Partridgeberry, a.k.a. Squaw Vine, Beautifies Our Pennsylvanian Woodland Paths

Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens, blooming along woodland paths in central Pennsylvania lends a bit of color to the brown forest floor. Dark green foliage, accented here and there with white or light-colored veins, still bears crimson berries left over from last year.

Partridgeberry gives an evergreen feel to the mixed hardwood forests of Pennsylvania.
Partridgeberry gives an evergreen feel to the mixed hardwood forests of Pennsylvania.

The white, tubular-shaped flowers come in pairs at the ends of creeping branches along the ground. The fringy blooms coalesce to create a single, edible fruit in the fall, which can last the whole year long.

The trumpet-shaped flowers may be pinkish to white and usually have four petals.
The trumpet-shaped flowers may be pinkish to white and usually have four petals.

Nature guide books indicate that Partridgeberry, also known as Squaw Vine, has 4 regular parts, and so, most of us would look for flowers having 4 petals, 4 stamens, and so on, if we were looking for a specimen. Indeed, a majority of the partridgeberry flowers do have four petals, but I found quite a few examples having five petals.

The more common four-petaled variety of Squaw Vine.
The more common four-petaled variety of Squaw Vine.
A few examples of the five-petaled variety of Squaw Vine.
A few examples of the five-petaled variety of Squaw Vine.

Growing along the same path, but not on the same plant, and separated by some 50 feet or more, this large grouping of five-petaled partridgeberry illustrates one of the tenets of nature that states diversity rules. Perhaps this small freak of nature will some day benefit the species to it’s continued survival.

At the least our five-petaled partridgeberry is a curiosity!
At the least our five-petaled partridgeberry is a curiosity!

Violet and Yellow Wood-Sorrel Flowers Brighten Up the Edges of the Yard

Violet and Yellow Wood-sorrel are brightening up corners of the gardens and the edges of the yard, but their blooms are only out in the sun. Afternoon-shaded areas will have the ‘lucky clovers’ closing up their flowers.

Wood-sorrel flowers close up in the afternoon shade or at nighttime and re-open in the sunshine.
Wood-sorrel flowers close up in the afternoon shade or at nighttime and re-open in the sunshine.
Yellow wood sorrel, Oxalis europaea, flowers arise in clusters on flower stalks that are separate from the notched, clover-like leaflets.
Yellow wood sorrel, Oxalis europaea, flowers arise in clusters on flower stalks that are separate from the notched, clover-like leaflets.

As kids we pulled off the erect seed pods and ate them for a sour treat! The leaves are edible, too. Just add a few leaves to salads or make an iced tea from the steeped leaves, sweeten with honey or stevia and chill. The yellow or pink blossoms make great looking garnishes.

Violet wood-sorrel, Oxalis violacea, flowers seem to flare open their violet-pink petals.
Violet wood-sorrel, Oxalis violacea, flowers seem to flare open their violet-pink petals.

Late Spring Blooming Solomon’s Seals in Pennsylvanian Woodlands

Solomon’s Seals grow in open woods where sunlight reaches the forest floor. They co-exist with the viburnums and other woodland herbs.

Smooth Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum biflorum, has one to four creamy-white to yellow-green, bell-shaped flowers dangling from the leaf axils along an arching stem. If you don’t look under the leaves, you’re bound to miss the flowers.

Smooth Solomon's Seal's dangling, tube-shaped flowers.

Smooth Solomon’s Seal’s dangling, tube-shaped flowers.

False Solomon’s Seal, Smilacina racemosa, is blooming now, too — it’s flowers are much more noticeable than Smooth Soloman’s Seal’s blooms. At the end of an upward-arching stem projects out a pointed cluster, or raceme, of white flowers, which lends it an alternate name of Wild Spikenard.

Blooms of False Solomon's Seal projecting upward at the tip of the zig-zag stem.

Blooms of False Solomon’s Seal projecting upward at the tip of the zig-zag stem.

Looking down on a group of False Solomon's Seal with the terminal flowers still in their yellow-green buds.

Looking down on a group of False Solomon’s Seal with the terminal flowers still in their yellow-green buds.

A close up view of the flower cluster of False Solomon's Seal shows the stamens projecting out in all directions, which make the individual flowers appear as starbursts.

A close up view of the flower cluster of False Solomon’s Seal shows the stamens projecting out in all directions, which make the individual flowers appear as starbursts.

Viburnum Bouquets in the Forests of Pennsylvania

This past week saw an end to the blooming of the locust trees. The spikes of white blossoms can be noticed from afar and so can their putrid scent. Not really putrid, but what would you call a cross between body odor and cat pee? I think the folks living nearest the rivers are glad that their blooming is over!

The forests are still alive with Spring blossoms. The Viburnums and Solomon’s Seals are making a great show along the wooded paths.

Maple-leaved Viburnum likes the filtered sunlight found in open wooded areas. The short-stalked leaves remind one of the leaves of, you guessed it — maple trees.

Pairs of leaves on this woodland shrub, Viburnum acerifolium, are similar to maple tree leaves.

Pairs of leaves on this woodland shrub, Viburnum acerifolium, are similar to maple tree leaves.

Broad clusters of several small, white flowers are at the tip of the growing branches. The flower buds are pinkish-white before opening up into five-petaled, white blossoms. Five stamens project upward and make the clusters appear fuzzy from a distance.

Small white flowers cluster together in maple-leaved viburnum.
Small white flowers cluster together in maple-leaved viburnum.

Wild Geraniums, a.k.a. Cranesbill, Blooming in Pennsylvania

The most popular Springtime wildflower color seems to be white, so it is rather pleasing to find flowers of different colors. Wild geraniums that grow along our lane and in the open woods sport light violet to pink flowers.

Also known as Cranesbill, Geranium maculatum, the Wild Geranium has five-parted, deeply lobed leaves and occurs in shady, wooded areas and roadsides.

Wild geranium in the mountainous forest of central Pennsylvania.
Wild geranium in the mountainous forest of central Pennsylvania.
Lilac-toned flower of Cranesbill.
Lilac-toned flower of Cranesbill.

Flowers with five large, rounded petals occur in small clusters with only one or two blooms open at a given time. The “cranesbill” — which is the future seedpod — lies at the center of each flower. Stems and sepals are very hairy.

Erect seedpods that become elongated as they mature give this woodland Geranium its common name, Cranesbill.
Erect seedpods that become elongated as they mature give this woodland Geranium its common name, Cranesbill.

Later in the season, when the seeds are fully mature, the seedpods burst open and forcefully eject the seeds to colonize new areas.

Deerberry Shrubs Blooming in the Mountains of PA

Deerberry occurs as a small shrub in the undergrowth of the oak-white pine-hickory forests of the Northeastern United States. In Pennsylvania this colony of deerberry is predominately 2-3 feet tall, but one shrub has grown to about 6 feet in height.

Deerberry blooming in the woods of Pennsylvania.

Deerberry blooming in the woods of Pennsylvania.

Foliage consists of alternating leaves that grow to larger sizes nearer the distal end of the branches. Oval, pointed leaves measure 1-3 inches long.

Leaves of the deerberry shrub are entire, alternating, oval, pointed and pale on the underside.

Leaves of the deerberry shrub are entire, alternating, oval, pointed and pale on the underside.

Deerberry flowers hang from racemes that have smaller leaves and bracts.

Deerberry flowers hang from racemes that have smaller leaves and bracts.

Hanging blossoms of Deerberry, Vaccinium stamineum, have flower stems longer than the blossoms. The light green, cup-shaped calyx contains five white petals that flare out to the side.

Stamens protrude beyond the edge of the deerberry flower bell, which alludes to the species name.

Stamens protrude beyond the edge of the deerberry flower bell, which alludes to the species name.

Deerberries are inedible, so perhaps the value of this shrub is in providing habitat for wildlife. It grows in shady areas and, apparently, is not browsed by deer.

Raspberries and Chokecherries Blooming in PA

I have three members of the Rose family to share with you today.

In another month we should be picking raspberries all down the lane. Great arcs of white blossoms show where I need to cut back the poison ivy and dead branches for easy access. The fruit-producing stem will be lopped off in the fall to encourage new growth for next year’s crop.

A handful of raspberries will be produced at each node where you see five to eleven blossoms.

A handful of raspberries will be produced at each node where you see five to eleven blossoms.

Not all the flowers bloom at the same time. Some petals are falling away while other blooms have yet to open, which is excellent for harvesting. Some fruits will ripen before others, so there is the possibility of several harvests. Hopefully, the birds and the bear will save us some.

Raspberry, Rubus sp., flowers in different stages of development.

Raspberry, Rubus sp., flowers in different stages of development.

Wild roses, Rosa multiflora, are in the bud stage now, but it won’t be long before they beautify the lane with delicate, white blooms and a sweet scent.

Flower buds of wild roses are still small and packed inside the green sepals.

Flower buds of wild roses are still small and packed inside the green sepals.

More white blooms were found on the Common Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana. The shrubs to small trees occur in disturbed areas, particularly roadsides and edges of fields. Small flowers occur in clusters three to six inches long with each individual blossom having five rounded petals, a cup-shaped calyx and numerous stamens.

Common Chokecherry flowers occur in elongated clusters.

Common Chokecherry flowers occur in elongated clusters.

Notice the bag worm, or tent caterpillar, nest in the background. If you inspect the lower portion of the photo above, you will see yellow-green midribs of the leaves that the caterpillars have consumed. Lucky for the birds who eat the cherries that the bag worms don’t eat the flowers!

Dame’s Rocket Blooming in Pennsylvania

Driving along a Pennsylvanian country road during the months of May or June, you are likely to see some patches of tall white, pink or violet flowers, called Dame’s Rocket or Dame’s Violet.

White and violet patches of Dame's Rocket give a splash of color to the Pennsylvanian roadside.
White and violet patches of Dame’s Rocket give a splash of color to the Pennsylvanian roadside.

The flowers of Dame’s Rocket, Hesperis matronalis, cluster at the top of one to three feet tall stems. Blooms with four petals that eventually give rise to erect seedpods indicate this garden escape is a member of the mustard family. Phlox spp. are similar in appearance although the flowers have five petals and you would most likely find phlox blooming in a wooded area.

Violet and white blooms of Dame's Violet have four petals.
Violet and white blooms of Dame’s Violet have four petals.

The white blossoms may have a tinge of pink or purple and some flowers are variegated. The stamens and style are retained mostly in the flower tube.

Dame's Rocket blooming in white.
Dame’s Rocket blooming in white.

A few small flower clusters project from the leaf axils. Finely toothed leaves attach directly to the hairy, stiff stem.

Violet flowers of a roadside beauty.
Violet flowers of a roadside beauty.
Dame's Rocket will catch your attention with its bright colors and great patches of many flowers.
Dame’s Rocket will catch your attention with its bright colors and great patches of many flowers.