Just a few hours shy of September and there is a fresh Mayapple growing at the end of Morris Park Road.
This is a plant associated with early Spring, usually it grows in March. Puzzling. Never have seen this before. We have watched the Mayapples wither away and go into dormancy this summer. The ones that have made it to fruit and have not been eaten will feed the Box turtles, who will then spread the seeds. A few remaining ones are to be found in the fenced-in yard, dropped to the ground, with their fruits laying up against the moist soil, rotting.
So to have a fresh Mayapple grow is a surprise. This will be a memorable sighting. Why? Has anyone else seen this before?
And in the past few days, fireflies (usually seen in June) have been active in the evening!
There have been some changes in the area this season. Numerous Norway Maples have been removed from the immediate area, as well as diseased Ash trees, all of which had provided shade for many years. The Norway Maples, an invasive species, was threatening the nearby high-quality forest, and the diseased Ash trees were threatening life and property.
Perhaps the changes in light conditions have resulted in these abnormalities. Please post any comments you may have about all of these developments in Morris Park. What do you think?
We never imagined that this ancient forest existed, right in West Fairmount Park! We ventured into the Horticultural Center one Sunday looking for flowers and something exciting to see. Usually there is always a flower to view, or an interesting monument to admire. This forest appeared before our eyes, all along the stream that flows from the Japanese House down towards the Schuylkill River. Bright green, knobby trunks rose to the sky, carrying a network of green branches and a canopy of leaves, topping out at about 1200(mm) in height. Some were as high as 1500!!
We wandered into this mysterious forest and marveled at the structure of the Impatiens capensis ‘trees’. They grow at astounding rates. Just touching the surface of the trunks is an experience all in itself. There is a blueish moist haze that covers the surface that can be easily rubbed off. The shiny smooth surface gives to pressure and it has a translucent quality, allowing light to penetrate the whole structure. Unlike a real tree, these super-structures are completely alive through and through. In order to reach their astounding heights, they form knobs along the way, in order to stabilize the structure. Like a human knee, fingers or an elbow, these knobs increase tensile strength and allow for movement. However these knobs are not joints like we humans have.
It looks like a forest of rapidly growing green bones.
As we made our way through the forest, we found a ‘log’. It had recently toppled. It gave us the opportunity to study the plant further and to see its roots up close. Towards the bottom of the plant, the tissue is very dense, and there is a degree of fluting, like in a stone column. This very bottom of the trunk lacked the succulent quality we noticed on the higher portions of the plant.
Gazing up at the canopy, a dizzying 1200 millimeters above! Imagine the view from up there! Perhaps we could see Alexander Sterling Calder’s Sundial sculpture or the Butterfly garden!
However, this cool, tranquil forest offered a respite from the beating sun. It is a quiet and peaceful place, with a rich herbaceous layer and an enchanting filtration of light. After a picnic and an engaging discussion about the ephemeral beauty of nature’s creations and evolutions as well as the enduring, seemingly timeless qualities of its structural continuity and core genetic stability.
This forest has sparked our imaginations of what an ancient forest looked like. Our early Sunday afternoon was the adventure we were seeking. Something new to see. Looking for a flower, we ended up marveling at a root and a stem. An on-the-ground view of a plant’s structure, its architectural state. Like a city of brick rowhouses, the plant repeats a form, cell by cell, obeying the same principles of physics that holds together the rowhome. Changes come, often from important or severe events. The segment of the population that survives this cataclysm, will pass on those genetics.
The Darwinian model: five minutes to learn, a lifetime to understand. Change happens so fast and so slow at the same time- we really need science to make sense of some questions that are crucial to the survival of our ecosystems all around us as well as our own. So we can make informed and good decisions about what to do and not to do and when.
This was what we discussed as we gazed up at the canopy of Jewelweed, 1200 millimeters above.
We came to the Horticultural Center in Fairmount Park to see flowers and we ended up astounded by the concept of the structure of the plants that create flowers. The structure is amazing in the jewelweed forest. We are reminded of Joe-pye weed, and wild Bergomat, other tall summertime flowers. The Joe-pye weed has a rounded, tubular stem, like a pipe, and the bergomat has a Mint-family square stem, like a steel beam, the kind of beam used in very tall skyscrapers, both plants reaching into the 1200-1500 mm range. These plants are notable for their structures, as many other late summer flowering plants should be.
As fascinating and intellectually engaging the stems, trunks, roots of plants may be, it is the flower that is the most potent and enchanting device that has lured us into the forest of Botany.
Hummingbirds and butterflies both have nectar acquiring structures that can reach deep into this almost 20 millimeter long flower. The opening is only a few millimeters wide, something the hummingbirds and butterflies have no problem with. The bumblebees however, are much wider and do not have the ability to elegantly sip nectar from the jewelweed flower. They really want to be part of the action, so what they do is climb into the flower. Sometimes they get stuck, but eventually the end result is that they tear the flower apart.
This what happened to the Jewelweed flower in our backyard. There was just one flower and it got tore up by a bumblebee. In its its last day it was a shredded up mess that was still blooming. What a proud moment for our garden. Our first ever Jewelweed plant, grown from a seed we scattered just hoping maybe one would grow, to have its first flower ravaged by a native bumblebee. Can it get better than that? The wildest aspects of nature are now in our yard.
We found the flowers hovering in the canopy, dangling from tiny, wiry stems, as if they were gracing the setting in the opera.
The sun illuminated them. We made it to the blue sky at the top of the forest, where the flowers were.
Up here, above the forest canopy of Jewelweed, the top-most leaves are wilting in the bright sunlight. When the fall comes, the whole place will disappear. This annual plant will have re-seeded itself sufficiently to re-grow in the spring. The seeds of this plant are a very interesting topic as well.
West Fairmount Park, Horticultural Center, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
This entire post was written in the exact spot this picture was taken.
This is our summer season operating studio, a Victorian era-room that was once the practice studio of Philadelphia Orchestra violinist David Madison. From this window we can view two different Hummingbird attracting plants. It has large windows that overlook a narrow side yard. A 1960s era chain-link fence separates the yard from Morris Park. The fence is ugly enough, and made yet more ugly when a tree fell on it, bending the top. However, the fence has endearing qualities: It allows us to see into the park, and watch birds. We can see Robins along the ground. The fence is also there, and intact, which means we don’t have to put up a fence. The expense and work has been completed. Also, the fence is very inviting for the climbing vine, Lonicera sempervirens, our native honeysuckle that is the main attraction.
This Hummingbird really likes the juicy nectar of the Lonicera sempervirens flower. This plant has been sending out blooming flowers since June, almost 3 months of continuous blooming. The Hummingbirds ravage the flowers, and they get torn up. This appears to stimulate new ones, because the vine will send out even more flowers! Here the Hummingbird is in full nectar sipping mode.
Now the Hummingbird is resting on the fence (to the left of the flower and up a bit). It likes the fence too. Hummingbirds like to have a tree or a branch near their nectar source that they can rest on between feedings. They need to conserve energy, especially when they have to fly over the Gulf of Mexico non-stop.
The next flower, and the next stop for the hummingbird is the Lobelia cardinalis, or Red lobelia, Cardinal flower. This plant is a great addition to the hummingbird garden. Joe-Pye weed at the lower portion, a favorite of native Bumble Bees.(Eupatorium purpureum)
The Lobelia is growing right next to the Honeysuckle vine.
In order to get this picture, Sean was actually dodging hummingbirds that were swarming around, fighting over the flowers!
This is Monarda didyma, also called Bee-Balm. Long tubular, brightly colored flowers, the trademark hummingbird magnet flower. Not only do all of these red flowers make us ooh and ahh, as well as become very cognizant of the varieties and subtleties of the color red, they attract the hummingbirds we all want to grace our yards. Also, neighbors will envy your yard, and you can offer them some roots in the fall, and then they will have Bee-Balm/Trumpet creeper/ honeysuckle/etc in their yards, which will create a beautiful neighborhood and a more sustainable habitat for native wildlife. A win-win situation.
This is a Hummingbird paradise, this large Campsis radicans vine growing along the back wall. Also called Trumpet creeper, this native vine is a hummingbird magnet. At this point we can watch hummingbirds from every room in the house!
This American native vine hasnt yet reached the horticultural mainstream. It is usually ignored in favor of Japanese wisteria (and other Asian exotics), which has become a noxious weed that is now invading natural areas. Interestingly, The French have fully embraced this American vine. In the Parisian suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, the Campsis radicans vine graces many a wall. Too bad they do not have Hummingbirds in Europe, and the French environmentalists and concerned citizens should keep a close watch for any invasions of this introduced species!
While taking pictures of red things in the yard, this came into view and must be noted. This is the seed production of an herbaceous woodland plant that is commonly discussed and observed in the spring and then it goes off the topic. This is the Arisaema triphyllum, the Jack-in-the pulpit. Its seeds have ripened and are now a magnificent red color. Some creature has been eating the juicy fruits and spreading the seeds to a new location. This is a great plant for your woodland garden. We will have many more of these in the years to come with all of these seeds. They sprout seedlings readily.
Hummingbirds also love the Impatiens capensis, the Jewelweed. This flower is designed for the hummingbird, with its elongated form, like all of the flowers displayed in this post. This one specimen is our favorite because we grew it from seed in our yard, just by tossing a few seeds near our drainpipe last September. Now we have flowers and hummingbirds blooming and buzzing about.
The native plant Hummingbird garden is very low maintenance. The honeysuckle can be purchased from your local native plant nursery. In Philly, we recommend Red bud nursery. Native plant sales in the Spring or Fall often offer these plants. The local nurseries will most likely sell you plants that are from a local source, which means that they are adapted to your area, and can survive the long haul, and will pay off your investment in the form of tidy dividends full of Hummingbirds and years of beautiful flowers. This will happen provided the plant is well placed in the garden, and that it is watered well after it is planted so it can establish itself. The nurseries will help you with selection and placement.
The honeysuckles need to be given a bit of training to go up into the sun. Maybe some string, a trellis, something to help it get started.