Once in a while, I find germinated seeds in the moist storage bags. Sometimes there is a warning, sometimes not. Did I listen to: “The presence of fresh plants (of Capnoides sempervirens) late in the summer suggests that seeds from early-blooming plants may germinate and mature in the same season” (Flora of Michigan)?
Obviously, I did not.

Capnoides sempervirens germinated seeds

Capnoides sempervirens, Rock harlequin – bunch of germinated seeds while kept in moist storage.

Luckily not all seeds are the same, so a few are not germinating (yet). Anyone wanting to grow this beautiful Rock harlequin, (formerly a Corydalis) – hurry up!

Capnoides sempervirens

Capnoides sempervirens – in the wild can grow in a variety of situations, usually on rock barrens, cliffs, forest clearings.


Gone with the wind – Indian paintbrush

Still flowering at this time of year, the flamboyant Indian paintbrush, Castilleja coccinea (also seeds can be collected) has one of the best common names given to a wildflower – someone must have watched the colourful leafy bracts reflecting red-orange paint strokes over the blue sky!

Castilleja coccinea

Castilleja coccinea – Indian paintbrush

Many species with seeds adapted for wind dispersal have various helping ‘devices’ (wings, hairs…). In the case of Castilleja, the seeds have a honeycomb outerlayer – nature’s design for helping with the process. The honeycomb pattern is produced by dead, air-filled cells of the single-layered seed coat. Castilleja coccinea seedsCastilleja coccinea seeds (This is as close I could get with my camera and please ignore the debris)

Castilleja and few other Orobanchaceae present the most impressive variation of honeycomb-patterned seed coat, where both the outer and inner tangential walls are dissolved and all that remains is a loose honeycomb ‘cage’. 

About the germination:
I intend to include Castilleja in a small flower meadow, so I gather this info and I shall experiment. The difficulty is to start a small population because like other hemiparasitic plants it needs its host plants to help it grow. Mostly behaves as a biennial, and in most cases if successful, it will reseed around.

Various studies had shown that C. coccinea will establish connections with the roots of a wide range of host species. It will germinate by itself but it won’t establish and grow well without a host. The best method is to sow it outdoors in the spring (it is a warm germinator) in an area where few preferred plant host are growing (most common: little bluestem, prairie smoke, grama grass…) or in pots in combination with seeds/young seedlings of the host plants (use peat or coco-fiber pots as it dislikes transplanting).
Also, other essentials factors for good germination and survival are good moisture and surface sowing (light sensitive).

I showed at some point another beautiful Castilleja, C. applegatei var. viscida in a mountain meadow from the Wasatch Mountains.

Wildflowers Tuesday – American Spikenard

Maybe the title should read from now on – Wildfruits instead of flowers, although there are quite a few species still flowering. But September is announced in the woods by a multitude of coloured fruits and suddenly previously ‘invisible’ plants are suddenly highlighted, revealing their most ornamental feature. Our fall gardens would also be so poor without these colourful displays!

Aralia racemosa fruits

Aralia racemosa in wild habitat, in early September

Aralia racemosa – American spikenard is a shrubby-looking perennial which grows in moist rich woods. Cultivated, but not too often, in the past it has had various other uses (the roots): for flavoring teas, as an ingredient in root beer and medicinal. Native Americans considered the root to be a blood purifying spring tonic, and called the plant Life-of- Man; it makes sense as it belongs to the ginseng family.

Aralia racemosa foliage

Aralia racemosa in late August, cultivated

Wildflowers Wednesday – Medeola virginiana

I don’t really know why but I got really excited when stumbling for the first time upon Medeola virginiana. As a result, the pictures don’t show its whole splendour revealed under the dappled shade in a moist woodsy area. Named after the sorceress Medea, there are few theories as to why Linnaeus kept this name (given to it by Gronovius) but there is no doubt that there must be sorcery involved in the way a fruiting Medeola looks.

Medeola virginiana

Medeola virginiana

The contrast made by the dark purple fruits with the red petioles and red tinged leaves (at the base) is striking and considered its most ornamental feature. Young plants resemble a bit with a Trientalis for me, or a Large leaved pogonia (Isotria verticillata) to others (I have never seen this one). Mature flowering individuals are very particular though, showing the two-tiered whorls of leaves. I think the flowers are pretty cool too, as seen in the featured image (not my picture in fact, but coming spring I know where to go now).

And the trivial: the common name, Indian cucumber-root, alludes to the fact that rhizomes have a cucumber taste/odor and were used by the Natives Americans; the plant was also supposedly used medicinally. In Canada apparently we don’t have problems with it but in the U.S.A., according to NatureServe, Medeola is listed as critically imperilled in Florida, Louisiana, and Illinois.

Either way, I think there are enough cucumbers on the market today, there is no need to dig up Medeola, which is vulnerable to harvesting and slow to propagate.

Wildflower Tuesday – Apios americana

Apios americana – Indian potato, wild bean or American groundnut is a twining vine with deep purple, fragrant flowers in late summer. Its small but nutritious tubers were a staple of the Native Americans diet but because of their size and 2-year growth cycle, they have not been adopted with much enthusiasm by the European settlers. Yet, Indian potatoes have a nutty flavour, and they contain roughly 3 times more proteins and a higher content of calcium and iron than potatoes. They also contain isoflavones which are known to have anti-carcinogenic action.

Apios americana

Apios americana – just starting to flower last week. I hope for a long fall…

An interesting fact related to seeds is that although usually diploid, Apios americana also has triploids forms. These latter forms will flower but not produce seeds.

You can read a lot more about this interesting North American plant, follow the links please:

Apios americana – wiki
Domestication of Apios americana
Stalking the wild groundnut