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.

Wildflower Wednesday — Early Saxifrage

Micranthes_virginiensis

A mature plant of early saxifrage growing
on a moss-covered rock cliff. Some of the
basal leaves are still red.

Early Saxifrage – The name “saxifrage,” from the Latin saxum meaning “rock” and frangere, “to break,” was given to members of the genus Saxifraga because many saxifrage species grow in crevices of rock cliffs where they appear to have caused the cracks in the rock. Our own early saxifrage often grows in just such places.

The plant maintains a basal rosette of leaves throughout the winter, the toothed leaves sometimes becoming bright red during that season. In spring the leaves turn green, and the flower buds at the center of the rosette open, first at ground level, and then on ever elongating and branching stems until the plant reaches 15” in height.

Saxifrages, in general, are known for their hardiness, growing in high mountains from the Alps, to the Andes, to the Himalayas. In fact, one saxifrage, Saxifraga oppositifolia, is one of only four plant species to grow in the northernmost place on earth where plants are able to grow, at 83°24’ N on Lockwood Island, off the north coast of Greenland. Recent molecular studies have resulted in almost all species of our eastern North American saxifrages being transferred to the closely related genus Micranthus; thus this species, formerly Saxifraga virginiensis, is now known as Micranthus virginiensis.