Monday, August 17, 2009

Verbena stricta in bloom

[Photo: Verbena stricta in flower at High Park.]This Verbena stricta (hoary vervain, verveine veloutée) is putting on a show in the boulevard beds near the Grenadier Café in High Park. The boulevard beds were planted with native plants by the High Park Volunteer Stewardship Program in 2000. [Photo: close-up of Verbena stricta bloom.] Here's a closer look at a flower spike. Only a few blooms at a time are open, giving a longer blooming period. Since I started some Verbena stricta seeds this spring, perhaps I'll see these lovely lavender flowers in our own garden next summer!

Ambrosia artemisiifolia: delcious-sounding name for a very annoying plant

Warning: this plant is considered a noxious weed under the Ontario Weed Control Act.

[Photo: Ambrosia artemisiifolia in bloom, High Park.]Such a lovely-sounding name for this plant with such pretty, fern-like leaves! (click the photo to get a better look) If only it weren't for the flowers...

In case you haven't recognized this common but easily overlooked plant yet, it's better known as common ragweed (petite herbe à poux). Those boring little green flowers have no interest for animal pollinators, so ragweed instead releases massive amounts of lightweight pollen into the wind, relying on the sheer quanitity of pollen to ensure that some of it will reach a female flower and fertilize it. (Separate male and female flowers are produced on each plant.)

Ragweed grows in the same habitats and blooms around the same time as its showier cousins, the goldenrods (verge d'or, Solidago spp.). Because ragweed is so inconspicuous, goldenrod is often unfairly blamed for ragweed pollen allergies. In fact goldenrod pollen is too heavy to be wind-borned; that's why it has those gorgeous flowers, to attract the insects needed for pollination.

According to Wikipedia, the genus name Ambrosia comes from the same root, άμβροτος, as the ambrosia which is the food of the gods, but this root word actually means "immortal", referring to the difficulty of eradicating this plant. (This species is actually an annual, so not immortal by any means.)

Ragweed is one of the top 10 herbacious plants to feed wild birds, because it produces numerous, oil-rich seeds. However, given how many people are allergic to it, I think it should be kept to wilderness areas far from humanity, certainly not in Toronto gardens.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What's blooming in High Park, mid-August

Pictures to follow when I find time!

  • Ambrosia artemisiifolia (ragweed, petite herbe à poux) (native)
  • Campanula rapunculoides (creepy bellflower, campanule fausse raiponce) (invasive)
  • Conyza canadensis (horseweed, vergerette du Canada) (native)
  • Dauca carota (Queen Anne's lace, carotte sauvage)
  • Desmodium canadense (showy tick trefoil, desmodie du Canada) (native)
  • Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane, érigéron annuelle) (native)
  • Helianthus divaricatus (woodland sunflower, hélianthe divariqué) (native)
  • Impatiens capensis (jewelweed, impatiente du Cap) (native)
  • Impatiens glandulifera (Himalayan balsam, balsamine de l'Himalaya) (invasive)
  • Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower, lobélie cardinale) (native)
  • Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot, monarde fistulose) (native)
  • Oenothera sp. (evening primrose, oenothère) (native)
  • Penstemon digitalis (foxglove beardtongue, penstémon digitalis) (native)
  • Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan, rudbeckie dressée) (native)
  • Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant, plante bain d'oiseaux) (native)
  • Solidago spp. (goldenrods, verges d'or) (native)
  • Verbena stricta (hoary vervain, verveine rugueuse) (native)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, August 2009

In August, the garden is overflowing with flowers! This Bloom Day most of my photos came out too badly to post; I find the current bright bright sunlight difficult to photograph in. I've linked to previous posts of these flowers where possible. In any case this month's Bloom Day is a lot like last month's, but the daylilies, Venus flytrap, butterfly weed, and liatris have gone, and the rose of Sharon has just started doing her thing.

Check out what's blooming in other gardens this Bloom Day! And thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Agrimonia sp.

[Photo: flower spike of some kind of Agrimonia.]Agrimonia spp., known in English as "agrimony" and in French as aigremoine, is a genus of about a dozen herbaceous perennials native to the temperate northern hemisphere, generally with spikes of yellow five-petalled flowers. There are four species found in Ontario, according the USDA's PLANTS database, all of them native:
  • Agrimonia gryposepala (tall hairy agrimony, aigremoine à sépales crochus)
  • Agrimonia parviflora (harvestlice, aigremoine parviflore)
  • Agrimonia pubescens (soft agrimony, aigremoine pubescente)
  • Agrimonia striata (roadside agrimony, aigremoine striée)

The agrimonies of Ontario look virtually identical, and Peterson's guide1 says they can only be distinguished by "technical characters" so I don't feel too bad about not being able to precisely identify this one (though if any of you reading this know which one it is, please let me know!).

[Photo: leaves of some kind of agrimony.]The leaves of agrimony are compound, and have distinctive mini-leaflets between some of the larger leaflets.

I photographed this plant in my local ravine.

1. Peterson, Roger Tory and Margaret McKenny. A field guide to wildflowers: Northeastern and northcentral North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Portulaca oleracea: foliage

[Photo: Portulaca oleracea growing in a crack in the sidewalk.]Portulaca oleracea, known in English as "common purslane", "wild portulaca", "verdolaga", "pigweed", "little hogweed", "pursley", or "pusley", and in French as pourpier potager or pourpier gras, is a succulent annual probably native to Eurasia. It's easy to identify because let's face it, how many succulents volunteer in Toronto gardens?

Purslane is a common weed here in Toronto, and can produce surprisingly lush growth in only the smallest amount of soil, e.g. in a sidewalk crack. The leaves are not only edible, they are fairly tasty and contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. So next time you're weeding, why not save and wash the purslane? You can eat it raw or cooked; try some of these recipes!

Dianthus chinensis 'Double Gaiety Mix': you've come a long way

[Photo: Dianthus chinensis 'Double Gaiety Mix' in bloom.]Compare this photo to the one I took at the end of March!

Amaranthus tuberculatus in bloom

[Photo: Amaranthus tuberculatus inflorescences.]Amaranthus tuberculatus, known in English as "roughfruit amaranth" or "tall waterhemp" (je ne peux pas trouver un nom commun en français), is an annual native to much of eastern and central North America and a few west-coast states. It can reach two metres in height. The spikes of green flowers are not especially showy, but produce abundant seed, making this a useful food source for birds. The glossy foliage is eaten by the larvae of the common sootywing skipper (Pholisora catullus) and some moths.
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