Archive for the 'Temperature' Category

Snow Trilliums

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Spring arrives when the Snow Trilliums (Trillium nivale) are in bloom here in eastern Iowa. We looked for them on Sunday and found none. On Monday a friend said he found several hundred in his favorite spot. We went back on Monday to the spot where we had looked and only found only a few. After getting directions to our friend’s spot further along the ravines we found hundreds yesterday.

The top and  sides of the small area were very dry and crumbly. Snow Trilliums are said to prefer moist woods. These were popping out of the gravelly dry ground in singles and small groups. Most were less than two inches tall.

The bud to the right is only about 1 1/2 inches tall. Its stem is barely out of the ground and it is already unfurling its leaves, sepals and blossom. There were many other nubs poking above the dry, mostly bare, ground. Snow Trilliums usually bloom for about two weeks.

The Snow Trillium’s sepals are pewter color and like most flowers are meant to protect the bud. The blooms open quickly on warm days.  The tips of the petals are often rippled. Yesterday was not warm but the sun sifting through the shrubs and trees had encouraged many to open.

We found several unusual blossoms of a very soft, shell pink. Our camera sensors could not really capture the delicacy of the color. Four were buds about half open and this fully open  one was about 3 feet (1 meter) away from the opening buds. Color is always dependent on the technology (whether film or digital) that is trying to replicate it.

Sometimes white flowers turn a pale magenta pink when they are crumbling and drying out at the end of their bloom time. These were fresh with lots of pollen on their stamens so we think they were really a very pale pink. There are always things to learn in nature.

Timing & Location Are Important.

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

This morning we visited Hanging Bog, known for its Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) community. It is not a true bog but a year round seep coming from a tall hillside. There are limestone layers or terraces which direct water out of the ravine to several tiny brooks. The little brooks wind down into a flat where later the Marsh Marigolds will wet their feet about the time the Skunk Cabbage leaves look like giant leaf lettuce clumps. Other spring ephemerals will bloom on its banks and into the surrounding woodland.

Most of the few Skunk Cabbage spathes we found were just peeking out of the little brook. Since this has been a mild winter with little snow, the  spathes and immature spiraled leaves were frost bitten and not very pretty. Many had been nibbled on by deer and possibly wild turkeys. Years ago we saw some wild turkeys munching on Skunk Cabbage.

Linda found this one in reasonable condition. When she found it there was a little patch of ice at the base of the opening into the chamber for the spadix or blossoming part. The spadix behind the ice patch is just visible in the top image and the mottled interior is visible in the lower one. The tiny white spot at the top of the opening (top image) was a little bit of ice inside the spathe that melted before Bob came to share the plant. The ice patch had also melted and showed the damage to the surface of the spathe and to previous damage on  the leaf (bottom image). It looked more frost bitten than when the top image was made.

We have photographed Skunk Cabbage protruding through snow in January. They are one of the plants that are thermogenic – producing excess heat that can melt snow. Today this was the only one to have a maroon spathe visible. It was protected by a dark chunk of fallen tree branch in the water at its back and was in a place where the sun peeked through the trees for several hours each day.

 

Larkspurs in November

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Last Saturday at the Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge along the Mississippi River we were surprised to find several larkspur (Delphinium sp.) plants among a dense stand of dried goldenrods. They were in the open woodland near the new visitors’ center on the bluff looking down into the flood plain.

Native larkspurs are mostly known to bloom in May, June and July. We are not certain of the species because the plants were 3 to 3 1/2 feet (a meter and a bit) tall. The Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne) that we see in the spring are about 1/3 that tall.

To find several healthy green plants with gorgeous blooms on November 12 is very unusual. Climate changes that have led to such a warm autumn are confusing other plants. We found some Common Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) still blooming in our yard yesterday. Its normal bloom time is April into July.

Yesterday the Astronomy Picture of the Day site hosted by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) had a picture showing the Temperature Departure From Average for much of the Northern Hemisphere for November 14, 2016. Here in Iowa the temperature looked like it was 10 to 18 degrees F. above normal. Over the North Pole it was 36 degrees F. above normal for this time of year. Some areas of the map were cooler than normal but great swaths were much warmer than they typically are.

As much as we enjoy beautiful flowers, their blooms at the wrong time of year will mean they bloom in vain. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds headed south in September. The long-tongued bees and butterflies that also pollinate larkspurs may no be longer around so they may not set seeds.