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.

Calla palustris (Bog Arum)

Continuing with Araceas from New Jersey, today, we look at the Wild Calla. Not to be confused with the plant Calla Lily (Zantedeschia) commonly found in garden centers. They belonged to the same family (Calla), but after further analysis, the tropical species are now classified in the genus Zantedeschia.

Bog Arum grows in the cold temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. In the Americas, it grows in the northeastern United States in bogs, swamps, and slow-moving streams.

It flowers in an inflorescence on a spadix surrounded by a white spathe.

These flowers are some of the few plants that are also pollinated by snails (not pictured).

The fruits are red berries that contain several seeds. Shown here is a developing set of berries.

The plant is very poisonous due to due to its high concentration of oxalic acid,

Orontium aquaticum (Golden Club)

Golden club grows in a flooded bog in New Jersey.

Orontium aquaticum, Golden Club, or the floating Arum is a plant species endemic to the Eastern United States. Its native habitat extends from as south as Florida, to New York State. It grows in ponds, slow streams, and bogs and swamps. 

The plant belongs to the family Araceae, as is clear from its inflorescence. The golden color stands out in the mostly dormant landscape of a bog in spring—Photograph taken in the New Jersey pinelands.

The plant is also called “never-wet.” As you can see here, the leaves are water repellent.

The plant has generated morphological confusion. If you are familiar with a peace lily, you would know that a modified leaf, a spathe surrounds an Arum inflorescence. The spathe is missing from the mature inflorescence. You may observe a green sheath early on in the development, which drops off as the spike matures. Engler had classified the structure as a spathe. We know now that that the small green enclosure was a sympodial leaf. The spathe is missing in this species.

Lophiola aurea (GoldenCrest)

Goldencrest (Lophiola aurea) is a perennial that grows in wetlands with thin grass-like leaves growing above the water surface. The plant spreads using Rhibozomes underwater. It blooms in late summer in a corymb atop a silver-colored stalk.

It is found primarily in the southwestern US from Louisiana to North Carolina, and in isolated populations in New Jersey- Delaware, and up north in Nova Scotia Canada. Owing to its strange geographical distribution, Fernald suggested classifying the northern populations as two separate species (L americana in NJ and DA, L. septentrionalis in Nova Scotia ). Modern studies have proven that all three are the same populations.

The plant faces an uncertain future it faces threats from a changing climate and human development. North Carolina classifies it as an endangered species in North Carolina. Left to its own devices, the plant will survive, it is adaptable and hardy.

Native and Invasive Irises (Iridaceae)

If there is one thing you can be sure of, as you learn more about plants and how to identify them, the clearer the destruction of native wildlands gets. Soon the beautiful flowers you see in a wild reserve turn up to be aggressive invasive species brought to the continent by people wanting a more European garden.

Today I want to show two species of Irises that can be found in New Jersey, North-Eastern America, Iris pseudacorus (Yellow-Flag Iris), and Iris versicolor (blue flag Iris).

Both species look similar, but, in my personal opinion, the native Iris looks far better than its European cousin. But, as the yellow-flag were quite popular in Europe they were imported for their ornamental value.

Both species like wet conditions to grow in and are found growing near ponds or swamps. Yellow Flag Iris takes over aquatic habitat and out-competes native plants by forming thick clumps that are hard to remove.

Adding native plants to your garden has a lot of advantages. Besides making your yard look beautiful, they attract and provide shelter to native insects and help restore the land to its original splendor! You can find links to native gardening websites here.

Go ahead, slide between the two flowers, and tell me which one is prettier!

Rosa palustris (Swamp Rose)

Rosa palustris, or the Swamp Rose is a native rose species found in most of eastern North America. It grows along streams and swamps in lightly acidic wet to moist soil.

As you can see, the flower looks similar to our garden rose, but is certainly not showy. The number of petals are limited (5) and arranged blandly. It takes lots of selective breeding to go from a wild rose to our splendid garden roses.