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Ask the Botanist

Ace Acer

Our ace botanists are here to help you identify wild New England plants and to answer questions about their ecology and conservation. When posting a question, please provide the location, habitat (e.g. river, mountain, woodland), and photographs of the plant.

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All Questions and Answers

Recently Answered Questions

  • Question
    I don't think this is a wild plant, but the person asking me to id it, didn't plant it. I have never seen one like it and can't find it thru the key. It's in Alfred, Maine, under trees in aside yard, has come up and is multiplying each year, seen in this photo before flower stem elongates. Do you think it's a cultivated plant? I think it might be.
    Answer
    Dear PASmith-Annaclette, good morning. The plant pictured here is Petasites japonicus (Japanese sweet-coltsfoot). It is a plant that has escaped cultivation in the northeast, and is invasive in one location in ME. Once the flowers pass, very large leaves will be produced during the remainder of the growing season. Best wishes. (Friday, 19 April 2019)
  • Question
    Saw this one in the woods near Kent, CT. Leaves are unique, but no luck finding it in Go Botany. Bill
    Answer
    Dear wdshaffer, you have photographed Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot), a native, spring-flowering member of the poppy family. It prefers rich, moist soils of deciduous forests. The leaves will exude an orange latex when torn. Best wishes. (Friday, 19 April 2019)
  • Question
    I am trying to find pictures of various common pollen grains through the light microscope - might you have a suggestion of a source or atlas? Many thanks, Linda
    Answer
    Dear Duramater, one of the best sources is simply the web, using search terms such as the species you are interested in and the word pollen. I have seen a great many images posted to the web. There are some references, but I don't know how helpful they will be. You might scan this webpage: https://inspectapedia.com/pollen_photos/Pollen_Photographs.php . Good luck with your search. (Wednesday, 17 April 2019)
  • Question
    Hello, I bought my first house in January when everything was covered in snow here in MN. I'm curious what kind of plants these are that are popping up?
    Answer
    Dear gentleben212001, good morning. Exciting that plants are protruding through the snow and signally an end to winter. For most of these, I would need to see flowers to assist you as cultivated species are not in my area of expertise (Go Botany is a website dedicated to wild plants of New England). The image of shoots coming up near the white wall do appear to be a species of Iris (in the broad sense), so look for those flowers later in the growing season. (Wednesday, 10 April 2019)
  • Question
    We are not sure of the location of the plant, as we were only given the seed, but we know it is a terrestrial plant and we also know it if of the asteraceae family. We also know that the plant will flower, but hasn't yet. It has some teething, the leaves are not lobbed, it has a very prominent midrib, no tricomes on the leaves, it's lancalate, and glaucous. With the attached pictures, do you know what genus, and, hopefully, what species it is?
    Answer
    Dear Taeler, good morning. I'm sorry I can't help you yet. The foliage in the images could be any number of species in the family. Hopefully you will be able to bring it to flower and supply me with an image then. Again, I wish I could help you more, but I would need the location in the absence of reproductive material. (Wednesday, 10 April 2019)
  • Question
    Good Afternoon Dr. I have a number of wild Brassicaceae spp growing in my front yard. A closeup of the flower appears to have 3 anthers surrounding the stigma. The flower measures about 3 mm. Its is produced on a hairy stem measuring about 3 cm. The stem arises form a rosette of leaves which are covered in hairs. The location is Malden MA.
    Answer
    califyank, please examine some images of Arabidopsis thaliana. I believe that is what you have photographed here. It is a mustard that is found in disturbed placed and has compound hairs on the leaf blade surfaces. Best wishes. (Monday, 8 April 2019)
  • Question
    Every spring we love to see what we call the purple haze emerge. Can you help me identify this beautiful little plant found in my New Haven, CT backyard? It covers my neighbor’s hill and each of my 19 years in this house has spread incrementally further across my yard.
    Answer
    Dear Rarnedt, the plant you've photographed looks like Scilla luciliae (synonym: Chionodoxa luciliae), called Lucile's glory-of-the-snow. This is a member of the Hyacinthaceae. It is an early spring-flowering species. (Monday, 8 April 2019)
  • Question
    Hi there, This fellow has been growing among some staghorn(?) sumac and so I assumed it was also sumac, but looking at it closely, it definitely isn't. I'm thinking sambucus canadensis? As I recall this plant has white flowers similar to elderflowers, but they had no scent at all, and I don't remember seeing any fruit on it. It's growing in a residential area (relatively undisturbed part of a yard) in Hampshire County. Thank you!!
    Answer
    Dear betula112, you are correct, the plant you photographed is a species of Sambucus (elderberry). It looks like you have photographed Sambucus nigra (black elderberry), which should have white pith and black fruits on maturity (they will flower and fruit later than Sambucus racemosa--red elderberry). Best wishes. (Monday, 8 April 2019)
  • Question
    Hi! I tried loading this into plant share and it wouldn't post. I am not sure, but I think this is Leucothoe fontanesiana. I have never seen in bloom and it has been here since before we bought the house. I live in New Milford CT and I saw that according to your data base that it has not been sighted in CT so I wanted to make sure that it was actually fontanesiana. Any help would be great! This is part of my Tree/Shrub/Vine report for my Master Gardener classes and Leucothoe is on my list!!
    Answer
    Dear Melanie, the shrub does look like Leucothe fontanesiana. The evergreen leaves with long, pointed apices fit well for this species. It is grown throughout much of western and southern New England (including CT). Keep in mind the maps are for wild species, so this shrub has simply not been found naturalized (growing outside of cultivation) in CT. (Monday, 8 April 2019)
  • Question
    Hi there! I am wondering if you could tell me what plant these seeds might belong to? I found these yesterday while working in a gravel wetland that was covered with cattails (Town of Lake George, NY). We cleared some of the cattail out, and these were lying in the soil. Apologies for not having great photos, this was all that I could find. Thanks as always!
    Answer
    Dear SunnyMona, good morning. These look like the fruits of some member of the Araceae, such as Calla palustris. Or, possibly, another member of that family (e.g., immature fruits of Arisaema triphyllum that (1) did not reach maturity and (2) are shriveled a bit in drying). I would start there with your study. Best wishes. (Friday, 5 April 2019)

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