The wildflowers are coming on strong again; I've been seeing lots of different summer flowers starting to take off, like the Bergamots, Touch Me Nots and Coneflowers, but the continuing rains are also making for one of the most impressive displays of mushrooms I've seen in years. Insects, especially butterflies and moths, are also feasting on the bounty provided by the flowering plants and more often than not, there are several species browsing their way around the blossoms I'm trying to photograph. The forest is truly is fully alive this time of year.
Indian Pipe, also known as the "Ghost Plant," is one of the few plants that contain very little chlorophyll and therefore are unable to photosynthesize their own food from sunlight. Indian Pipe instead gains its nutrients through the fungi that they grow on. These delicate little wildflowers only grow few inches tall and are hard to spot, unless you happen upon them as I seem to each summer.
I've been hoping to get a few good pictures of Pale Touch Me Nots, so this weekend I headed to a waterfall in the park where I knew there was a large patch last year. Fortunately they were there again this year and I was able to get this close up of one of the flowers.
The aptly named Butterfly Weed is still blooming in the wildflower meadows in the park and I was lucky enough to catch a Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly (Speyeria cybele) on the plant when I snapped this picture. The reddish-orange flowers of the plant are really beautiful and their structure is very similar to their close relative, Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).
The "cones" on Yellow Coneflowers are so large in relation to the flower blossoms that they almost resemble pine cones to me. And when the flower petals droop to the sides, the cones become even more pronounced and give the flower an odd silhouette.
Great Spangled Fritillary Butterflies are very common in our area and are one of the first butterflies that I photographed and identified. While they rarely sit in one place for long, I was able to get this one on the aptly named Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Eastern Purple Coneflower is one of the most prominent wildflowers in the meadows up at the park and is easily spotted, even from a distance. While not one of my favorite flowers, the variation in colors it displays is impressive.
Wild Bergamot and Oswego Tea (M. didyma) are both close relatives and other than the color of their blossoms, I find very little else to differentiate them. The interesting thing to me about Wild Bergamot blossoms is that they are the one flower that seems to attract Hummingbird Moths (Macroglossum stellatarum) with any regularity and even though I didn't get any good pictures of the moths this time, when I have in the past, they are always around Wild Bergamot. Also, like many of the "Monarda's," Wild Bergamot is also known as a "Beebalm."
Close relative of Wild Bergamot (M. fistulosa), Oswego Tea is also known as "Scarlet Beebalm" or "Crimson Beebalm," I just happen to prefer the name Oswego Tea. As I said in an earlier blog post, Native Americans would make a medicinal drink from the plant to treat a variety of ailments, including excessive flatulence.
I've come across a couple of clumps of Crown Tipped Coral Fungus before, but when I was photographing this specimen I saw more than I've ever seen. Within just a few yards, I noticed over 30 other clumps and I can only surmise that it is because of the rainy summer we've had.
I've read that May Apples are actually edible, but ONLY if they are ripe. Otherwise, they are poisonous... which seems to me like a good reason to stay away from them completely. Although it does make me wonder who the first person to discover this was and how they realized that when ripe they are ok, otherwise, they're not... haha.
As the name suggests, puffball mushrooms do just that... after they reach maturity, they "puff" a cloud of spores when stepped on or compressed. When I was a kid, my friends and I would love taking sticks to smash the puffballs and see the spores thrown into the wind. Most puffballs are edible when the mushrooms are young and the flesh on the inside is white and still solid. After they mature they are no longer edible and the interiors become an olive-green mass of powdery spores waiting to be released at the slightest touch.
While I don't normally like featuring non-natives in my blog posts, Chicory is one of the few exceptions because I like the flowers so much. The blue blossoms can be seen along roads through the Little Sewickley Creek valley but make sure you look early in the day because the flowers will often close in the afternoon, especially on hot, sunny days.