Know Your Natives – Crow Poison

Crow poison (Nothoscordum bivalve) of the Onion (Alliaceae) family (formerly of the Lily (Liliaceae) family) resembles a wild onion and is often called “false garlic,” but the species has neither garlic nor onion scent or taste. The genus name is actually derived from Greek words for “false” and “garlic.” The specific epithet means “two sides” or “two valves” in reference to a pair of bracts on flowering stems. Crow poison occurs primarily in a large area from Arizona, through Texas to Kansas, through Illinois, Ohio, to Virginia, and south to the Atlantic and Gulf Coast. The species also occurs in Central and South America. The only native Nothoscordum species in Arkansas, N. bivalve occurs statewide. Habitats are quite variable and include dry to mesic rocky to sandy to silty areas with partial to full sun, such as, prairies, woodlands, glades and barrens, and even in domestic lawns.

Crow poison is an herbaceous perennial growing from a globose bulb about ½ inch long and wide. Along with annual production of new fleshy roots, leaves, and inflorescence, plants also produce small, basal bulblets, which separate from the parent bulb before producing independent roots and leaves. Clonal clumps tend to develop. In a favorable site, due to self-seeding, a large colony of various-sized clumps may develop.

Photo 1: A clonal clump growing in a rocky, partially sunny site. Photo – March 22.

New leaves consist of an above-ground blade and a fleshy tubular base. As additional new leaves grow within the tubular base of the previous leaf, older leaf bases are pushed outward. While leaf blades die at the end of the growing season, thickened leaf bases persist for water and nutrient storage, resulting in bulbs. Outermost leaf bases become thin and brown and form a protective tunic before they disintegrate.

Each year, a mature bulb produces a few to a half-dozen fleshy, rather succulent, rather grass-like, slightly twisted, linear leaves, in-folded along most their length, but flattened toward the tip. Larger blades may be 10 inches long and ⅛+ inch wide. Bulbs also produce one or two pale green flowering stems (scapes) in early spring and often again in the fall. These rise to 10+ inches long and gradually taper to the inflorescence. 

Photo 2: Larger bulb on left has two stems (marked by red asterisks) which grow with the leaf cluster, but not at the cluster’s center. Bulbs at left (3/8 inch diameter) and right are producing bulblets (white bulge at base). Once separated, bulblets produce their own leaves and roots, as seen at lower left. Photo – March 8.

The inflorescence, umbels to 1½ inches wide, consists of three to ten well-spaced flowers on long pedicels. Umbels are initially encased in two translucent (hyaline) membranes that ultimately dry and persist as subtending scarious bracts (the “bivalves” of the specific epithet). Flowers bloom sequentially over several days. Pedicels lengthen until fruit has set, the final length about 2 inches. 

Photo 3: Umbels emerge from protective membranes. Membrane of stem second from left is ½ inch long. Flowers of an umbel tend to develop sequentially. Photo – March 10.
Photo 4: The rather succulent, narrowly linear, basally in-folded blades have the same appearance above (left) and below (right). Umbels are subtended by dried membranous bracts. Photo – March 31.

Flowers of crow poison open on warm sunny days and remain for several days, depending on weather (closing on cloudy days). The ½- to ¾-inch-wide flowers have 6 tepals (3 each nearly identical sepals and petals), six anthers and a pistil. Tepals are white with a yellowish glow on their interior base, ⅜+ inch long and ⅛ inch wide, elliptic to oblong, and apically acute, with an occasional notch at the apex, and a light greenish midvein. Tepals remain ascending (perianth does not become flattened). Stamens have tapered, translucent, light yellow filaments and bright yellow anthers with bright yellow pollen. Anthers are hinged in see-saw fashion at the filament tips. Stamens are adnate (joined) to the base of the tepals. The erect post-like style terminates with a flat, round stigma. The style attaches to the top of an ovoid, superior, 3-chambered ovary.

Photo 5: The six ascending tepals (sepals and petals) have a nearly identical appearance. At anthesis, tepals remain ascending.

The glabrous, green ovaries develop into smooth, 3-lobed, light tan capsules. The upper portion of dry (mature) capsules open along seams, and seeds drop out when stems are shaken or capsules disintegrate. Black, hard, globular seeds are about 1/16 inch wide.

Photo 6: Walls of the drying capsules become translucent before splitting open at the top, releasing the black seeds. Photo – May 1. (Squares = ¼ inch.)

Crow poison may be appropriate for a native plant garden or, more so, for a natural area. While individual clumps stay “tidy,” self-seeding may extend a colony further than desired. The plant is an early spring food source for small butterflies, bees and flies. Its grass-like leaves add textural variety to a garden. One non-native species of Nothoscordum, N. gracile (slender false garlic), has now been documented naturalizing in Arkansas. It has wider leaves (to 1/2 inch wide) and tepals that are connate (united) in their lower third. Like crow poison, slender false garlic does not have an onion or garlic scent.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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COVID-19 – All ANPS Field Trips and Events Cancelled through June 1

Dear ANPS Members,

Given the current situation with COVID-19 we are cancelling the ANPS Spring Meeting scheduled for May 15-17, 2020 in northwest Arkansas. While we will miss the gathering together of botany minded people across the state, we do not feel it is worth the risk.

Additionally, all field trips through June 1st are cancelled.

That said, Betty Owen is working diligently on Claytonia and hopes to get it out to you all in the next couple weeks.

Everyone stay safe and don’t go out anymore than you need to.

Becky and Susan Hardin
Co Presidents, Arkansas Native Plant Society

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Know Your Natives – Deerberry

Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum) of the Heath (Ericaceae) family is a medium-sized deciduous shrub that has small bell-shaped flowers with flared corolla lobes. The species occurs from east Texas and Oklahoma, northeast to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, it occurs statewide except for some portions of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. The genus name is obscure but presumably derives from the Latin vaccinus, of cows. The specific epithet is a reference to the plant’s distinctive, prominent stamens. Preferred habitat is sunny to partly shaded sites that have well-drained, sandy to rocky, acidic soils, such as dry ridges, glade margins, and upland woods.

Deerberry is a leafy deciduous shrub that may be 1 to 6+ feet tall and wide. Plants, especially in response to injury or fire, produce branching runners that bear roots and support new sprouts (ramets). Shrubs may have several trunks and many ramets of varying age, forming clonal thickets. Shrubs in more sunlight tend to be rounded and densely branched, while those in more shade can become upright and loosely branched.

Photo 1: This rounded deerberry on a sunny site is densely branched and leafy. Shrub in background is sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) Photo – April 17.
Photo 2: On a shady site, deerberry tends to be more upright and loosely branched. Photo – April 24.

In winter, year-old reddish twigs bear small, dormant, terminal and lateral buds that are protected by a few imbricated (overlapping) scales. In late winter, scales are pushed aside as each developing bud yields a single unbranched leaf-bearing or flower-bearing twig. Leaf-bearing twigs occur at or near the exterior of the shrub; early in growth, they are zigzagged, leaf-to-leaf. Flower-bearing twigs are not persistent into the next growing season.

Photo 3: This shrub has several trunks and multiple ramets. The reddish twigs are the leaf-bearing twigs of the previous year. Photo – February 10.

Leaves are simple, cyclically alternate, and smooth-margined. New leaves are yellowish-green, becoming medium green later in the growing season and yellowish to reddish late in the season. Elliptic to oblong-elliptic, leaves are 1 to 3 inches long and ¼ to 1 inch wide, becoming progressively larger toward the twig tip, with rounded to wedge-shaped (cuneate) bases and acuminate to acute apexes. Texture varies from papery (chartaceous) to leathery (coriaceous) in response to available sunlight. Twigs, new leaves, and petioles may be densely pilose early but lose their pubescence with age.

Photo 4: New twigs are leaf-bearing or flower-bearing. Dust on leaves is of an unknown source (pollen?). Photo – April 23.

The inflorescence (on flower-bearing twigs), in mid to late April, is a raceme of up to 10 alternate dangling flowers. Each flower, subtended by a small, leafy bract, is borne on a slender pedicel to ⅜ inch long. The raceme axis tends to be densely pilose; the pedicels are mostly glabrous. Bracts drop off in summer as fruits mature.

Photo 5: Leaf size increases from twig base to twig apex. Flowers, subtended by leafy bracts, are pedicellate. Note vein pattern in this abaxial view.

Flowers, about ¼ inch long and wide, have a yellowish green, bell-shaped (campanulate) calyx with five broadly triangular, recurved lobes and a white, campanulate corolla with five broadly rounded lobes. Ten stamens are strongly exserted from the corolla. Each elaborate stamen comprises a short stubby white filament, two yellow spurs at the filament-anther junction, and an anther whose sacs taper into slender tubes. (Pollen typically accumulates in these tubes and is vibrated out by visiting insects.) The ovary is inferior. The style is exserted well beyond the stamens, the stigma becoming receptive only after pollen from the same flower is dispersed––an adaptation that promotes cross-pollination. 

Photo 6: Styles and anther tubes become exserted while corollas are still greenish. Anther sacs where pollen is produced are not yet visible. Photo – April 5.
Photo 7: In flowers at center and lower right, anther tubes are withering. With pollen dispersed, stigmatic surfaces are presumably receptive. Photo – April 22.

The inferior ovaries have five chambers with axile placentation. With fertilization, corolla and stamens drop off the developing fruit; the calyx persists. Fruits, ovoid “blueberries,” to about ⅜ inch wide, can be greenish, yellowish, blue or purplish at maturity. They ripen by late summer.

Photo 8: The ovoid fruits retain their persistent calyxes. Ripe fruit, when they drop-off in late summer, tend to still be greenish. Photo – June 15.

Deerberry is a compact leafy shrub that has visual appeal year-round and may be an excellent choice in a natural area, as a specimen plant, a grouping, or an informal hedge-row. The species is not noted to be an aggressive self-seeder. Clumps may develop, but should not be detrimental in a natural setting. Deerberry does well in well-drained rocky soils and is drought tolerant, when established. Plants are an important food source for insects, birds, and small mammals. They provide nectar for bees and butterflies and are host plants for red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) and other butterflies and moths. They are subject to deer “damage.” Palatability for humans is variable depending on the particular source-shrub and personal taste.  

Photo 9: Flowers and fruit of deerberry are an important food source for insects, birds and small mammals. The chrysalis is a red-spotted purple.

Other species of the genus that occur in Arkansas are sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), Elliott’s blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii), black highbush blueberry (Vaccinium fuscatum), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), and highbush or common blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum). Distinguishing characteristics that make deerberry comparatively easy to identify include 1) bracteate inflorescences, 2) flowers with flared, bell-shaped corollas and exserted styles and stamens, and 3) mature mostly green fruit that drop off in late summer.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Large-Flower Bellwort

Large-flower bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) of the Bellwort (Colchicaceae) family, formerly of the Lily (Liliaceae) family, is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial with dangling yellow flowers. It occurs in the U.S. primarily from the Ouachita Mountains to northern Minnesota, east to New York, and thence south and west along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Alabama, Mississippi and northeastern Arkansas. Here in Arkansas, it is found throughout the Interior Highlands as well as on Crowley’s Ridge. The genus name is based on a Latin word meaning “palate,” in apparent reference to its dangling flowers suggesting the uvula. The specific epithet is the Latin for “large-flowered.” Other common names include bellflower and merrybells. Preferred habitats are deciduous woodlands with rich well-drained soils.

The rootstock of a mature plant consists of a compact, slowly expanding, shallow, white clump of short rhizomes supported by numerous descending white fleshy roots. Pointed, white stems develop below the surface over winter and, in early spring, push through to the surface. These early stems are covered by a sheath formed by several elongate bracts. With rapid spring growth, a full-sized terminal flower quickly pushes through the bracts, along with several nearly full-sized leaves. As stems continue to grow with additional flowers and associated leaves, their tips bend and the mature flowers become pendulous.

Photo 1: New sprouts, developing in the soil over winter, are supported by fleshy roots. Photo – November 5.
Photo 2: The first flower and associated leaves appear shortly after a stem extends out of a protective sheath of bracts. The stub-nosed bracts remain at the base of stem. Photo – March 18.

Mature stems have alternate, widely spaced leaves. New leaves are broadly lanceolate with curled margins; mature leaves (to 5 inches long and 2 inches wide) become more elliptic and flattened, with an acuminate apex. Leaf bases are perfoliate: the petiole attaches not to the leaf margin but to the blade itself, creating a rounded or somewhat lobed basal projection around the stem. The width of this projection decreases up the stem and ultimate apical leaves (when a flower is not present) are not perfoliate. The lower leaf surface is covered with very fine, dense pubescence which may cause leaf color to be whitish (canescent). Stems (to 2 feet long) are glabrous (smooth) and slightly glaucous (covered with a bluish haze). After flowering, the main stems become stronger and more erect, though arching still, and a zigzag form becomes apparent.

Photo 3: Single flowers are borne on side-stems as the dominant stem continues to elongate from the node.

In late March into April, flowers reach anthesis, the bloom period of a mature clump extending for a week or more. Slender pedicels are to about 1 inch long.

Photo 4: The weak apical portion of growing stems bends down. Margins of new leaves tend to be revolute. Note perfoliate leaf structure. (Ultimate apical leaves are not perfoliate.) Photo – April 7.

The dangling flowers, 1½ inches long, are elongate and bell-shaped (campanulate), with a perianth of six yellow sepals and petals, six stamens, and a style divided into three stigmatic lobes. The lanceolate, smooth, twisted perianth effectively hides the ½ inch+ stamens and style. Perianth bases are greenish. Stamens comprise stubby white filaments capped with slender, elongate, pale yellow anthers. Filaments, ⅓ the length of the anthers, are flattened and curved about the ovary. The pale green, rounded, three-loculed ovary is superior, attaching directly to the pedicel. Perianth parts are smooth on both inside and outside. Pollen is light yellow.

Photo 5: Paired side and main stems are subtended by perfoliate leaves. Leaves broaden as they mature so that parallel venation becomes arched. Both surfaces of leaves are shown.
Photo 6: Stamens, with stubby white filaments (bent around ovary), bear elongate light yellow anthers that produce light yellow pollen. Tip of pistil divides to expose three stigmatic lobes.

Fertilized flowers produce rounded, three-lobed capsules about ⅓ inch long and wide. In late summer, capsules split along three seams to expose several irregularly rounded seeds in each cell. Seeds are equipped with elaiosomes (food packets) that attract ants to assist in seed dispersal. Dry seeds are dark brown. (A developing fruit is shown at left-center of Photo 4.)

For a native plant garden or natural area with fertile mesic soil shaded by deciduous trees, large-flowered bellwort is an excellent choice. Flowers appear early in spring and nicely textured leaves remain into late summer. This long-lived perennial forms tight vase-shaped clumps that can be divided in fall. It is not noted for spreading by seed. The yellow pendulous flowers and distinctive foliage mix well with spring ephemerals and ferns. Various bees feed on the nectar and pollen. It is a preferred forage for deer.

In addition to large-flowered bellwort, two other species of Uvularia occur in Arkansas: perfoliate bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) in the Ouachita Mountains and sessile-leaf bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia), mostly in the western two-thirds of the state. Large-flowered bellwort can be easily distinguished from the latter by its perfoliate leaves and from the former (on close inspection) by the smooth texture of its sepals and petals––sepals and petals of perfoliate bellwort are granular pubescent within. 

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) of the Sunflower, Aster or Composite (Asteraceae) family has distinctive, highly dissected, frilly leaves. The species, the only Arkansas member of the genus Achillea, is native to North America, Asia, and Europe––one of the widest worldwide ranges among the flowering plants. It occurs across almost the entire U.S., including throughout all of Arkansas. The genus name originates from “Achilles,” the mythological Greek hero of the Trojan Wars, who is said to have discovered the plant’s healing powers. The specific epithet, from Latin, means “thousand-leaved.” Other vernacular names include milfoil (based on the French word for “thousand-leaved”), soldier’s woundwort, woolly yarrow, and thousand-leaf. Preferred habitat is well drained soils in full sun in prairies, grasslands, and roadsides, and occasionally, in partial sun of open woodlands.

This herbaceous perennial may occur as individual clumps, larger communities of intertwined clones, or as thick “weedy” stands. It has shallow, skinny, horizontal rhizomes that give rise to long thread-like roots. New rosettes of basal leaves, growing from rhizome tips, are present in mid-winter. Erect stems, beginning development in late winter, eventually mature at 2-3 feet tall. Stems are unbranched to the inflorescence and typically covered with short woolly pubescence. Flowering occurs from May to June. After seeds mature in August, dead stems recline and persist into winter. Crushed plants have a strong scent that is comparable to chrysanthemums.

Photo 1: Rosettes of basal leaves grow during winter months. Photo – late March.

Compound basal and cauline leaves are bipinnately divided and dissected, with closely spaced, finely cut leaflets throughout. Basal leaves grow to 8 inches long and ½ inch wide, their largest leaflets occurring near mid-leaf. Leaflets terminate in sharp, yet flexible mucronate points. Leaflets and sub-leaflets are lightly twisted in various planes so that a leaf appears frilly and soft. Alternate, well-spaced cauline leaves are sessile to sub-sessile and cyclically arranged. Leaf pubescence varies from hairy to nearly glabrous.

Photo 2: Basal leaves, showing upper side (above) and lower side (below). Complexity of sub-leaflets decreases toward leaf base and apex. Photo – mid-January.


Photo 3: Cauline leaves are alternate and cyclic about the stems. Stems are erect, but easily damaged by wind and rain. Photo – late April.
Photo 4: Cauline leaves have the same appearance as basal leaves (see Photo 2). Note pubescence of stems. Photo – late April.

Yarrow produces a terminal inflorescence in April and May. Branches are cyclically arranged below the stem apex, with the longest branches lower on the stem. The ascending sturdy branches divide into peduncles (stalks of multiple flower heads) and, ultimately, into pedicels (stalks of individual flower heads). Each branch produces a corymbose inflorescence which, merging with other branches, forms a compound corymb with a flat to slightly domed top 2 to 4 inches broad. Compound corymbs may consist of 150 to 200+ small flower heads (¼ inch long and across) that are tightly spaced to partially overlapping. Branches, peduncles, and pedicels are a pale green with short pilose pubescence.

Photo 5: This compound corymb is composed of several smaller corymbs, each on a separate branch. Nectar and pollen attract a wide variety of insects. Photo – early June.

Each composite flower head comprises 4-6 pistillate ray florets which surround 8-20 perfect disk florets. Corollas of the ray florets, white to occasionally pink, bear a broadly rounded, shallowly 3-lobed, white ligule atop a slender hidden tube that attaches to the apex of an inferior ovary. The cream-colored tubular disk florets have five recurved, short, triangular corolla lobes. A ring of 5 yellow disk floret anthers emerges from the disk corolla, after which the style, acting as a kind of plunger, is exserted through the anther ring and presents the pollen, making it available to pollinating insects. After pollen is disbursed, the styles (of both ray and disk florets) split and recurve as their stigmas become receptive.

Florets are tightly contained by an elongate involucre composed of imbricated, appressed, oblong-lanceolate, hairy phyllaries (bracts). Phyllaries have yellow apices, a narrow pale-green lanceolate midrib, and wide light-colored scarious (thin and dry) borders. 

Photo 6: Display shows lower and upper side of a portion of a compound corymb. Phyllaries have a green midrib and scarious borders. Yellow elongate anthers of several disk florets that are approaching anthesis can be seen. Photo – mid-May.
Photo 7: The composite flower heads have 4 to 6 pistillate ray florets surrounding 8 to 20 perfect disk florets. As shown, anthers of most disk florets have already dispersed pollen and exserted styles are bifurcated. Photo- mid-May.

With fertilization, ray and disk florets produce light tan, oblong, flattened, 1-seeded achenes. No pappus is present. The flat apical edge of the achenes bears a central raised scar which results from attachment of the corolla tube. The light-weight seeds are dispersed short distances by wind.

In well-drained soil, yarrow is both a widely cultivated ornamental as well as a lovely addition to a native plant garden or natural area, appreciated for its winter foliage, its distinctive finely textured leaves year round, and its (usually) bright white inflorescence. The slender stems are subject to wind and rain damage and decline soon after seeds mature. Plants can spread aggressively by rhizomes and self-seeding. Removal of spent stems after bloom restricts plant-spread by self-seeding and keeps plants tidy in late summer. Nectar and pollen attract a wide variety of insects. Yarrow is drought-resistant and is not preferred by deer or rabbits. It has a rich history of medicinal and herbal use.

Characteristics of yarrow’s leaves are sufficiently distinct so that it is readily distinguished from any other native (or non-native) species occurring in the state.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Buttonbush

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) of the Madder or Coffee (Rubiaceae) family is a deciduous wetland shrub with many small radiating flowers packed into tight spherical heads. It occurs across a large area of the eastern U.S. from the Big Bend area of Texas, northeastward into southeastern Minnesota, and east to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. There are also disjunct populations in portions of Arizona and California. In Arkansas, it occurs statewide. The genus name is from Greek words for “head” and “flower.” The specific epithet, from Latin, translates to “of the West.” Other common names include button-willow and honey-bells. Preferred habitat is sunny to shaded wetlands that may be subject to periodic and even extended flooding, such as swamp and pond margins, marshes, swales, floodplains, and drainages.

Buttonbush is an upright to spreading woody shrub––the only woody member of the Coffee family in Arkansas––with a typical height of 3 to 8 feet, but may attain small-tree size especially in heavy shade. New branches are smooth and green with white lenticels. In subsequent years, branches darken to brown or reddish brown and lenticels become corky. Ultimately, trunks and branches become gray and fissured. 

Photo 1: Buttonbush growing in a small wetland site, this old shrub has an open structure and fissured bark.

Simple leaves, developing in late spring, occur as opposite pairs or whorls of three or four, growing from swollen nodes. Blades are ovate to elliptical with entire margins, acuminate tips, and rounded to narrowed bases. Leaves expand to 7 inches long and 4 inches wide, including slender 1½ inch-long petioles. The upper leaf surface is a shiny dark green (less shiny later in growing season), while the lower surface is duller. Ascending petioles are reddish to brownish. Triangular, persistent, reddish stipules, to about ⅛ inch long, occur beside the petioles and leave minute line-scars around the nodes. 

Photo 2: Opposite, simple leaves can be so regular that a short branch appears like a compound leaf. Photo – July 6.
Photo 3: Display of branches (youngest at top). The top branch retains a tiny, bract-like stipule (to left of leaf scar) and an obscure dormant bud (bump directly above leaf scar). Note corky lenticels and splitting bark on older branches. Photo- January 7.

The inflorescence consists of showy, fragrant, spherical flower heads that occur singly at the branch tips and in 2-4 opposite pairs below. Whorls of 3 or 4 may occur and sometimes flower heads and leaves occur in the same whorl. Heads are from ¾ to 1¼ inches in diameter and comprise several hundred small, sessile, tubular, equal-sized flowers. Flowers begin to bloom in early June. All flowers of a head reach anthesis at the same time and, but with up to a dozen heads on a branch blooming successively, the bloom period may extend over a month. After fruits have matured and shed seeds, the peduncles die back to the leaf nodes below.

Photo 4: Secondary leaf veins curve toward the margin and become parallel to the margin. Reddish stipules occur on swollen leaf nodes, beside the petioles. Upper leaf blades have a rugose appearance. Photo – August 2.

The ⅓-inch-long fragrant white flowers are composed of a long slender, tubular corolla and a small shallow pale green four-lobed calyx about ¼ inch long. The corolla has four oval, ascending, flared lobes. Single black dots occur outside the tube, where corolla lobes and tube join. Flowers have four short white filaments with brownish yellow round anthers and a white style topped with a light yellow stigma. While the filaments and anthers are positioned at the mouth of the tube; the long styles protrude well above the corolla so that heads at anthesis have a prickly appearance. Filaments are adnate to the tube in its upper portion. The ovaries are inferior––calyx and corolla are attached at the summit of the ovary, not at the base.

Photo 5: White tubular flowers are set in stubby green calyxes and in tight, spherical heads. (Small leaves below the flower head on this branch are not typical.) Photo – August 2.

After blooming, flowers quickly wilt and drop off to reveal a sphere of empty, sturdy green calyxes. Calyxes gradually shrink to form the squarish indented apex of the fruits. The green heads may become reddish before drying to a light tan and then dark brown. Fruits, ¼ inch long, have straight sides that taper sharply to the base (narrowly conical). The tightly packed head forms a hard, rough sphere with a diameter to about ⅞ inch and may contain more than 250 fruits. With peduncles and immediately adjacent branches dying, dangling fruit heads persist over the winter months. Fruits may contain one or two nutlets, but often ovules do not develop into viable seeds. Fruits are dispersed by birds and water.

Photo 6: Calyxes persist as fruits develop. Fruit head may become reddish before drying to light tan and then dark brown. Photo – September 10.
Photo 7: A head may contain several hundred narrowly conical nutlets that are ¼ inch long. Photo – November 14.

In a native plant garden, butterfly garden, or natural area, buttonbush is well suited for a consistently wet to shallow-water or boggy site. It is adaptable to less wet sites, but will need supplemental watering until well established. With its open growth habit, it has a strong structural appearance in winter months. Flowering is more profuse in sunnier sites. Flower heads are very showy and attract butterflies, bees, and many other insects, as well as hummingbirds. Fruits are eaten by ducks and a variety of other birds. Fruit heads, persisting for six months or more, are attractive and distinctive over winter months. A grouping of shrubs is effective in controlling erosion on pond banks. Plants propagate easily from cuttings. It is not an aggressive self-seeder. Buttonbush is a poisonous plant (contains cephalathin).

Photo 8: Fruit heads persist into winter months. Upper portion of branches, which have borne the flower heads, die after fruits have matured.

Buttonbush is the only species of the genus that occurs in Arkansas. Its preferred habitat  and the appearance if its spherical flower and fruit heads allow it to be readily distinguished from other shrubs and small trees that have simple, opposite, entire leaves. In addition to its wide range in the Lower 48, the species occurs south of the border, in Mexico and Central America, and to the north in southeastern Canada.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Hairy Lipfern

Hairy lipfern (Cheilanthes lanosa)* of the Brake Fern (Pteridaceae) family, formerly of the Polypody (Polypodiaceae) family, is a small to moderate-sized evergreen fern with delicate fronds. It occurs at higher elevations from Oklahoma to Connecticut, principally in the following physiographic provinces: Interior Highlands, Interior Low Plateaus, Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge and Piedmont. In Arkansas, it occurs in rocky elevated areas of the Interior Highlands which stretch across the northwestern half of the state. The genus name combines Greek words for “margin” and “flower,” from the marginal sori (fruit dots). The specific epithet describes the pubescence. The common name “lipfern” refers to revolute (turned-under) pinna margins. Its preferred habitat is dry soils on sunny rocky ledges and slopes, as well as in open woodlands.

Hairy lipfern has a shallow, creeping rootstock composed of branching and tightly intermingled rhizomes that are supported by a thick mat of fibrous roots. In spring, closely spaced fronds with nodding apexes emerge from rhizome tips. The slow growing plants gradually expand outward to produce a thick mass of fronds. Fronds curl up during a summer drought but, like the epiphytic resurrection fern, unfurl again with renewed moisture. Fronds remain viable through winter and die the following summer. Dead fronds gradually decay over several years.

Fronds (leaves) are evergreen. Initially light green, with long pubescence on the stipe (petiole) and rachis (midrib), they mature to a medium green, the pubescence becoming light brown, shorter and more scattered. Hairs on mature leaves do not hide the dark purple surface of the stipe and rachis.

Photo 1: In this mid-March photo, new leaves are covered with long dense hairs. Previous year’s evergreen leaves can be seen to left and right.
Photo 2: In this mid-June photo, new leaves are maturing as the previous year’s leaves decline.

Mature sterile and fertile fronds, viewed from above, have the same appearance. The ascending, lanceolate, thrice-cut fronds are 6 to 12 inches long and 1 to 1½ inches wide. Blades tend to be two to three times longer than their wiry stipes. Fronds have up to about 20 pairs of pinnae (leaflets). Proximal pinnae are nearly opposite and widely spaced but become sub-opposite to alternate toward the apex. Short pinnae near the apex are in contact with each other and merge together. Longest pinnae tend to be near the middle of the rachis. The symmetrical pinnae are cut into one to ten pairs of opposite to alternate pinnules (secondary leaflets). Pinnae are to ⅝ inch long, with rounded apexes. Margins of pinnae are revolute so that a narrow continuous lip is formed on the abaxial (lower) surface––the adaxial (upper) surface thus appears flexed-up and the abaxial surface sunken. Both surfaces are sparsely hairy. Veins are obscure.

Photo 3: Display shows two sterile fronds on left and two fertile fronds on right. Adaxial (upper) surfaces are shown on far left and far right, abaxial (lower) surfaces at center. Photo – July 31.

Fertile fronds, on the abaxial surface, bear clusters of tiny ball-like sori (each sorus a cluster of sporangia) aligned with pinnule margins and mostly concentrated at the lobes. Sori are mostly exposed outside the marginal lip. Sori change from light green to dark brown before becoming golden yellow with spore dispersal in summer. Sori are naked (without covering structures called indusia).

Photo 4: Display shows abaxial sides of a sterile frond (left) and fertile frond (right). Sori are clustered along revolute margins, especially within the lobes of the pinnules. Upper pinnae become shorter and closer together. Photo – July 25.

With spores dispersed, the reproductive activity of the “sporophyte” phase of the fern’s life cycle concludes. In the soil, spores germinate to produce a prothallus, the “gametophyte” phase. The tiny prothallus produces sperm and egg. Sperm swim through ground moisture to fertilize eggs that have remained attached to the prothallus. Fertilization produces a zygote that, in turn, develops into a new sporophyte plant.

Photo 5: This pinna has about 10 sub-opposite to alternate pinnules. In this mid-July photo, sori have dried and spores are being dispersed.

In a garden environment, hairy lipfern would be a compact plant that would add texture and character throughout the year. It is one of few ferns that grows well in sunny, dry, rocky sites. In a garden, it is not noted for spreading by spores. This fern, once established, survives drought well. It is not favored by deer or rabbits.

Four other lipferns occur in Arkansas: Alabama lipfern (Cheilanthes alabamensis), Eaton’s lipfern (Cheilanthes eatonii), slender lipfern (Cheilanthes feei), and woolly lipfern (Cheilanthes tomentosa). Of these species, the appearance of hairy lipfern is most similar to woolly lipfern. (To make matters more confusing, hairy lip fern’s species epithet means woolly and woolly lip fern’s epithet means hairy.) Hairy lipfern is significantly smaller than woolly lipfern, and has hirsute pubescence rather than woolly pubescence.

Photo 6: This mid-June photo, shows hairy lipfern (right) and woolly lipfern (left). Hairy lipfern is smaller and has green leaves as compared to the larger bluish gray of woolly lipfern.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Sensitive Fern

Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) of the Sensitive Fern (Onocleaceae) family, formerly of the Polypody Fern (Polypodiaceae) family, is a widespread fern with dimorphic fronds (leaves): deciduous, sterile, photosynthetic (green) fronds and persistent, non-green, fertile fronds. The genus name is from the Greek for “closed cup,” from the rolled pinnules (divisions of pinnae) that conceal the sori (fruit dots). The specific epithet is Latin for “sensitive.” This monotypic fern (only species in the genus) occurs across the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, as well as in eastern Asia. In Arkansas, it occurs statewide. Natural habitat is shaded to sunny areas that are consistently damp to wet, such as swamps, marshes, seeps, ditches, bottomland forests, and margins of streams and lakes. The sterile fronds are “sensitive” to cold temperatures, dying with the first light frost. It is also called “bead fern” from the bead-like pinnules of fertile fronds.

The rootstock consists of shallow dark brown to black creeping rhizomes with occasional branches. With the rhizomes overlapping, thick colonies develop in favorable sites. New fronds grow from these rhizomes. The thickened bases of fronds parallel the rhizome, but stipes (leaf stalks) quickly turn to exit the soil vertically. Dead infertile fronds decay quickly, while their bases remain attached to the rhizomes for several years. Fertile fronds persist for over a year, with their bases persisting for several additional years. 

Photo 1: As shown, actively growing rhizome tips are growing toward the viewer; previous years’ pinnae bases extending away. A segment of a dead rhizomes (⅜ inch in diameter) is positioned at left. Photo – November 27.

Sensitive fern bears once-divided fronds of two distinct forms. Sterile fronds appear in early spring as reddish fiddleheads (also called crosiers), while fertile fronds appear in fall. Green sterile fronds are killed by light frost; fertile fronds remain viable overwinter and release spores the following spring.

Photo 2: In late March, sterile fiddleheads unfurl in this wetland. The beaded fertile fronds (from the previous year) have not yet released spores. Older fertile fronds decline on left.

The yellowish to pale green sterile fronds, 2-3 feet long and 1 foot wide on slender stipes to 1½ feet long, are broad and somewhat triangular in outline, with 6 to 12 opposite to nearly opposite pairs of pinnae (leaflets). Pinnae are lance-elliptic, to 8 inches long and 1½ inches wide, becoming more closely spaced and joined toward frond apex to form blunt lobes. Pinnae margins of smaller plants may be entire or wavy while those of larger plants vary from broadly serrate proximally to more entire distally. Fronds are generally hairless except for short hairs on the veins beneath and a few brown scales along the stipe. Wings appear along the lower rachis and become continuous toward the rounded tip. 

Photo 3: Infertile fronds, with winged rachises, have wavy to broadly serrate margins. A fertile frond, spores still retained, is shown at lower center. Photo – April 24.

Photo 4: Pinnae and wings have a similar appearance. Upper tertiary veins can be seen near lower left corner.

Fertile fronds have few similarities to sterile fronds. A fertile frond may be up to 29 inches tall, including a 19 inch stipe. The strong stipes have a furrowed to flattened upper side and a rounded lower side. Fertile fronds have sharply ascending, narrow pinnae to 2 inches long that bear a dozen or so opposite to near-opposite pairs of green pinnules. The pinnules, on short stalks, have five inrolled, tightly overlapping lobes which enclose firm bead-like clusters of sporangia. Fertile fronds are green in the fall, but stipes become tan in winter as the fertile portions the frond become dark brown. In spring, lobes of pinnules unfold as sporangia release spores. (Occasionally, plants may have pinnae with an appearance that is intermediate between sterile and fertile leaves, forma obtusilobata.)

Photo 5: Pinnae margins of sterile fronds may be entire, wavy, crenulated or broadly serrated. In this mid-October photo, fertile pinnae are recently emerged.

With spores dispersed, the reproductive activity of the “sporophyte phase” of the fern’s life cycle concludes. In the soil, spores germinate to produce a prothallus, the “gametophyte phase.” The tiny prothallus produces sperm and egg. Sperm swim through ground moisture to fertilize eggs that have remained attached to their prothallus. Fertilization produces a zygote that, in turn, develops into a new sporophyte plant.

Photo 6: In this mid-October photo, the new fertile frond on top has pinnules with overlapping lobes that form bead-like clusters. The year-old frond on bottom has open pinnules.

Sensitive fern would be a nice addition to a garden or natural area which has shaded moist areas or sunny wet to mucky sites. In a wetter site, the plant may need a barrier so that it does not spread too aggressively. This medium-sized fern, with plentiful light green sterile fronds during the growing season and prominent winter-time fertile fronds, has a strong structural character. Green or dried fertile fronds work well in floral arrangements.

The characteristics of sensitive fern are unique enough so that it should not be confused with any other native Arkansas ferns. A possible exception is netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata) which also has separate sterile and fertile fronds and may grow in similar habitats. Sterile fronds are similar, however, alternate pinnae of netted chain fern have minutely serrated margins and acute apexes. Fertile fronds are distinct: sporangium clusters of netted chain fern are oblong and sited along narrow pinnae.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Scarlet Rose Mallow

Scarlet rose mallow or swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) of the Mallow or Cotton (Malvaceae) family is a tall herbaceous perennial with large, spectacular, scarlet (rarely white) flowers. The genus name is an old Greek name for “mallow”. The specific epithet is Latin for “scarlet”. The species occurs in scattered areas of the Coastal Plain from Texas to Virginia. In Arkansas it is a plant of conservation concern, occurring presumably naturally only in Lafayette County, but known escaped in several others. Natural habitat consists of sunny to lightly shaded areas of fresh-water swamps, marshes and drainages.

Scarlet rose mallow has a few to multiple erect, terete, smooth and glaucous stems 3 to 6 feet tall, occasionally taller.  Although they die back to the root-crown in winter, they are tough enough to persist among the new growth for several years. Larger plants may have slender, axillary branches which may be several feet long. Branches and petioles (leaf stalks) are also glabrous and glaucous. Stems, branches and petioles are a pastel light green, with reddish shading on the sunny side.

Typical leaves, 5 to 6 inches wide on 2 to 6 inch-long petioles, have a hemp-like, palmate blade composed of five wide-spread, linear-lanceolate, toothed lobes that unite at the petiole or higher in the leaf blade. Leaves are alternate, glabrous, light to medium green above and somewhat lighter beneath. Margins may be highlighted in thin lines of red.

Photo 1: Typical leaves have five linear-lanceolate lobes that attach to the petiole; however, as shown at upper center of photo, less dominant leaves may have three lobes. Sunny sides of stems, branches and petioles have a reddish shading.

Although flowering of scarlet rose mallow may extend for a month or more in mid to late summer, the solitary flowers remain in bloom for only one day each. The large flowers (diameters of 4 to 6 inches!) grow from the axils of the uppermost several to dozen leaves of the stems and branches. Flower buds have a glabrous calyx of five triangular sepals aligned margin-to-margin and united in their lower portion. Subtending the calyx, a raised ring bears 10 to 15 free-standing, ascending, glabrous, linear bracts, the so-called epicalyx, typical of many genera of Malvaceae. The yellowish green sepals may be 2 inches long, the medium green bracts from 1 to 1½ inches long. The persistent calyx and bracts are set on pedicels to 4 inches long.

Photo 2: Flower buds are axillary from uppermost leaves. Leaf margins have irregular serrations. Leaf margins and upper midveins tend to have a reddish line.
Photo 3: Sepals, subtended by linear bracts, loosely protect developing flower buds. Flowers open and close during the daylight hours of a single day.

Large, showy corollas are comprised of five well-separated, spreading, ovate petals, narrowed at the base and flaring to a broadly rounded tip. Petals, inside and out, are red with the throat being deep vibrant red.

Photo 4: Single flowers grow from axils of upper leaves. Position of petals is off-set (alternate) from position of sepals. Linear bracts cradle the calyx. Photo – August 4.

Stamens are fused into a central tubular column (another distinctive character of the Mallow family) to 2½ inches long, through which emerge the 5 styles of the pistil. The styles terminate in disk-shaped stigmas. Along the upper third of the stamen column, slender-stalked anthers emerge. The round purplish anthers split and recurve to expose white pollen. Flowers do not have nectaries. After pollen has been disbursed, stigmas shift from being erect and clustered to recurved.

Photo 5: A central column consists of five styles that are enclosed in a staminal tube bearing stalked anthers. At this point during anthesis, the disk-shaped stigmas are still erect and projecting outward.

Photo 6: At the time of this mid-afternoon photo, petals are beginning to fade, pollen has been disbursed, and disk-shaped stigmas have recurved.

Following anthesis, corolla and stamen column quickly drop-off and the ovary is exposed. Fertilized ovaries, with five chambers, develop into large, glabrous, ovoid capsules. Viewed from the side, capsules have five rounded-triangular “panels” and a rounded apex.  Beginning at the apex, capsules split open into the chambers to release the numerous seeds. Dark brown reniform seeds, roughened by short hairs, are aligned in single rows on axile placentas. Seed dispersal is mainly by gravity and water movement.

Photo 7: Five-chambered ovaries develop into ovoid capsules. Sepals become almost leaf like and persist as capsules dry. The circular joint, at the upper portion of pedicel, can be seen below the capsule at left.
Photo 8: Dry hardened capsules split into the chambers. Dark brown seeds, attached to central placentas, have a roughened surface. An open space occurs at the center of the capsule between the five placentas. Photo – September 13.

Scarlet rose mallow may be appropriate for a garden or natural area with sunny wet areas, such as near ponds and boggy areas. It is a striking plant due to its size, distinctive leaves, and showy flowers. It is excellent as a specimen plant. With its height, stems may need staking. Plants may be lost due to dry soils and extreme cold. Plants, which readily reproduce by seed, can bloom in their second or third year.

Three other native, perennial, white- to pink-flowered species of the genus Hibiscus occur in Arkansas: halberd-leaf rose mallow (H. laevis), woolly rose mallow (H. lasiocarpos), and rose mallow (H. moscheutos). Additionally, two non-native species occur as escaped in the state: rose-of-Sharon (H. syriacus), a shrub, and flower-of-the-hour (H. trionum), an annual. Scarlet rose mallow is easily distinguished by its leaf shape and enormous scarlet flowers.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – White Crownbeard

White crownbeard or white wingstem (Verbesina virginica) of the Aster, Sunflower, or Composite (Asteraceae) family has tall winged stems with domed clusters of white flower heads. In the U.S., it is found primarily from central Texas up through southeast Kansas, across to Maryland and thence to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, the species occurs statewide. The genus name is based on resemblance of the leaves to those of species of verbena. The specific epithet refers to the original description of the species from Virginia. Preferred habitat is partial sunlight found in open, low-lying woodlands and thickets in well-drained mesic soils.

This perennial herb has a woody misshapen root-crown with tough ropy roots. The crown slowly enlarges by forming knobby side-growths from which arise new stems. The core of the crown dies, but persists. Older plants in sunnier sites may produce a half-dozen or more stems.

Photo 1: This 4-inch wide root-crown shows six to eight years of knobby growth. This particular crown supported two green stems; one off-photo to right and one that broke off the partially dead root growth at far left.

Erect, stout, 6-7 ft stems are straight and unbranched except for floral branches near the apex. From ground-level to near the floral branches, stems have prominent fleshy longitudinal wings (see below) and dense short (tomentose) pubescence. With freezing temperatures, “frost flowers” form along green stems and, later, from the base of previously frozen stems––an alternate common name is “frost weed”. Frozen stems often persist into the following year.

Photo 2: Characteristic large leaves and winged stems in spring. Photo – April 12.
Photo 3: Straight, stout stems are not branched except for upper floral branches. Photo – September 6.

White crownbeard has large, widely spaced, alternate cauline leaves. Larger leaves are oval to lanceolate-elliptic while the much smaller leaves on floral branches and within the inflorescence are lanceolate. Largest leaves, at mid-stem, may be 7-10 inches long and 2-4½ inches wide, including a 2-inch petiole. Leaves are short-hirsute (sandpapery) above and downy-puberulent beneath. Blade margins may be entire or have widely spaced small teeth. Lower leaves tend to drop-off late in the growing season.

The leaf margins narrow to winged petioles, the wings extending down the stem in an intriguing mathematical pattern. With the alternate leaves being cyclic, the left petiole wing (at stem side view) extends as a cauline wing to the next-third-leaf below while the right petiole wing of the same leaf extends to the next-fifth-leaf. In cross-section, the wing-bearing portion of stems has five wings. Venation of the cauline wings is perpendicular to the stem (as are veins of petiole wings). Petiole and cauline wings are about ⅛-inch wide.

Photo 4: Petioles are winged by the decurrent leaf blade their entire length. Petiole wings extend straight down stems where they terminate just above a lower petiole. Note venation of leaves and wings. Photo – May 20.

The inflorescence, from August to October, produces round-topped, terminal clusters of 2-4 flower heads 1-1½ inches across. Heads are subtended by pale green, elongate involucres comprising a dozen or so elongate phyllaries (sepal-like bracts) in one or two series. Flower heads have 1-5 pistillate (no stamens) ray florets and 7-15 perfect (pistil and stamens) disk florets. All parts of the inflorescence are densely puberulent.

In bud, the whitish green flower heads (involucres) have an inverted bell shape with ribbed sides and a flat top. Glabrous white disk florets, ¼ inch long and 1/16 inch wide, are tubular with five short acutely triangular, spreading lobes. Disk florets have five stamens topped with dark purple elongate anthers, fused into a ring. After the white pollen is exposed by the white style rising through the anther ring, the style splits and recurves to expose elongate stigmatic surfaces.

The smaller glabrous white ray florets have widely spreading, oval to broadly oblong corollas (ligules) with rounded, notched tips and cupped margins. The white styles of the ray florets also become exserted, split and recurve.

In Composite family florets, the ovaries are said to be “inferior”––the corollas attach not to the stem tip below the ovary (as in, say, a tomato flower) but to the top of the ovary itself (as in an apple flower). In white crownbeard, each corolla bears beside it a pappus of two spiky hairs (awns) also attached to the ovary tip. Morphologically, the pappus represents a highly modified calyx and often aids in seed dispersal.

Photo 5: Pubescent involucres are spread open as florets approach anthesis. White pollen tips the anthers at upper-center. Several florets at photo-center have exserted styles. Photo – September 9.
Photo 6: Except for the corollas and sexual parts, all surfaces within the floral clusters have dense puberulence. Ray florets of a flower head open before disk florets. Note structure of involucres. Photo – October 1.

Fertilized disk florets produce flattened, 1-seeded achenes with a notched apex. The slightly ribbed, gray to black fruit has tan marginal wings from pointed base to flat-topped apex and a pappus of 2 awns. Seed dispersal is by wind, animal or flowing water.

Photo 7: Flattened fruits have winged margins and two awns. Photo – October 13.

In a garden, this stout erect plant with its large leaves would add a dramatic flair, and frost flowers would provide interest into the winter months. However, it may aggressively self-seed so that a natural setting may be more appropriate. In a garden, plant numbers can be restrained by removal of fruit before maturity. Flowers are attractive to butterflies and other insects. It is not favored by deer.

Photo 8: Freezing temperatures rupture the epidermis resulting in slowly leaking sap which freezes upon exposure. With subsequent freezing, frost flowers grow from base of stems. Leafy plant to left is Boott’s Goldenrod. Photo – November 24.

White crownbeard is one of five species in the genus that occur in Arkansas. Two other winged species with yellow flowers are yellow wingstem (V. alternifolia) and yellow crownbeard (V. helianthoides). Rayless crownbeard (V. walteri), a winged species of conservation concern, has white composite flowers composed of disk florets only. Cowpen daisy (V. encelioides) has yellow composite flowers, opposite lower leaves and wingless stems. White crownbeard can be identified by its tall, stout stems bearing large leaves along with its white composite flowers that have few ray florets.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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