Wild geranium, Geranium maculatum, is a beautiful flowering herb that we see here on the mountain top. It flowers in the woodlands during May. The flowers grow in loose clusters at the stem tips. Stems are quite hairy and the seed pods themselves are very bristly. The long hairs on the seed pods and even on the seeds themselves aid animal dispersal of the seeds.
When the seeds are totally ripe the beak splits up the middle and each seed is attached to a curved piece of the old beak.
Note the bristles on the seed pods and seeds. Photos taken 6 June 2010. Click on any photo to see a larger view.
Field mustard, Brassica rapa, is distinguished from the other mustards, like white mustard, charlock, black mustard, and chinese or indian mustard, by the lower lobes of the leaves which practically wrap around the stem.
The seed pods may be 2 inches long and slender, not to mention numerous.
The 3-ft. tall field mustard plants above were growing in waste ground between an access road and the highway. Heavy with seed pods the tops of the plants tipped over to one side. Field mustard photos taken 17 May 2010.
The road crew will probably mow down the mustard before the seeds ripen, but I’ll keep my eye on this patch for potential harvesting. Spicy mustard sounds nice!
The bright yellow roadside flowers of Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara, have long faded away for another year. This Spring Coltsfoot bloomed during the last two weeks of March and the first week of April in South-Central Pennsylvania.
The yellow composite flowers remind one of dandelions, and so do the seed heads. After the flowers are visited by their pollinators the flowers produce their seeds in round heads, just like a dandelion, although the seed heads may be more compact in shape and not quite as round.
All it takes is a gust of wind or physical disturbance from a passerby to disperse the seeds of Coltsfoot. (Photo taken 18Apr2010.)
The fluffy seed head will stand easily a foot tall, so they are usually taller than dandelion seed heads that so many people hate to see in their lawns.
The hoof-shaped leaves of Coltsfoot will continue to grow throughout the spring and summer until they are quite large, even larger than your hand.
Seed heads and leaves of Coltsfoot. Photo taken 2May2010.
Dandelion seed heads are completely spherical and their jagged leaves are easy to spot. Photo taken 2May2010.
Because they have very different leaf shapes no one should mistake dandelion for coltsfoot should they be interested in collecting seeds for their own dispersal.
I’ve mentioned before that Pennsylvania Bittercress, Cardamine pensylvanica, is already blooming. We saw it first blooming on March 19th, but I suspect the first flowers can be found blooming even earlier. (Photos taken 25 March 2010.)
How do you know that it’s Pennsylvania bittercress? The characteristics that identify it include the shape and arrangement of both leaves and flowers, as well as the very early blooming time. The Peterson Field Guide to Wildflowers states that it will bloom from April to June and that it can be found “nearly throughout” the Northeastern and North-Central United States.
Blooming time alone can’t identify a flowering plant, but it can help eliminate other possibilities from a tentative list. Some plants like dandelion will bloom periodically through out the year, so the time of blooming is not always helpful in identifying a plant. Other flowers will bloom in defined periods which does help in plant identification. For example, skunk cabbage blooms in late winter, sunflowers bloom in the summer, and goldenrods bloom in autumn.
The early Spring blooming of PA Bittercress heralds in the warmer weather. Still, there’s cold weather and possibly snow to fall yet at this time of year, but the little flowers of this member of the mustard family produces seed so fast that it will surely come back next year – even if the mother plant were to be frozen out by extreme March weather.
Take a look at the seeds already produced, near the flower clusters. The seed pods are thin and erect, surrounding the flowers at the tops of the stems. When the seeds have matured, brushing past the plant will forcefully eject the seeds from their pods. Pulling up the plant will also disperse the seeds, so there’s no use trying to make the lawn free of this prolific weed.
The white, four-petaled flowers are small, measuring less than 1/4 inch, but borne in clusters of 4, 5 or more. Here’s a photo looking down on a cluster of 4 flowers —
The rounded basal leaflets are in pairs with the terminal leaflet being slightly longer. Leaflets are narrower and less round on the compound leaves found higher up on the plant.
This Cardamine species, Pennsylvania bittercress, is found in moist areas, near springs or roadside ditches, and in lawns.