Spring Wildflowers and Growing Green Things

Spring is FINALLY freaking underway! Some finds from the past week:

Panex trifolius, dwarf ginseng blooming

I was excited to see dwarf ginseng even before it bloomed…..this is even better! Don’t bother harvesting this stuff. It’s not medicinal. Not even a little bit.

Panax quinquefolia, American ginseng, seedling

THIS, however, is the real deal. Panax quinquefolia, American ginseng, is ranked S2 in New Hampshire, and it ranked in all New England states.  So DO NOT PICK IT!

In southern states where American ginseng is more common, the illegal harvesting of ginseng is common. Why, you ask? Ginseng roots sell for more than $500 per pound, that’s why. However, it takes a LOT of ginseng plants to make a pound of roots. (1)

Panax quinquefolia, American ginseng seedling

American ginseng will always have five leaflets arranged around a central point.  There will be one group, then two, then three, and then, finally, four grouping of leaflets.

Aquilegia canadensis, red columbine blooming

Aquilegia canadensis, or red columbine is a kind of awesome flower. Alien looking ,maybe, but beautiful, and often growing on cliffs or ledges. The family name “Aquilegia” is Latin for eagle, and comes from the talon shaped nectar spurs.

Arisaema triphyllum, jack-in-the-pulpit

Arisaema triphyllum, or Jack in the pulpits, are popping up everywhere! When they are just reaching through the leaf litter, at first glance you might think it’s a trillium with stuck bottom leaves (well, I did anyway). Looking from above, though, those two bottom leaves will be nicely rolled and ready to go!

Jack in the pulpit always has three leaves; compare this to Green dragon (Arisaema dracontium) that has 5-13 leaflets.  To talk a little plant anatomy, the spathe is the “pulpit” that wraps around the spadix (the “Jack”), which is covered with small flowers. The roots are poisonous, so don’t eat them!

Chamaedaphne calyculata, leatherleaf blooming

Leatherleaf, or Chamaedaphne calyculata, is not the most exciting plant, and is found in abundance around wetlands. However, it’s springtime, and it has flowers, and they are pretty!

Lilium philadelphicum, wood lily seedling

This little guy peaked our interest. The forest floor was carpeted with little green things…. and this was big and thick and one of a kind. We knew it was monocot, but unsure of the exact species. Isotria verticillata was thrown around a few times, maybe more for wishful thinking than anything else… but it turns out that it’s a plain ol’ wood lily, Lilium philadelphicum (not that there is anything plain about them, they are quite beautiful!)

Asclepias, milkweed seedling

And, just because they have a similar growth form, here is a milkweed! You can see the veining on the leaves is significantly different, however.

GoBotany species links:
Panex trifolius, dwarf ginseng
Panex quinquefolius, American ginseng
Aquilegia canadensis, red columbine
Lilium philadelphicum, wood lily

Arisaema triphyllum, Jack-in-the-pulpit

(1) “American Ginseng.” US Fish and Wildlife Service


the dirty girl at dirty botany
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