Minuartia carolinana (Pine-barren sandwort)

Minuartia carolinanana, or the Pine-barren sandwort is a small plant in the Pink family (Caryophyllaceae) native to the eastern coast of the US. They are found growing on white sands of pine barrens. They usually grow alone or with some grasses. The leaves are small and grow along the stem, resembling some moss species in both size and shape. The flowers grow out of these stems in long branches with five-petaled flowers that can grow longer than the stems supporting them.

To the left you can see the stem which shoots the flowering branch.

Monotropa hypopitys (Pinesap)

Monotropa hypopitys, or the pinesap, is a cousin of the more common ghost pipe. Both plants are parasitic depending on mycorrhizal fungi found in the forest floor. Unlike its cousin, Monotropa uniflora, pinesap flowers with multiple blooms on a single flowering stem. Like the ghost pipe, it can be found growing near oaks and pines.

The flower colors are varid, from yellow to purple/red. This is a rare plant in New Jersey with few populations recorded. I was lucky enough to find at least three distinct populations growing in a hilly portion of Jersey. One was flowering, while ther other was past its prime and beginning to fruit.

Melampyrum lineare (Narrowleaf cow-wheat)

Narrowleaf cow-wheat is a native herbaceous hemiparasitic annual. Its root structure invades the roots of other plants and allows it to extract nutrients from them. Cow-wheat can be found in common well-draining parts of New Jersey. These were near a cranberry bog along a roadside.

The flowers are interesting to look at, mainly because of their drawbridge-like bud opening! They are easy to miss if you don’t look for small flowers around you.

Platanthera clavellata (Small Green Wood Orchid)

A less showy cousin of the much larger and showier white-fringed orchid (they were growing near each other in pinelands of New Jersey.) The plant has but one large leaves with others being reduced to bracts along its stems. This particular plant was a youngling that was probably flowering for the first time.

There is some controversy regarding its inclusion into the Platanthera genus. I do not know enough about the morphology of the genus to elaborate further.

The spot I found this orchid seemed to have a healthy population of orchids that were reproducing. One thing that concerned me was the thickness of the understory. As this location was used by people and was near a park for human picnicking, the area hasn’t burnt enough. Pinelands is a fire ecology, and I worry about what thick understory would do to the local orchid population.

The flowers of these orchids are not as showy as some others in the Platanthera genus, but that allows us to have a clear look at the twist that results in the resupinate nature of orchid flowers. Most orchids go through this, with certain exceptions like CalopogonResupinate flowers are those that twist and turn upside down. As an orchid bud develops, the lip of the orchid is towards the flowering stem (as can be seen below), but as the bud begins to open, the flower twists till the tip point down. In this orchid, you can see the twist that each flower went through. 

Goodyera pubescens (Downy rattlesnake plantain)

Goodyera pubescens, the downy rattlesnake plantain is one of the most common orchids found in the eastern North America. Despite its high numbers it can be hard to find. The variegated leaves allow it to blend in with the forest floor. It is a terrestrial orchid with fleshy rhizomes with basal evergreen leaves. The beautiful leaves and its evergreen nature allows it to be seen throughout the year for orchid enthusiasts.

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.

Rhynchospora latifolia (Sand-swamp Whitetop Sedge)

Rhynchospora latifolia or the Sand-swamp whitetop sedge is a splendid-looking sedge species found in the southeastern states. Three species of whitetop sedges grow in the United States; two are native to the southeast state, while the third is endemic to Florida. Like other Sedge species belonging to the same family, distinguishing them is not easy. I am relying on the seeks app, which told me what species I had observed.

The whitetop sedge is a perennial plant growing in open grasslands and pine bogs; I took these photographs in the Green swamp preserve. Whitetop Sedge was possibly the most impressive plant that was not on my “to-see” list when I visited North Carolina. It was a pleasant surprise to walk into an open savannah covered with large white Inflorescences. It seems to attract many bumblebees; it was nearly impossible to photograph them without capturing a bumblebee working its way through the flowers!

Rhexia alifanus (Savanna Meadow Beauty)

An Oblique Stripetail Hoverfly prepares to land on a Meadowbeauty.

Savanna Meadowbeauty is a striking wildflower found from North Carolina to Florida, and west to Texas. In North Carolina they grow near the coast, these were growing in the green swamp preserve alongside various carnviorous plants and orchids. The flowers are striking and attract pollinators. I was lucky enough to photograph an Oblique Stripetail Hoverfly flying around flowers searching for a reward. Swipe through them to see what the hoverfly was up to!

Asclepias pedicellata (Savanna Milkweed)

Savanna Milkweed, a diminutive milkweed species found from Florida to North Carolina. In North Carolina, the species is listed as a “special concern” and is imperiled in other states. Its population is in danger due to fire suppression and loss of habitat.

The plant grows in open grassland or pinelands, with a fire-based ecology. It grows about a foot from the ground with a bunch of flower buds in the summer. Its flowers are not as showy as those characteristics of other milkweeds.

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.