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.

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.

Monotropa uniflora, the ghost pipe

An interesting plant that spends its life primarily underground and is spotted thanks to its white flower spikes. The plant is an herbaceous parasite that lacks proper chlorophyll as it does not require sunlight to produce its energy. It can be found across the US, and in some parts of Asia. It flowers late summer and Autumn.

It is a mycoheterotrophic plant, which means it is a parasite on fungi that traditionally are in a symbiotic relationship with other plants/trees. Plants and fungi interact with each other in complex ways. Some, like most orchids, depend on fungi for germination and adult life. The relationship is called a Mycorrhiza. It is believed that plants, like the ghost pipe, evolved to only take from the fungi it was in a mutualistic relationship with, thus becoming a parasite. 

Effectively these plants are parasites on other trees/plants in a mutualistic relationship with the fungi. This form of parasitism is not uncommon, and a specific description can be found in Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month.

There is another method, though, something that’s far more exciting! In the second half of the twentieth century, countries (US and USSR) were conducting nuclear tests. These tests released a plume of carbon isotopes (C-13), causing an increase in its prevalence in plant material alive around that time. Thus plant material decaying from before the tests and plants active during the tests have a different carbon signature. This difference has been exploited to distinguish between saprotrophs and mycoheterotrophs

The flower spike grows next to a Canadian mayflower.
The flower spike grows next to a Canadian mayflower.

Utricularia

Utricularia, or more commonly known as Bladderwort, is a genus of carnivorous plants that are semi-aquatic to terrestrials. Their modified leaves underwater can catch small insects and even algae. Which technically makes them an omnivorous plant! You can find more information in this blog postInDefenceOfPlants is an excellent source of plant information. 

Shown above are two species I found in bloom, stripped bladderwort (Utricularia striata)[1 and 2] and the horned bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta) [3,4 and 5].

Here in New Jersey, you can find them growing in bogs. New Jersey hosts more than 10 species of bladderworts, some rare and threatened. They are hard to spot for most of the year, but in mid-summer, they pop out a pretty yellow flower blooming above the water surface. Clustered together, they put on quite a show.

Drosera filiformis

Drosera filiformis, also known as thread-leaved sundew, is found across North America from Florida to Nova Scotia. They form rosettes with some of the tallest leaves found in the sundew genus. The variation in Florida can extend unto 18″ in length. The leaves grow straight up during early spring; the first two images show a […]