Category Archives: Interesting Plants

Weekly Puzzler Answer #155

Last week’s puzzler was a shrub seen in the eastern United States called, appropriately, eastern sweetshrub; other common names include Carolina sllspice, strawberry shrub,, sweet-scented shrub, bubby blossom, sweet bubby, sweet bettie, and spicebush. (A note here, as one of my subscribers, Barb, wrote this in her comment and I thought she might be talking about another eastern shrub called spicebush. When I searched for common names for the eastern sweetbush, spicebush was listed on one of the sites I visited.  So your answer was indeed correct! Thanks for the lesson!)

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The Latin name of this plant is Calycanthus floridus. If you’ve ever stood close to one, you may have noticed the sweet fragrance–said to smell like strawberry, melon and pineapple– the shrub gives off. Its leaves, twigs and flowers are very fragrant, especially as the plant matures.

Endemic to North America, this pretty shrub grows 6-9 feet tall. The flowers may last over a month! In the fall the shrub will be full of seed pods that hang down and will eventually release seeds, which need to go through stratification (a period of cold and moisture in order to germinate)before they can grow a new plant.

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Here is some more information if you are interested, from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)

And, just as a reminder in case you missed my last post, I will be traveling for a while, putting some of my regular columns, including the puzzler, on hold. See you again in a few weeks!

Weekly Puzzler #155: Red Flower and Fruity Scent

I came across this scrub recently on a rainy day walk at the North Carolina Arboretum. It was full of these lovely red flowers in the center of each bunch of lovely green leaves. Have you seen it? Do you know what it is? Do you know why I say it has a fruity scent? Have you smelled it–do you know what it smells like?

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If you want to guess, use the comment box below. You could win the next prize–to be given away on the first day of fall. All correct responses will be entered in the drawing. This quarter our winner, Arden, won a sampler pack of greeting cards from my Beauty is Everywhere collection.

…Have a wonderful weekend!! See you again soon.

Weekly Puzzler Answer #154

Hello and Happy Saturday! Happy July! Also happy 4th of July weekend! I hope you are having a great weekend filled with lots of memorable events. Were you one of the ones who recognized the fern in last week’s puzzler as MAIDENHAIR fern? Have you seen this in a forest near you?

Maidenhair ferns can be found in forests along the east coast. With their distinctive black stems and delicate, fan-shaped fronds, they are hard to miss. These ferns spread by rhizomes and spores, which they produce in spring and summer. Worldwide there are more than 20,000 species of ferns!

Also something I learned when doing research for this post is that there is a southern and a northern maidenhair fern. Here are some photos of each. Can you see the differences?

Southern maidenhair fern

Southern maidenhair fern

 

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Northern maidenhair fern

Northern maidenhair fern

Interestingly, just because you find a maidenhair fern in the south doesn’t mean it’s a southern maidenhair fern! Southern maidenhair ferns can grow in the northern states and northern maidenhair ferns can be found in the south! Go figure. Talk about confusing!

So here is our next puzzler–another one about an interesting plant.

Weekly Puzzler Answer #153

Greetings friends. Were you able to identify last week’s mystery plant? A handful of people correctly identified it as Galax, or Galax urceolata, which is also called beetleweed and wandflower. Wandflower is easy to understand when you see the white flowers at the tops of long stalks, in bloom mid May-early July.

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This plant grows in the eastern United States, particularly the Appalachians. The wide, shiny, thick and heart-shaped leaves are often used in floral arrangements. Something that I learned while researching this post is that revenue for harvesting this plant, according to a National Forest Service site, runs from $10-25 million dollars annually, with 99% of the harvesting in North Carolina. As with any wild plant, there are restrictions on collection of this plant and a permit is required to harvest on National Forest land. Like other native flowers such as ginseng and ramps, poaching has become a real problem in many areas, with people wanting to harvest the plant to sell, but not wanting to acquire proper permits.

Galax beside a trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Galax beside a trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Here is our next puzzler–another commonly found plant in the eastern US…. see if you recognize it.

Weekly Puzzler #154: Spiral Fern

Hello and happy Saturday to you all! Now that summer is officially here, what exciting things do you have planned? Hopefully some outside time is on the agenda. I saw a quote recently, that I thought was great. It read, “Forget the box. Think OUTSIDE.”

Check out our next puzzler– my all-time favorite fern. It is especially lovely after a rain when the water sits on the top of each delicate leaf. Have you seen this in a forest near you? Do you know the name of it?

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Here is a video of a patch of it beside a stream. If you want to guess, use the comment box below. This is the first puzzler of our new quarter! I give away prizes four times each year–on the first day of each season. Congratulations to Arden for being our first-day-of-summer winner! Arden will get a sampler pack of my greeting card collection called Beauty is Everywhere. If YOU want to win, you must guess! All correct responses will be entered in the drawing.

Have a lovely weekend! See you again soon.

Weekly Puzzler #153: Tall White Flower Above Waxy Leaves

Happy Saturday!

This week’s puzzler is a plant, commonly found in southeastern North America. Here in North Carolina it is very common, especially on trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check out the photos below–have you seen this plant? Do you know the name of it?

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Use the comment box below to give your guess. This is the very LAST week to get your guess in the box for a chance to win this quarter’s drawing. In the past I have given away blank notebooks, greeting card sampler packs and posters. All correct answers will be entered in the drawing, which will take place on the first day of summer–which is next week, on Wednesday, June 21st!

Weekly Puzzler Answer #143

The leaves are edible

The leaves are edible

So last week’s puzzler was a video, showing a lot of one plant on a bank beside a stream. Were you able to recognize it?

Here’s a clue… perhaps you’ve eaten it! Those plants are RAMPS, an edible plant that has a mild, garlicky flavor that is highly prized among those who collect wild edibles.  Both the green leaves and bulbs are edible. Ramps, also called wild leeks, are native to the forests of eastern North America. As you can see from the video, they are one of the first plants to burst out of the soil in spring, filling the otherwise drab woods with glorious green. They will not last long, turning yellow long before the trees get their first leaves.

They do not last long!

They do not last long!

Have you tried them? Here are a few recipes if you find some in a forest near you.

Rampy Ramp Risotto

Grilled Ramps

Asparagus and Ramp soup with yogurt

and finally, Loaded Vegetable Spring Quiche

If you Google ramps you will find LOTS more recipes. And one more thing–if you do find a patch of ramps, please don’t harvest them all! It’s best to practice sustainable harvesting so the ramps will continue to grow for many years to come. Here are a few pointers on harvesting ramps:

  1. Never take all the plants in a bunch. At most, take half of the leaves, leaving some of the older ones to grow.
  2. If you’re going to harvest the bulbs, do not use a shovel as this unnecessarily disrupts the soil. Instead, use a small soil fork or trowel with a knife. And just like the leaves, do not take them all. Taking all the bulbs is a sure way to end the profusion of ramps in the future in that spot.
  3. Be careful where you step so as to not stomp down everything in your path on the way to get the ramps.
  4. Make sure you have permission if the land is private. Most homeowners do not appreciate someone coming onto their land and digging something up. And if it is in a national park or state land, know the rules before you pick. Different parks have different rules about edible plants and it’s definitely not always legal.

The New York Times wrote an article about over harvesting ramps a few years ago–in some places it has become a problem and is banned.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about ramps! Do you have a favorite recipe? Do you pick them? Do you like them? Use the comment box below!

Here’s the next puzzler.