A weed that I’ve enjoyed seeing, until they had a population explosion in the vegetable garden recently, is the yellow oxalis or sour grass.
Yellow oxalis is also known as Yellow Wood Sorrel, which is the common name used for two closely related plants, Oxalis stricta and O. europaea. Both plants are native to the eastern United States. The outward difference between the two species is in the way the seed pods are held. The seed pods of O. stricta have a sharp angle in their stems, while those of O. europaea are not bent. Photos in this post are of O. stricta.
The leaves are like shamrocks, so sometimes we call it that. Each leaf is made up of three heart-shaped leaflets, joined at their bases.
By June the earliest flowering oxalis will set seed. Seeds develop in their candle-like spikes, which are the pieces to eat for a sour treat, although the foliage tastes sour too.
While pulling out weeds we often uncover toads. The little ones we find in the springtime are actually cute!
Echinacea, otherwise known as Purple Coneflower, is native to the prairies of North America. We haven’t seen it in the wild up here in Pennsylvania, but we know it as a garden flower.
Purple coneflower is a perennial that can be invasive in the garden or flower beds as the plentiful seeds of this composite family member will sprout the following year into many small plants. To keep flower beds tidy most of the volunteers will need to be pulled up. Successive years brings more growth as the plants get larger and larger. Older plants have more blossoms and they’re taller with flowering stalks up to five feet tall.
Purple coneflowers consist of light pink to deeper pink to lavender ray flowers and dark orange disc flowers. Some flower heads have petals that are distinctly swept back, while others mature to that position after having started out with a more horizontal look.
The cone of disc flowers starts out as a flat disc and as the outer disc flowers mature they grow in size which has the effect of pushing up the center of the disc, making the obligatory cone shape. When all the disc flowers have bloomed, the central disc truly is a cone-shaped coneflower. We let the cones overwinter as they serve as a food source for goldfinches, cardinals and tufted titmice.
Two species of Echinacea are common. Echinacea purpurea, known as Purple Coneflower, and Echinacea pallida, the Pale Purple Coneflower. The two echinaceas are very similar, but they can be differentiated by their lower leaves. E. purpurea has toothed, long-stalked leaves, whereas E. pallida has parallel-veined leaves that are toothless.
Bracts, stems and leaves are all rough to the touch because of the presence of small stiff hairs.
Supposedly the Pale Purple Coneflower has lighter petals that are more pink than the darker Purple Coneflower’s reddish-purple petals. I wouldn’t use the petal color as a way to identify the species though. Judging by the progeny of one Purple Coneflower plant over several years, there is a lot of variation in the color of petals.
Different color varieties of the Purple Coneflower are available for your garden at local and online retailers. You shouldn’t have to look hard to find a mix of pink, purple, white and yellow blooms! A true favorite – and the birds and bees love it too.
About five years ago we went to a Native Plant Sale held at Millersville University, Lancaster County, PA. We picked up two native plants, Wild Ginger and Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana.
Wild ginger is much more plentiful in the wild, at least in the places we’ve looked. The wild ginger we planted has spread out a little bit and the original plant carried its flower from earlier this year until the second week of June. Spiderwort flowers beautifully in the later part of May into June.
Greenery of the spiderwort plant rises up early starting in April. Photo below taken 11 April 2010.
A couple of weeks later (23 April 2010) the foliage is over a foot tall. The linear leaves arch over as they get taller. It will take 2-3 weeks from this stage for the spiderwort to start blooming. Check out how small this spiderwort plant was in 2006.
This year I should have staked up the plant as it got heavy with blooms and now is laying over to the side. The flowers are still really pretty!
Didn’t get flowering pics until 31 May 2010. Spiderwort flowers were blooming until 11 June for a 2-3 week blooming period for 2010.
Younger plants may have fewer flowers open at one time. Each bloom lasts for a day and then only in the morning. The blossoms wilt and turn to jelly by mid-day.
Note the stamens with golden-yellow anthers, fuzzy purple hairs, and the flower pistil with a round end or stigma in center of bloom. Note that the lower left flower has four petals instead of the typical three – only saw one flower with four petals out of about 80 blossoms. Click on any of these photos for a larger view.
The flowers are so pretty that people used to make them into candy. Peterson’s Edible Plant Guide says all you have to do is rinse the flowers with water, dry gently, brush with egg white and coat with sugar. Not sure the effort would be worth the taste, but at least they’d be real pretty!