Know Your Natives – Ernest’s Spidewort

Ernest’s spiderwort (Tradescantia ernestiana) of the Commelinaceae (Spiderwort) family is an early-blooming, low-growing species, one of the 12 spiderworts that occur in Arkansas. The genus name honors John Tradescant, gardener to Charles I of England, while the specific epithet honors American botanist Ernest Jesse Palmer. This spiderwort occurs in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. In Arkansas, the primary areas of occurrence are the northwestern portion of the Ozark Plateau, the Ouachita Mountains, and higher elevations of the Arkansas Valley. It is also known as woodland spiderwort. The name “spiderwort” has been ascribed to various origins.*

Ernest’s spiderwort occurs in moist sandy to rocky soils in shady to partially shady sites found along wooded slopes, bluffs, woodland edges and lowlands, as well as along drainages and open wet fields. This herbaceous perennial has a multitude of light tan, slender, fleshy roots that radiate outward at shallow depth. Leaves, emerging in mid-winter, are produced in separate basally sheaved, tightly-held clusters, each originating from a separate growth point on a broad, irregular caudex. New clusters develop alongside older clusters and from new growth points around or under the caudex. In favorable sites, dense expanding clumps may form. On any particular plant, a few or many clusters produce a central floral stem.

Photo 1: Some clusters of leaves may produce a floral stem. Inset, showing parts of same plant as in main photo, has arrows indicating developing new clusters. (Leaves damaged by cold temperatures.)

A cluster may have basal leaves only (non-blooming plants) or basal leaves transitioning to cauline (stem) leaves. Leaves higher on stem are spirally arranged and well spaced. Cauline leaves have basal sheaths, tightly wrapped around the stem, with the length of sheath decreasing toward a terminal inflorescence. Largest leaves, at mid-stem, may be to 11 inches long and 1½ inches wide. Leaves are arching and strap-like (broadly linear to lanceolate) and attenuate (gently tapering) to an acute apex. The long, arching and overlapping leaves, in-folded along the upper midrib, give the overall leaf mass an angular appearance. Leaf margins are straight to undulating and entire (uncut). While early leaves are highlighted with reddish shades, later leaves are a lustrous to dull medium green. Leaves are not glaucous (no white coating) and may be glabrous (no pubescence) to puberulent (short soft hairs). Venation is parallel and extends onto sheaths.

Photo 2: First leaves, appearing in mid-winter, may be reddish. Photo – mid March.

Mature plants produce main stems that may have a few secondary stems from the axils of upper cauline leaves. Stems are ascending to arching, glabrous to sparsely pubescent. All parts of the plant are somewhat succulent. With drying soils and warming conditions, plants go dormant by mid-summer; however, with improved conditions, plants may produce new growth. All above-ground evidence of plants disappears soon after they go dormant.

The inflorescences, with blooms from mid to late March into April, are in the form of umbels at the apexes of terminal and secondary stems. Umbels consist of flowers on slender pedicels about an inch or more long, situated between subtending pairs of sessile, leaf-like bracts at the tops of the stems. Pedicels may be glabrous or have short pilose pubescence (thin weak hairs). Length of stems is such that flowers remain within the leaf mass.

When buds first appear, they are pressed together in several stacks. Flowers reach anthesis sequentially, from uppermost to lowermost, initiating bloom when the stem first emerges. With only a few flowers of an umbel in bloom at one time, blooming may continue for a week or two. Buds and flowers are ascending, but after anthesis the spent flowers become nodding to drooping. Flowers open in early morning for a half-day (longer on cooler days).

Photo 3: A clasping, alternate cauline leaf can be seen on left stem along with opposite sessile bracts that subtend the inflorescence. Note tightly stacked buds on right stem. Photo – early April.

Flowers of separate plants range from light to dark pink, blue and purple (rarely white), with the color being shared by petals, filaments, wispy filament hairs, and style. Flowers, to 1½ inches in diameter, have three triangular, light green, boat-shaped sepals. When in bud, sepals are positioned margin-to-margin, forming a tear-drop-shaped calyx. At anthesis, the flower’s three sepals (½ inch long, ¼ inch wide) and three petals spread wide with tips of sepals positioned between petals. Petals are broadly ovate to almost orbicular and very showy. Upper petal margins are variously flexed and may be slightly irregular. Flowers have six ascending stamens with bright yellow anthers and exquisitely beautiful, wispy filament hairs, each hair consisting of single cells visibly connected end-to-end. The colored style, broader than the filaments, bears a white, terminal stigma. The plump ovary is three-chambered. With the passing of anthesis, the calyx again becomes tear-drop shaped and persists into fruiting. The exterior of the sepals is covered with dense, long, pilose pubescence.

Photo 4: Flowers may be light to dark pink, blue or purple. Note the six stamens (with wispy hairs and lobed anthers), single style atop a triangular ovary, and tips of sepals between the petals.
Photo 5: Calyxes, on growing pedicels, are positioned upright in bud and flower, but droop after anthesis. Plant to right is rose vervain (Glandularia canadensis).

With fertilization, three-chambered capsules form that have central placentation. The oval capsules dehisce (split) at their top and sides, spreading wide with the three sections positioned between the sepals. A capsule may produce a half dozen or so flattened, round gray seeds.

For a partially shaded to shady natural area that has moist to wet soils, Ernest’s spiderwort may be a desirable plant. Its mid-winter attractive growth provides early evidence of spring and its early flowers are a highlight of the season. Flower color of various plants varies from light to dark pinks, blues and purples. In more favorable sites, even a large plant remains a non-aggressive self-seeder. Plants disappear in summer, but may have re-growth when conditions improve.

Photo 6: Ernest’s spiderwort can form clumps. In comparison to some other taller spiderwort species, flowers mostly remain within the leaf mass.

Spiderwort species (Tradescantia spp.) are notoriously difficult to tell apart. In Arkansas, five common and seven uncommon spiderworts have been recorded. Characteristics of Ernest’s spiderwort that may help distinguish it from other spiderworts include 1) preference for shady sites, 2) early inflorescence, 3) darker flower colors, 4) wider leaves, 5) shorter clumping habit, and 6) pilose pubescence mostly on sepals and pedicels.

In Arkansas, similar species in similar habitats, easily confused with Ernest’s spiderwort, are the uncommon Ozark spiderwort (Tradescantia ozarkana) and the uncommon Virginia spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). Flowers of Ozark spiderwort are lighter colored (usually white) and have smaller sepals. In Arkansas, its range overlaps with Ernest’s spiderwort, and the two are known to hybridize. Virginia spiderwort typically has blue flowers and narrower leaves. It is at present only found in eastern Arkansas, outside of the range of Ernest’s spiderwort.

*   The term “spiderwort” has several possible origins: 1) leaf arrangement that looks like a “squatting” spider, 2) webby hairs on filaments, and 3) sap of stem can be drawn out into a webby string.

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Know Your Natives – Carolina Larkspur

Carolina larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum subsp. carolinianum) of the Buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family has irregular (bilaterally symmetrical) springtime flowers that are typically deep blue. The genus name is based on a Greek word for “dolphin”, in reference to the shape of flower buds (when viewed from the side). The specific epithet is a reference to one of the Carolinas, presumably the site of the type collection, i.e., the collected specimen upon which the species is based. In the U.S., the species Carolina larkspur occurs from New Mexico to North Dakota, east to Wisconsin, Kentucky, and South Carolina, and south to the Gulf Coast. The typic subspecies discussed here occurs from northeastern Texas and Louisiana, north to Iowa and Illinois, and across the Southeastern states. In Arkansas, it occurs throughout much of the state except for low lying areas of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and West Gulf Coastal Plain. Habitat preference is sunny to partially sunny, dry-mesic to dry sandy or rocky woodlands, glades, prairies and roadsides on various substrates. The species is also known as blue larkspur and wild larkspur.

Carolina larkspur is an herbaceous perennial. It has a ground-hugging rosette of basal leaves in mid-winter, flowers in early spring, and mature fruit in late spring, after which the plant becomes dormant. 

The plant has basal and stem (cauline) leaves that, in outline, have an overall round to triangular shape. Leaf blades are deeply, palmately cut into three primary lobes, a terminal lobe and two laterals, and may be 3+ inches long and wide. Leaves are medium green adaxially, with lighter colored primary veins, and a lighter yellowish green abaxially. Blade and petiole are finely short pubescent to glabrate. Petioles, slender with a widened base, are round in cross-section with a flattened adaxial side . Venation is recessed above and expressed below, with the lower midvein being channeled.

Lobes of the earliest basal leaves have a wedge-shaped base and a fan-like apex. As additional basal leaves grow, their lateral lobes become deeply incised (though not reaching the petiole) so that leaves appear to have five primary lobes. With subsequent new leaves, lobes become more subdivided and sinuses more incised, till ultimately the blades comprise narrow, finger-like lobes, resulting in a “skeletal” appearance. Regardless of the degree of subdivision, lobing retains a pattern-of-three. Basal leaves wither, in age sequence, as the inflorescence develops.

Photo 1: Trifoliate character of leaves is readily seen in older basal leaves. Degree of leaf incision increases with later leaves. Photo – late January.
Photo 2: Structure of basal leaves become increasingly complex; however, trifoliate character of leaf blade and lobes is maintained. Photo – early March.

Stem leaves are widely spaced from stem base to immediately below the inflorescence, where they are replaced with bracts (see below). Leaves are arranged alternately, with lower stem leaves similar to the upper basal leaves. Leaves at the stem base have slender petioles to 6+ inches long; petioles are shorter about mid-stem and absent (leaves sessile) just below the inflorescence. Up-stem, both the size of the leaf blades and the complexity of their lobing decrease. Leaf coloration and venation are the same as that of basal leaves.

Photo 3: As the floral stem develops, the earliest wider-lobed basal leaves have withered. Remaining leaves have a “skeletal” appearance. Lowermost stem-leaves have especially long petioles with widened bases. Photo – late March.

Main stems, to about four feet tall, are erect, straight, terete and, typically, have downy pubescence (puberulent). (A shorter larkspur species that has similar basal leaves and blue flowers is dwarf larkspur, Delphinium tricorne.) Main stems support a raceme that may be a foot or more long. More robust plants may have shorter secondary stems growing from leaf axils at about 45 degrees that support shorter secondary racemes. Flowering proceeds from base to apex with fruits (capsules) already maturing at base as upper flowers continue to bloom. Flowers are each directly subtended by a pair of small opposite, linear bracts.

Photo 4: This robust plant is developing secondary stems at leaf axils along upper portion of main stem. Leaf size and degree of lobing decrease up-stem. Blooms of a much shorter dwarf larkspur can be seen in background. Photo – mid April.
Photo 5: A natural stand of Carolina larkspur in a sunny, rocky glade. Stem at left-foreground bears seed capsules, as upper flowers continue to bloom. Photo – Mid May.

Larkspurs are among the showiest of our native wildflowers. Close examination reveals that it is the petaloid sepals, rather than the petals themselves, that create the main attraction. Flowers, measuring about 1½ inches long and an inch wide, are typically a deep blue, but may be purplish or white. The symmetry is bilateral, described technically as irregular or zygomorphic, with one sepal of the dominant calyx positioned above the flower center and two sepals to either side. From the front of the flower (bee’s eye view), all sepals look the same, broad with a rounded apex and a distinct indentation on the face that corresponds with a green protrusion on the back. However, when viewed from the side, a half-inch-long, up-curved elongate, conical spur extends from the back of the upper sepal. 

Flowers also have four irregular petals that are significantly smaller than the sepals and are generally the same color, but petals may have various markings and color shadings. A matched pair of upper petals is very dissimilar to a matched pair of lower petals. While the sepals are thin in texture, the petals are thickened. The upper petals have an exserted up-flaring triangular portion with larger semi-tubular spurs that extend backward and are enclosed within the spur of the upper sepal.  This complex, compound tube serves as the nectary.

Lower petals, trending downward, are distally broad, rounded, and v-notched. Their outer surface bears long white twisty hairs, especially centered along the notches.

Stamens, pistils and ovaries are hidden below the lower pair of petals, although anthers may be partially visible. Three elongate, stubby whitish ovaries, fused to one another, directly above the pedicel, are in close contact with a number of stamens. Ovaries have stubby tapered styles tipped with the stigmas. Stamens have white flattened twisty filaments and dark elongate anthers.

Photo 6: Five sepals dominate the flowers’ appearance. Four irregular petals are grouped at center. Reproductive parts of flowers are mostly hidden by the two lower petals. Photo – late April.
Photo 7: A larkspur flower exploded to show parts (not Carolina larkspur). #1 – pedicel with pair of bracts. #2 – lower pairs of sepals. #3 – Upper sepal with partial spur; arrows indicate points of attachment. #4 – Upper pair of petals;  arrows indicate point of attachment (note semi-tubular shape with closed distal end). #5 – lower pair of petals. #6 – stamens. #7 – pistils (two of three shown).

The fruit of a fertilized flower comprises three slender, erect, dull-green follicles that are ½ to 1  inch long and fused together below to form a kind of three-parted capsule. The base of the capsule has a raised ring (calyx scar). Follicles are beaked with remnants of their  styles. When dry, the tannish papery follicles split, each along an inward suture at the upper end. Seeds drop free through the opened sutures or when follicles disintegrate. Tannish seeds have roughened, rounded and flattened surfaces.

Carolina larkspurs do well in rocky, sunny sites where soils are well drained. In a garden setting or natural area, mid-winter basal growth provides early greenery. Later stems provide early height to a garden, and blue flowers add dramatic impact, either singly or in groups. Larkspurs are attractive to various bees, including bumblebees, which often take the nectar by piercing the spur. An infestation of aphids can wipe out the inflorescence. Delphiniums are known to be toxic to humans and mammals. 

Two other subspecies of Carolina larkspur grow in Arkansas, both uncommon in the state: pinewoods larkspur (D. carolinianum subsp. vimineum) and plains larkspur (D. carolinianum subsp. virescens). Both are known in Arkansas only from the southwestern portion of the state. In comparison to Carolina larkspur, pinewoods larkspur has fewer, larger leaves with longer petioles and each with three primary, wider divisions. It occurs in sandy soils and is restricted to the Coastal Plain, ranging primarily in south-central and eastern Texas and western Louisiana. Plains larkspur also has fewer leaves with longer petioles, and white to light blue flowers.  It grows throughout the Great Plains, especially in prairies.  Both retain their basal leaves while the plants are in bloom, in comparison to the typic subspecies.

In addition to dwarf larkspur (D. tricorne, noted above), two other species are found in the state, namely, Moore’s delphinium (D. newtonianum) and Trelease’s larkspur (D. treleasei), both of very limited distribution in north (and west-central = Moore’s) Arkansas. Moore’s delphinium grows in moister, shaded sites and has less divided stem leaves and more diffuse inflorescences that bloom from apexes to the bases.  Trelease’s larkspur has flowers on long pedicels and grows exclusively in dolomite (a calcareous type) glades in the central Ozarks Highlands.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Red Buckeye

Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia var. pavia*) of the recently expanded Soapberry (Sapindaceae) family–it now includes the maples from the former Aceraceae as well as the buckeyes and horse-chestnuts previously classified in the Hippocastanaceae–has large, showy red inflorescences in early spring. The genus name, a classical name for an oak tree, is based on the Latin for “edible acorn”; however, red buckeye’s nut-like seeds are poisonous. The specific epithet honors Petrus Pavius, a 16th-century Dutch botanist. In the U.S., this species occurs principally from south-central Texas to southern Illinois, east to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, it occurs statewide except for portions of the western Ozark Highlands and low lying areas along the Mississippi River. Red buckeye’s preferred habitat is the understory or margin of mixed woodlands, on lower slopes, in valleys and along stream banks, in full to mostly partial sun, where deep mesic soils are well drained. Other common names include scarlet buckeye and woolly buckeye. “Buckeye” refers to the appearance of the seed.

Red buckeye may be a shrub or small tree with a height of 20 feet or more (term “tree” used herein). Plants can produce flowers and fruits by their third year when they may be only a foot tall. Mature trees produce a dependable fruit load. Seeds dropped to the ground germinate readily, if they remain moist. Seedlings quickly develop a tap root and leaves.

Mature trees tend to be broad with a rounded top, especially in sunnier sites. Stout new branch segments (herein, term “branch” includes “twigs”) with scattered round lenticels (pores) are typically reddish at first, but become green over the growing season and then greenish gray to gray in subsequent years. Older branches are smooth and round with the small lenticels becoming raised. Younger trunks, with brown and gray splotches, are mostly smooth to slightly fissured and still marked with lenticels. Older trunks have fissured bark with flat blocky plates.

Overwintering apical buds may occur singly (when branch was not terminated by an inflorescence the previous year) or as an opposite bud pair (when branch was terminated with an inflorescence the previous year). Apical buds at the tree’s perimeter are typically reproductive, comprising both embryonic leaves and an inflorescence, and are impressively large. Buds have an outside layer of brown, tightly imbricated scales which, in late winter, spread open as underlying scales grow into strap-like, drooping, pinkish bracts. Scales and bracts quickly fall away as the branch matures.

Red buckeye’s structure is open, with denser branching on sunnier sites. Each year’s new growth produces mostly straight stout segments from a fraction of an inch to a foot long. New spring branch segments have downy hairs (puberulent), which is lost over the growing season. The greatest growth rate occurs on branches that terminate across the crown and, even more so, around the tree’s mid-section. Expansion of the mid-section is due to the dominance of the lower of the two opposite terminal buds, so that near-horizontal branches develop. Heavy fruit loads at the branch tips further enhance this spreading, shrub-like habit. Branches that grow from less dominant buds do not die; they just grow more slowly. When a vertically positioned branch terminates with a pair of opposite buds, two divergent branches develop. Young branches have prominent shield-shaped leaf scars that fade away the second year.

Photo 1: Older trunks become fissured with blocky plates. Inset photo shows a seed (the “buckeye”) and a terminal branch segment: beyond the opposite buds (the lower is dominant) is a dead peduncle (stalk of inflorescence), one branch of which still bears the remains of the fruit wall from which one or more seeds have fallen.  Photo – mid-March.
Photo 2: When branches regularly produce terminal inflorescences and the lower bud of the remaining terminal bud pair dominates year-to-year, near-horizontal branching develops. Photo – Jan 20.

Red buckeye has opposite, palmately compound leaves with five or seven leaflets joining at apex of the petiole (leaf stalk). Leaves are widely spaced along the branch (to 2 inches or more apart) and can grow to be quite large (to about 14 inches wide and long) on long slender petioles (to about 6 inches). Leaflets, broadly lanceolate, on ¼-inch petiolules (leaflet stalks), often droop from the petiole apex. They have a shiny medium green adaxial surface with a yellowish green midrib, a yellowish green abaxial surface, and light reddish petioles with the color extending onto the petiolules. The adaxial surface is typically glabrous (without hairs) while the abaxial surface and petioles have a downy pubescence. Leaflet venation is pinnate, depressed adaxially and expressed abaxially, with the nearly straight secondary veins extending to the margin. All leaves have axillary buds, but typically most new growth arises from the single and paired terminal buds. When soil becomes dry over summer, leaves become yellow and may fall off (in some years, quite early), even as fruits continue to mature. If leaves are lost during summer, additional leaves do not develop until the following spring.

Photo 3: Leaves and terminal inflorescences grow rapidly in early spring. Strap-like, light colored bracts and short brown bud scales are poised to drop off. Photo – March 29.

Reproductive buds produce both leaves and a terminal inflorescence, a panicle, attached immediately above the uppermost pair of leaves. From late March into April, for about two weeks, twenty or more upright flowers clusters grow along the rachis of each inflorescence. Each cluster bears one to five flowers on short pedicels (flower stalks), with larger clusters at the base of the panicles and single flowers near and at the top. Panicles bloom sequentially from base to apex and from the rachis outward.

Red buckeye produces both staminate flowers (fertile stamens and infertile pistil) and perfect flowers (both stamens and pistil fertile) in the same panicles. Staminate and perfect flowers have the same appearance, except styles of the perfect flowers are noticeably exserted. Perfect flowers occur at the lower portion of panicles and close to the rachis. As perfect flowers develop fruit, staminate flowers and their supporting pedicels, as well as other non-fruit-bearing portions of the inflorescence dry and drop off.

Photo 4: Peduncle occurs as a continuation of the branch below. Note early-developing axillary buds; the lower bud is already dominant. Perfect flowers, with exserted white styles, can be seen on left side of rachis. Photo – April 20.

Flowers are spectacular: to 1½ inches long, set in dull red, elongate tubular calyxes, tipped with five triangular lobes. The corolla is composed of two protruding upper and two protruding lateral petals with enlarged rounded apical portions and sharply narrower bases that disappear into the calyx. Upper petals are shorter with a larger rounded apical portion while lower petals are longer with a smaller apical portion. Color of rounded apical portions of petals varies from dark to light red with color of narrow portion being lighter red to yellowish. Rounded apical portion of upper petals flares upwards and backwards while rounded portion of lateral petals extends directly forward. Exterior of petals is about the same color as the calyx. The exposed portion of petals is about half as long as the calyx. Five to eight stamens have light yellowish green filaments supporting reddish anthers. Anthers open lengthwise to expose reddish pollen. Styles of fertile pistils are long, slender, very light reddish to white, and taper to pointed stigmas exserted well-beyond the anthers. Infertile pistils of staminate flowers are short and white. Petals and other internal flower parts are partially or totally covered with downy or twisted pubescence.

Photo 5: Display showing stamens (#1), petals (#2), calyx (#3), fertile pistil with ovary and style (#4), and an infertile pistil (#5). Note pubescence. Photo – April 7.

Fertilized flowers produce large (to 2 inch in diameter), irregularly shaped, ovoid, yellow-brown seed capsules that have thick, smooth, dull, leathery husks. Typically, only one to a half dozen fruits per panicle will reach maturity. In early fall, capsules split (dehisce) along two or three seams, allowing their one to three seeds to drop out. Individual seeds are generally rounded, but may have a peaked end (one seed per capsule) or be rounded with a flattened side or two (two or three seeds per capsule). Seeds are large and nut-like, an inch or more in diameter. The seed coat is shiny reddish brown with a light tan hilum, the scar left where the seed stalk has fallen away. Shrunken seed capsule walls and ultimately the entire inflorescence drop off during winter. Seeds are poisonous to humans.

Photo 6: Fruit capsules will dehice along seams to release seed. Thereafter, entire peduncles drop off. Inset photo shows germinated seed in mid-March. Main photo – Jul 28.

In a formal or natural garden, red buckeye would be a superb addition. It has interesting features throughout the year: showy late winter/early spring growth, spectacular flowers, opposite palmate leaves, intriguing fruit with unique seeds, and attractive winter-time structure of stout twigs and plump, handsome buds. Flowers provide an early food source for hummingbirds which, in turn, provide pollination. This shrub-trending plant can be nudged into a tree form by early removal of lower branches. A heathy tree can produce a large number of seeds which, with help from squirrels, can result in extra plants in the area. Trees in open areas may suffer wind damage due to heavy fruit load and may lose all leaves in mid-summer, due to drying soil.

One other buckeye species occurs naturally in Arkansas, the much larger Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra). Its greenish yellow flowers and spiky seed capsules help separate it from red buckeye. See previous article on Ohio buckeye. Occasional hybrids between red and Ohio buckeye can be found (these plants are called Aesculus ×bushii).

* A second variety of “red” buckeye, yellow buckeye (Aesculus pavia var. flavescens), found in west and central Texas, has same characteristics as red buckeye, except for its yellow flowers. Red and yellow buckeye hybridize naturally. 

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Celandine Poppy

Celandine poppy or wood poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) of the Poppy (Papaveraceae) family is a herbaceous perennial that bears bright yellow flowers in early spring. The genus name is from the Greek for “style” and “bearing” in reference to the flower’s distinctively long style. The specific epithet is also from the Greek, for “two leaves,” in reference to the two opposite stem leaves. In the U.S., the species occurs from Michigan and Pennsylvania south and west to the northern counties of Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia. In Arkansas, it is a species of conservation concern, occurring in a small north-central area of the Ozark plateaus. The common name “celandine” originates from its similarity to greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), a non-native species naturalized from Europe.

Preferred habitat of celandine poppy is deciduous woodlands on partially to fully shady slopes, bottomlands and streambanks, in rich, mesic soils. Roots consist of irregularly shaped, stubby, dark brown rhizomes with white to yellow, long, fleshy roots. Crowns of rhizomes have multiple buds that develop from year to year with growth scars remaining at the end of the growing season. New growth, appearing in late February, remains viable through early summer or longer, depending on soil moisture. Plants have basal leaves and a pair of opposite leaves on the floral stems. The sap is yellow and staining.

Photo 1: This 2-inch-tall rhizome segment has new emergent growth, scars from previous years’ growth, and dormant buds. Photo – late December.
Photo 2: New leaves appear in late February. Inset shows an earlier stage when protective bracts still surrounded new growth.

Deeply lobed basal leaves emerge directly from the rhizome and grow to 8 inches long (including 2½-inch petioles) and 5 inches wide. They are a medium green above and a pale silvery green below. Slender petioles are flattened on the upper side and rounded below, with basal flanges that support emerging leaves and the floral stem. The upper leaf surface is glabrous (hairless) while the lower leaf surface has long, dense, twisty, white hairs. Petioles are also hairy, especially on the lower side. Hairiness of leaves and petioles decreases with age. Venation of the upper leaf surface is slightly suppressed, that of the lower surface expressed. Secondary and tertiary veins divide repeatedly in jerky fashion into the lobes to produce a reticulated pattern. 

Floral stems, light to medium green (occasionally purplish), are terete (round) in cross-section with a scattering of long, white, twisty hairs. They bear a single pair of opposite leaves below the inflorescence. With the ascending stems maturing at about a foot long, the early flowers are positioned just above basal leaves, while later flowers are elevated well above. Floral leaves have the same appearance as basal leaves, except for their shorter petioles.

Photo 3: Flowering plant with many basal leaves and two floral stems, each with a single opposite leaf pair. Hairiness of leaves and stem can be seen. Photo – early April.

One to four slender pedicels, up to 2 inches long and with long scattered hairs, grow from between the stem leaves. Pedicels bear elongate-oval flower buds, nodding at first, that are protected by two densely hairy sepals. As buds turn upward, the corolla pushes out of the enclosing sepals, which then drop off.

Photo 4: A pair of developing stem leaves subtend an umbel consisting of a flower bud on right, a flower on left and a developing seed capsule at center. Note knobby stigma of flower and spent brown stigma atop the capsule.

Showy flowers, up to 2 inches across, in early spring may be present for two or more weeks. Four bright yellow, bowl-shaped petals, typically touching or slightly overlapping, have broad, rounded, crinkly apexes and narrowing bases. The pistil comprises a roughly-textured, knobby stigma on a short stout style above an elongate-ovoid, four-chambered ovary. Yellow hairs cover the ovary. A large number of stamens, positioned in a dense ring around the ovary, have slender, light yellow filaments topped with round, flattened, golden yellow anthers. Flowers (with no nectar) can be self-pollinating.

Photo 5: Bright yellow petals surround a ring of golden yellow stamens. Stigma and ovary are prominent.

With fertilization, style and stigma shrink as the ovary quickly enlarges to an inch-long capsule that dangles near the basal leaves. Capsules mature in late spring, turning inside-out as they dehisce into four segments that fall away. The small, dark brown, shiny, ovoid seeds have white elaiosomes along one edge–these are food for ants that disperse the seeds.

Photo 6: Display of capsules, seeds and upper and lower surfaces of basal leaves. Seeds have white elaiosomes along one edge. Note that hairiness of these mature leaves has been mostly lost. Photo – early May.

For a garden, celandine poppy would provide strong character with its distinctive leaves and bright yellow flowers. This species spreads slowly by short rhizomes, but may be fairly aggressive due to self-seeding in favorable sites. Excess plants can be easily removed. It is avoided by deer and rabbits.

Note: The cultivated, non-native, aggressive greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) is vegetatively hard to distinguish from celandine poppy, but it is not currently recorded as escaped in Arkansas. 

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Woodland Phlox

Woodland phlox, blue phlox or wild sweet William (Phlox divaricata ssp. laphamii) of the Phlox (Polemoniaceae) family is the first phlox to bloom in the spring in Arkansas. The genus name is Greek for “flame,” in reference to many species of the genus with strongly colored corollas. The specific epithet, from the Latin, refers to the clonal “spreading” of the plant or possibly to the spreading branches of the inflorescence. The subspecies name honors Wisconsin scientist Increase A. Lapham.  The species occurs from Texas to South Dakota, thence east and south to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, it occurs statewide.

Woodland phlox grows in rich, well-drained, mesic, sandy to rocky soils in deciduous woodlands, with full or partial shade. Plants also grow in more sunny sites that have dependable moisture, such as stream banks. With prevailing dry conditions, plants may lose leaves and go dormant. 

Stems and pedicels are covered with a dense short, soft, white pubescence, which lessens with time. New stems and pedicels tend to be purplish, becoming green with age. They emerge from shallow, uniformly-sized, slender white roots. There are two stem types.

One stem type produces the inflorescence, referred to herein as a “floral stem.” Floral stems grow to about 14 inches and bear short branches within the inflorescence. They emerge in early winter and die off after fruit matures.

A second stem type, referred to herein as a “clonal stem,” is initially erect, but becomes reclined with new apical growth. As the stems elongate, the older, lower leaves drop off. The leafless portion, surviving over a number of years, may be from an inch to several feet long. As this leafless portion becomes covered with duff, long, slender, white roots and stems emerge from the leafless leaf nodes. Over time, intertwined clonal stems may form mats of evergreen leafy stem apexes.

Photo 1: Floral stems appear in early winter with flowers reaching anthesis in March. Several broad-leafed clonal stems can be seen on the left side of photo.

Leaves of both stem types are similar in that they 1) are in opposite, widely spaced pairs set at 90 degrees to each other (decussate pairs), 2) have a medium green adaxial surface and a lighter green abaxial surface, 3) are sessile to clasping with bases that meet around the stems, 4) have scattered pubescence above and denser shorter pubescence below, and 5) have entire margins. Also for both stem types, pinnate leaf venation consists of a straight, skinny, sharply recessed midrib above and a strongly expressed midrib below, with off-set secondary veins that fade into obscure tertiary veins. The base of the leaf blade ascends from the stem, while the remainder of the blade is flattened toward sunlight with a gentle up-folding along the midrib.

Leaf shape of the two stem types is different. Floral stem leaves are ovate-lanceolate (to 2½ inches long and ½ inch wide) while clonal stem leaves are broadly oval to ovate (to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide).

Photo 2: Floral stems have more-elongate leaves than clonal stems. Note pubescence of leaves and calyxes.
Photo 3: In August, only clonal stems remain. Inset shows a clonal stem in December that has leafy current-year growth and 4 to 5 years of growth that has produced roots and stems at leaf nodes (leaves having dropped off).

The inflorescence, which terminates a floral stem, first appears as a tight spiky cluster of medium green, closed, pointed calyxes and a few small subtending leaves. With growth, this single cluster expands into several loose clusters: a terminal cluster and a couple of upper, axillary clusters. These several small clusters form a rounded (2 to 3 inch wide) inflorescence with 20 or more flowers. Stems and pedicels, purplish, have a dense, short, white pubescence. As corollas approach anthesis, extending well out of the calyxes, they have long slender tubular throats that abruptly widen distally into a shorter, twisted spindle of tightly overlapped corolla lobes.

At anthesis, corolla lobes spread to about one inch wide, with a “smooth” coloration of various shades of blue, lavender and blue-violet. A dark blue to purplish color at the throat entrance is enhanced by being outlined by a lighter shading. Interior and exterior of the throat are a similar dark color. Lobes, with a rounded to slightly peaked apex, are obovate (broader at apex and a wide taper to base) and slightly overlapped. Calyxes, covered with spiky, sticky pubescence, have short cupped bases that are rimmed by five very long, lanceolate lobes. All flowers of a plant bloom at about the same time with bloom period extending over two weeks.

Photo 4: Tightly wrapped corolla lobes unfurl to expose a dark throat. Note the beautiful pinwheel-like overlapping arrangement of the lobes when still in bud, as well as the long teeth of the calyxes and long pubescence of calyxes compared to that of stems and pedicels. Photo – mid March.
Photo 5: This young plant has many floral stems and several clonal stems (to the left and below).

Flowers have five stamens and a pistil, hidden within the corolla tube. Stamens are fused to the tube (rather than to the tip of the pedicel, i.e., the receptacle) and of varying lengths. They have white filaments supporting elongate anthers that produce bright yellow pollen. The style, set on a smooth green ovary, is pale green with a three-part spreading stigma. Ovary, style and stigma are short and about equal length. With fertilization, the ovary becomes a three-chambered, smooth, ovoid fruiting capsule that produces a few seeds. Capsule length is less than ⅛ inch.

Photo 6: Flowers have five adnate stamens of unequal length that bear elongate anthers. With calyx partially and corolla tube fully removed, the pistil, comprising ovary, style and stigmas, is revealed.

Woodland phlox is an ideal plant for shady natural areas, rock gardens and shade gardens that have fertile mesic soil. Its mass flowering in late winter is an early sign of winter’s imminent departure. Clonal colonies and newly seeded plants are not aggressive. With shallow clumping roots, sweet William can grow well with other native species. It may be eaten by deer and rabbits.

Other species of the genus that occur in Arkansas: 1) broad-leaf phlox (Phlox amplifolia), 2) sand phlox or cleft phlox (Phlox bifida – two subspecies), 3) annual phlox (Phlox drummondii), 4) smooth phlox (Phlox glaberrima), 5) garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), 6) downy phlox (Phlox pilosa – two subspecies), and 7) moss phlox (Phlox subulata).

Characteristics of woodland phlox that help separate it from these other species are its 1) broad leaves and sterile clonal stems, 2) hidden stamens, 3) broad corolla lobes with rounded to slightly peaked apexes, and 4) lack of a tap root.

Note: Phlox divaricata ssp. divaricata, another recognized subspecies (not known to occur in Arkansas), has very similar characteristics, except subspecies divaricata has apically notched corolla lobes. The range of subspecies divaricata partially overlaps that of subspecies laphamii, but subspecies divaricata primarily occurs farther east and north. Flower color of subspecies divaricata tends to be more pinkish.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Regulatory changes on the use of the chemical Dicamba in Arkansas

Dear ANPS Member,

The ANPS Board of Officers is carefully following the pending decision to change the Arkansas regulation on the use of the chemical dicamba.  This agricultural herbicide, designed to be used on genetically modified crops resistant to the chemical, has become a controversial issue among both farmers and the ecological communities in the state.
Many ANPS members, board members and our friends in Audubon Arkansas believe that the Arkansas Plant Board should not extend the use of this herbicide beyond April 15th of each year in Arkansas.  The argument is that the volatility of the chemical during the warmer months has a harmful side effect on non-resistant crops, honeybee nectar sources and native plants.  This warm weather use of dicamba could also seriously affect native plants and the native and non-native plant nectar sources for pollinators such as bumblebees, moths, butterflies, other insects, and hummingbirds. 

Yesterday, Gov. Hutchinson approved a thirty day public comment period before a final board meeting to vote on the issue.

Historically the ANPS has not taken a position on matters like this, preferring to instead inform the membership and the public regarding the science involved in any controversial agricultural or land use issue being considered by our local, state and federal government.  

We encourage each member of ANPS to take the time to educate themselves on this issue and then make an individual decision on whether and how to support or oppose the change to the regulation on use of dicamba in Arkansas.  

Both the Governor and the State Plant Board welcome comments from the public.  The 30 day comment period will begin in the next few days. 

Please take a moment to look at the links below for more information. 

Donna Hanke
President, ANPS

Modern Farmer-What is dicamba?

Arkansas Outdoor Country article on the dilemma for Arkansas farmers
Audubon Arkansas Urges Arkansans to Petition the Governor
Arkansas State Plant Board-Dicamba Issue
Contact Information for Arkansas State Plant Board (phone, email, address)
Contact Information for Governor Hutchinson
Governor Asa Hutchinson, State Capitol Room 250, 500 Woodlane Ave., Little Rock, AR 72201   (501) 682-2345
New Dicamba Restrictions Guidelines

AR Plant Board Approves Draft Regulation for 2019 Dicamba Use

Posted in Know Your Natives

Know Your Natives – Woolly Lip Fern

Woolly lip fern (Cheilanthes tomentosa*) of the Brake Fern (Pteridaceae) family, is an evergreen fern that becomes brown and shriveled during drought but revives with renewed moisture. The genus name combines Greek words for “lip” (cheilos) and “flower” (anthos), in reference to the location of the sori or “fruit dots” (see below). The specific epithet describes the plant’s pubescence: tomentose, from the Latin, meaning “with thickly matted hairs”. The common name “lip fern” refers to the smoothly under-turned margins of the pinnae (leaflets). Cheilanthes tomentosa is also called “resurrection fern”, a name that applies to several different species. In the U.S., woolly lip fern occurs across the southern states from Arizona to Virginia, as well as in southeastern Kansas and southern Missouri. It is absent from Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. In Arkansas, it occurs in rocky elevated areas of the Interior Highlands of the northwestern half of the state. Its preferred habitat is dry soils on sunny rocky ledges and slopes, especially in crevices.

Photo 1: Woolly lipfern grows well in sunny rocky area. Photo – May 28.
Photo 1: Woolly lip fern grows well in sunny, rocky areas. Photo May 28.
Photo 2: The fern becomes dehydrated during dry conditions, but revives with renewed moisture. Photo – September 15.
Photo 2: The fern becomes dehydrated during dry conditions, but revives with renewed moisture. Photo September 15.

Woolly lip fern, a clumping fern with an erect rootstock, has a dense tangle of thin, wiry, fibrous roots. The rootstock supports an expanding thick cluster of intermixed living and dead leaves, in the ferns, generally known as fronds. Rootstocks of several individual plants may grow together. New silvery fronds, with down-folded apexes, appear in spring or during summer into fall in response to renewed moisture and even during winter with favorable temperatures. Mature fronds are a bluish to medium green on the adaxial side and a tannish light green on the abaxial side. They ascend from a central point in small plants or randomly in larger plants. In outline, fronds have a linear to lanceolate shape. Mature fronds survive winter temperatures while new fronds may freeze. Fronds remain alive for a year, the older ones dying out in late fall into winter. Pinnae (leaflets) of dying fronds, as well as those that become dry due to drought, curl inward from their sides and apexes. Dead fronds remain attached to the rootstock for years as they gradually disintegrate.

Photo 3: New, mature and dead fronds intermix to form a dense clump. New fronds emerge when moisture is available and temperatures are not freezing. Photo – December 14.
Photo 3: New, mature and dead fronds intermix to form a dense clump. New fronds emerge when moisture is available and temperatures are above freezing. Photo December 14.

Sori, the clusters of spore-producing sporangia, are borne on the abaxial (under) surface of fertile fronds (see below). The adaxial (upper) surfaces of fertile and infertile fronds are indistinguishable. Fronds are generally 8 inches to 16 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Of the total frond length, the rachis (pinna-bearing midrib) tends to be about three times longer than the stipe (frond stalk). Fronds have 40 or so pinnae that are generally alternately arranged along the rachis; however, lower pinnae may be in sub-opposite or even opposite pairs. The largest pinnae tend to be near the middle of the rachis. Spacing between pinnae decreases distally until pinnae near the frond apex are in contact with each other.

Photo 4: Two infertile fronds are to the left (adaxial and abaxial sides shown). Two fertile fronds are to the right (adaxial and abaxial sides shown). Photo – December 14.
Photo 4: Two infertile fronds are to the left (adaxial and abaxial sides shown). Two fertile fronds are to the right (adaxial and abaxial sides shown). Photo December 14.

Dense white pubescence on new fronds gives them a silvery appearance. The pubescence extends around stipe and rachis, petiolules (stalks of pinnae) and costae (midribs of pinnae), as well as over both upper and lower pinna surfaces, though much denser abaxially. As fronds age, pubescence becomes light brown and thinner. Pubescence along the slender, stiff, round stipe and rachis may be scrapped off to expose a dark purple surface.

Woolly lip fern is a thrice-cut fern. Pinnae are more or less flat and tilted toward sunlight. In outline, they are ovate-lanceolate, broadest toward the middle and gradually narrowing to a rounded distal end. Pinna margins are incised with a dozen or so pairs of slightly off-set, apically rounded pinnules (sub-leaflets). The longer pinnules are further cut proximally into apically rounded, oval lobes. Margins of pinnae and pinnules curve from adaxial to abaxial surface to form a narrow continuous lip along the abaxial side.

Photo 5: Display shows abaxial side of an infertile frond (left) and fertile frond (right). In this December 7th photo, outlines of the developing sori can be seen on the right frond. Note the tan pubescence that extends from the rachis onto the costae and pinnae.
Photo 5: Abaxial surfaces of an infertile frond (left) and fertile frond (right). In this December 7th photo, outlines of the developing sori can be seen on the fertile frond. Note the tan pubescence that extends from the rachis onto the costae and pinnae.

Sori, in bumpy linear strips, are adjacent to and slightly covered by the marginal lip. A true indusium (sorus cover) is lacking. Mature sori are smooth and black. Spores, dispersed by breezes, are released in summer.

With spores having been dispersed, the above-ground “diploid sporophyte phase” of a fern’s life cycle (referred to as “alternation of generations”) concludes. In the soil, spores germinate to produce a prothallus, the “haploid gametophyte phase”. For most ferns, the prothallus produces mobile sperm gametes and attached egg gametes, allowing fertilization of the egg and development of a new diploid sporophyte plant. However, woolly lip fern is apogamous–zygotes form without fertilization.

Photo 6: In this May 21st photo, sori are well developed. Note lipped margins and change of pubescence from tan to white. The dense pubescence hides the purple rachis.
Photo 6: In this May 21st photo, sori are well developed. Note lipped margins and change of pubescence from tan to white. The dense pubescence hides the purple rachis.

In a garden environment, woolly lip fern would add texture and character throughout the year. It is one of few ferns that grows well in sunny, dry, rocky sites–a nice selection for rock gardens or for crevices of a rock wall. In an especially favorable site, numerous new plants may appear. Should older plants become unattractive, due to retention of dead fronds, clumps not in crevices are easy to remove. Woolly lip fern survives drought and is not favored by deer.

Four other lip ferns occur in Arkansas; namely, Alabama lip fern (Cheilanthes alabamensis), Eaton’s lip fern (Cheilanthes eatonii), slender lip fern (Cheilanthes feei), and hairy lip fern (Cheilanthes lanosa). Woolly and hairy lip ferns are the two most common lip ferns in the state. Hairy lip fern is significantly smaller than woolly lip fern, and it has less dense pubescence. Additionally, to distinguish woolly lip fern from the other lip ferns, woolly lip fern has 1) a coarser appearance, 2) an erect clumping growth habit, 3) tomentose stalks and pinnae, and 4) alternate pinnae.

Photo 7: Hairy lipfern (lower in photo), smaller than woolly lipfern, has fewer more widely spaced pinnae. In this photo of December 14th, pubescence had been mostly worn away.
Photo 7: Hairy lip fern (lower in photo), smaller than woolly lip fern, has fewer more widely spaced pinnae. In this photo of December 14th, pubescence had been mostly worn away.

* Some authorities classify woolly lip fern as Myriopteris tomentosa.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Sparkleberry

Sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) of the Heath (Ericaceae) family is a blueberry that adds persistent color to the fall-foliage palette. The genus name is ancient, but of no clear meaning–possibly from the Latin vaccinus, “of cows”. The specific epithet is from the Latin, meaning “tree-like”. Sparkleberry occurs from Texas to Kansas east to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, the plant occurs statewide except for especially low and wet areas. The common name “sparkleberry” refers to the shiny fruit. Other common names include farkleberry, tree huckleberry and winter huckleberry. The origin of “farkleberry” is unknown, but may be a misspelling of “sparkleberry”.

Photo 1: Sparkleberry can be tree-like. Its fall color is one of its aesthetic attributes. Photo November 16.

Sparkleberry occurs in a wide variety of well-drained habitats: wooded mountainous areas, rocky outcrops, stream banks and open fields. Preferred sites are dry, sandy to rocky soils overlying sandstone (i.e., preferring acidic soils like most blueberries). More robust plants, with the best fruit production, occur in sunny areas.

Sparkleberry is a shrub or small tree with single or multiple crooked to gnarly trunks and branches, typically growing from 5 to 10 feet tall, but occasionally reaching 20+ feet. Main stems of younger plants and trunks of older plants grow from a compact base. The crown may be leggy, spreading or arching, depending on plant age and site characteristics. All trunks, branches and twigs that are older than the current growing season are woody and rigid. Overall color of trunks and branches is a light to medium gray with reddish areas. Over the years, lower portions of the trunks lose their smaller branches. Finely textured bark may split into narrow exfoliating strips. The shrub is slow-growing, however vertical branches may grow 2 to 4 feet in a single season, as they reach into open areas of the crown.

Photo 2: Trunks of older plants become gnarly. Thin bark exfoliates near the plant’s base to reveal reddish new bark. Photo December 12.

New spring growth is from tips of previous year’s branches, producing a myriad of short, slender, straight, ascending twigs that become a light to dark gray as they “harden” over the growing season. New leaves quickly change from reddish to green. Fruit-bearing racemes (see below), which may terminate twigs, ultimately drop off.

Twigs bear alternate, simple, oval to elliptical leaves, some shrubs dominated by oval leaves, others by elliptical. Mature leaves have a shiny, medium to dark green adaxial (upper) surface and duller, lighter green abaxial (lower) surface. Leaves range from 1 to 3 inches long and ½ to 1¼ inches wide, along with short petioles (1/16 to 1/8 inch). The leathery (coriaceous) leaves typically have rounded to abruptly acute (mucronate) apexes with similarly shaped bases; however, larger leaves may have acuminate (gradually tapering) apexes and wedge-shaped bases. Margins are typically entire, but some leaves may have very short teeth. Leaf pubescence is absent except for short pubescence along principal abaxial veins. In mid-fall, leaves change to various shades of red to purple and, depending on temperatures and wind, may sparingly persist well into winter months.

Venation is pinnate, with adaxial veins being slightly suppressed and abaxial veins being slightly expressed. Five to seven secondary veins angle from the midrib toward the leaf apex, drifting toward the leaf margin, but become “lost” in the tangle of loopy tertiary veins. Elsewhere, tertiary veins connect with secondary veins to form a loopy-reticulated pattern. 

Inflorescences, in late April into May, consist of flowers on twigs of the current season. Flowers are axillary or in terminal racemes, each raceme being a direct extension of the twig. Floral bracts become more or less reduced distally. To 2½ inches long, racemes bear up to a dozen dangling flowers, arranged alternately along the finely pubescent reddish rachis. Flowers are on slender light green pedicels, ½ to ¾ inch long.

At bud-stage, the pale green flower buds have five prominent ribs with sunken areas in between, marking the center-lines of 5 sepals. With anthesis, seemingly inflated white (to slightly pink) corolla tubes become broadly bowl-shaped, narrowing at the tip into 5 short, reflexed lobes that create a small down-facing opening. The corolla is set in a short, pale green, bell-shaped (campanulate) glabrous calyx with 5 short-triangular lobes that press against the corolla’s base. Blooms extend sequentially from lowermost axillary flowers to flowers at raceme tips. Flowers are fragrant.

Photo 3: This shrub has oval coriaceous leaves with entire (uncut) margins. Several leaves have mucronate (tipped) apexes. Note loopy-reticulated vein pattern. Photo May 2.

Flowers have stamens, which remain enclosed within the corolla, and a stout, pale green, exserted, post-like style. Each stamen has a stout white filament capped with a brownish orange, lobed anther that is, in turn, tipped with brownish yellow appendages, of which one is wide and thin and the other round and pointed. These appendages are longer than the pollen-bearing portion of the anther itself. The style terminates with a flat stigmatic surface.

Photo 4: This twig has axillary flowers and flowers along a terminal raceme. Styles are exserted from the corolla. Inset: calyx with pistil (mostly style visible) and stamens with appendage-tipped anthers. Photo May 26.

Shiny fruits (berries) develop over summer, changing from a medium green to reddish and then black in September. Dangling berries, persisting well into winter, are ¼ to ⅜ inch in diameter, the size varying by shrub. Berries have a varying number of developed and undeveloped gritty seeds. Fully developed seeds, about a 1/16 inch long, are irregularly rounded. Early in the season, berries are juicy, with a not-unpleasant but often insipid flavor, the least tasty of our state’s blueberries. Later in season, berries become dry.

Photo 5: Shiny dangling spherical berries change from green to black. Axillary berries and berries in racemes can be seen. Photo September 25.
Photo 6: Display of fruited twigs, as seen from backside. Stubby calyx scars can be seen at top of fruits. Note seed at right. Scale: squares are ¼ inch. Photo November 14.

Sparkleberry, which may be difficult to establish in a garden, can be a highly desirable shrub for a garden or natural area. It has year-round positive attributes with its architectural branches and trunks, fragrant interesting flowers, nicely colored fall leaves, and black berries.

Sparkleberry is a nectar source for butterflies and a host plant for both Henry’s elfin butterfly (Callophrys henrici) and the striped hairstreak (Satyrium liparops). Persistent berries are a dependable food for birds and small mammals well into winter months. Established plants are drought tolerant. In some areas, plants may be browsed by deer.

Other species in the genus that occur in Arkansas are 1) Mayberry (Vaccinium elliottii), 2) High-bush blueberry (Vaccinium fuscatum), 3) Common blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum), 4) Low-bush blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), and 5) Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum).  Characteristics of Vaccinium arboreum that distinguish it from the other five species include large plant size, rigid branches and twigs, bowl-shaped corolla tube, late time of flowering, partial retention of leaves into winter, and persistence of fruit into winter.


Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Arrowhead

Arrowhead (Sagittaria platyphylla) of the Water Plantain (Alismataceae) family is an aquatic perennial of shores and marshes. It is one of eight Sagittaria species found in Arkansas that have “arrowhead” as their common name (see below). The genus name is from the Latin sagitta, an arrow, for the sagittate (arrow-shaped) leaves of some other species in the genus. The specific epithet is Greek for “flat-leaved.” This particular species of arrowhead occurs from Texas to Kansas, east to Virginia and south to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, it is recorded pretty much statewide. Other common names include delta arrowhead, delta duck-potato, and broad-leaf arrowhead.

Arrowhead is an aquatic monocot found on the banks and shallow waters of marshes, swamps, sloughs, and ponds where its roots are either in mud or underwater. Plants do not occur where flow rates are high or water depth exceeds several feet. Soils may be mucky to sandy. The bulb-like corm bears shallow fibrous radiating roots as well as shallow slender underground stolons that extend outward a foot or more. New plants are established at tips of stolons and from seed. Plants can spread aggressively. In slow-moving water, sediments become trapped so that water depth becomes more shallow. Established plants may totally disappear during dry conditions but reappear as wet conditions return.

This arrowhead has three glabrous (hairless) leaf forms that are produced from the basal stem or caudex. Early in the growing season, submerged radiating strap-like leaves (a foot or more long and an inch wide), without petioles, are produced. With warming conditions, plants produce erect narrow strap-like emergent leaves (also without petioles) that extend a foot or more above the water surface, as if testing water depth. In the summer, broad emergent leaves are held well above the water surface on long petioles. If the water level rises above emergent leaves, these leaves tend to die-off.

Arrowhead - Sagittaria platyphylla
Photo 1: Early strap-like leaves are submergent. Several later-growing emergent strap-like leaves can be seen to the right. Photo May 17.
Arrowhead - Sagittaria platyphylla
Photo 2: Strap-like emergent leaves become dominant later in spring as submergent leaves decay. Plant in near foreground is wool-grass bulrush (Scirpus cyperinus). Photo April 18.

The broad summer leaves have ovate to elliptical blades to 15 inches long and 4 inches wide with petioles to about 15 inches long. Some smaller emergent leaves may have lanceolate blades. Upper and lower sides of leaf blades, along with the petioles, are a medium green, with the lower side duller. Leaf blades have entire, thinly recurved margins, a rounded apex terminating in a small acute tip, and broad rounded bases (although occasionally with slightly flared bases). Midribs are a lighter green with abaxial midrib being strongly keeled while adaxial midrib is weakly keeled or suppressed. Widely spaced secondary veins are arcuate and trend toward the blade apex. Narrowly spaced tertiary parallel pinnate veins extend, at about 50 degrees off midrib, to leaf margins, seemingly crossing secondary veins unimpeded. The spongy petioles are triangular in cross-section, with one angle being the continuation of the abaxial midrib and the two lateral angles extending downward from the junction of the leaf blade with the petiole. The two lateral angles become increasingly “flappy” from the lower portion of the petiole down to the caudex, where they channel an emerging younger leaf.

Arrowhead - Sagittaria platyphylla
Photo 3: Emergent summer-time leaves have large blades and long triangular in cross-section petioles. Leaf bases are usually rounded, the apexes tipped. Note venation shown by large leaf. Photo July 17.

Flowers are unisexual. Inflorescences, from spring into fall, develop alongside the leaf bases. Flowers are borne along the inflorescence axis in whorls of three, with pistillate and staminate flowers typically in separate whorls, and the pistillate lowermost. The inflorescence is significantly shorter than the broad emergent leaves. Each floral whorl is subtended by three broad, striated, medium green, connate (joined at their bases) bracts which, at first, totally cover developing whorls, but dry into tissue-thin persistent brown flaps as flowers reach anthesis.

Male and female flowers (to ¾ inch wide), with three broadly rounded, green, cupped, persistent sepals (to ⅓ inch long) and three broadly rounded, clawed, white petals (to ⅝ inch long), are on ascending pedicels (from ¼ to 2 inches long) at time of bloom. Pistillate flowers, reaching anthesis before staminate flowers, have a prominent, slightly flattened, yellowish-green, globoid cluster of numerous pistils tipped with short styles, the tips angled toward the top of the cluster. Staminate flowers, on more slender pedicels, have multiple stamens with light colored filaments and bright yellow, two-part anthers. The pedicels of pistillate flowers strengthen and recurve downward as fruits develop, whereas those of staminate flowers remain ascending and fade after pollen release.

Arrowhead - Sagittaria platyphylla
Photo 4: Two lowermost whorls of both stems are pistillate. Pedicels of pistillate flowers recurve downward as fruits develop. Open flowers on the higher stem are staminate–note their more slender pedicels. Photo September 26.
Arrowhead - Sagittaria platyphylla
Photo 5: Staminate flowers have two-lobed yellow anthers. Higher-positioned immature whorls, at center of photo, also appear to be staminate. Photo June 7.

Fertilized flowers produce a solid globoid cluster (to ½ inch across) of achenes. Achenes have small beaks (remnants of styles) that give the exterior of the cluster a roughened texture. Mature, flattened, 1/10-inch-long achenes have a bent-oblong shape, with the beak off-set to one side and with narrow lateral wings. The buoyant achenes are easily dispersed by water movement. They produce grass-like seedlings.

Arrowhead - Sagittaria platyphylla
Photo 6: Fruiting heads consist of numerous achenes. Achene beaks give heads a roughened texture. Photo November 17.

For a water garden or boggy area, arrowhead may be a suitable addition. (Its aggressive nature should be understood before its introduction.) The plant propagates by seeds, corms, stolons and parts of stolons. A dense growth of arrowhead can provide welcome habitat for frogs, turtles and many insects and spiders. Arrowhead can survive periods of dry soil.

Along with Sagittaria platyphylla, the subject of this article, Arkansas has several other native species of arrowhead: Sagittaria australis, Sagittaria brevirostra, Sagittaria graminea (grass-leaf arrowhead), Sagittaria latifolia (duck-potato), Sagittaria montevidensis subsp. calycina, Sagittaria papillosa, and Sagittaria rigida (stiff-leaf arrowhead). Of these, S. graminea, S. papillosa, and S. rigida have leaf shapes that are similar to S. platyphylla. Sagittaria platyphylla can be distinguished from each of them by one or more of the following characters: 1) floral stems that are not branched, 2) floral stems that are shorter than the broad-emergent leaves, 3) broad-emergent leaves that have triangular petioles, 4) pistillate flowers and fruits that are not sessile, 5) fruiting pedicels that are recurved, and 6) bracts and sepals lacking papillae (short, rounded bumps).

Three other native species in other genera may be confused with Sagittaria platyphylla, namely, creeping burrhead (Echinodorus cordifolius subsp. cordifolius), water plantain (Alisma subcordatum), and pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata, in a different, unrelated family). Sagittaria platyphylla can be distinguished from those species by its triangular stems that support three-whorled white flowers below the large emergent leaves.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Wreath Goldenrod

Wreath goldenrod (Solidago caesia) of the Aster or Sunflower (Asteraceae) family is one of the smaller goldenrods that occur in Arkansas. In the U.S., it is found from Texas to Wisconsin and thence east to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In Arkansas, it occurs across the state except for portions of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and West Gulf Coastal Plain. The genus name is from Latin for “to make whole” or “to heal” in reference to purported health benefits derived from some species of the genus. The specific epithet, also from Latin, for “slate blue” in reference to stem color. Other common names include blue-stem goldenrod and woodland goldenrod.

Wreath goldenrod, a plant of mesic soils in upland deciduous woods, well-drained lowlands and bluff areas, is a herbaceous perennial that propagates by seed and rhizomes. Plants that have a half-dozen or more compact-growing stems are probably growing from a caudex supported by many long, slender, white, radiating, rope-like roots. While single-stem plants are probably growing from a rhizome’s tip or from node junctions along its length. The white, near-surface, stubby rhizomes are slow growing so that non-aggressive colonies may develop.

Stems, a light green when young, typically become bluish to purplish (on the sunny side) with an overcast of whitish bloom (i.e., a thin, waxy coat). The smooth, slender, terete stems, reaching 3 feet long, are ascending and arching, but frequently stems become reclined. Stems typically have a half-dozen or so axillary lateral branches mid-stem, well below the tip. Lateral stems, with widely varying length to about 1 foot long, have the same appearance as primary stems. The lower portions of primary stems tend to be straight, while distally the more slender portions are slightly zigzagged. Lateral stems tend to be slightly zigzagged their entire length. Individual stems that have lateral stems appear rather “skeletal” due to the spacing of the rather sparsely leafed lateral stems. All stems are mostly glabrous (hairless).

Wreath goldenrod - Solidago caesia
Photo 1: Current-year stems grow from tips of rhizomes as new rhizomes emerge along their length. Stub of a previous-year stem can be seen at lower center. Photo October 24.
Wreath goldenrod - Solidago caesia
Photo 2: Leaves of springtime stems have wide serrations. Minor marginal pubescence can be seen on lower portion of several leaves. Photo March 5.

The alternate leaves of wreath goldenrod, randomly arranged around the stems, are dark green adaxially (above) and a lighter green abaxially (below). Stem (cauline) leaves vary from broadly lanceolate below, to lanceolate at mid-stem, to narrowly lanceolate distally. They measure up to 5 inches long and ¾ inch wide, become gradually smaller toward the apex and even minute along lateral branches within the inflorescence (see below). Cauline leaves gradually taper to an acuminate tip and a sessile or nearly sessile base. Most leaf margins are serrated, with teeth of basal leaves wider and less pointed and those of cauline leaves increasingly acute and sharply pointed. Uppermost small cauline leaves (½ inch long and ⅛ inch wide and smaller) may be entire. Leaves are smooth and nearly glabrous, with minor marginal pubescence at the base. All leaves in the upper portion of the plant subtend a lateral stem or inflorescence (see below). Basal leaves drop off as the plant approaches flowering, and lower cauline leaves, if dry conditions occur, drop off as well during flowering.

Wreath goldenrod - Solidago caesia
Photo 3: This plant has a dozen stems growing from a central caudex. Photo March 26.

Venation is pinnate. Veins of the adaxial surface are the same color as the leaf blade while, on the abaxial surface, the midrib and secondary veins are a light green. The midrib of the adaxial surface is suppressed while secondary veins may be slightly suppressed. Tertiary veins of upper surface are obscure while tertiary veins of lower surface are a dark green color such that a reticulated pattern is easily seen.

The inflorescence of wreath goldenrod, appearing for about a month in mid-fall, consists of small terminal and axillary clusters of composite flower heads. Flower heads reach anthesis from distal ends of stems, progressing downward. Clusters consist of 2 to 9 loosely arranged flower heads in short racemes. The number of flower heads in clusters generally decreases from stem apex, downward. All flower heads in a cluster reach anthesis at the same time and a fair number of clusters along a stem blooms at the same time, thus producing an arching wreath-like appearance. In cases where racemes appear to be especially long, one is actually seeing a very short lateral stem with tiny leaves, with each leaf subtending a flower head or two. Flower heads, drawn to sunlight, become secund (arranged along one side).

Wreath goldenrod - Solidago caesia
Photo 4: Arching stems often recline. Flower clusters become oriented toward sunlight. Sunny sides of stems become bluish to purplish with age. Photo October 15.

Clusters are composed of up to ten or so tiny, bright yellow, loosely arranged composite flower heads. About ¼ inch long (including peduncle), heads comprise three to four pistillate (no stamens) ray florets surrounding up to eight or so perfect (stamens and pistils) disk florets. Ray florets have broadly oblong ligules (the flat, strap-shaped, laterally extended part of a ray flower), with several pleats and an apical notch, as well as slender styles with pointy-tipped, bifurcated stigmas. Disk florets are tubular with acutely triangular flaring lobes, and five stamens with short filaments and anthers, fused into a ring, that clasp the developing slender style. As the style emerges from the ring of anthers, it pushes out and exposes their pollen, to be carried away by pollinating insects. Anthers then wither, becoming white. Once fully exserted, the pair of linear stigmatic surfaces divides and becomes receptive to pollen, typically from other flowers–and most productively, from flower heads on other plants. (There is, nevertheless, much self-pollination in the sunflower family.)

Wreath goldenrod - Solidago caesia
Photo 5: “Cluster” at left is composed of flower heads subtended by tiny leaves. Orange arrow indicates flared corolla lobes of a disk floret. Red arrow indicates style of a ray floret. Lavender arrow indicates anthers of a disk floret. White arrow indicates emerging style of a disk floret surrounded by ring of shrunken, whitened anthers. Photo October 17.

Wreath goldenrod flower heads are set in cup-like involucres composed of spirally arranged, tightly imbricated, oblong bracts (phyllaries). Heads have very short peduncles attached to short rachises so that racemes have a cluster-like appearance. Phyllaries transition below to tiny pedunculate bracts.

Wreath goldenrod - Solidago caesia
Photo 6: Involucres are composed of elongate, imbricated phyllaries that transition into bracts along peduncles. Note dark green tertiary venation of lower side of leaves and marginal pubescence at leaf bases. Photo October 17.

Fertilized florets produce flattened, 1/16-inch-long, minutely pubescent, elongate achenes (often termed cypselae in this family–single seeded, indehiscent, nutlet-like fruits), each topped with a pappus of silvery hairs. Dispersal is by wind.

This fall-blooming goldenrod species would work well in an open woodland setting that has mesic soil. Among the goldenrods, it is a more dainty species with smooth leaves and stems. Bright yellow clusters of flower heads are showy and the plant’s open structure is attractive. It is not aggressive. As with all goldenrods, wreath goldenrod attracts a variety of small insects and butterflies. Fall allergies, blamed on goldenrods, are primarily caused by ragweeds (Ambrosia spp.), wind-pollinated members of the same Sunflower family.

Wreath goldenrod is one of 28 species of goldenrods (some with additional subspecies or varieties) known to occur in Arkansas, of which two other species have somewhat similar flowering characteristics: zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) and Ouachita goldenrod (Solidago ouachitensis), both of rather limited occurrence in the state. Zigzag goldenrod can be distinguished by its significantly wider to oval petiolate, heavily serrated leaves and its non-glaucous green zigzag stems. Ouachita goldenrod, quite similar to wreath goldenrod and occurring only on north-facing slopes of the Ouachita Mountains, can be distinguished by its larger leaves on unbranched, more upright stems, non-secund flower clusters, and composite flower heads each with only one ray floret.

Article and photographs by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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