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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
    My Rosa virginiana and my strawberries, which are next to each other, all look like this? Could this be a gypsy moth infestation? What could be wrong and how can I fix it?
    Answer
    Dear natalieillsley, I wish I could help you, but plant pathogens is not a topic I have a deep understanding of. You might want to contact the horticulture department at Garden in the Woods and see if they can assist you. You might try Mark Richardson (mrichardson[at]newenglandwild.org) to see if he recognizes the pathogen you are dealing with. Good luck. (Monday, 18 June 2018)
  • Question
    hi, I found this plane near the Nh coast, there was a small patch of them. The stem is smooth and the entire plant was white. Can you help me to id ? Thanks
    Answer
    Dear lisahu, I'm sorry I can't help you with this one. It clearly has some pathogen that is causing it to lose its usual color. If you can tell me if it was a woody plant or herbaceous plant, I might get a little further. Best wwishes. (Monday, 18 June 2018)
  • Question
    This plant started appearing in May and is still happily growing in my backyard in Westford, MA. It has fringed leaves and dainty purple flowers. It sends out creepers and roots those. What is it?
    Answer
    Dear twexler, nice images, thank you for including more than one. This plant is Glechoma hederacea (Gill-over-the-ground), a non-native mint of open habitats, such as lawns and fields. It has beautiful flowers (as you have captured in the image). (Monday, 18 June 2018)
  • Question
    It seems I’m having trouble uploading pictures to your site. Is there another way to contact you? Thanks
    Answer
    Nancy, you can always attach your images to an email and send them to ahaines[at]newenglandwild.org and I will try to help you. (Monday, 18 June 2018)
  • Question
    At Quincy Bog in Rumney NH (an area I'm very familiar with), I came upon this solitary specimen of what appears to be Sorbus americana. This individual plant is about 7' tall and stands under a canopy of white pine, but gets a fair amount of sunlight. Is there enough in the attached photos to distinguish it from Rhus glabra? Is there a sure-fire way to distinguish S. americana from R. glabra without a flower?
    Answer
    Dear gdewolf, this is a species of Sorbus. Some ways you can distinguish the genera vegetatively. Rhus has a milky latex that would exude from a wound, there are no glands on the leaf rachis, and the axillary winter buds are embedded in the leaf stalk base. In Sorbus, the sap is watery, there are clusters of small, dark glands on the leaf rachis where the leaflets are produced, and the axillary winter buds are observable at the base of the leaf stalk. I hope this is helpful. (Monday, 18 June 2018)
  • Question
    Growing in amongst the rocks just feet from the shore of Trout Pond in Lyme NH, I saw a number of these shrubs with decidedly purplish-red petioles. The leaves appear to be entire. I included a picture of the leaves and the bark. Hopefully this is enough to get us to the genus. I've also seen what I believe is another sample of this on the sunny exposed cliffs of Rattlesnake Mountain in Rumney.
    Answer
    Dear gdewolf, you've photographed Ilex muronata (mountain holly). This is a native shrub of wetlands and exposed, sometimes high elevation, habitats. If you try to look this species up in a book, you will more likely find it under the scientific name Nemopanthus mucronatus. Best wishes. (Monday, 18 June 2018)
  • Question
    Here's a photo of a plant I discovered in amongst the rocks at the shore of Trout Pond in Lyme, NH. Looks like it will be blooming shortly. It has this unique what I think would be called bipinnate leaf structure. Is there enough in this photo to identify either the genus or species?
    Answer
    Dear gdewolf, you've photographed Aralia hispida (bristly sarsaparilla), a native plant of (usually) open and somewhat drier habitats. If you examine images on the web of this species, you can confirm the identification. Best wishes. (Monday, 18 June 2018)
  • Question
    Hello kind sir, I have looked through the potentilla's and none of the images quite match this variety. Do you recognize it?
    Answer
    Dear TrishBerube, the plant looks very much like Potentilla argentea (silver-leaved cinquefoil), a species with gray-white hairs on the underside of the leaves. This is a common species over much of the northeastern United States in open fields, along roadsides, etc. (Friday, 15 June 2018)
  • Question
    Hello, I can't find this little guy. It's about about half the size of a bluet. Would you happen to know the name? Snapshot was taken in Lewiston Maine this past Sunday. Such a little beauty up close.
    Answer
    TrishBerube, you've photographed a species of Spergularia (sand-spurry), likely Spergularia rubra (red sand-spurry). This is a non-native weed of open areas with small, pink-red flowers. Beautiful image. (Friday, 15 June 2018)
  • Question
    The apple pictured is a of the Gala variety,typically striped.The stripes swirl around a brown protrusion. The protrusion is flexible,in the way a leaf is flexible. The flesh underneath is not discolored or soft. The apple is not misshapen,the seeds are not un-developed or underdeveloped. I realize that this site is about native New england plants,but you can pretend the apple is a crabapple. Thank you.
    Answer
    Beautiful picture pkbeep. (Wednesday, 13 June 2018)

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