Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting a grip on plants

Want to get a grip on wildflower identification?  All it takes is an expert in the field, like David Brandenburg, to help you along a little.

First you start in the "classroom" with the basics of flower anatomy as explained via overhead projector.

Then you get some expertly-collected samples of plants from various families to go with your handouts.

Next you make some comparisons of live examples to what you find in the field guide.  Yup, that's a match!

Finally, the instructor lets you determine the direction of the field work by encouraging you to point out what you notice and asking you to make your best guess about what it might be, all the while offering background info and random expertise about everything you might stumble upon.

Here are just a few examples of the wildflowers that we encountered during our 2-hour field excursion at Killdeer Plains...

Sullivant's Milkweed, a rarity for this part of the state. This is pretty much the eastern-most part of its range.

The bee is pretty happy with the Sullivant's. This milkweed is distinguished from its common cousin by the red/pink midrib in the leaves (see bottom right of photo on left); photo on right shows the Sullivant's going to fruit.

Wild Parsnip, member of the Carrot family

Flower of the Hour, in the Mallow family (you may have guessed from the characteristic shape that this is in the genus Hibiscus)

Even though this is an introduced (i.e. non-native) species, I think it is quite striking.

Swamp Milkweed, one of the more dainty of the native milkweeds in Ohio

Another rarity for the state, this is an Umbrella Sedge. See why this is such a cool place to visit? Two rare plants in one restored prairie, and I'm sure there were others that we didn't see.

Virginia Mountain Mint. The leaves are strongly flavored.

Gayfeather/Prairie Blazing Star/Liatrus (in the Aster family). The "Blazing Star" part is a misnomer, as there is an actual Blazing Star family, of which this plant is not a member.

American Germander (mint family) - also called Wood Sage.

Meadow Rue (Waxy-Leaf? my notes don't specify)
Hedge parsley, a correction I received from a wise botanist

I still have a few more shots from Killdeer left to share. There are some more pressing things that might come first, but I'll try to get them up soon.


Monika said...

How fun to spend some time learning from a wildflower expert! I did take a vascular plant diversity class in college that helped set the stage for my interest in wildflowers and various flower families, but I mostly try to ID them myself and it can be pretty difficult sometimes to say the least! Some beautiful specimens in your photos and it sounds like you learned a lot.

Judy said...

Gorgeous macros, as always! I am going to have to come back when I am more awake.
BTW, I loved that pollen covered bee!!! I have never seen one so completely covered!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Where did you find that umbrella sedge??

(I know it was there, but I didn't see it!)

Good job!!!!

Heather said...

Monika - It was indeed loads of fun. Probably one of the more educational wildflower "classes" that I've encountered at this type of workshop. I would really recommend David's field guide to you - it's worth it for the way it's laid out if nothing else.

Judy - Thank you - yes, please come back when you are awake and can fully appreciate the flowers! :)

Nina - According to my notes, the Umbrella Sedge was right in that grouping of plants that we checked out just outside of the sportsman's center, in the same group with the Sullivant's, Flower of an Hour and Squirrel Tail grass.

RuthieJ said...

I was wondering if that was Nina's back in the photo and now I know it was! Looks like you had a great day to study wildflowers.