Monday, May 30, 2011

Fire pink (Silene virginica)

Fire pink (Silene virginica) tends to be restricted to relatively open areas (such as rocky slopes with shallow soils) as it is a poor competitor. So, if you add this plant to your garden, you'll want to prevent neighboring plants from getting too close and overtopping it.

Fire pink is a classic hummingbird-pollinated plant as it has tubular red flowers with abundant nectar, no landing platforms (as is typically found in bee or butterfly-pollinated plants) and no detectable floral odor. The flowers depend on hummingbirds to transfer pollen from the anthers of one flower to the stigma of another for successful fruit and seed production.

Mountain laurel

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is currently in flower off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains of North Carolina. Look for the white to pink bowl shaped flowers in dense showy clusters. While plants can be found both in open sunny areas and in shaded sites under a forest canopy, it's those plants that receive more sunlight that flower most prolifically.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beargrass in flower

Beargrass (Yucca filamentosa) is now in flower in dry open woodlands, on rock outcrops, and along roadsides in the piedmont and mountains. For fruits to form, this plant requires the pollination services of a tiny moth (the Yucca moth). Unlike all but a few pollinators, the Yucca moth intentionally pollinates the flowers. After pollinating a flower, a female moth lays eggs in the ovary, the larvae hatch, and then feed on the developing seeds. Usually about 30 % of the developing seeds are eaten. In this plant-insect mutualism, the flowers get pollinated and the moth is rewarded not by pollen or by nectar (the usual floral rewards) but by seeds for its larvae. Look for the tiny cream-colored moths hanging out in the flowers during the day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Listen to Rudy Mancke discuss my new wildflower book

Rudy Mancke did a nice audio piece on Nature Notes about Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont, UNC Press.

Wildflower pilgrimage

I had the opportunity to participate in the wildflower and bird pilgrimage in Asheville, NC the last weekend in April. It was wonderful! There were hikes in the woods, abundant wildflowers, and interesting people to share the fun. Yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) was just one of the many species we saw in bloom in the southern Appalachian mountains.