Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This plant is Bluehearts, Buchnera Americana, an Ohio rarity. Bluehearts grow just fine in dry, rocky locations, but I never find them anywhere that does not receive full sunlight. Just so you know, the next few paragraphs are a little story, but I put a Blueheart photo between each paragraph, because I don’t think you can have too many pictures of Bluehearts.

We bought our property in May of 1985, but it was July before I had a few free minutes to explore. I grabbed my Peterson’s Wildflower Guide, that being the entirety of my botanical library, and went up the hill behind the house. I tried to ID a couple of obscure plants with no luck, and then I came to a 30 inch spike ending in brilliant blue blossoms. Knowing that a flower as showy as this just had to be in my book, I thumbed through the blue flower section, then went through again more slowly. Nothing. Since a lot of what I thought of as blue showed up in Peterson’s pink section, I looked there. Still nothing. At this point, I ran out of time and came off the hill feeling totally discouraged.

My work often brought me into contact with plant experts, so when I met someone who seemed fairly knowledgeable on the subject of plant ID, I’d say “Hey. I’ve got some strange plants growing out in my field. Ya wanna come help me figure out what they are?” and they’d usually reply “G’way Kid. Ya bother me.” So it went until a year later when I met Pete Whan, now of The Nature Conservancy, who replied, “Sure. Where’s your property?”

Pete walked right up to my mystery plant and said, “Well, Guy. That’s Bluehearts. It’s not in your book because it’s so rare.” Then he pointed out a couple more rarities nearby. That’s when I realized I hadn’t bought your typical old run down farm. Where I had originally been happy just to have a place to study and enjoy nature, the idea started to grow that this area was something really special and needed help to achieve its full potential. Blue Jay Barrens was born that day. Thanks Pete.

These structures remind me of tiny Grecian urns. In the Fall, they become filled with tiny seeds. As the plant stalk is snapped back and forth by the wind, seeds are thrown out in all directions. It often takes a couple of months before all of the seed is sown.

Numbers of plants vary from year to year. In one area there is a small population of plants with flowers that begin white, then develop blue streaks as they age. So far this year, I’ve only found one plant with white flowers, but there may be more coming on later.

I sometimes wonder what this property would look like if someone other than Pete had set my compass. There were many management options I could have chosen, and most would not have favored the native flora. Instead of a slope full of Bluehearts, the photo above could very well have been a dense thicket of cedars.

1 comment:

  1. I love the article on the gall... really neat!