Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Bloomers

July is the time of year that the mid-height forbs tend to dominate the Blue Jay Barrens prairies. They’ve been racing ahead of the tall grasses in an effort to open their flowers to pollinators before being hidden by taller growth. In general, as the season progresses, the height at which a plants flower tends to increase. The spring flowering plants can be short because they have little in the way of competition. Each successive wave of flowering plants reaches a little higher in an effort to overtop those that came before.

There are many factors that determine how successful a plant is in any given season. One of the most influential is the weather. Rainfall, this year and last, has been above normal. The result is a population explosion among the showy bloomers. Bluehearts, Buchnera americana, one of Ohio’s rare species, is blooming in record numbers this year. It’s a small bloom that expresses itself in the landscape much better than it does in a photograph.

If we find a dark background and lower our line of sight, it’s much easier to see the density of blooming stalks. It’s fun to have a couple of wet years bring out the best in dryland plants. As bountiful as the flowers are now, it wouldn’t do to have too many wet years in a row. While these flowers are busting with blooms, moisture loving plants are trying to get a foothold. We need the dry years to keep the prairie invaders at bay.

Bluehearts may not be noticeable at great distances, but they are sure beauties up close.

Rose Pink, Sabatia angularis, always colors the landscape after two consecutive wet years. This is a biennial that needs a little more moisture than is usually found here. These plants are just beginning to bloom. As the number of blooming plants increases, the strong scent will permeate the field.
A few Rose Pinks bloom every year, so the range of genetic adaptability must include the ability to create a more drought tolerant plant. I wonder if these wet years work against the plant developing a strain with more tolerance to dry weather. In a year like this, the gene pool is once again flooded with genetic material favoring a more moisture rich environment. Continuous dry years might eventually result in a landscape thick with drought loving Rose Pinks.

Not all areas produce the same species, but the effect is the same everywhere. Multiple species are producing bumper crops. It’s years like this that are likely to produce new species for the Blue Jay Barrens list. Species that are uncommon here could be exhibiting the same exuberance and pushing up blooms where they have never been before. I’m being particularly watchful while on my walks.

Here’s yet another species of St. Johnswort showing off its tiny yellow blossoms. This is Spotted St. Johnswort, Hypericum punctatum. It’s not hard to figure out how they came up with that name.

From a distance, the leaves of the Narrow-Leaved Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, resemble spruce needles. I just don’t think mint flowers lend themselves to being crowded together in this manner. The irregularly shaped petals just seem to come out every which way.

The Wild Petunias, Ruellia humilis, are just beginning to put on their show. These are a slightly shorter plant than the rest, but they tend to grow in drier areas where the competing vegetation is correspondingly short.

The Wild Potato Vine, Ipomoea pandurata, is one of the few plants that actually does better in the dry years. The small plant is supported by a massive tuber that stores plenty of moisture to carry the plant through the driest of years. Frequent rains seem to batter the delicate flowers and leave the center cup full of water. This type of treatment can’t be good for pollination efforts.


  1. I love seeing the plants that frequent your environment. It makes me think more about what is growing in my meadow, and how the weather affects them! I'll have to pay closer attention as the years pass. ~karen

  2. More lovely flowers. I was shopping in Mason, Ohio, yesterday. I thought of you and your blog when I saw the large field of wild flowers growing across the access road to the mall. I pointed the flowers out to my daughter and granddaughter who mentioned how lovely some of those flowers would be in a dried arrangement. Just about everything seems to be in bloom at once and it is beautiful.

  3. Great to see so many species providing a miriad of colour and form Steve. We are in desperate need of some rain over here to help the flora to perform.

  4. Hi have some pretty bloomer there!! ; } I never could figure out a lot of common names for plants either !!! The Mountain mint and the wild petunia are very nice!!
    Looks quite dry there!!! It rained here last night and it is sticky and hummid more than before!!!

  5. Ah, I'm glad to see the Rose Pink. I was delighted to see upon our return home from vacation that these beauties are blooming on a bank along the edge of our driveway. It's been several years since they last bloomed, and now I know why! This was one of the first flowers to frustrate me several years ago by not being in my field guides. A kind professor of botany at Ohio University was kind enough to identify it for me when I sent him a photo. I look forward to photographing them again this year. Oh, by the way, I've come up with a title for my flower field guide that you're holding space for on your book shelf. The whole thing is still germinating in my brain... That spot is going to be collecting dust for years, I fear.

  6. Good plan, Karen. It's really nice to have watched an area long enough to be able to notice patterns and predict how things will progress.

    Lois - It seems like all of the flowers just suddenly opened during the last week. If we keep up this pace, it's going to be a glorious fall.

    Hi, Frank. It's turning out to be one of the wettest years we've had for quite some time. We just had another two inches of rain yesterday afternoon that caused more flash flooding in the area.

    grammie g - I took these pictures just before our last rain. Things are so well drained here that we can be dusty after only a couple of days of dry weather.

    Heather - This is definitely the year to enjoy Rose Pink. I may put another book on the shelf to hold your place, but I'll remove it after your first edition is released.