Category Archives: Wild Flowers

Flowers, Pollinators, Fungus and Breakfast With the Chickens

Flowers and Pollinators

The hibiscus bushes are blossoming.

There are three bushes in a row. The two on the ends have the deep red blossoms. The one is the middle has light pink/white blossoms.

This year we have an interesting phenomenon. One of the end bushes has both the red blossoms and the pink blossoms. This has never happened before.

The only explanation I can come up with is that these bushes drop seeds every year and small plants sprout each summer. I end up pulling them so I don’t know how long it would take for one to mature. Perhaps a seed from the pink bush grew up amongst the red bush and has become mature enough to produce flowers. So this is actually two bushes that have commingled.

Many of the plants are suffering from too much rain. The oregano leaves are turning yellow and orange. I have been tempted to cut them way down.

But the bees are enjoying the flowers

as are the butterflies, so I will leave them until they are done blossoming.

Dragonflies are not really pollinators but I do love having them around, especially since they eat things like gnats and MOSQUITOS. (Bring on the dragonflies!!!) This one was resting on an Agastache Kudos Mandarin plant, AKA Hummingbird Mint, that we planted this year.

The honey bees were foraging in the anise hyssop.

This patch of wild flowers attracts a lot of pollinators.

Look closely – how many bees do you see on the Mountain Mint in this photo? I see at least 3.

How about this one? (two?)

Honey bees aren’t the only pollinators enjoying these plants. The blue mud dauber wasps like them as well. This is the first year I have seen this type of wasp.

Honey bees like the cone flowers,

and I even spotted some foraging the purple loosestrife. That is something that we haven’t seen in the past.

It took a while but this beauty finally posed for a picture on a marshmallow plant.

Telling it to “hold still” did absolutely no good so I just had to be patient. I think this butterfly is called a Red Spotted Purple.

Fungus

When I did my mushroom post I had forgot about these puff ball mushrooms that grow every year on the hill where we someday hope to build a root cellar. They are well hidden beneath other weeds that grow up around them so we usually don’t even know they are there until late fall or winter when all the foliage dies. By that time they are just large dust balls.

When I first noticed these, a week or so ago, they were bright white. I didn’t have my camera with me at that time and as you can see they have since turned various shades of brown.

Each of these fungi is between 12 and 20 inches across.

Breakfast With the Chickens

Sunday morning I went to open up the chicken coop. When I do this my routine is to first fill their water dish. I then spread some chicken scratch on the ground in piles around the chicken yard, then I fill their feed dish before I open the coop to let them out. I do this because I know that the first thing they want to do when they come out is eat (except the rooster but we won’t talk about what he wants). If I were to let them out first I would likely have the whole flock following me to the feed can, then I would be tripping over them as I tried to the scatter scratch.

As I was filling their feed dish I noticed a deer approaching the chicken yard. She noticed me as well and we stopped for a minute and stared at each other. I then finished what I was doing while she moseyed over to the pile of chicken scratch that was about twenty feet from the coop and began eating. I opened up the coop and the chickens scattered around the area some of them joining her.

I decided to get my camera to see if I could get a picture of this breakfast club. It was still pretty dark in the chicken yard as it is in a grove of large hickory trees so i wasn’t sure how the picture would turn out.

It wasn’t until I got home and viewed the photo on my computer that I realized

that I had experienced an alien encounter. (Where’s Will Smith when you need him???)

Even when she got out in the light her eyes glowed.

Meanwhile the chickens went on their way,

cluelessly searching for worms or grasshoppers and enjoying their worry-free life.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a great week!

Mystery Solved -Thank You Lisa!

Our Mystery Plant is a Mountain Mint.

https://garden.org/plants/view/78608/Narrowleaf-Mountain-Mint-Pycnanthemum-tenuifolium/IMG_3088This plant attracted my attention when I saw our honey bees heavily foraging in it. We are in a wildflower transition period where the blossoms on the Sweet Clover and Canadian Thistle are waning and the Golden Rod is just beginning to open. It seems the bees are foraging mostly on white clover which we have much of but we were happy to find something else that they loved.

IMG_3117

My husband and I searched all of our plant reference books and several online data bases and were unable to identify this plant. The plant had grown up in an area where we had planted a wild flower seed mix several years ago. So I decided to go to what I assumed was the source. The wild flower seed mix we planted was from American Meadows https://www.americanmeadows.com/wildflower-seeds . We first search their website and were unable to find any plant that resembled our mystery plant. I then decided to contact the company. I used the contact form on their website and included a picture of the plant I was trying to I.D. This was on Sunday. I received an automated reply that day saying they received my message and would try to respond within 48 hours.

My husband and I continued to search online wildflower data bases to no avail and on Monday I received an email from Lisa at American Meadows. She thought the plant in the photo was Yarrow. I replied immediately. At first glance the plant may look like Yarrow, but we also have Yarrow growing on the farm and there are several differences in the two plants. The flowers are different, but more noticeable is the difference in the leaf structure and I have never seen the bees visit Yarrow.

I sent Lisa a second photo of our mystery plant which showed the leaves more clearly. Lisa replied that same day. From this picture she could now see that the plant was not Yarrow. She could not identify the plant but if I could send a close up of the flowers she would “call in the troops” to help find our answer. On Wednesday I sent a couple more photos, described the light scent of the flowers and told her we lived in South-East Michigan.

Later that day I was surprised and excited to receive Lisa’s email. It read: “Success!

The plant is Mountain Mint, probably Pycnanthemum virginianum, which is the common species in Michigan. There is a related species that is much less common, called Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. The main difference is that P. virginianum has pubescent stems, whereas the stems of P. tenuifolium are glabrous (i.e., not hairy). I can’t see the stems well enough on your photos to tell whether the stems are pubescent or not.”

Lisa said her source of this information was a botanist here in Michigan.

I did an internet search and found photos of Mountain Mint and discovered that it was indeed what we had. I at first believed it was Pycnanthemum virginianum, the more common species. On Thursday after I read Lisa’s message a second time I began to question that. I didn’t remember this plant having hairy stems. On my next trip to the farm I confirmed this. The stems of our Mountain Mint are smooth. We have the less common of the two, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. Common names for this plant are Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint,  Common Horsemint, and Slender Mountain Mint. My husband and I could not be more thrilled than to have this mystery solved. We will encourage this plant to spread and perhaps even propagate it.

This might go without saying but in a day and age where good customer service is hard to find I have to say that we greatly appreciate the help that we received from Lisa at American Meadows. She certainly could have determined that our plant was not something that came in the seeds we received from them an left us on our own. Instead she went the extra mile to help us solve the mystery. At this time we do not have a need to purchase wild flower seed but if we ever do we will return to American Meadows and perhaps if you decided to purchase wild flower seed you will consider them as well.