mikania scandens

Lick Creek Park and the Mystery Composite, Revisited

The human female has been kicking herself for dropping the ball on the mystery composite. So here we are all, back out at Lick Creek Park to see if we can locate the remains of the one she uprooted or, should the Norns send a miracle, another of its kind.

Botanical incompetence aside, it’s a lovely day, bright and somewhat cooler. The goldenrod is beginning to make a fine show.

I see you, Sigyn!

The camphorweed is just as enthusiastic and just as yellow.

The lobelia, in contrast, is a rather fetching shade of purplish blue.

What are you staring at so intently, my love? What is it that has you so enthralled?

Oh. The human female says the corollas are “fenestrate”. The petals are all fused together except for a slit or “window” along one side through which the stamens can be seen.

She remembered the word “fenestrate.” Maybe she’s not a total botanical failure.

Down here in the bottomlands, there is a lot of climbing hempvine. As in, A LOT, a lot.

There is also a truly staggering amount of sumpweed, ragweed, and cocklebur. All things sneezy and prickly.

Some of the southern wax myrtles are doing quite well. Sigyn loves its fragrant foliage

I really need to buy my sweetie some sunglasses.

In the really damp spots, there is knotweed and the repulsively stinky, pink-flowered camphorweed.

I know–I just said that yellow thing up there was camphorweed–and it is. This pink stuff:

is in a different genus, Pluchea. And it really does smell terrible! “Pluchea” is sort of the noise you make when you smell it. Probably meant to keep herbivores away. I know *I* wouldn’t munch on it!

Hold on! What is that?!

It’s the human female’s mystery composite! And look at how big this one is! The leaves at the top of the stem look completely different from the foliage she saw before. She has some good heads to look at, too.

And fruit! Lots of little, spikey fruit. She might actually be able to redeem herself with this!

She is reasonably certain that this is a Bidens. It all fits–compound leaves, likes wet spots, fruits each with two long awns, like antennae on a bug. It is might even be a native that just hasn’t been documented for the park before. Time to take a better-yet-not-destructive sample and go home and hit the books again.

(later)

That took forever, but the plant now has a name. It is, indeed, a Bidens. Hairy beggarticks. She thought that it would be fairly simple to figure out which one, since not all of them have rays, and of the ones that do, many have yellow rays rather than white. Of the ones with white flowers, not all have achenes with minutely barbed awns. It was keying out one way in her big, older book of Texas botany and a different way, Bidens pilosa, in the manuscript she just edited, and yet it looked just like the photos and specimens of Bidens alba she was seeing online. But the Flora of North America site doesn’t even have Bidens alba, though the USDA site does–though not for Texas. Eventually she actually read all of the material in the manuscript she edited and was reminded that newer treatments have placed plants formerly called Bidens alba into Bidens pilosa, which does grow in Texas. So, basically, she was trying to tell it from itself. It is known from East Texas and from West Texas but has not been recorded from this county before. Either no one has been poking about in the right places at the right time to find it here (less likely) or it has indeed been brought in with the construction (more likely.) The human female has never seen a live plant of it before, so I suppose she can be forgiven for not recognizing it immediately from written descriptions she worked on over a year ago.

But for the sloppy initial botany? She’s going to have to repent long and hard for that.

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A Neenering We Will Go, Part I: Greeting Old Friends

Now that is is definitely fall and the temperatures have cooled a portion of a smidgen of a little bit, the human female is more likely to shift herself out of her chair and go for a walk. Today, she and Sigyn have decided to go see what’s what along the Neener Path by the Big, Ugly Apartments. We haven’t been down that way in a while, so I’m a bit curious myself to see if anything interesting is going on.

Ah. I think this will be a morning of seeing things we’ve seen before in other years. Sigyn calls it “Saying Hello to Old Friends.” I call it “It’s October and There’s Ragweed, What Did You Expect?”

Look at all that pollen! I’ll be sure to give this stem a good flick as I dismount, just to make sure the human female can appreciate its devotion to anemophily.

Some of the composites are better at keeping their sneezables to themselves. Bitterweed, for instance, contents itself with flowering eleven months of the year and making cows that eat it give bitter milk.

Horseweed just likes to get tall and poofy and seed itself into people’s yards.

Late-flowering thoroughwort (a ridiculous name!) is rather similar visually, though the plants have larger leaves and the flowers are white enough and dense enough so that it’s almost ornamental.

I’ve still made sure it drops tons of seeds in the human female’s yard every year, though.

Mistflower is more well-behaved. All it does is make patches of blue in shady spots.

Sigyn wants to pat it and cuddle it because it looks like “fuzzy fireworks”. Botanical fact: The fuzzy, threadlike bits are the styles in the tiny flowers, not the petals. There. Don’t you feel smarter?

The climbing hempvine is related and has flowers that are made the same way.

It likes wet spots and thinks the ditch along the Neener Path is a good place to be.

Peppervine is also abundant here. Sigyn likes the berries when they are unripe and pinkish.

I prefer them when they get all plump and inky black.

I still say we should sneak some into the human female’s breakfast. Sigyn says we should be nice and just dangle.

Hmm, what else is here? Ah, yes. Plenty of woolly croton. Another fuzzy thing Sigyn likes to cuddle.

I’m sensing a sunggle-pattern here. But since I am also one of the things she likes to snuggle, I am not complaining!

Well, huh. I take back what I said–not everything blooming today is something we’ve seen along this path before. This one is new:

The human female says this is something called “shoreline seapurslane”. Sigyn says the flowers look like “little stars.” I say the silly thing is about one hundred and thirty miles north of fitting its common name…

So here we are a the turn-around part of our walk, though we can stop and look at more things on the way back and–

Great Frigga’s Hairpins, Sigyn! Stop right there!!

Somewhere, there is a female persimmon tree with ripe fruits, and you nearly stepped in the big pile of seedy raccoon poop!

The human female is getting that look in her eye. If the trees in the woods have ripe fruit, the trees closer to home might have ripe, delicious fruit too. I suspect our next walk is going to be in our very own neighborhood…

(to be continued)

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Here a Neener, There a Neener, Everywhere a Neener-neener, Part II: New Releases (and possibly some shoving)

Yesterday we looked at plants we’d already seen recently. Nice, but a bit BORING. Where are the new things? I checked the calendar. It is FALL now. Show me fall things!! I demand fall things!

Ah. This is better. False foxglove. Shows up like clockwork the third week of September.

Sigyn and I have a fondness for this plant. Well, one of it’s relatives, anyway—the rare one that grows on that outcrop to the east of us. I wonder if we’ll get to visit the outcrop again this year?

What does one call that color, anyway? Pink? Purple? Pirpkle? Whatever it is, it seems to be a theme. (Trust Texas to have non-traditional fall color!)

The Beautyberry is quite conspicuous in the understory.

Gaudy, but great for dangling. (The one at the house does not have any fruit this year, on account of I let the tree-removers drop a big oak tree on it earlier this year and it is in the process of recovering.)

The Beggar-ticks has flowers the same color, only a few shades paler.

It has typical bean-family flowers and makes interesting little legumes (one of which is visible at the left end of the stem). They’re scalloped and break up into single-seeded bits that are just covered with microscopic hooked hairs, which makes them perfect for being dispersed by furry animals or clothing. I will keep an eye on this extensive patch, come back in a few weeks when they’re good and ripe, gather up a pound or so of them, and do a little experiment to see what happens when you dump them in the washer with a load that includes socks, sweatpants, and towels. (I’m all about the science.)

Looks like the Woolly Croton is doing well this year.

It has separate male and female flowers and is very, very furry.

Hey, I have an idea! Let’s see how well the Beggar-ticks stick to the Croton! A wildflower cage-match. It’ll be brilliant! I can sell tickets. . .

Whatever else Sigyn does on a nature walk, if she gets a chance to sit in a holly, she calls it a perfect day. The fruit on this Possumhaw are about half-ripe.

A little further along the path we have yellow rather than pirpkle. Unless I’m mistaken (which I rarely am), we are looking at Camphorweed.

That’s the flower head in the photo, but the wispy foliage to the left belongs to Horseweed, and the leaves to the right to another something else. (Sigyn, are you going to play ‘He loves me; he loves me not’ with the flower? Because I can tell you, if the ‘He’ is me; he definitely, definitely DOES!)

The something else those leaves belong to is, I think, Climbing Hempvine. The human female says, “it’s our only local viney member of the sunflower family or Asteraceae.”

She also says it’s related to the Mistflower. I can see that. Both have the same fluffy flower heads. There is certainly a lot of it here, sprawling over shrubs and climbing trees. It likes wet feet, so I imagine it is very happy here in the ditch by the path.

(That’s it, human female… Lean out over the wet ditch just a little bit more for the photo and it will be my perfect day… A little bit more… One good shove…)

Odin’s eyepatch! I hate it when she catches me plotting and removes herself to safety. I really, really wanted to see her sopping wet and muddy today! Oh, well. Maybe I will have another chance for mischief on the way home…

Hmm. There’s more water next to the sidewalk on the way home, a big floody area by the part of the wetland they didn’t build Large, Ugly Apartments on. I could push her down the slope into the Bagpod bushes…

Nah. She likes the clusters of redorangeyellow flowers so much and enjoys popping the seeds out of the inflated legumes enough that she’d probably just sit happily in the water enjoying the plant.

She wouldn’t like being pushed into the Horsenettles though. They have lovely flowers, but they’re very prickly.

In fact–ouch!–this member of the Nightshade genus–ah!— is– ow!—very unpleasant to sit in! I think I shall vacate! Besides, the sun has risen enough that it has cleared the surrounding trees and buildings, and it’s making me all squinty.

I don’t like squinty.

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