Oxeye Daisy

Oxeye Daisy

He loves me. He loves me not.

He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.

As children, we used the Oxeye Daisy as a predictor of true love. As each “petal” was plucked we would chant hoping that the very last would be, “He loves me!”

Technically, those white bits aren’t really petals.  Daisies are a part of  the Asteraceae family which includes asters, goldenrod, and dandelions.  All of the blooms in this family are made up of many flowers.  The yellow ones in the middle of the daisy are called disk flowers, and the white ones are ray flowers.  The disk flowers are arranged in a particular pattern once described by mathematician Fibonacci.  (Click here for more information on that!)

Oxeye Daisy

The Oxeye Daisy is native to Europe, but has naturalized here in North America. In some states, it is considered a pest and there are recommendations for how to eradicate and what native plants to substitute.

I have snacked on the leaves; they taste rather lettuce-y. Some sources also list medicinal uses for the plant.


I just think it’s pretty.

Learn more:

Broadleaf Helleborine

Broadleaf Helleborine

Broadleaf Helleborine - Epipactis helleborine

A friend sent me a picture of a flower the other day asking for identification.  It reminded me that I wanted to learn more about this flower – a relatively common little orchid.  So, I headed to the woods last night in search of it.  Many orchids have very specific habitat requirements.  This introduced species, sometimes referred to as the weed orchid, is not so discriminating.  I have found it clinging to banks of rocky creeks, under conifers or deciduous trees, and in wide open spaces.  Of course, last night, I couldn’t find it in good light, but I did find it.  The sun was low and the woods were getting dark, so I had to use my flash… something I don’t do often, preferring natural light whenever I can manage it.

It’s fun to poke around the Internet to learn about flowers, especially “non-native” ones.  You find websites from the US that warn of the plant’s invasive tendencies, and websites from Europe that teach you how to care for the plant in your garden.  Around here, I find the “invasive” warnings to be unnecessary, as I rarely find huge patches of the stuff – just an isolated plant here or there.  A paper from the DNR in Wisconsin on this species noted no danger of invasiveness in some habitats studied, but suggested other similar habitats are impacted.  Scientists are keeping their eye on it and some states do have control plans in place.

Broadleaf Helleborine Broadleaf Helleborine

Broadleaf Helleborine is an orchid with multiple blooms per stem reported to come in many color variations from green to white to cream to pinkish-purple.  Several websites claim that Broadleaf Helleborine was introduced to North America for medicinal purposes, though none said what it was used to treat…

So I decided to hit the books.  Google Books, that is.  I found a book about the orchids of Russia from which I pulled these facts:

  • Seeds that find suitable habitat will concentrate all their growth efforts underground for 3 to 9 years before sending up a shoot visible above ground.
  • The plant may not produce flowers until it is 10 or 11 years old.  (Given its slow start, it’s hard to believe it can be invasive, isn’t it?)
  • Once it starts blooming, it may produce flowers annually with the number of blooms on the stalk diminishing in each subsequent year.
  • The full life span of an individual plant may be as long as 35 years.
  • Seeds can be formed via self-pollination, or by cross-pollination.  Wasps tend to be the primary pollinator attracted by nectar, which “may be” narcotic to them.  (Whoa!)

Nothing in that one about medicinal uses, though.  So, I added “medicinal” to my search and found a handbook to plant lectins (whatever they are).  I’m afraid the medical lingo was thick enough that I couldn’t decipher exactly what it said.  My take-away:  scientists have isolated something from the leaves of this plant that does something.  Ha ha.  Good, eh?  Click the book cover image to go to the online text and see if you can decipher it any closer than that.  (Feel free to post your interpretation below!)

Another blogger reported that this plant is used to cure insanity.  I rarely trust bloggers (don’t take it personally), so I started looking and looking and looking to find an online source to confirm that.  The closest I got was a listing in a google books search that looked like this:

Handbook of Medicinal Plants
Supriya Kumar Bhattacharjee – 2000 – 474 pages – Snippet view
Epipactis SW. Orchidaceae Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz. : It is a terrestrial orchid with stout stem. Leaves are variable. … The roots of these plants are medicinal which cure insanity. Epipactis latifolia Wall. …

The full text of this book is not available online.  I don’t know how google decides what to display and whether I can trust that these words all refer to “my” flower.  I think it does, based on a little further examination:

Still, I found no primary source for “bringing it to North America” for medical or any other purpose.  I probably won’t look any further, either.  But I do find it fascinating how many web sources simply quote each other.

Anyway… there you have it:  Broadleaf Helleborine, also known as Weed Orchid and Bastard Helleborine.  It blooms from June through September – so as you’re hiking around the woods this summer, keep your eye open for it!  I’ve seen it at Chautauqua Gorge, Bentley Sanctuary, and in the woods behind Bergman Park.  I haven’t been to other spots just lately, but if I see it other places, I’ll add to this list.

Learn More:

So Many Species!

Zigzag Goldenrod

Zigzag Goldenrod

The year I got my Canon Rebel XT, I also got several days of vacation in September. I decided I would teach myself to identify all the goldenrods and asters that grow in our region. Ha ha ha… It was a ridiculous goal.  In my Newcomb’s guide alone there are 34 species of goldenrod and 43 of aster… I never even got close.

New York Aster

New York Aster

According to botanist Thomas Elpel, there are over 100 species of goldenrod worldwide, over 90 of which can be found in North America.  For asters, the numbers are 500 and 150.

Numbers like these speak to the success of the reproductive and adaptive strategies of these genera… producing huge numbers of seeds, and also regenerating year after year from continuously spreading root stock.  Clever little plants…


Violets have 5 petals.

For a Ridiculous Springtime Challenge check out the violets – another long list of species under a single genus.  Violaceae – The Violet Family – boasts sixteen genera and 850 species worldwide. In my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (northeastern and north-central North America), 31 species are listed and there are 39 in my Peterson guide for the same region.

Generally speaking, violets have 5 petals that are not all shaped the same.  Think of them as a top pair, a side (lateral) pair, and the larger, single bottom petal.  Leaves are most often basal, but on some species they alternate.

While most species are some shade of the color of their namesake, you will find other colors.  It seems the earliest ones I find in spring are yellow:

Round-leaved Violet by Jennifer Schlick

Round-leaved Violet

Shortly after the snow melts, the little, yellow dots of Round-leaved Violet (Viola rotundifolia) push their way up through the leaf litter along with tiny leaves.  Together, the blooms and leaves expand in size until by summer the leaves might be 2-4 inches long.

Northern White Violet

Northern White Violet

The Northern White Violet (Viola pallens) has streaks of purple on its lower petal.

There is another lovely white violet that won’t bloom until later in May.  The plants get quite a bit taller and the flower petals are a little more “regularly” shaped.

Canada Violet

Canada Violet

Back of Canada Violet Flower

Back of Canada Violet Flower

The Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) flower is interesting because it is white on the front, but violet on the back.  It is also distinctive because whereas many of the violet species have flowers each on a stalk that comes up from the ground, this plant is more bush-like – with flowers on branching stalks from a main stem.

When a flower has a unique feature, and is named for that unique feature, it is easy to remember the name.  Such is the case with the Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata).  I first found these along a creek in a very moist, rich woods and found them to be just delightful, both for their shape and for their delicate light-purple color.

Long-spurred Violet

Long-spurred Violet

When it comes to the purple ones, i fear I have not been attentive enough to identify to the species level…  I have not paid attention to the shape of the leaves and whether they are smooth or fuzzy…  I have not paid attention to whether the veined markings are on all petals, or just the lower, or lower and lateral…  I have not paid attention to which of the petals are bearded and which are not…   So much to notice.


One of the purple ones...

As you know, there is always something new to learn… This year, I learned that violets form a 3-valved exploding capsule of seeds!  When I did an image search for such a thing, I found that one of my Flickr friends had one:

Violet Seeds

Seed pod of Viola sororia - by Fleur-Ange Lamothe

I think I’ll keep my eyes open for such a thing this year!

All violets are edible.  You can throw the blooms right on your salad or dry them to make tea.  They are reported to be high in vitamins C and A, and as a medicinal tea to work well as a laxative or expectorant.

The domesticated plants “Johnny Jump Up” and pansies are in the same family as the wild violets.