Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wildflowers – again

I have really been enjoying all my newfound wildflower knowledge.  As the early spring passes, many of the first flowers are being replaced.  The kids are my active partners, pointing out every flower they see and asking me what it is or if it is a new one. The neat thing is, I sometimes even recognize a flower I’ve never seen before in the wild from doing my online research trying to find other flowers.  I feel so smart!  On the other hand, half of the flowers I see, I know I SHOULD remember the names of, but I can’t bring them into my brain when I need them.   Kind of like when I try to speak in French – I can’t seem to bring up the words I need when I need them, but can I remember the theme for Cheers?  Bah oui! Maybe my mind is just defective.

mini_DSC08230So here are some recent flowers – all from here in Besancon.  Many are from our Montfaucon hike – this place was so full of wildflowers they even had a sign at the start of the trail warning families that they are only permitted to pick what their family NEEDS. (Then in parenthesis – ONE bouquet – just in case you tried to claim your family needed enough for a flower shop or something, I guess).  We actually ended up with at least 2 bouquets – maybe enough for 3.  I did one for our house, Zander did one for his friend Elie’s mom (pronounced something like A - Lee) for the birthday party and Griffin and Callie had small bunches as well.  OK – so we mock the law – someday when the kids are in jail, blame this. 

I had a really hard time finding many of these and added 2 new websites to my arsenal:

mini_DSC07799Let’s start with Purple… (the best color, of course).  I realize that some of these appear almost white – but that is just my poor photography!  Pictured left is what should be a more purely purple favorite - lilac.  Lilac deserves a mention because there is TONS of it here in Besancon and also because I have so many fond memories of the lilac gardens at Skylands Manor. White, light purple, dark purple and some varieties that grow more like a vine than a bush.  They remind me of our lilac but I don’t know what they are – are they ancestors of modern lilac?  Mostly it is in peoplmini_DSC08227e’s yards – but we did find a bush on the roadside for me to plunder on Mother’s Day – what a wonderful smell…. (Zander and Daddy hated it!)   Pictured right, is one of my personal wildflower favorites – red clover. (Why they call it this when it is clearly purple I have no idea)  You can find mini_DSC07827this in North Jersey where I grew up and in Philly.  The kids and I love to pluck the tubular petals and suck out the sweet nectar.  The shot to the left is speedwell which continues to bloom and thrive in many many areas even as it gets hotter.  I wasn’t able to get a post able shot of another great purple wildflower, but I will mention it anyway, in case I don’t get another chance – wild purple orchid! Below are some more purples I needed to look up (last two are same flower) – they are: Mystery purple flower 1, 7 leaf cardamine (rare,even a protected plant (good thing I don’t pick much)) and Herb Robert.

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mini_DSC08225Now how about yellow?  The first, left, is coltsfoot.  That’s rimini_DSC07838ght, coltsfoot – NOT dandelion (aka pissenlit) This has a wiry solid stem and the leaves are different as well. It seems to have taken over to keep the fields nice and yellow while dandelions take a break – going mostly to seed.  Right you can see two shots of our backyard  buttercups (in France, if your chin turns yellow with a buttercup held next to it, it mini_DSC07839means you are in love, not that you like butter) When we mowed our back weeds we kept a giant patch of buttercups intact.  It actually made me sad to mow down our weeds – we had so many pretty specimens out there – but our lease says we have to do it.   Below are more yellows I had to look up. The first three are:  L’Anemone Fausee Renoncule, I don’t know and I’m guessing either Spiny Spurge or Woad for the third.  I saw the last one near the Citadelle – I love the shape of the blossoms on this flower – like spokes on a wagon wheel – very distinctive – but I can only guess that it might be Birdsfoot trefoil or maybe Securigara??….

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OK – now for white.  The first two have got to be Solomon’s Seal – although I could only find them mentioned growing in Illinois and Massachusetts, so who knows? The third is particular to Franche Compte’ , it is La Niveole de Printemps (and is very rare, supposedly) …. The fourth shot is of stitchwort, which I believe I mentioned before, but they are so beautiful and they coat the edges of the woods around here!  The fifth was growing up the side of one of the crumbling walls at Montfaucon, so I couldn’t get a good angle without risking death - I think it might have actually been some sort of bush and I have no idea what it is.  The fifth and sixth are some kind of Queen Anne’s lace – but not the same kind I’m used to – it has a very slim stem and feathery, light leaves – maybe some sort of yarrow?  The seventh is another QA lace imitator  - the stem is stronger with a furry feel –  but the flower is not symmetrical like Queen Anne’s lace.  The last two are wild garlic.  We saw the first flower on the side of the road, alone.  I got all excited because I knew it was wild garlic (or ransom) right away even though we don’t have this back home – I recognized it from online -– such a distinctive shape to the flower, but I was a bit confused because I had read it grew in patches, not alone.  Well, just around the corner we found where all the other garlic was hiding!!!  It was amazing to see so much of it in one area – and it stunk too (though not as much as you would have thought)  We wanted to dig some up or something to try cooking with it.  Maybe next time.

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And now, for the other flowers….  The first is a lord and lady – they grow in patches in the deep woods.  This one was growing near the citadelle.  The second is a stalk of a majorly mutated dandelion – it looked like a triplet – we brought some seeds of it home and sprinkled them in the backyard – hopefully we’ll get something interesting….   The third is some sort of grass,perhaps, rather than a flower – but the little fuzzy puffball heads to it were pretty enough, in my book – although apparantly not in others books since I couldn’t find it.  The fourth and fifth may actually be some sorts of fungus or something??? No clue on those.

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And then there was this one. This was the strangest thing. It was quite big – about the size of beach ball and seemed to be 3 or 4 types of plants stuck together or something.  The base was made up of the dark green leaves that remind me of marijuana (not that I would know what marijuana looks like, of course, I learned it all from those bumper stickers and iron on patches).  Then it mutated into the medium green leaves in groups of 3 with serrated edges and then, at the top, the very light green, non-serrated leaves with these little double seed pod flowers hanging down from them.  What the heck IS this plant???

Enough botany for a couple weeks, I think.  Happy Spring!

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