Three New Flowers – Plus One

The nice thing about working at a nature center is that when you need a break from your computer work or your training or whatever… you can take a walk – and it counts as professional development.  At 3:15 today, I needed a break.  It wasn’t hard to talk Sarah and Kim into following me out to figure out some flowers that needed names.

Canada ThistleI’ve been seeing a couple of purple things along the roadsides just lately.  Today, Sarah and Kim, helped me figure out what they were.

The first is Canada Thistle, a lovely dusty-purple bloom on stout stems that also sport prickly thistle-style leaves.  The Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide calls it “a bad weed of pastures and waste places, difficult to eradicate because of its creeping underground stems.”  I just think it’s pretty.  Funny that it’s called “Canada,” yet there is an asterisk –  meaning it’s alien.  The Peterson guide tells us that in Europe, it is called “Creeping Thistle.”  That makes sense.

Hemp NettleThe second purple flower was blooming right by the mailbox at Audubon.  I had to stop the car this morning to take a closer look… Similar to a mint, square stem… but bristly all over…  Turns out this one is called Hemp Nettle.  It is in the mint family and is common along roadsides and in wasteplaces… alien, of course.

I didn’t get the greatest of pictures of my third new flower… it’s pretty difficult to photograph, actually.  Tiny, tiny flowers made me wish I had had my closeup lens with me.  The leaves were medium sized, though.  We worked through the Newcomb’s guide to discover it is White Vervain.  Of course it is!  Once I heard the name, I realized it did have some similarities to another of my favorites, Blue Vervain.

White Vervain Blue Vervain - for comparison

The last flower is the one referred to as “plus one” in my title.  I had already figured it out, so it wasn’t new to me… but it was new to Sarah and Kim.  There is a LOT of this stuff growing along the roadsides now – some of it taller than Kim!  It’s called Wild Parsnip.  Newcomb’s guide calls it “the wild state of cultivated parsnip.”  The Peterson Field Guid to Edible Plants says you can eat the taproot of first year plants.  It’s in the parsley family, and it’s pretty.

Wild Parsnip

Your turn to write a blog on 3 new things!

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6 thoughts on “Three New Flowers – Plus One

  1. take care with wild parsnip, chemicals in juices of its green leaves, stems and fruits can cause an intense, localized burn – “phyto-photo-dermatitis” – inflammation (itis) of skin (derm) induced by a plant (phyto) with help of ultraviolet rays in sunlight, present during sunny and cloudy days (photo)

  2. I always hope to learn one new thing a day, but I have learned at least three from your post. I will have to see if I can take up your challenge.
    The Canada thistle and Canadian bacon… both are misnomers for sure.

  3. I let most of the thistles and wild parsnip grow on my property until some plants get too big–even though they’re weeds, they seem to be so attractive to caterpillars and butterflies, plus my goldfinches utilize the thistledown for their soft nest lining.

  4. For most people, if it’s not a rose or a tulip, it’s a weed. Jennifer, you have a way to turn pretty much any weed into a flower just with your words.

  5. I’ll gladly share 3 new things–let me figure them out first!
    Seriously, I have a leaf from an unknown tree in front of me, an unknown vine crawling up a tree in my yard, and stalks of unknown grasses. My grass book is totally overwhelming–grass will be NEXT year’s project.

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