Wildflowers

Wildflower Aliens

I have talked about our swamp plants, our native plants and some of the plants that grow in our wildflower meadow; the Tufted vetch (vicia cracca), clover and the White Hepaticas. The Hepaticas is a native plant, but the Tufted vetch and clover are not. We have so many plants that are not native, but have naturalized so that they appear in my book “Wildflowers of Ontario”. The Tufted vetch was introduced from Eurasia.

Red Clover

White Clover (Trifolium repens) and Red Clover (Prifolium pratense) are native to Europe, Western Asia and northwest Africa, but it has naturalised in many other regions. This one seems too pale to be Red Clover, but too pink to be White Clover, so I am not sure which it is. Clover improves poor soil by fixing nitrogen from the air, so it is not necessarily a bad plant. Only bumblebees and butterflies have the mouth parts equipped to reach into these flowers for nectar. We have certainly noticed that there are always bees on the clover. Apparently the design for the club in playing cards was taken from a clover leaf.

Medick - Medicago lupulina

Medick – Medicago lupulina is also in the clover family, so not a native plant.

White Sweet Clover

White Sweet Clover – Melilotus albus is an invasive species, so I am going to have to address the fact that we have it on our property. It is a biennial plant that dies after blooming, so it is going to be hard to figure out where it is without the flowers. It is allelopathic, which means the roots release chemicals into the soil, which can prevent the growth of native plants, so I really don’t want it. However, each plant can produce up to 350,000 seeds and seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 80 years. I think I might have a big battle on my hands to eradicate it! Whilst it is called a ‘clover’ it is more closely related to Alfalfa than to true clovers. The leaves have three leaflets and are alternate along the stem, so I guess that gives me a bit of a guide in identifying it without flowers. It forms a taproot which can grow up to 1.5m deep, so I will have to dig to remove it.

Birdfoot trefoil - lotus corniculatus

Birds-foot trefoil – Lotus corniculatus is native to Eurasia and North Africa.

Buttercup

Meadow Buttercup – Ranunculus acris was introduced from Europe, however it is was probably native in Alaska, so that gives it a little more credibility in my book.

Ox-eye daisy - Leucanthemum vulgare

Ox-eye daisy – Leucanthemum vulgare was introduced from Europe. Daisy comes from two Anglo-Saxon words and means “day’s eye”, with the flower looking like the white rays from the yellow sun in the middle. We have quite a number of these and I must admit I love to see them.

St. John_s wort

St. Johnswort was introduced from Europe. It is had a lot of mythology and people believed the plant would protect them from the devil, so I guess it is understandable why this is a plant that would have been brought over from Europe with the early settlers.

Mullein - Verbascum thapsus     Mullein

Mullein – Verbascum thapsus is native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia. Apparently it doesn’t become aggressively invasive and I rather enjoyed watching it shooting up tall.

Viper_s Bugloss - Echium vulagre

Viper’s Bugloss – Echium vulagre is native to Europe and temperate Asia, was introduced to North America and is naturalised.

Vipers Bugloss buds

Vulgare means “common” The dried plant’s use as a remedy for snakebite is where the viper part of the name comes from and Bugloss is an ancient Greek word for “ox-tongue”, which the leaves are said to resemble.

Bull Thistle 1   Bull Thistle seed head

Bull Thistle – Cirsium vulgare is native throughtout most of Europe, western Asia and northwestern Africa. It has naturalised in North America and it makes for a lovely picture even with the dried seed head. We don’t have that many, so I am inclined to think that they are not a huge issue for us, even though they are not native. They are a rich nectar source and finches eat the seeds.

Bellflower - Campanula rapunculoides

Bellflower – Campanula rapunculoides is native to Europe and western Siberia. It has become something of an invasive weed, which is unfortunate because it is rather attractive. It is another one of those plants with a long tuberous root system and can produce 15,000 seeds per plant. Not an easy plant to irradicate!

Chicory - Cichorium intybus

Chicory – Cichorium intybus, another introduction from Europe that is common in North America. I love that it flowers from July to October.

Forget-me-nots

Forget-Me-Nots – Myosotis scorpioides is native to Europe and Asia, but can be found in much of North America. I love this little flower that blooms from mid-sping until the first frost and am sad that it is listed as a noxious weed!

Mouse-ear hawkweed - Hieracium pilosella

Mouse-ear Hawkweed – Hieracium pilosella was introduced from Europe and is on the list of invasive species in North America. It is drought tolerant and tolerates nutrient-poor soil, so I would be thrilled that it is growing at the cottage if it didn’t have that invasive title. The name Hawkweed refers to the fact that these plants grow at higher altitudes, which are only accessible by hawks – although clearly that grow at lower altitudes too.

Orange Hawkweed - Hieracium aurantiacum

Orange Hawkweed – Hieracium aurantiacum is another Hawkweed with the same issues as its yellow cousin above. They are a lovely splash of colour that I was enjoying last year, but I will not feel the same about it now I have researched it!

Deptford Pink 2 Deptford Pink 1

Deptford Pink – Dianthus armeria is another plant native to Europe that has naturalised here. It will grow in the worst of soils, but it isn’t dominant. I like that it is flower from early summer to late summer, although the bloom closes up in the afternoon, so it doesn’t showcase those lovely delicate flowers for long.

Timothy Grass - Phleum pratense

Even our some of our grass is not native. Timothy Grass – Phleum pratense is native to most of Europe. It is said that Timothy Hanson, an American farmer, introduced it in the early 18th century.

Sulphur Cinquefoil flower.jpg  Sulphur Cinquefoil

Sulphur Cinquefoil is not native. There is a native plant; Common Cinquefoil – Potentilla simplex, but despite the name it seems like Sulphur Cinquefoil is more commonly found. Sulphur Cinquefoil was accidentally introduced into North America from Eurasia. When we first saw it we thought we had found a Marijuana plant, but we did some research and with the flowers we could confirm that this was actually Sulphur Cinquefoil.

These alien plants are a mixed bag. Some are a big issue that I need to address; others have benefits that outweigh them not being native. It is a huge job to eradicate some of these plants, especially when they self-seed in massive numbers. I think my approach needs to be to focus on one or two areas at a time. Mowing suddenly becomes more attractive when it comes to stopping self-seeding and it is also helpful in controlling the tick population. It is quite a juggling act to figure out the best approach to keep things “natural”, when you discover that things are not as “natural” as you once thought. The more I discover the more I am aware how little I know and how making informed choices isn’t as straightforward as my romantic and idealistic self would like. I guess that is life and all I can do is give it my best shot and back track if I find better solutions along the way. I need to relax, enjoy and stop to smell the roses… or Purple Flowering Raspberries that look like Pasture Roses!

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