Sunday, August 17, 2014

American Hedysarum in Saskatchewan: Pink-purple flowers

American Hedysarum  © SB
American Hedysarum blooms in Saskatchewan in June and July, its pinkish-purple flowers drooping elegantly down along a raceme, or stalk.

These small, graceful plants grow in the grassy areas of semi-open prairies and borders of woodlands glades, say Vance/Jowsey.

I saw Hedysarum growing in patches along the open roadside and in a shady hollow near a dense bush.

And then I saw Hedysarum again, in a tangle of native prairie wildflowers (Bedstraw, Western Red Lilies, Roses) near trees at the edge of Wolverine Creek.

Hedysarum flowers shift gently in the slightest breeze, and their stalks bobbed to and fro in front of my camera...

Which was on a low, ground-sprawled tripod, in my attempt to stabilize at least one element of the photographic process.

(And that worked, for a second or two, until the prairie wind began to rustle grasses and wildflowers again, and the Hedysarum danced again.)

How lovely to walk and find flowers like these at your feet!

American Hedysarum in patch with Western Red Lilies © SB
Closer view of Hedysarum flowers. © SB

Prairie Wildflower: American Hedysarum 
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: July 6, 8 and 13, 2014. 

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Orange Hawkweed: Popsicle coloured flower

Orange Hawkweed © SB
Orange Hawkweed. Just as its name says, this prairie plant really is a weed.

Introduced from Europe for its unusual flame-colour flowers, it now grows in waste areas and wherever else it's permitted. (Lawns, meadows, fields, roadsides, gardens...)

As for me, I love Orange Hawkweed's cheerful colours that range from deep red to bright Popsicle orange and yellow. (In photos and from a distance, at least... Not so much up close, as Orange Hawkweeds — to me — have a distinctive sour smell.)

And, if Hawkweed sounds too boring as a name, Royer and Dickinson provide a range of others in their excellent Weeds of the Northern U.S. and Western Canada: Devil's Paintbrush, Orange Paintbrush, Red Daisy, and Missionary Weed (which I doubt is in any way complimentary to the message-spreading zeal of those good folks...)

In its pamphlet on Orange Hawkweed, the USDA Forest Service adds to that list Red Daisy, Flameweed, Fox-and-Cubs, and oddest of all — perhaps from its black-haired buds? — Grim-the-Collier. That pamphlet also explains the common name, Hawkweed:
"Pliny, the Roman naturalist, believed that hawks fed on the plant to strengthen their eyesight and thus it became the Greek and Latin name for this and similar plants, called hawkweed."
That range of names gives some idea of how prolific and invasive Orange Hawkweed can be. And though I would not transplant it as an ornamental, the colours of Orange Hawkweed still make me smile.

Orange Hawkweed, Grim-the-Collier, Devil's Paintbrush....  A weed by any name.  © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Orange Hawkweed  (Hieracium aurantiacum)
Location:  Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Dates: July 15 and 16, 2014. 

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Strawberry Spinach, aka Strawberry Blite

Strawberry Spinach  © SB
This summer, I had the opportunity to taste a new-to-me (to eat, at least) native plant: Strawberry Spinach, also known as Strawberry Blite, or Chenopodium capitatum.

By any name, these members of the Goosefoot family are edible, and the berries have a slightly spinach-like — and far from sweet strawberry — taste. 

I can see adding a handful of bright red Strawberry Spinach to a salad, perhaps with a few young leaves. 

And I brought some seeds home to test this theory next summer... Now, if I could only remember where I packed them... Then again, these native plants spread very freely, so perhaps my co-gardener will be grateful if I do not try... 

Vance/Jowsey says that Strawberry Blite is widespread across North America, growing in moist areas such as the edges of gardens and roadways.

They also say the red flesh is part of the flower, i.e., its ripening sepals... So where is the fruit? Royer-Dickinson explain that the fruit is the black specks throughout the berries. This is a very seedy eat!

And as for the petals themselves, these apparently are small and inconspicuously green, and long gone by the time the berries appear.

Strawberry Spinach  © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Strawberry Spinach or Strawberry Blite (Chenopodium capitatum)
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: July 20, 2014. 

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Western Canada Violets in Shade Beside a Field

I love stumbling (sometimes literally) over prairie wildflowers that are new to me, but well known to many others, flowers like the Western Canada Violet that I found in a shady spot at the edge of a farmer's field.

White or pale pink, with yellow centres and veins of deep purple, these flowers are less than an inch wide and appear in June to August. Vance-Jowsey says Western Canada Violets are "probably the longest flowering and most commonly observed violet."

And last month, I saw a few of these native Western Canadian plants for my first time.

Western Canada Violets. All violets remind me of fairy tales, 
in which teeny magical creatures live at the heart of flowers. © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Western Canada Violet (Voila Canadensis -- it's a Canadian plant!) 
Location:  Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: July 16, 2014. 

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Alfalfa Flowers by the Roadside

Walk along a Saskatchewan grid road in June and July, and you may pass masses of blue and purple Alfalfa flowers. 

Introduced as a forage crop, Alfalfa has become a common prairie wildflower — one that I saw attracting butterflies and dragonflies. The flowers range from about a quarter of an inch to half an inch long, and are typically legume-shaped. 

Stop and look closely: the intricate details multiply, deeper and deeper into each cluster. 

Alfalfa flower cluster   © SB 

Prairie Wildflower: Alfalfa (Medigo sativa)
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: July 5, 2014. 

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Alumroot: Saskatchewan Prairie and Parkland Wild Flower

Close-up Alumroot    © SB 
Okay, so Alumroot is not the most stunningly gorgeous Prairie wildflower — instead, it falls into the "look carefully, or you won't even realize this is a flower" category.

But there is a strange, almost ethereal beauty to these purplish-green spikes.

And, a satisfaction in figuring out that these tiny husks, gently swaying in the breeze, are in fact rhe flowers of a native prairie plant.

As well as by its flowers, Alumroot can be identified by its large, leathery, dark green basal leaves.

Royer and Dickinson say that Alumroot's habitat is in moist grassland sites —  and that's where I saw these plants, growing among grasses and other wildflowers in a wet hollow at the edge of the road.  


Alumroot flower spike   © SB 
Alumroot in field, with large basal leaves  © SB 

Prairie Wildflower: Alumroot 
Location:  Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Dates: July 13 and 14, 2014. 

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wild Blue Flax Along Saskatchewan Roadsides

Close-up, Wild Blue Flax   © SB 
One of my favourite Saskatchewan flowers is Wild Blue Flax.

These pale blue prairie wildflowers, with lines of darker purple and oh-so-close to white, appear in June and July, waving on their slender stalks in the slightest breeze.

Here are three recent pictures of Wild Blue Flax that make me happy....

I remember seeing these delicate wildflowers dancing along the shoulder of grid roads near St. Peter's Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan.


Okay, maybe it's my eyes or imagination --
but these two Wild Blue Flax stalks really look like dancers! 
 © SB


Another angle on Wild Blue Flax flowers  © SB 

Prairie Wildflower: Wild Blue Flax 
Location:  Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Dates: July 8 to 21, 2014. 

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wild Peavine: Purple, violet and pink wildflowers

Wild Peavine © SB
Wild Peavines were in glorious bloom along the shady edges of several Saskatchewan grid roads and fields I walked along in mid-July, their purple, pink and violet flowers glowing in a tangle of wild growth.

Each of the flowers are about half an inch or smaller, so even a cluster can be easy to pass by... But if you stop and look closer, what beauty!

Wild Peavines are perennial climbing plants, whose habitat includes "margins of aspen poplar groves, and relatively open areas inside such groves." (Vance-Jowsey)

And yes, they are yet another legume, but their leaves are bigger than those of wild vetches, and the Peavines I saw also seemed to have bigger, brighter clusters of flowers.

I haven't seen these in the south, which makes sense as Budd's Flora explains that Wild Peavines are more common in the Boreal forest and Aspen Parkland eco-regions of Saskatchewan. (And yes, Muenster, the area where these pix were taken, is in the Parklands.) The same source says Wild Peavines were a valuable source of forage and hay in the earlier days of settlement in the northern bushlands. I hope people enjoyed their colours, too!

Cascade of bright purples and pinks, from Wild Peavine © SB
Wild Peavine's clusters of bright flowers, with wide oval leaves.  © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Wild Peavine
Location:  Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Dates: July 20 and 21, 2014. 

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Goat's Beard Flowers: in Bloom, and Seed Head

Goat's Beard flower gone to seed.   © SB 
To my eye, the seed head of Goat's Beard — a near softball-sized puffball — is far more attractive than its greenish yellow flower.

This white fluff is also the reason for the plant's name, a connection dating back to the third century BCE Greek philosopher Theophrastus, says a Montana State University leaflet. (These plants have been recognized among us for a long time!)

Goat's Beard is now designated as a nuisance weed in Saskatchewan, and is a prairie wildflower that's fairly common along roadsides and waste areas, in the city as well as in rural areas.

To see Goat's Beard flowers at their best, look for them early on sunny mornings, before they close for the afternoon.

Prairie Beauty says the flower aren't likely to open when it's cloudy or rainy, either.  Which makes sense, based on their other name: Yellow Salsify, as 'salsify' means a plant that follows the sun.)

Goat's Beard is not native to North America, but was a common food plant in Northern Europe in the middle ages, the MSU leaflet says. Prairie Beauty explains that the young leaves and roots of immature plants are edible. (Not that I plan to try this, but then, I don't appreciate the taste of Dandelion leaves, either.)

Goat's Beard flower, mid-morning on a sunny day.  © SB 

Prairie Wildflower: Goat's Beard
Location:  Top, Regina, Saskastchewan, Canada; bottom, near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Dates: Top. July 4, 2012; bottom, July 21, 2014. 

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prairie Roses, from Pale to Deep Pink

Wild Prairie Rose   © SB
Oh, the Prairie Roses along the edges of Saskatchewan grid roads in July and August!

These Prairie Roses range from pale pink through a deep, almost crimson shade, and scent the air with the sweet smell of, well, summer roses. 

I know you guys roaring by in your dusty pick-up trucks and (yes, especially you, that somewhat-less-than-courteous, rock-spewing driver) new Mercedes...

I know you feel you own the road, but you're missing the best part of summer, the piece that only walkers can behold: The miracle of Prairie Roses growing wild in gravel. Free beauty at your feet.
Deep Pink Wild Prairie Rose   © SB
Pale Pink Wild Prairie Rose   © SB

Prairie Wildflower: Prairie Roses
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Dates: July 21, 2014.



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