Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)

Swamp Milkweed is a tall moisture-loving plant found growing near bogs, swamps, fens, and streams. It prefers sunny spots where it flowers on a terminal spike in the summer. The flowers are showy pink to purple and carry nectar that attracts multiple pollinators. Shown here is a bumblebee trying to find its balance on swaying milkweed. It is a common species found across most of the continental US and into Canada. It is an excellent addition to any pollinator-friendly garden as its flowers are both showy and wonderfully scented.

Rhododendron periclymenoides (Pinxter flower)

Rhododendron periclymenoides, the Pinxter flower or the pink Azalea, is a native azalea found along the eastern coast from southern New York to Georgia. They flower in the spring with showy pink blooms and long stamens with a sweet smell.

I caught these finishing their bloom in the first week of June. Despite being late in its blooming season, it put on a good show, and the old flowers still caught my eye!

The plant is a good substitute for many non native species in the garden. Then plant forms a shrub near the forest floor and is used by birds and animals as cover.

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.

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.

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,