Wildflower Wednesday: A Look at Summer’s Blossoming Bounty with Carol Gracie

Carol Gracie, queen of  flora, is at it again. Carol Gracie

The author of Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History has a new project in the works. The forthcoming book, to be called Summer Wildflowers of the Northeast, isn’t technically a field guide; but we’re betting it will be no less comprehensive. In it, Gracie plans to give a full account of the fascinating history of summer wildflowers: what pollinates them, what eats them, how their seeds are dispersed, as well as their practical and historical uses. The facts are further complemented by Gracie’s striking photographs, which we’ve sampled below. Be on the lookout for this one!

Carol Gracie is an acclaimed naturalist, photographer, and writer. Now retired, she worked for many years as an educator and tour leader with the New York Botanical Garden before teaming up with her husband, Scott Mori, on botanical research projects in South America. Her books include Wildflowers in the Field and Forest.

Enjoy these beautiful photos, and let us know in the Comments section which flowers you’ve noticed so far this season.

Monotropa Uniflora (Indian Pipe)
Opuntia humifusa showing ovaries
Datura stramonium
Nelumbo lutea
Platanthera ciliaris
Oenothera biennis
Lobelia cardinalis
Parnassia glauca
Solidago speciosa
Sarracenia purpurea

Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe)

Indian pipe is a flowering plant that lacks chlorophyll, the green pigment that allows plants to capture the sun's energy and allow them to produce carbohydrates. Instead, Indian pipe has a relationship with a fungus that absorbs nutrients from the roots of nearby trees and transports them to the underground parts of Indian pipe.

Opuntia humifusa (Prickly pear cactus) showing ovaries

Many people are surprised to learn that we have native cactus plants in the Northeast. Yet this species and a few others are adapted to surviving our cold northern winters. The lovely yellow flowers are pollinated by several species of bees.

Datura stramonium (Jimsonweed)

Farmers consider jimsonweed to be a noxious field weed, yet it produces lovely, fragrant flowers that don't open until almost sunset. The flowers are visited, and pollinated, by moths during the night. Jimsonweed played an important role in the colonial history of Jamestown, VA.

Nelumbo lutea (American lotus)

Our native lotus is a showy aquatic plant with large, orbicular leaves and the largest native flower in the Northeast. Many parts of the plant are edible.

Platanthera ciliaris (Orange fringed orchid)

Fringed orchids are pollinated primarily by butterflies, such as this spicebush swallowtail. Other species have flowers in shades of purple, white, or greenish-white.

Oenothera biennis (Evening primrose)

As its name suggests, evening primrose has flowers that open in the evening to attract their moth pollinators. One of the pollinators, the primrose moth (Schinia florida) also feeds on the plant as a larva, and may sometimes be found resting, partially camouflaged, in the flowers during daylight hours.

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

The deep, brilliant red of this flower is a beautiful, but sad, reminder that summer will soon draw to a close. Found in moist areas, cardinal flower provides a nectar source for hummingbirds that are migrating south in late summer.

Parnassia glauca (Grass-of-Parnassus)

Another late bloomer, grass-of-Parnassus has strikingly patterned flowers with bold green lines on a white background. Surrounding the true stamens is a ring of false stamens, each topped by a glistening yellow or green sphere that attracts insects. Grass-of-Parnassus is found in marshy seeps on limestone soils.

Solidago speciosa (Showy goldenrod)

Showy goldenrod is one of the latest species of goldenrod to bloom, filling meadows with its bright yellow flowers. Goldenrod meadows are a wonderful place to see the many species of insects that feed on, or get nectar from, goldenrod.

Sarracenia purpurea (Purple pitcher plant)

Pitcher plants live in nutrient-poor wetlands (acidic bogs or calcium-rich fens) and must supplement their nutritional needs with insects that are captured in their tubular leaves. Certain insects have evolved to withstand the digestive enzymes secreted by the leaf and use the pitcher plant as their only domicile.

Monotropa Uniflora (Indian Pipe)  thumbnail
Opuntia humifusa showing ovaries  thumbnail
Datura stramonium  thumbnail
Nelumbo lutea thumbnail
Platanthera ciliaris thumbnail
Oenothera biennis thumbnail
Lobelia cardinalis thumbnail
Parnassia glauca thumbnail
Solidago speciosa thumbnail
Sarracenia purpurea thumbnail

Time for Gardening

Calling green thumb gardeners and novices alike—sprouting season is finally here. After the winter thaw, it is time to break out the trowels, shears, and your favorite nature guides. Princeton brings you five comprehensive titles to accompany this year’s gardening season. From bees and other bugs to all things botanical, we invite you to peruse this collection for yourself.

k7713As we find ourselves tilling our garden beds and anxiously awaiting the first sprouts, inevitably our hard work will be swarmed upon by those infamous invaders: garden pests. But which insects are bad bugs and which ones are good? How can you identify the insect that is eating your green peppers or tomatoes? Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs by Whitney Cranshaw is the most comprehensive and user-friendly guide to the common insects and mites affecting yard and garden plants in North America.  In a manner no previous book has come close to achieving, through full-color photos and concise, clear, scientifically accurate text, it describes the vast majority of species associated with shade trees and shrubs, turfgrass, flowers or ornamental plants, vegetables, and fruits– 1,420 or them, including crickets, katydids, fruit flies, mealybugs, moths, maggots, borers, aphids, ants, bees and many, many more. For particularly abundant bugs adept at damaging garden plants, management tips are also included.

k10219For more on your garden’s fuzzier tenants, check out Princeton’s new guide, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide by Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson, and Sheila R. Colla. Learn how to identify bumble bees and how to attract them to your yard with this landmark publication. Gardeners will delight to discover chapters on “Attracting Bumble Bees” and “Bumble Bee Forage.” The authors describe how to insure your garden is full of the food sources, nest sites, and overwintering sites that bumble bees need, while a region by region listing of bumble bee foraging plants allows gardeners to easily plan bumble bee-friendly landscapes. Interested in learning more about bumble bees? Start reading the Introduction to Bumble Bees of North America here.

k9668This next book provides an in-depth look at spring-blooming wildflowers of the Northeast, from old favorites to lesser-known species. The exquisitely illustrated Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History by Carol Gracie features more than 500 full-color photos in a stunning large-sized format and delves deep into the life histories, lore, and cultural uses of more than 35 plant species. The rich narrative covers topics such as the naming of wildflowers; the reasons for taxonomic changes; pollination of flowers and dispersal of seeds; uses by Native Americans; related species in other parts of the world; herbivores, plant pathogens, and pests; medicinal uses; and wildflower references in history, literature, and art.

Are you ditching the garden gloves this season? Fear not—for nature lovers of all kinds, we bring you Trees of Western North America and Trees of Eastern North America by Richard Spellenberg, Christopher J. Earle & Gil Nelson.  Covering 630 and 825 species respectively, these are the most comprehensive, best illustrated, and easiest-to-use books of their kind. The easy-to-read descriptions present details of size, shape, growth habit, bark, leaves, flowers, fruit, flowering and fruiting times, habitat, and range. With superior descriptions, thousands of meticulous color paintings by David More, range maps that provide a thumbnail view of distribution for each native species, and an introduction to tree identification, forest ecology, and plant classification and structure, these books are a must have for anyone interested in learning more about the trees all around them. You can see what Trees of Eastern North America is like by checking out a sample entry here.

Capture

With the gardening season upon us, It’s helpful to be well informed before hitting the flower beds. We invite you to explore these titles on insects, flowers and trees from Princeton University Press to make the most of your gardening and time outdoors.