Showing posts with label whatsyourname. Show all posts
Showing posts with label whatsyourname. Show all posts

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Last week I told you that this tree is nearly extinct. Perhaps you've heard of it: the American chestnut, Castanea Dentata. This magnificent tree once dominated the East Coast. These giants could grow 100 feet tall and five feet or more in diameter. Imagine our current forests twice as tall as they are now, with oak trees standing as understory trees. That is what our forests used to look like.

Chestnut was a mainstay of the timber industry - the wood is hard, lightweight, straight-grained, extremely resistant to rot, and it grows fast. The trees produce copious quantities of nuts edible to both humans and animals, making this tree a linchpin of the East Coast's ecosystem.

So, what happened to the chestnut? A hundred years ago, an imported Chinese chestnut tree brought with it fungus. This fungus spread from tree to tree, killing them down to the roots. Over the course of fifty years, almost every American chestnut was killed - up to four billion trees.

Chestnuts are tough trees, and to this day, the roots of some of those old trees continue to put up new growth. That is what you are looking at above. This new growth almost never gets large enough to produce fruit before the blight once again kills it to the ground, so there is no hope of these remaining trees reproducing.

The chestnut pictured above is one of several like this that can be viewed just outside of Franklin's YMCA, at the Franklin State Forest, growing along the road. And at least one more grows at the DelCarte Open Spaces park. They lurk in areas that have escaped development, slowly dwindling to extinction.

But there is still hope for the American Chestnut. A scant handful of trees remain that continue to produce nuts. On their own, these trees are too scattered to continue the species. However, there are breeding programs hard at work on preserving these vitally important trees.

This is an entire orchard of American chestnuts. These are the ongoing work of The American Chestnut Foundation. The TACF crossed the American chestnut with the Chinese chestnut, and has been breeding the results again and again with American chestnuts for three decades in the hope of arriving at a tree that is mostly American, but which contains the Chinese gene for resistance to the blight.

This particular orchard is located at Idylbrook Field in Medway, and is open to the public. This is a piece of American history in the making, and a beacon of hope to restoration efforts of all sorts. But visit it soon: next summer, most of these trees will be cut down. This is the next step in the breeding program. The oldest trees are seven years old, and some have produced their first crop of nuts. As a part of the breeding program, the trees were inoculated with the blight this year. Next year the most healthy trees will be kept for breeding and the rest will be eliminated from the gene pool.

You can support the breeding efforts by becoming a member of the TACF, or by volunteerig at Idylbrook Field when the opportunity arises. Stay tuned: they will be needing some help when it is time to cut down those trees.

Michelle Clay writes about gardening here in Franklin at the Clueless Gardeners Blog.

Franklin, MA

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Greetings Franklin! It has been two weeks since I posted the last mystery plant - sorry for that unexpected delay. The hint for this week's plant is "the fruit is a lot more interesting than the flowers." And here is the flower:

I cheated here: I had to aim the camera up into the flower to get a good picture. The flowers are a pretty yellow on the inside, and they bloom from summer all the way through until the fall, but they hang downward like bells, so they aren't particularly showy.

The plant itself is a foot or two high, a bit fuzzy, perennial, and , if you know your veggie garden plants at all, you might think it looks like a tomato or potato plant. That's because it's a relative. This is called ground cherry, or more specifically, "clammy ground cherry", or Physalis heterophylla. And just like its more well-known veggie cousins, this plant has edible parts.

Ground cherry is perhaps most closely related to the tomatillo. Just like the tomatillo, it produces edible fruit in a papery husk. This is what the husks look like when they are developing.

And these are the husks when the fruit is ready to harvest. Which, by the way, is right now, so get out there and look in the weeds for this plant. If you find some, you may get a tasty treat.

The fruit itself is a marble-sized berry that is yellow or orangy when ripe, and tastes like a combination of a tomato and pineapple.

One word of caution: like the tomato, tomatillo, and potato, this plant is in the nightshade family of plants. Nightshade plants are all typically poisonous to some degree, which is why we don't eat tomato leaves or green potatoes. To be safe, don't eat any portion of the ground cherry plant except for the ripe berries.

But don't let this put you off from sampling these delicious native fruits! Ground cherries used to be more common as backyard vegetable garden plants, but seem to have been forgotten in recent years. I hear they make good pies, but I wouldn't know, because I ate all of my berries before I had a chance to cook them.

Here is next week's mystery plant. It's a tree actually.

Here's a hint: this tree is nearly extinct. I'll tell you all about the effort to restore the tree in next week's post, along with where you can go to see it growing in and around Franklin.

Michelle Clay writes about gardening here in Franklin at the Clueless Gardeners Blog.

Franklin, MA

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Greetings Franklin! Did you recognize what type of plant last week's mystery flower belongs to?

If you said "grass" you are correct!

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I'm not sure which type of grass this is. I had thought it was big bluestem, Andropogon gerardi, but I lost the plant tag. Drat. At any rate, it's a native grass that I bought from Garden in the Woods a few years back, and it has been a show-stopper in my garden ever since.

This particular native grass grows into a very tall clump, that, as you can see, is currently almost as tall as me. But native grasses come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, quite a few of which are fun for gardens as well as good for wildlife.

You may not have ever thought before about grass having flowers, but grass is a type of flowering plant. You just have to look closely to see the flowers.

You typically don't see flowers on mowed lawns because the grass needs to reach a taller height in order to produce flowers.

Native grasses aren't typically used in lawns. However, unlike the imported lawn grasses, native grasses handle our native growing conditions far better than their lawn counterparts. The grass I show above, for instance, remained emerald green throughout this summer's drought, even though I hardly ever watered it.

The next time you find yourself in a unmowed area, have a look at the grass, and see if you can't spot the flowers.

Here is next week's native plant:

Here is a hint: the fruit is a lot more interesting than the flowers.

Happy plant-sleuthing!

Michelle Clay writes about gardening here in Franklin at the Clueless Gardeners Blog.

Franklin, MA

Monday, September 13, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Sorry I'm late with the native plants this week! Here is the most recent mystery plant:

This is yet another native flower doomed to obscurity by the word "weed" in its name: jewelweed. This tender annual grows abundantly in moist, shady areas, and from mid to late summer it is covered in little orange orchid-like flowers.

The name "jewelweed" comes from the way water beads up into brilliant, flashing gems on its waxy leaves.

The Latin name of jewelweed is Impatiens capensis, which gives a clue as to what common garden plant this is related to: impatiens.

Jewelweed also goes by the name "touch-me-not", because when you touch the little bean-like seed-pods, they pop open violently! That aspect makes this plant especially fun for children.

This next plant is tricky. Forget about specifically what plant it is. If you can pinpoint what type of plant it is, then you're doing well. I'll give you a hint: this is a flower.

Happy plant-sleuthing!

Michelle Clay writes about gardening here in Franklin at the Clueless Gardeners Blog.

Franklin, MA

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Did you recognize last week's mystery flower?

This is joe pye weed, another lovely native flower that is cursed with the name "weed". Joe pye is currently in bloom in sunny fields of Franklin alongside goldenrod.

(Thanks to wikimedia for this image.)

There are several types of joe pye weed, or Eutrochium, which in turn are in the aster family of plants. Joe pye weed is typically a dusty purple color when in bloom.

Much like goldenrod, Joe pye weed produces a clump of flowers on a tall and spindly stalk. It can form dramatic clumps. Click here to see what joe pye weed can look like in a flower garden.

Butterflies just love this flower.

Next up: sure looks tropical, doesn't it?

Post your guesses in the comments section, and have a great week!

Michelle Clay writes about gardening here in Franklin at the Clueless Gardeners Blog.

Franklin, MA

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Hello Franklin! Did you recognize last week's mystery native, perhaps because it grows in the cracks of your driveway, or between the mulch and the curb of the grocery store parking lot?

This plant is called spotted spurge (Euphorbia maculata) and if you grow anything at all out-of-doors in New England, then you have likely plucked out this plant as a weed.

This is what it looks like when spotted spurge is left to its own devices for a few months. It grows absolutely flat against the ground, and has a lovely tinge of purple to its stems and leaves. Spurge is an annual plant that flourishes in hot, dry conditions that kill everything else.

I am a bit baffled as to why every source considers this plant to be just a weed, worthy only of killing, and I am currently leaving it to grow in parts of my garden to see how it does as a groundcover. So far it has been great! It was one of the only plants that didn't seem to suffer during the drought.

Just for fun, here is a closer look. This plant is in bloom. There they are: each flower is barely a millimeter across.

And here is next week's flower. Do you know what it is?

Feel free to post your guesses in the comments section here. Cheers!

Michelle Clay writes about gardening here in Franklin at the Clueless Gardeners Blog.

Franklin, MA

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Were you able to identify last week's mystery plant? Here it is, providing food to a hummingbird:

This is Oenothera biennis, otherwise known as common evening primrose. You've likely seen it in fields and weedy places, but you may never have noticed its amazing scent. Evening primrose blooms at night to attract moths. The flowers wilt under the hot sun, so the best time to see and smell this plant is early in the morning. Early in the morning is also when you are most likely to see hummingbirds feeding from its flowers.

Like many native flowers of North America, evening primrose is a biannual, meaning it goes through its entire lifecycle in two years. The plant grows as a small rosette of foliage the first year, and shoots upward with a flower stalk on the second. Under the right conditions, such as in a sunny location against a wall, it can grow eight feet tall and can produce hundreds of yellow flowers.

Seeds of evening primrose are easy to collect: simply break off seed-pods from a spent plant, and break them open. Seeds can then be scattered where you would like the plant to grow.

If you grow this plant in your garden, consider leaving the dead flower stalks standing through the winter to provide food for goldfinches.

And here is our next native plant:

Feel free to post your guesses here in the comments section!

If you would like to see more photos of hummingbirds here in Franklin, you can visit my blog at .

Franklin, MA

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Greetings Franklin! Were any of you able to identify last week's mystery plant?

This is a closeup of goldenrod, which is in bloom now in fields everywhere. There are many kinds of goldenrod, or Solidago L., and they are difficult to tell apart, but all of them are native to North America.

Goldenrod has a reputation for causing allergies. However, this is unfair and incorrect. The real culprit for sneezing right now is ragweed, which is also in bloom. Goldenrod has heavy pollen grans that fall quickly to the ground. The plant relies on insects to carry the pollen from one flower to another. Ragweed, on the other hand, has lightweight pollen which is small enough to float around on the wind.

Goldenrod is perennial that grows in dramatic clusters. It attracts many insects. If you aren't a fan of insects in your yard, consider them to be bird food. All birds, especially baby birds, require insects in their diet.

And here is next week's puzzler, being visited by a hummingbird:

Hint: it's another common flower that is in bloom and feeding hummingbirds right now. Post your answers in the comments section, and have fun!

Franklin, MA

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Were any of you able to identify last week's native plant? If you said milkweed, you win!

(Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for this second image.)

Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, is better known for what eats it than for its flowers; but don't let that give you any wrong ideas about its flowers! Milkweed has stunning spheres of blossoms that from up close look like they have been folded from origami.

And of course, what eats the plant are the larvae of monarch butterflies. They eat milkweed, and nothing else. Here is a female monarch looking for leaves to lay her eggs on.

And this is what the caterpillars look like.

If you want to see more monarch butterflies in your yard, plant milkweed! Seeds can easily be collected in the Autumn from meadows where milkweed grows, or they can be ordered from sources such as

And here is our next mystery native flower. Hint: I've zoomed in rather close. Another hint: it's in bloom now.

Don't forget, you can post your answers (or wild guesses!) in the comments section. Happy botanical sleuthing!

Franklin, MA

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Hello Franklin! It’s time to reveal what last week’s mystery plant was. Were you able to figure it out? Loretta was close, and Susan correctly identified it. Here is the picture again:

If you said it was pinesap, you are correct!

I photographed this pinesap, at the Franklin State Forest last September, which means you have some time to get out and look for this elusive plant yourself. This patch is visible from the trail that leads straight into the woods from the YMCA.

The trick to seeing pinesap, Monotropa hypopitys, is that it only grows above ground like this for a very brief window of time. You may notice that the plant isn’t green. It actually contains no chlorophyll, which means it isn’t getting its food from the sun. Instead, it is a parasite that feeds on a fungus, which in turn is in a symbiotic relationship with tree roots. Don’t ever try to transplant this type of plant, because its growing conditions are so complex that removing the plant from its environment would kill it.

A more common relative of pinesap is Indian pipe, Monotropa uniflora, which also grows in undisturbed, shady woodlands, and is in bloom right now.

Indian pipe is frequently mistaken for a fungus, but like pinesap, it is a parasitic flowering plant.

And here is our next mystery plant:

Happy plant-sleuthing!

Franklin, MA

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Hello Franklin! My name is Michelle Clay, and you could call me a bit of a garden geek. Here in Franklin, we have a lot of lovely suburban gardens, but most of the plants in a typical suburban yard come from other parts of the world. We have many fascinating and beautiful plants that are native to the Franklin area that most people don’t know about. Each week I will feature one native plant here, and the following week, I will identify what it is, and tell you a bit about where it can be seen.

Can you guess what this one is? I’ll give you a hint: this is a very unusual plant. It has no chlorophyll, so it never turns green. Post your guesses in the comments, and happy sleuthing to you!

Franklin, MA

Let's Welcome Michelle Clay

You may recall that I had highlighted Michelle's blog The Clueless Gardner earlier this month as I posted on the Franklin Area Blogs that I have found.

You may also recall that I started the "What's your name?" series last week and she expressed interest in highlighting some native plants. She is much stronger in that area so I thought why not combine efforts? She graciously accepted and I am honored to have her posting here. She will showcase a native plant each week and we can all will learn together!

Stay tuned for her first post!

Franklin, MA

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What's your name?

I've wanted to re-open the "Where in Franklin?" series and had the thought today on how to do it with a twist (of course).  I recall taking a walk along a state park trail with a naturalist when my daughters were young. The naturalist was able to name every plant along the way. Well, at least it seemed like she could. That is one area where my own development is lacking. I can recognize some vegetation (common trees, poison ivy, cherry tomatoes, etc.) but generally to walk in the woods, I feel a loss in that I don't know the names of the trees, plants and other vegetation.

Let's start with some simple things. Walking along the streets in Franklin, folks have various flowers and plants adorning their yard. Some of them are more attractive than others but all have a place in the circle of life. All of them have a name. As I walk around town and take pictures, I'll post good ones to find out the name.

You can play along in at least three ways:
1 - name it
send me an email, or leave a comment to identify the item shown

2 - send me a photo
of an item you would like to know the name of. I'll post it so we can all learn together

3 - you can also be less active and just read along
learning and sharing as we find out 'who's who' in the plant kingdom

This is not a contest where the first person who correctly names the item wins. We will all win by learning, and sharing and yes, perhaps having a laugh together, over what we know (and don't know).

This will be a new series. I'll have a separate page to collect the individual posts, pictures and results.

How does that sound?

I believe that learning, sharing, and laughing are the three things that I try to do everyday. Will you join me in this? Would you like to play along?

Yes, that is good. Then here is the first challenge. I found this gorgeous flower in a yard along King St.

Ms Flower - what's your name?

Note: If you have a Flickr account, you can also click through and comment on the photo in Flickr. I'll also post this to the Franklin Matters Facebook page.


The Answer - my friend from Hawaii, Rosa Say, left a comment on the Flickr page to identify these as hibiscus.  More on hibiscus can be found here:

Franklin, MA