Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Bloom Day

It can begin with a simple flower that leads to a world of discovery. There is just something about them. The rainbow of colors is one of the big draws. Deeply embedded in our ancient brains, color attracts us and draws us nearer. It is an attraction that is older than our knowing.

A multitude of forms displayed, scents emitted and fruits produced continues the intrigue and mystery that a simple flower can induce. We want them close to us and a gardener is born. For the curious or the insatiable, once the door to the world of plants is opened it can be a journey of a thousand directions that never ends.

From a small little cabin on a North Carolina mountaintop let’s take such a journey to look closely at the environment around this tiny piece of the wondrous planet earth for Blog Action Day.

In one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet, the Southern Appalachia, where there is never it seems just one or a few of a plant genus, I had to give up on identifying the species of this Blue Aster for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day or I would never have been able to finish this post on time. You would think a species this dominant at this time of year would be front and center and easy to spot in a number of books. Not.

Where just a few weeks ago was a solid white hillside of Ageratina altissima, White Snakeroot, there is now a carpet of blue.

Heading towards the forest along the gravel drive, the changing colors of autumn begin to accentuate the different species of trees that help make up this ecosystem. In their summer green they more easily blend into the image of a single unit. I have found four oak species here. There are at least three species of Maples and there are Magnolia, Cherry, Locust, Hemlock, Apple, Sassafras, Dogwood, Redbud, Yellow Poplar, Beech, Birch, Hickory and Elm. At least these, probably more, and these are just the tree species that can be found in a small parcel of land on a North Carolina mountaintop.

The native Rhododenron calendulaceum, Flame Azalea, with the unknown Blue Aster blooming at its feet, likes forest edges where it gets a touch more sun.

It's Autumn leaves mimic the bright orange flowers of spring.

The unknown Blue Aster blooms along the forest trail as we head deeper into the forest.

Hidden beneath the canopy another world of shade loving plants carpets the forest floor.

Asarum canadense, Wild Ginger.

Heuchera, Mitella, Tiarella, I am not sure, but I am aiming for something in the Saxifragaceae family.

And of course there is something of similar growth habit and leaf shape in the same environment. Could it be Mitella diphylla or Heuchera villosa?

Still in the Saxifragaceae family, but preferring to grow directly on the rocks in the streams or moist seeps in the creases of the mountain's flanks is Saxifraga micranthidifolia, Mountain Lettuce.

As a natural physical crossing point between east and west and north and south these mountains have long been a repository of plant species as they have moved across the earth with changing climates. The low valleys and coves and mountain elevations create micro climates where plants can find safe haven at the extremes of their natural range. This is natures very own seed bank and storage place of germplasm.

Out on the forest edge again, the unknown Blue Aster blooms.

In the forest when something falls it just stays there and rots. Life is not wasteful and many species find ways to put this dead fall to use.

Hepatica acutiloba, Liverwort, rests comfortably with another fungi.

Shining Clubmoss, Huperzia lucidula aka Lycopodium lucidulum.

I can wander through this forest in a thousand different directions and discover new colonies of plants found before. This Aplectrum hyemale, Putty Root, in the orchid family is now the third grouping of this species I have seen. It is only now in the fall that the leaves emerge from the ground. The scarce sunlight is rationed so that more species will survive.

Your not going to find many Carex species in wildflower books so this will remain unidentified for now, but I am willing to bet it is a sedge not a grass and one that is growing in deep shade. The sedges were long ignored as garden worthy plants. Now gardeners are bringing them in from the horticultural back waters and giving them a place in the garden.

As gardeners we have the opportunity and possibly a duty to help the planet right now maintain it's bio-diversity in the little piece of earth that we maintain. It is likely a natural inclination when taking this road of discovery started by the lure of a simple flower.

Here we have the lovely unknown Blue Aster along an upper path for Garden Blogger Bloom Day.

And a look up in the canopy as we head back home to a small cabin in the forest.

Where some fancy store bought Blue Asters are waiting to be planted to add to the diversity of life.


chuck b. said...

Um, I guess I missed the memo on "Blog Action Day"... I couldn't possibly have done a better job than this post, which echoes my sentiments 100%. But in California. So I'm just going to say "What Christopher said."

Anonymous said...

Great tour of your woods; thanks! And thanks for the species ID on the lycopodium. I have been puzzling over the ones in my woods. I have the common one that looks like a little Christmas tree (the species name escapes me at the moment), but just recently I discovered another one with the same type foliage (just like your L. lucidulum), but a prostrate growth pattern. I am wondering about L. clavatum. Does the one you picture grow prostrate or vertically; I can't tell from the angle of your photo. Thanks.

lisa said...

You sure have a lot of biodiversity going on! Nice post...I have a couple different club mosses too, and have been trying to transplant them into my gardens with zero sucess, so now I leave them alone. I just love the woodland understory...feels like another world entirely.

Anonymous said...

I envy you the trees, especially at this time of year. Soon they will set the Blue Ridge on fire. I miss them.

Carol Michel said...

Wonderful post. I impressed by all the plants you do know by name. Someday, you'll find out the name of the unnamed blue asters.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Christopher C. NC said...

Chuck you must have been on your native plant nursery road trip.

Bev I found this really nice site that had the Clubmoss. It did not have Lycopodium clavatum. It did have L. digitatum which also grows here. The one in this post grows upright until they got too tall and lean over.

Lisa I missed the spring show this year and a whole new array of species will reveal themselves. The Violets, Trilliums and Jack in the Pulpits to name a few.

Pam it seems the colors stopped turning or slowed down when it got cold. The anticipation is almost killing me. I do know there are good and bad years for color. I hope my first is a good one.

Carol do you know how many Asters there are? A TON! Lord knows how many species are up here alone. Maybe someone out there in blog land will know this Blue Aster with the hundreds of tiny flowers. I really should start making a list.

Anonymous said...

Christopher, thanks for the great website! I'm going to have to look at that new one I found more closely; it is not the one you have. And the other one I have is the common ground pine (despite the species name 'obscurum'), which is now in a different genus, it seems. Very educational; thanks again.

Annie in Austin said...

Your post is lovely, Christopher, and I'm also amazed at how much you can identify. No blue aster like that showed up in my Southern Appalachian wildflower book.

I've planted some woodland wildflowers in past gardens, and seen them growing in places like State parks, botanical gardens, or created wildflower woodland gardens, but I've never known anyone who owned woodland. I can only imagine how thrilling it would be to discover plants like these, rather than shop for them.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Gloria said...

Whatever ever took you to this woodland I am so glad you blog. What a treat for us your pictures and writing will be as you acclimate to your new home.
My aging eyes do not see small flowers on blogs well enough to ever help ID. But clues are the larger leaves and late bloom time as well as the color. If you look on distribution maps for NC you will see suggestions to research.

Check this

Anonymous said...

Boy, the flame azaleas will probably be spectacular in the springtime - I can't wait to see them.

The diversity really is remarkable, isn't it? I knew it was diverse - but your images - wow, it's more than I had imagined.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Beautiful tour! I've never visited your neck of the woods, but now I'd like to. I wonder if your aster could be macrophylla, as it has large leaves & grows in shade. I think, though, that macrophylla has large flowers. I have my own aster mysteries to solve yet; good luck with yours.