Monday, April 19, 2010

Field Growth

Having the fields mowed makes it easy to follow the growth of the early spring plants. The fields have only been mowed three times in 25 years, which might explain why I never noticed this plant. Another new entry to the Blue Jay Barrens plant list, number 525 is the Dwarf Cinquefoil, Potentilla canadensis. This is a low growing plant that would be really hard to see among the tall dead stalks of the previous year.

I think it’s amazing how many ferns grow beneath the canopy of tall grasses and goldenrods. These are the emerging leaves of a Christmas Fern. This specimen is growing in the middle of a thick stand of Indian Grass.

Identifying violets can be frustrating because there is a lot of variation displayed within a species and there are several similar looking species. This is the Common Blue Violet, which Gleason & Cronquist refer to as Viola sororia. G & C have grouped several species identified by other authors into this one, so the Common Blue Violet may include individuals that have anything from completely smooth stems and leaves to those that display a heavy fur coat. When I converted my Blue Jay Barrens plant list to G & C, I lost several species from the list as they were all merged into one.

This violet fools me every year, because when it first flowers it appears to have only basal leaves. Closer examination always shows that stalks are forming that will give vertical growth to the plant. This is the Creamy Violet, Viola striata, a violet that will grow much taller as the season progresses.

Wild Strawberries are common across the fields. They usually produce a lot of fruit, but the ants and turtles seem to get most of it. Don't be misled by this particular bloom. The typical strawberry flower only has five petals. I notice a lot of flowers here that have more than their standard complement of petals. This is just a noticable expression of species diversity; that resiliency that gives a species the chance to survive ever changing conditions.

Small-flowered Crowfoot, Ranunculus abortivus, is one of the tiny Buttercups that is commonly found in the field edges. There’s just enough yellow in the flowers to make them stand out from the dead grass and dark greens of early spring. Fortunately, my flag spraying activities are making me walk over the majority of the field area multiple times, so I’m able to keep a good watch on what’s growing.

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