Friday, August 10, 2012

Connecticut Native and Not-So-Native Plants

First a little background before I share a little bit about my morning explore. Connecticut, as are all other states in the contiguous 48 states, is struggling with invasive plants.  Last spring I attended a workshop in my town sponsored by UConn.  This was my first exposure to invasive plants other than hearing about the spread of  Lythrum salicaria or Purple Loosestrife a few years ago.

Because I think of him as Nature Boy, I brought my 12-year-old son.  As I figured, he was fascinated and drank up everything he could.  He loves to explore, often can be seen with a pair of binoculars stuck to his face, and could grow up to be a biologist or environmental engineer.

After a little talk about what invasive species were, we were led on a tour of the senior center's property where invasive species were identified and explained.  Because it was still very early in the spring many of the invasives that Connecticut struggles with had not yet appeared.  Regardless, it was an introduction and a starting place.

Over the next few weeks I began walking my property.  I mostly found Celastruc orbiculatus or Oriental Bittersweet and, of course, my 50 Winged Euonymus Euonymus alatus shrubs which provided a privacy screen along my very long driveway.

Although it was an excruciating decision, I chose to cut down all of the Winged Euonymus shrubs.  I will miss the fall color with which they greeted me each time I came home from running errands, but my conscience is clear -- no new plants would grow because of my shrubs.  I am hoping to replace them with Redtwig Dogwoods.

If anyone is interested in learning to identify and manage invasive species here are some links:

Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group
National Invasive Species Information Center
Invasive Species State Resources
USGS Invasive Species Program

Now for my morning.  Before jumping in the car to take my son to work I grabbed my camera and tripod.  Driving back I decided to stop off at a fairly new state park area in a nearby town.  The state purchased part of a much larger family farm a few years ago so it made a perfect park.  A lot of the land was already cleared for raising beef cattle, there were a couple of nice ponds and old dirt roads became walking trails.

Arriving at the park I am the only visitor.  This is quite common for weekday mornings.  Grabbing my Kimber PepperBlaster II I began putting my camera gear together.  I remove my tripod and then my camera, go to attach my camera to the tripod and find the tripod mount is not on my camera.  Okay, now I am not happy.  One of my sons used my camera but did not put the tripod mount back on when they were finished.  I almost just pack back up and head home.  Nope.  I am already here.  I'll just walk around a bit and see what I can capture.  I need the tripod because I am very shaky.  I can't even stand straight without weaving a bit.  Forget about steady hands.  Typically, my handheld shots are at best just not sharp.  Most are downright blurry.

Just a few feet from my car I was thrilled to see an area that was allowed to grow wild with native flowers and herbs.

I know this doesn't look like much but there are some real treasures in there.  Most exciting was the mullein, center, tall spiky flower stalks. 

Then pan left and there was this beautiful patch of what I thought were white flowers but during post-processing discovered they are a very light purple. Sorry, but I do not know what they are yet.

Moving down the trail a bit I attempted to capture closeups of some flowers and grasses but they just did not turn out well.

Then I reached a huge field and pond as I moved towards the river.  More mullein, grasses that had fallen over to create a soft carpet, and many more wild carrots and some plants that I could not identify.

Common mullein
One of my favorite herbs is mullein.  It has anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties.  Let me put it this way: if you have a stuffy head, hold a cup of mullein tea, inhale deeply and your nasal passages will miraculously clear enough so you can breathe again.  Additionally, it will loosen and help you clear out mucous (you need to drink it for this to happen -- it tastes like mint).  This herb tea is especially amazing at dealing with sinus infections.  A Neti pot and a few cups of mullein tea is all you need to cure that infection.

At first glance, this would look like a huge patch of Dogbane.  Red stems usually means Dogbane.  And that is what I thought. Although Dogbane usually has a few smaller branches reaching out from the main stem.  What convinced me were the pods (see below).

Milkweed -- but what variety?

Unlike Common Milkweed, the pods above are not dangling from a curved stem but closely attached to the main stem. 


In the same field I found a few of these plants (below) that I thought at the time might be in the nightshade family.  Once I got home I discovered that they were not any nightshades that came up when I searched and included Connecticut in the field.

The leaves are not in great shape and I didn't get enough photos of the leaves themselves so I will go back this afternoon or tomorrow with my tripod (and mount) and take more photos to aid in identification.

The plant to the right is definitely in the nightshade family.  Classic flower style but not the invasive Bittersweet nightshade Solanum dulcamara.

The flower looks very similar to Mullein nightshade Solanum donianum but the leaves are completely different.

I believe this might be a White Nightshade Solanum douglasii.  Again, the leaves are not quite right.

More photos especially with closeups of the leaves are required.

Black locust - Robinia pseudoacacia L. Invasive tree
To the left is a Black locust tree which is on the invasive species list here in Connecticut.

This tree was in a line of obviously planted trees along with some saplings in the field nearby. 

When I find an invasive species like this I record the location, try to take a few photos and then will report it to the State of Connecticut.  This tree needs to be removed as do the saplings nearby. 

And finally, I will leave you with this picture from my morning explore.  I will take more pictures of this structure, also.  The construction is quite unique.  Huge dirty spot on my lens and no lens cloth ended my photo explore. 

Equipment shed

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