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Posts Tagged ‘native plants’

In a previous post, I mentioned that the original owner of my house planted a non-native Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) on our property. That pine met its demise during last October’s freak snow storm. Unfortunately, the original owner had a fondness for other non-native plants, including some invasives that have crowded out the native flora.

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In my area, the new growth of ferns starts to push through the ground in early April. In most species of ferns, the leaves first emerge in tightly packed buds called croziers which then unfurl and take on the characteristic fiddlehead shape. This post features the fiddleheads of some common ferns that grow in the New Jersey Highlands.

Adiantum pedatum or maidenhair fern

Delicate fiddleheads of maidenhair fern

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Jeffersonia diphylla seeds with elaiosomes

Seeds with elaiosomes

In my previous post, on twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), I discussed that twinleaf’s seeds have appendages called elaiosomes that are attractive to ants. Ants carry the seeds back to their nests, remove the elaiosomes to feed to their larvae, and deposit the unharmed seeds in a waste area of the nest. The seeds are in an ideal, protected location which helps them to germinate. This dispersal of seeds by ants is called myrmecochory, from the Greek for ant (myrmex) and dispersal (kore).

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Jeffersonia diphylla or twinleaf

Twinleaf in bloom

Twinleaf is a wildflower that blooms in early spring and is native to many parts of eastern North America. It’s found in rich, moist woods, usually in limy soils. It often grows near bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), which has similar looking flowers.

 

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Amelanchier arborea or shadbush or serviceberry or juneberry

Shadbush blooms in early spring

Blooming now in the forests in my area are the delicate, 5-petaled white flowers of the shadbush (Amelanchier arborea), a large shrub or small tree that’s common in eastern North America. The flowers of shadbush stand out among the gray and brown tree trunks and leafless branches of early spring. Viewed from a distance, the radiant white shadbush flowers can light up a forested hillside.

 

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Epigaea repens or trailing arbutus

Trailing arbutus growing under pine

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is a ground-hugging evergreen shrub that has fragrant pink or white flowers in early spring. It’s also called mayflower, ground laurel, and gravel plant. It’s native to eastern North America and is a member of the acid-loving heath family, as is mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), and wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). Unfortunately, trailing arbutus is not as common as it once was because in the past it was widely gathered to be sold in flower markets (see 1895 article in The Hartford Times).

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Comptonia peregrina or sweet fern

Sweet fern clump

Sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) is a common plant of northeastern North America that, despite its name, isn’t a fern. Rather, it’s a shrub that has leaves that look fern-like. Sweet fern also has a pleasant, spicy fragrance which is why “sweet” is part of its name. Whenever I come across sweet fern, I can’t resist pinching off a small piece of a leaf to enjoy the fragrance for the rest of the day.

Comptonia peregrina or sweet fern in winter

Rusty brown leaves persist in winter

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