Monarch butterfly larvae on Asclepias syriaca

Wildflowers Monday follow-up

Only a picture to prove my point on milkweeds (read more) –  Not that I really need to but for just in case…(and to buy time until I process the seeds collected over the weekend ;)

Monarch butterfly larvae feeding on Asclepias syriaca (probably last stage before pupating) – Hmm, so hungry! I’ve read that the typical monarch increases in mass by 2,000 times while a caterpillar (from the tiny larvae emerging from the eggs to the fat one in the picture); such an amazing transformation that takes place in only about two weeks!

Wildflowers Tuesday – Limestone calamint

Observing plants growing in the wild has always been my greatest source of inspiration when it comes to growing species in the rock garden or other more specific situations (like a scree garden). Growing along the shores of lakes Michigan and Huron on rocky, calcareous substrate/alvars in full sun, there is this little mint scented plant, which seems perfect for the edge of the rockery, or as a groundcover along a patio or walkway. It will bring a much needed splash of colour in mid-summer, not to mention the refreshing spicy mint scent!

Clinopodium arkansanum flowers

Clinopodium arkansanum (limestone calamint)

Green-purple delicate stems with linear leaves and large, lavender flowers at peak flowering usually sometimes in July.

Another one that got into the ‘seeds to be collected’ list, which keeps getting longer and longer.

Clinopodium arkansanum

The blue and beautiful – Consolida ajacis

We are always more lenient with the blue and beautiful. This is the case of the annual Consolida ajacis (rocket larkspur), which has a bit of weedy tendencies. On top of that, it is capricious – it will reseed but not in great amount, and cannot be counted on to do it every year. I’ll better watch for seeds – this one is a keeper. It is pollinated by long tongue bees, especially bumblebees.

Consolida ajacis

Consolida ajacis – Rocket larkspur, Doubtful knight’s-spur

From the distance I took it as being a Delphinium (actually it was named for a while Delphinium ajacis); but when you get closer, the 2- hooded upper petals reveal the Consolida lineage. It also has a distinctive, finely dissected foliage.

Hailing from S.Europe, Consolida ajacis has been in cultivation for a long time and it has since escaped from gardens to become naturalized in many countries; it can grow in disturbed habitats, along railroads, vacant lots…, but rarely in the detriment of native vegetation. In Canada, there are even some reports of having been used as medicinal by the Native People (under the name Delphinium ajacis).

Note: like its relative Delphinium, all parts of Consolida sp. contain toxic alkaloids.

See a flower comparison between Delphinium (tatsienense) and Consolida (ajacis)

Wildflowers Sunday – in the coolness of the woods

Nothing is more soothing on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon than the coolness quiet of the woods. Gazing at flowering plants of Lilium michiganense, collecting blue beads of Clintonia borealis, checking on the Trillium and Uvularia fruits, taking a closer look at an Indian-pipe, and another one at Desmodium nudicaule…perfect!

Lilium michiganense

Lilium michiganense – Michigan lily; enjoyed by hummingbirds, sphinx moths and butterflies! Not difficult to grow from seeds.

The Indian pipe or ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora) is a very ‘cool’ plant – parasitic on fungi that are mycorrhizal with the trees (a so called myco-heterotrophic plant). It grows in the understory of the woods, always close to trees, of course. Who needs light, eh?

Monotropa uniflora

Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)

Clintonia borealis – the blue-bead lily is another interesting perennial for shade; not very noticeable in the spring with its clump of green, fleshy leaves and few greenish-yellow flowers, but nobody can miss it from mid to late summer because of its conspicuous blue fruits, which start glistening through the woodland filtered light.

Clintonia borealis fruits

Clintonia borealis with fruits

To be grown as a rarity; it is slow to propagate and to reach flowering size from seeds. Underneath the thin blue skin, the seeds are enclosed into a white, fleshy coating. According to Cullina, they require moist storage; I should have listened a few years ago when I tried to germinate (with no result) dry seeds. One for the collector gardener.

Wildflowers Tuesday – let’s talk milkweeds

“The time has come,” the Walrus said
“To talk of many things:…”

It is fashionable to talk about pollinators, butterflies, wildflowers gardens, the environment, and so on…; in particular, much emphasis is placed these days on growing milkweeds to save the Monarch butterflies (for those who don’t know, Monarch butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on Milkweed plants, which are the sole food source for their larvae). (In the featured image it is a Fritillary butterfly (Boloria sp.) feeding on A. incarnata).

Planting milkweeds and other wildflowers that are a magnet for all the pollinators in our urban gardens would help to compensate for the tremendous loss of wild habitats due to land conversion for various construction developments. Yet many people still view them, according to their common name – only as milkWEEDS! True, they seed around, but they are very easy to detect at the seedling stage.

For now I only have images of three Asclepias species, all flowering from June to July:

Asclepias syriaca – Common milkweed, butterfly flower

Asclepias syriaca

Asclepias syriaca – an incredible attractive weed, good for full sun locations, tolerates dry, poor substrates. A sight that may become rare in the near future.

Asclepias incarnata – Rose milkweed, swamp milkweed

Asclepias incarnata

Asclepias incarnata – in the gardens it does well around ponds or other locations with a good amount of moisture; good for wetland restorations.

Asclepias exaltata – Poke milkweed

Asclepias exaltata

Asclepias exaltata – a special milkweed for part-shade locations; excellent at the edge of a shade border/ woodland garden.

There are about 100 species of Asclepias: at least one for any garden situation!
Or, we can choose to follow the Walrus proposition and just:
“…talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax
Of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings.”

(Quote from Through the Looking-Glass: The Walrus and the Carpenter poem)