its non-essential processes,” says Sussman. “This looks half dead most of the time, perhaps with just one branch that appears to be alive.”
(via: New Scientist)image: Bristlecone pine #0906-3033, Rachel Sussman

Bristlecone pine

Some of the bristlecone pines found in the White mountains of California are over 4500 years old. A specimen known as The Old Man, is 4676 years.

Bristlecone pines receive very little water and food throughout the year: average annual rainfall in the White mountains is less than 30 centimetres, and the trees stand on dolomite, a form of limestone that contains few nutrients.

To survive on this ascetic diet, Pinus longaeva invests very little energy in growth. As a result, they’re quite small despite their immense age – the tallest bristlecone is just 18 metres in height – and the trees’ girth increases by just 0.25 millimetres a year.

“It shuts down all its non-essential processes,” says Sussman. “This looks half dead most of the time, perhaps with just one branch that appears to be alive.”

(via: New Scientist)

image: Bristlecone pine #0906-3033, Rachel Sussman

Welwitschia mirabilis  “I’ve heard everything between 1500 to 3000 years as an age estimate for the largest welwitschias,” says Sussman about these strange plants. She photographed this example – probably around 2000 years old – in the Naukluft desert in Namibia.  “The welwitschias are strange and unique” she says. “Surprisingly enough, they’re part of the conifer family and live only in the very specific climate along the coast of Namibia and Angola where coastal fog and desert meet.”  To capture moisture from sea fog, the welwitschia, also known as tree tumbo, has evolved special leaves. These leaves become tattered and frayed with time – earning the plant the description of being “octopus-like”. In addition, it has long tap roots that sip water deep underground and anchor the plant as it is buffeted by desert winds.
Its unusual appearance caused Friedrich Welwitsch, the botanist who discovered it for science in 1859, to “do nothing but kneel down and gaze at it, half in fear lest a touch should prove it a figment of the imagination”.
(via: New Scientist)Image: Welwitschia mirabilis #0707-22411, Rachel Sussman

Welwitschia mirabilis

“I’ve heard everything between 1500 to 3000 years as an age estimate for the largest welwitschias,” says Sussman about these strange plants. She photographed this example – probably around 2000 years old – in the Naukluft desert in Namibia.

“The welwitschias are strange and unique” she says. “Surprisingly enough, they’re part of the conifer family and live only in the very specific climate along the coast of Namibia and Angola where coastal fog and desert meet.”

To capture moisture from sea fog, the welwitschia, also known as tree tumbo, has evolved special leaves. These leaves become tattered and frayed with time – earning the plant the description of being “octopus-like”. In addition, it has long tap roots that sip water deep underground and anchor the plant as it is buffeted by desert winds.

Its unusual appearance caused Friedrich Welwitsch, the botanist who discovered it for science in 1859, to “do nothing but kneel down and gaze at it, half in fear lest a touch should prove it a figment of the imagination”.

(via: New Scientist)

Image: Welwitschia mirabilis #0707-22411, Rachel Sussman

dendroica

oakapples:

The oft-overlooked Common Figwort, Scrophularia nodosa, is my plant of the day. The flowers’ resemblance to human throats led mediæval folk to believe that this species could be used to treat scrofula.

Of course, it was this same disease that was known in England and France as the King’s Evil; the touch of the reigning sovereign was supposed to represent a divine cure. English monarchs traditionally gave an Angel (a type of gold coin) to the sufferer at the same time, until the practice was ended by George I in the early 18th century.

Llareta  (Azorella compacta)

This llareta, family Apiaceae, parts of which are over 3000 years old, calls Chile’s Atacama desert home. Llaretas can be found throughout the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

A relative of parsley, its moss-like appearance belies thousands of flowering buds on long stems which are so densely packed together they can take the weight of a human.

“When I saw the llareta for the first time I immediately recognised it from photos I had seen,” says Sussman. “Many of them dotted the hillside, some more strangely formed than others, sort of like mutated topiary on steroids.”

Because the llareta is dry and dense, it burns well, like peat. “Its function as fuel is endangering its survival, as even park rangers charged with protecting it have been known to burn it to keep warm on cold nights.”

Image: La llareta , Rachel Sussman