Cypripedium acaule (Pink Lady’s Slipper)

The pink lady’s slipper is a large orchid native to much of north Eastern America. It flowers every spring-early summer and is the most common orchid found in New Jersey. Despite their relative common occurrence, their numbers are threatened by habitat loss and illegal poaching. If you wish to grow a Cypripedium in your garden, please make sure to buy it from a reputable nursery like Plants Delights.

The Pink lady’s slipper requires acidic soil and tolerates shade and moisture. Like almost all orchid species, it needs the help of fungi species from the genus Rhizoctonia. Since most orchid seeds lack any food for the plant embryo, the fungi strands have to break open and attach themselves to the seed, providing it with the nutrients it needs to start growing. As the orchid matures and produces more energy, the fungi can extract nutrients from the plant. The 

I found a large patch of these orchids growing in a state forest here in New Jersey. They were plentiful and were multiplying. Seen to the side is a patch of young seedlings still too young to flower. In the background, one can make out the fence used to fence in a large patch of these orchids. It’s necessary to fence them in because the growing deer population eats these orchids. Nevertheless, the seeds of these orchids are small enough to have been blown out of the fenced-off area. These orchids were growing in a piney forest beside a Blackjack Oak.

Galearis spectabilis (Showy Orchid)

A common native orchid found in eastern united states and Canada, the Showy Orchid, also known as showy orchis, purple-hooded orchid, or gay orchid, lives up to its name, albeit tinily. They bloom from April to June before the forest canopy is fully leafed out. The orchid thrives in humus-rich deciduous woodlands with a slightly acidic ph. As with almost all orchids, they depend on fungi for their seed germination.

These flowers were all over the reserve and indicated a stable population. There were many new orchids with a single leaf out. Most orchids had one or two blooms on them, but a few managed three!

Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit)

This common long lived perennial grows in the eastern half of the United States. Its flowers are varied in color but are hard to miss. Its three petal leaves means it can be confused with a young poison ivy. The plant itself contains Oxalic acid and oxalate crystals that can burn if ingested.

The flowers emerge after the leaves in late spring to early summer. The striped spathe surrounds a fleshy spadix that bears tiny flowers pollinated by small flies. In late summer the plant produces red berries. Its attractive flowers and large trifoliate leaves should make this an excellent addition to anybody shady garden. The plant is easy to grow in shade in the state of New Jersey.

Trientalis borealis (Starflower)

Starflower is a small ground covering herb across the forests of eastern North America. It is from the primrose family, the name of the genus Trientalis, meaning one-third of a foot in Latin, refers to the average height of the plant. 

The plant grows as a creeping rhizome and blooms early in the summer. The leaves grow out of a single stalk in a whorled fashion, with a flower spike emerging from the center. To the right, a colony of starflower is seen growing alongside a blooming Canadian mayflower.

Clemmys guttata (Spotted Turtle)

On our kayaking trip recently through the pinelands, my wife and I were fortunate enough to spot not one but three Spotted turtles! I could only photograph the two instances, but we were lucky to have spotted them multiple times. These turtles are now classified as endangered and listed as Species of Special Concern by the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, Endangered and Nongame Species Program.

Habitat fragmentation and destruction are important factors that have lead to the decline of this small turtle species, its appeal among the pet trade has worsened the ground reality. The turtle has a range from Maine in the north, to Florida in the south. Disjunct populations exist in Canada and Illinois.

White bog violet (Viola lanceolata)

Like the common violet, the lance-leaved violet blooms early to mid spring. It is among the very few white stemless violets growing on man disturbed habitats, marshes, sandy shores and wetland margins. I observed them growing in high numbers along the river system in New Jersey pinelands.

These plants can be found growing anywhere along the river shore, on the left we see a violet growing on an eroded bank out of an exposed rhizome. The stemless violets are not truly without stem, but instead grow from a modified stem buried underground, a Rhizome.

The flowers are small as seen by the lichens growing next to it. I was able to take these photographs thanks to the awesome birthday gift my wife got me. A day kayaking through the pinelands! We used pineland adventures, they are awesome and will highly recommend them!

If you look closely at this sedge mound (possibly a tussock sedge) you can see a small bog violet growing out of it. This demonstrates clearly the need for ecosystem preservation. The sand next to the sedge roots has been eroded out by the rivers flow, but the roots of the plant are holding on to enough soil to allow other species of plants and animals to survive. Native grasses and sedges have deep roots and help vulnerable habitats. The aquifer under New Jersey depends on these ecosystems to replenish itself with clean water.

Viola Sororia (common blue violet)

The common violet (Viola Sororia) is a common herbaceous plant found in eastern North America. The plant comes in many varieties of flowers and many more cultivars and hybrids. The plant is self seeding and spreads across a lawn with ease.

It spreads with ease and is a great addition to any lawn. A native, it provides important food for pollinators in early spring.

The common violet also happens to be the state flower of New Jersey! Pictured below are some of the variants of the common violet.

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge, Oak Sedge)

On a recent trip to long island, at the very beginning of spring I was treated to a still sleeping forest with very little grown vegetation. An exception were of course the Skunk cabbage, and these small sedges.

I had no knowledge of what a sedge actually looks like. Sedges is a family of monocots, grass-like flowering plants with over 5,500 known species, the largest belong the genus of Carex (true-sedges) comprising of over 2000 species.

Like grass, identifying a sedge species can be tough, I spent a good chunk of time looking at other images of similar species, like the Vernal Sedge to be pretty sure that what I documented was the common Pennsylvania Sedge. The Pennsylvania sedge is a perennial sedge that grows across north American, primarily Canada and Eastern US. The leaves can grow to two feet, this particular clump was observed in early spring.
The sedge spreads primarily vegetatively, spreading via Rhizomes. It grows in shady dry forests commonly found near oak trees.

It flowers through mid April to June. The flower cluster comprises of a single spike with a slender staminate (male) spike above one to three shorter pistillate (female) spikes each with 4 to 12 florets.

Pollination occurs by wind, a casual flick of a spike yields a plume of pollen. You can see some of the pollens that landed back on the spike after I gave it a little flick.

Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)

After a month of moving to my new place I decided to upload pictures from Spring of 2020. I pray I can go out and photograph again!

Mountain laurels are a broadleaf shrub native to Eastern US, from Maine to northern Florida. Flowers range from white to light pink and bloom from May to early June. The plant’s size is heavily dependent on its growing conditions. In Appalachia, it can grow as large as a tree. While in less ideal conditions, the plant remains a smaller size.

Pink variation of the mountain laurel, if you look closely, you can spot a small fly at the center of the flower.

The plant is known for its unique method of pollination. The anthers are under tension as the flower matures. When a pollinator lands on the flower, the tension is released, and pollen is flung on to the pollinator.

Moth looks for the little nectar mountain laurel flowers produce.

These plants were in bloom in early June in high point state park.

Helianthus decapetalus (thinleaf sunflower)

Helianthus decapetalus, commonly known as the thinleaf sunflower, is a common native plant in Eastern US. It belongs to the same genus as the garden variety sunflower (Helianathus), unlike the common sunflower, these plants are perennials. The commonly grown sunflower is an annual plant, gardeners have avoided growing perennial varieties of sunflowers because of their propensity to spread and become “invasive” rapidly.

The plant serves as a host and a food source for a diverse array of native bugs. The seeds produced are food for birds, and so are the insects that are attracted to the plant.

I would highly recommend the thinleaf sunflower to any new gardener. They bloom in late summer – early fall in a beautiful display lasts for a few weeks, with fresh flowers blooming every few days.

An advantage of growing native species, of course, is the insects that visit your garden. Photographed here is what I believe to be a Green sweat bee, covered in pollen, hopping from one flower to the next. Slide through these two slideshows to see a bee fly away.