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Posts Tagged ‘Flowers’

Misumena vatia on fading peony

It’s peak season for summer tourists in the garden.  Though the regulars are back, what’s lurking between the leaves and petals may surprise you.  The ghost crab spider found on this fading peony is a splendidly camouflaged ambush hunter. Visual feedback from its many eyes cause its color to change according to its surroundings.

Ghost crab spider lying in wait

Meanwhile, back on the hosta plant, this fly doesn’t seem to be buying the spider’s line… at least not this time.  Perhaps it’s already had its fill of summer romance.

"Come into my parlor" said the spider to the fly.

“Come into my parlor” said the spider to the fly.

A hoverfly is more forward in its approach to the last of the purple spiderworts to bloom.  Although this adult hoverfly is looking for a taste of nectar, in its larval stage it likely ate its share of aphids.

hoverfly and spiderwort

Fresh hydrangea blooms look inviting to a fruit fly in search of sustenance.

fly on hydrangea

Or could this visitor just be looking for a nice quiet place to rest its wings for a moment?

Rhagoletis fly on hydrangea

This fly is focused on the nectar of a yellow St John’s wort.

fly on st johns wort

A recently opened lily already has a visitor walking along a petal towards its inner sanctum.

fly on lily petal

Surely flowers must find the never ending flow of visitors tiring.  But even though they might be tempted to utter ‘Come again when you can’t stay quite so long,’ flowers benefit from insect activity for much of their pollination.  And that’s reason enough to tolerate visitors, even those who prey on other guests.

Ghost crab spider waving goodbye

Ghost crab spider waving goodbye

For more on the crab spider in Canada, see The Nature of the Hill’s Goldenrod Crab Spider post.  Cindy in the Swan Hills of Alberta has also included a cool video from Green Nature. 

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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How does such a delicate flower as the Queen Anne’s Lace manage to continue looking so fresh so late in the season?  Though it’s a favorite of many, few have looked deeply enough into the heart of the flower to see its deep red center.  Could the secret of its youthful bloom be found here at its heart?

What makes one flower stay fresh well past summer while others close their hearts to the cold winds and rains that are so much a part of the autumn of life?  Why do some choose to retreat into themselves while others practice a hospitality of the heart that judges not visitors and welcomes all?

These are just a few of the questions worth asking on a quiet and sunny Sunday in October.  Canadian Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner.  May you all find lots of things to be thankful for and questions worth asking.

The questions worth asking, in other words, come not from other people but from nature, and are for the most part delicate things easily drowned out by the noise of everyday life.
~ Robert B. Laughlin

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Even Van Gogh’s Starry Night pales in comparison to the fresh beauty and scent of flowers brought indoors from the garden.

Whether they’re lilies, peonies or another seasonal favorite, fresh blooms have the ability to bring any room in the house to life.

Although I don’t usually bring cut flowers indoors, these peonies fell onto the ground after a recent rain .  As peonies require ants to complete the pollination process, I was careful to inspect the blooms prior to bringing them indoors.

Little did I know that something else had hitchhiked in with the blooms, likely on a leaf.  It was only a matter of a few minutes before it had made its way onto the table leg.  Can you see it?

Nature is always full of surprises.

Whether you’re enjoying nature indoors or outdoors on this beautiful sunny day, Happy Canada Day to you!  By the way, this slug will be spending the rest of the day outdoors :)

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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May is one of the best times to see plants in bloom along the Salt Marsh Trail. The experience is not one to miss. Barely visible from the trail, bog rhododendrons, shown above, look rather exotic for these woods.

wild strawberries in bloom

Simpler wild strawberries are in bloom on the ground.  They seem especially numerous this year.

The soft pink of the flowering apple trees is a special treat for the eyes against the dark green of the woods and a bright blue sky.

Pin cherry trees are barely noticeable at other times of the year but right now their blooms allow them to stand out from surrounding greenery.

Up close, an elderberry bloom looks like an ornate chandelier.

Most ubiquitous of all are the delicate service berry blooms.  Unfortunately, they’re the most susceptible to being blown off their branches by strong winds.

Perhaps it’s this quality about them that makes them seem so fragile and ephemeral.  Like springtime itself, they never seem to be around long enough.

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Mayflowers c. 1840 by Maria Morris Miller

April showers bring mayflowers.  Sometimes in May… sometimes in April.

It’s raining today which is good news for all things green and growing.  Mayflowers  (aka trailing arbutus ~ Epigaea repens) are among the earliest native blooms to appear in Nova Scotia.  Half-hidden on the edge of the woods, their leathery leaves may look ragged and browned in spots, but the flowers are nonetheless fresh and pristine.  Their petals fade from light pink to white as spring progresses.

Mayflowers enjoy the moist, acidic environments that are typically found near bogs.   They are also shy plants, with a preference for shade. 

Over a century ago mayflowers were designated the floral emblem of Nova Scotia.  Found throughout most of eastern North America, this native evergreen plant is now considered an endangered species in Florida and vulnerable in New York. 

Unbeknownst to many gardeners who unsuccessfully try to transplant them, the roots of mayflowers have a secret relationship with fungus.  In this mutually beneficial liaison (also known as a mycorrhizal association), fungi gain direct access to carbohydrates through the roots of the mayflower.  At the same time, the fungus  makes the mayflower more resistant to disease and drought. 

In the language of flowers, mayflowers mean welcome.  Welcome to Nova Scotia.  Welcome to spring.

The image of mayflowers at top left was scanned from a postcard I purchased at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History over two decades ago.  I photographed the mayflowers just a short walk from the bottom of Flandrum Hill Road last week.

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The wayside in June is full of unexpected colors. You may walk or drive past something beautiful for several days before the sun sits upon it in a manner that catches your attention.  The bright pink chives, shown above, stand out in the sunshine as they grow in the grey gravel.  How they managed to thrive on the side of a busy road is a mystery.


Lupins are not an uncommon sight along the roadsides in Nova Scotia.  Yet every June, they bring delight to drivers and walkers alike.  Whether they’re growing on the side of a ditch or next to a trail, their pink and purple hues are a welcome sight.

One doesn’t usually expect to see roses growing in eel grass along a rocky shore.  Like life, beauty manages to find a way.

Hidden in the shade, a profusion of wild violets bloom with abandon near a forest trail.  To see so many in one spot is a wonder.

The delicate lady slippers one finds while out romping in the woods don’t bring half the joy of the single one found growing unexpectedly next to a path in one’s own yard.  Lady slippers don’t take well to being transplanted, and so will only grow where they want to grow.

In the early morning light, burgundy colored brush appears to be ablaze against the cool June greens of the marsh grass.   

Often it’s the meals that we don’t cook that give us the greatest pleasure.  Similarly, it’s the plants that we don’t grow ourselves but suddenly appear on the landscape, without any expectation on our part, that bring us the greatest delight.  In both instances, the element of surprise seems to be a key ingredient to finding enjoyment in the everyday.

Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.
~ Samuel Johnson

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Imagine a secret code of communication that doesn’t rely on the written word.  One that allows exchangers to express a range of emotions that might never even be spoken.  Such is the language of flowers, developed during the reign of Queen Victoria, whose birthday is celebrated today in Canada.

It became popular at the time to send coded messages by flowers or small arrangements of blooms, called posies, which were frequently worn on ladies’ dresses.  Each flower came to represent a specific message.  Although this code was well known among all layers of society during Victoria’s time, it was eventually forgotten. 

Here are a few meanings behind some of the flowers presently in bloom in Nova Scotia.

Apple blossoms, shown above at left, would send the message that you prefered the recipient over another.  If you felt sorry for someone, you could send elderflowers, shown above at centre, as they indicate compassion.  Dandelions, at top right, communicate flirting.  There are certainly enough of these bright yellow blooms to send to everyone these days.

In contrast, forget-me-nots, shown above at left, would be sent only to one’s true love.  Blue violets, shown above at centre, are symbols for faithfulness.  Considering how easily these tiny flowers can be overlooked, it’s no wonder that the white violets, shown above at right, communicate modesty.

Coded floral messages could also make it easier to deliver awkward sentiments.  If you wanted to communicate the message that you wanted to be alone, lichens, symbols of solitude, would say it well, especially dusted with a frost of snow. 

Today, the Victorian era (1837-1901) is considered an age of romance that saw a revival of family values and improved social morals, inspired in part by Victoria’s long-lasting affection for her husband Albert.  The secret code of flowers is part of that legacy.

For more information on the language of flowers see the entry at Wikipedia.

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ciliolate astersFlowers in the Aster family are a common sight in September.  With disk-like heads, these flowers are composites that are all considered edible.  Each petal is actually an individual flower.

Daisies, sunflowers and dandelions all belong to this family but so do flowers that are known by the name of the family itself:  asters.

Blue and white asters are common both in my yard and along roadsides in September.  The white asters are the first to appear, often in woodland settings.  These go by the name of parasol and flat-top aster. 

 

white aster

Asters with a blue or purple hue are various.  The intensity of their colour varies.  Some are low bush while others grow tall.  Often known generally as Michaelmas daisies, these are in bloom around the feast of Michael the Archangel on September 29th. 

asters

An ancient feast, Michaelmas is considered the Christian equivalent to the autumn equinox. In times past, it marked the beginning of a new quarter and new year for business, making contracts, starting school or electing officials.

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deadly star of bethlehem

Last summer I found two young snowshoe hares dead on the lawn one morning.  They were curled up in the fetal position and showed no outward sign of trauma.  They were the cutest little creatures and it was so sad to have to bury them.  I had seen them hopping around the rosebushes just the day before.  I couldn’t understand why they had died so suddenly.  A fox would have carried them back to its den.  If a cat or dog had attacked them, they would surely have wounds.

young hareHares have made nests in my wild rosebushes for years.  They didn’t this year.  In years past, young bunnies have often hopped out of the bushes as I’ve mowed the grass nearby.  Adult hares still graze on the lawn in the open, usually dining on dandelions and plantains.  In the winter they reach up to eat the green needles on the lower branches of balsam fir trees.

Recently I learned that most plants in the lily family of flowers are poisonous.  Plants in this family all have bulbs, flowers with parts in 3s and parallel leaf veins. Many of these bulbs are often planted in the fall in North American gardens for spring blooming:  narcissus, tulips, irises, hyacinths, crocuses and daffodils.

Although I”ve never planted any of these in my garden, a couple of years ago, a friend gave me a clump of Star of Bethlehem blooms to transplant.  I put them right next to the rosebushes.  At the time, I didn’t realize that their bulbs would be deadly if ingested by pet cats, dogs, rabbits or wild hares.  Could these have caused the death of the young bunnies last summer?  I’ll never know for sure, but I will be removing this beautiful plant and its numerous bulbs from my yard before next spring.

snowshoe hares

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Finding the name of a mystery flower can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  It’s often a  frustrating task.  Where do you start?

If you’re doing an online search, two other keywords besides color can be helpful:

  • A flower’s habitat. Is it growing in a meadow? a pine forest? a bog? on a lakeshore? a seashore?
  • The English or Latin name of the flower’s family. There are 7 floral families (listed below), each with a specific set of characteristics.

yellow small

Mustard Family - Cruciferae

- 4 petals
- seedpods follow a radial pattern around the stalk
- pods open from both sides to expose a clear membrane in the middle
- all edible

 

 

 

 

mint smallMint FamilyLabiatae

- 5 united petals
- square stalks
- leaves grow opposite one another
- usually aromatic
- all edible as long as they smell minty

 

 

 

 

beach pea

Pea or Legume Family -
Leguminosae

- irregular shaped flowers with 5 petals
- pea-like pods
- pinnate leaves
- vary from being barely edible to barely poisonous

 

 

 

 

star of bethlehem

Lily Family - Liliaceae

- flowers with parts in 3s with 6 stamens
- sepals and petals identical
- parallel leaf veins
- produce bulbs
- some edible, some poisonous

 

 

 

 

small pink hollyhock

Mallow Family -
Malvaceae

- 5 separate petals
- column of stamens in middle of flower
- moist and sticky texture
- edible

 

 

 

 

oxeye daisy

Aster or Sunflower Family –
Compositae

- composite flowers
- disk-like head
- each petal is an individual flower
- edible

 

 

 

 

lace small

Parsley or Carrot Family -
Apiaceae or Umbelliferae

- radially symmetrical (5 petals, sepals and stamens)
- compound umbrella-like design
- usually hollow flower stalks
- many are not safe for eating and can be deadly

 

 

 

You may still have to look at several images before you’re able to find the exact flower, but these keywords should help you narrow your search.  At the very least, you should be able to identify its family.  Good luck!

For more information on floral families, see:
Learning to Identify Plants by Families

For more information on flowers in northern North America, see:
Ontario Wildflower

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ragged robin

Ragged Robin flowers grow wild in the yard.  They just popped up a few summers ago and I’ve been mowing around them ever since.  They’re too pretty to cut down.

daisy patchI used to mow around the Oxeye daisies too but now restrict their growth to mostly a large circular bed in one corner of the yard.  Once they’re done blooming, I mow the area flat.

Wild flowers require no special care.  They grow where God has planted them (or I’ve transplanted them) and need no extra watering beyond what rains down.  They’re not as prone to blight and insect damage as introduced species seem to be, and the slugs don’t have much of an apetite for them.

Unfortunately, these plants are often seen as weeds and tend to be either tolerated or eradicated with great effort from city lawns.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

~ William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Whether or not a plant is considered a weed is a matter of perception.  Poet William Blake believed that ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’  Signs of innocence are close at hand but it’s up to us to open our eyes, take notice and try to understand them.  ‘Everything that lives is holy’ and can bring us in touch with that which is infinite.  What positive things might happen today if we were willing to abandon our pre-conceived, limited notions of beauty and abundance?

shore birds in flight

Nature in its many forms possesses qualities that can connect us to this holy state.  From sandpipers on the ocean’s shore to doves on city streets, these signs of innocence are ready to give us a glimpse of the infinite and the eternal, if only we would adjust our focus.

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Summer spills her golden days,
Upon the earth in lust displays.

~ Nora Bozeman

black eye susan

Warm August days bring forth blooms of a yellow color that weren’t noticeable on the landscape a few weeks ago.  These cheerful flowers have a golden glow that mimics the bright summer sun.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are native to North America and are desirable in gardens for their bright color and quality of low-maintenance.  They’ve been used by native people to treat a variety of ailments from snake bites to earaches.   These yellow daisies  have a flat open design that is especially attractive to butterflies.

wild flowers and grass

Evening-primroses (Onagraceae) open at sunset and close by noon the following day.  Also known as sun cups, they are pollinated by moths that fly from flower to flower during the night hours.  The young shoots of this plant can be eaten in a salad while the roots can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable.  Yet another name for this plant, King’s Cure-all, reveals its myriad medicinal uses, from pain-relief to cough suppression.

light yellow flowers

I haven’t had any luck identifying the plant with light yellow flowers shown above.  It grows profusely along the Salt Marsh Trail.  Does it look familiar to anyone?

Update August 6th:  I’ve discovered that this plant is most likely Sea Radish which is in the Mustard family (cruciferae).

hawkweed

Canada Hawkweed is also a native plant, found growing along roadsides and railway tracks.  Since the trail along the salt marsh follows the old Blueberry Express train track, it’s no surprise that it’s found along there.  Rough Hawkweed, which has hairier stems, grows in my lawn in early July.  Usually considered a weed, it derives its name from the old belief that it was eaten by hawks to improve their eyesight.

golden rod

A few Golden Rod plants are in bloom along the Salt Marsh Trail but not yet in my yard.  Ever since I was a child, their blooming has been a sign for me that the summer was winding down. There are numerous varieties of this plant.  Larger ones have very rigid stalks and can grow several feet tall.

Take time this month to drink in the beauty around you.  If you don’t have a garden of your own, take an extra bit of time to enjoy the flowers growing freely along roadsides.  Enjoy these golden days because…

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

~ William Shakespeare

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