Saturday, June 30, 2018

A brief glimpse of the Alaskan flora


The southeastern coastal areas of Alaska
are covered in temperate rain forest, similar
to that in the Olympic Peninsula of
Washington. The dominant colors here
are greens, provided by a rich carpet of
mosses, skunk cabbage, and other
understory plants.
Alaska is billed as the last American frontier, and like the rest of western North America, boasts an incredible array of wildflowers.  As I often find myself, other reasons called me to this great state recently, but I took the opportunity to capture a small sample of the floral diversity on (virtual) film. 

Arriving by cruise ship on nearly the longest day of the year, I experienced the other nickname for the state: land of the midnight sun.  Though still too far south to actually see the sun at midnight, the days were incredibly long, and dusk blended into dawn without getting really dark.  Wildlife somehow almost completely evaded me on this trip, though I heard other people shouting 'bear,' 'moose,' 'whale,' etc. - always from the other side of the train, bus or cruise ship. They somehow knew I was a botanist and probably thought I wouldn't be interested.

The first stops on any north-bound Alaskan cruise land us in temperate rain forest, dominated by green foliage and mostly white flowers.











The dwarf dogwood, Cornus canadensis, was our constant companion in the lowland forests of Alaska.
Maianthemum dilatatum (Asparagaceae),  the False Lily-of-the-Valley, is
another white-flowered denizen of North American forests.

Buttercups (Ranunculus spp.) can be counted on to brighten sun-lit clearings throughout western  North America.
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Streptopus lanceolatus (Liliaceae) brings a bit of color
 to the forest floor, unlike it's white-
flowered cousin, Solomon's Seal.








A wild rose, Rosa acicularis, was found blooming
abundantly near Anchorage.

Cerastium beeringianum, another member of the Caryophyllaceae, was
growing not far from the wild rose. 















The chocolate lily, Fritillaria camschatcensis
(Liliaceae), like many members of its genus, has
odd, dark-colored flowers.

























Lupinus nootkaensis (Fabaceae), is a common Alaskan lupine, seen here growing on top a ledge at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor's Center.






A wild pea, of the genus Lathyrus, brightens a sunny spot.
























In sunnier areas, such as the slopes around Mt. Denali, the colors expected in alpine areas make their appearance. 












Arnica angustifolia, a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), brightens up a rocky slope near Denali National Park.
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Another member of the Fabaceae, apparently an Astragalus, occurs with the Arnica on rocky slopes.
As spruce trees diminish at higher elevations, much of the green cover consists of
shrubby willows.
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One of the common shrubby willows  (Salix sp.) of the Alaskan taiga.

A surprising find was this dwarf willow, Salix reticulata, which branches at ground level and rises scarcely two inches.


Flat mounds of Silene acaulis, a perennial of the Carnation family
(Caryophyllaceae), can be found among boulders on rocky slopes.

















Potentilla villosa (Rosaceae) forms similar low mounds on the same rocky
slopes with Silene acaulis.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Florida favorites

In swampy areas throughout the state, one can find the
spectacular Hibiscus coccineus growing at the edge of
swamps.
.It may seem that I spend more time among the mountains of the west or even more exotic locations, but I have of course been living and teaching in Florida for over 40 years, and I have accumulated some nice photos from this fine state as well!  I have already shared my favorite carnivorous plants of Florida, and here are few of my other favorites.

In Florida, one does not go up the side of a mountain to find different habitats, nor follow changing climatic conditions to go from forest to desert. Here, however, just a few feet of elevational difference can thrust one into a different community.  Florida might be described as an elongate swamp surrounded by beaches. That's an oversimplification, of course.  There are hilly areas, mostly old piles of sand, and vast flat areas that flood some times in the year and are dry at other times, but all of these may be fairly close together.  Within the short distance of 50 feet, one can go from sandhill vegetation, through pine flatwoods, and down into a cypress swamp.

Florida lies over limestone, which is exposed in some areas, particularly in the south, and occasionally in sinkholes.  Here one finds different, lime-tolerant plants.

Hibiscus grandiflorus is another of the 12 species
of hibiscus to occur in Florida.  It also is found at
the edge of swamps, sometimes not far from its
bright red cousin.


Florida is also a fairly long state, and from north to south, one can go from an essentially Appalachian flora, with meadows filled with the eastern red columbine, to the nearly tropical everglades and keys in the south, where a number of native palms dwell.  It is indeed an exciting state botanically.
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The eastern red columbine, Aquilegia canadensis,
is found in meadows over limestone in the far north
of the state.
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Lilium catesbaei blooms in moist meadows in the Fall.

Ipomoea cordatotriloba is one of many wild
morning glories in Florida.



Lycopodiella cernua has no flowers, but makes a
dramatic appearance in wet meadows
and pond edges.

Scutellaria arenicola is a member of the mint family,
(Lamiaceae)

The non-vining Clematis baldwinii (Ranunculaceae)
occurs in pine flatwoods.

Clematis reticulata grows in the dry soil of the
sandhill community.

Clematis crispa grows in wet soil along rivers and swamps.

Crinum americanum (Amaryllidaceae) grows in swamps, along with the floating water fern, Salvinia.

Like its spectacular cultivated cousin, the wild poinsettia,
Euphorbia cyathophora, has brightly colored bracts surrounding
clusters of tiny flowers. Photo by Glenn Fleming

Bidens laevis is one of many members of the sunflower family.  This one
grows in swamps and river margins.

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Liatris aspera is a member of the sunflower family,
but with rather loose flower heads. it blooms in
the Fall.
Sabatia is a genus of the Gentian family.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The other paradise

As the access road winds its way up to
Hurricane Ridge, one can glimpse
Lilium columbianum in sunny clearings.
For wildflower lovers, the entire state of Washington is a paradise.  I previously
reported on the specific place on Mt. Rainier that is called Paradise, and today I move across Puget Sound to the Greek version of plant heaven, Mt. Olympus.  The easily accessible part of this paradise is called Hurricane Ridge.  I know the name doesn't sound that heavenly, but in terms of wildflowers it definitely qualifies.
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You would rightfully expect that many of the same wildflowers would be found in Olympic National Park as in Mt. Rainier National Park, but in my many visits, I've found some different gems, and some of the old favorites are worth repeating.
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My old favorite, Aquilegia formosana,
also graces clearings on the mountainside.
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.Even before arriving at Hurricane Ridge, flowers abound in roadside clearings and meadows, including columbia lilies, red columbines, and checkered lilies.
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Fritillaria lanceolata, the checkered lily.
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Once at the Hurricane Ridge parking lot, spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains open up, and the lush flower garden of the alpine meadow lies before us.




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Mt. Olympus and the other peaks of the central range lie directly across the valley from Hurricane Ridge.
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A young buck enjoys the meadow as well.














Avalanche lilies, Erythronium montanum, dot the meadow
soon after the snow melts.
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Avalanche lilies poke up through the prostrate branches of 
an alpine .















Brilliant blue delphiniums and orange Indian paint brush (Castilleja sp.) splash across the meadow.









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Delphinum glareosum is common on Hurricane Ridge.































A wild onion, probably Allium
crenulatum
can be found in Olympic
meadows.




Butter-and-eggs, Linaria vulgaris, is
common throughout western mountains.
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The yellow Erysimum arenicola (Brassicaceae) pops up among heathers and other shrubs on the high mountain slopes.


Douglasia laevigata (Primulaceae), the cliff dwarf primrose.



Phlox diffusa (Polemoniaceae)








Potentilla flabelliformis (Rosaceae)


Rhododendron albiflorum (Ericaceae)

Arenaria capillaris (Caryophyllaceae), the
slender mountain sandwort

Phacelia sericea (Hydrophyllaceae)

Phyllodoce empetriformis (Ericaceae),
an alpine heather.

The marmot is another high mountain resident.

The alpine fir, Abies lasiocarpa, is the main tree that survives
the harsh conditions of Hurricane Ridge.

Penstemon procerus (in the family
formerly known as Scrophulariaceae)

A rare sight is this colony of slime mold creeping across the
forest floor.

Campanula rotundifolia (Campanulaceae)
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Eriophyllum lanatum (Asteraceae)
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