Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Week

Due to a camping trip this week, I have not been able to post the last few days due to lack of time, and I will not be able to post again until July 3rd. Have a good week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Black Medic and Hop Clover

Today I plan on making a post on the differences between hop clover and black medic, and then later the difference between the three species of Ohio locust trees; black, honey, sunburst.

Hop clover and black medic are very difficult to distinguish from each other. They both have very similar leaves, 3 leaves that look like those of the white clover. Their flowers look like those of white clover, only much smaller, and yellow. Both species can grow up to 1-2 feet tall. So with all that information, lets look at a few easy ways to tell them apart.

Black Medic

Black Medic
Black Medic grows to be anywhere from 1-2 feet tall. It seems to be able to be found anywhere (forests, fields, roadsides) and can be commonly found in rather poor soil. Black medic forms a fain amount of branches from the base of the plant. It has compound leaflets with 3 small oval shaped leaves. The center leaflet is slightly longer, and is on a longer stalk than the side leaves. Each leaf has a distinctive "tip" at the end. The flowers are anywhere from 1/8"-1/6" long and are yellow. They are clustered on short stems that emerge from the leaf axil. Each half-inch cluster is composed of up to 50 individual flowers.

Hop Clover
Hop Clover
Hop clover usually grows up to around 1 foot tall. They have a reddish-green sprawling stems. Once again, the leaves are compound, composed of 3 leaflets, the middle one being on a longer petiole.The flowerhead is yellow and can be up to half an inch long. It consists of 15-40 small individual flowers. Hop clover is most commonly found around meadows and along the edges of trails or roads.

Black medic and hop clover are difficult to distinguish from each other. There are two ways I use to tell them apart. Black medic has a "point" at the end of each leaflet. Hop clover has a smother tip. Black medic has a longer center leaflet, surrounded by two shorter leaflets. Hop clover's leaflets are around the same size.

Not only do they look like each other, but they also look similar to many other Ohio plants (yellow wood sorrel, red clover, white clover). Yellow wood sorrel has heart-shaped leaves, while black medic and hop clover have oval leaves. Red clover has dark check marks on its leaves, its leaves also being larger than those of hop clover and black medic. White clover sometimes has white blotches on its leaves. The easiest ways for me to tell white clover from black medic and hop clover are the white flower of white clover, and the leaflets of white clover have petioles similar in length.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

WIld Geranium

Well, tonight, I will write about a plant I found in the woods known as wild geranium.

A wild geranium flower
This plant caught my eye because I was riding my bike yesterday and noticed a blue flower (Please note that I am now using my own pictures). Sadly, I rode past today and the flower had basically withered away. The wild geranium will flower between April and June. Flowers are 1"-2" across, and have 5 petals that range from white to lavender.

Leaves of wild geranium
Wild geranium usually grows anywhere from 12"-24" tall. It is a low-growing plant that can easily be missed underneath the forest
brush. Wild geranium has a branching stem that gives off many    palmate leaves. These leaves are 4"-5" across, and have deep lobes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

An Overview of Ohio Dogbane and Milkweed Species (part 3 of 3): Telling Dogbane and Milkweed Apart.

Today is the third and final installment of my posts on milkweed and dogbane. I would now like to finish this segment by talking about how to tell dogbane and milkweed apart. Three years ago I moved to my current home. Upon my early biking trips, I noticed a patch of milkweed-looking plants. Being interested in monarch butterflies, I constantly was checking this patch to see if there were any caterpillars, but I never found anyway. Today, that patch of plants is still there, but I now know those plants to be dogbane, instead of milkweed. My goal this evening is to allow readers to go out and tell dogbane apart from milkweed.

The biggest similarity between milkweed and dogbane is that, if ruptured, a white, milky sap is released. The leaves of all dogbane and milkweed species share a similar vein pattern, one which the veins form a series of loops on both sides of the central vein. In clasping dogbane, Indian hemp, common milkweed, and Sullivant's milkweed, these loops are condensed, and form thin ovals. In the other milkweed and dogbane species, they are "rounder" in diameter. Lastly, If viewed from a distance, Indian hemp and clasping dogbane look a lot like common milkweed and Sullivant's milkweed.

Despite these similarities, there are some common differences that work for telling all species of dogbane apart from milkweed. The first difference I have is that dogbane tends to branch towards the top of the plant, where milkweed, excluding butterfly weed, will not branch. The stems of dogbane tend to be smooth, whereas milkweed generally has a hairy texture to the stem. Dogbane has a dark stem, where milkweed TENDS to have pale green stems. The flowers of dogbane form in flat clusters, where milkweed flowers form in ball shaped clusters.

Note the hairy stem of milkweed

Note the ball-shaped flower of milkweed

I will leave it off with that for tonight. Tune in tomorrow for information on wild geranium, a small plant found in the forest. Good Night.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Overview of Ohio Dogbane and Milkweed Species (part 2 of 3): Milkweed Species

Well, last night I posted some information on how to tell different species of dogbane apart. Today I will give some information about Ohio-native milkweed species, and how to tell them apart.

Milkweed is known well for its "milky" sap. Milkweed tends to be rather tall, up to 3-6 feet tall. Its leaves can be up to 6 inches long or longer. The vein patterns of milkweed leaves seem to form a series of "loops" Flowers generally are a quarter-inch long, bell-shaped, and consist of 5 petals. If the stem or leaf is ruptured, it will emit a "milky" sap, thus the name. In Ohio, there are 4 types of milkweed I have to talk about: butterfly milkweed, common milkweed, Sullivant's milkweed, and swamp milkweed.

Butterfly Milkweed
Butterfly milkweed, also called butterfly weed, is really easy to distinguish once it has flowered because it has clusters of vibrant orange flowers. Generally butterfly weed will grow from 1-3 feet tall. The leaves of butterfly weed are alternate, although they sometimes can be opposite, and vary in sizes, anywhere from 2 to 6 inches long, and are really narrow. The undersides of the leaves are unusually harry. Stems are very leafy and dark red/brown in color. 

Common Milkweed
Common milkweed is a rather tall plant, growing up to six feet tall. Its leaves are very large too, the leaves are up to 8 inches long and are fat, forming an oval with a "tip" at the end. The undersides of the leaves of common milkweed tend to be pale green compared to the top side, and the underside of the leaf tends to be hairy compared to the top. Stems tend to be greenish in color, and are hollow. Common milkweed doesn't branch, however numerous stems may emerge from a common root crown. The stem tends to be covered with short hairs. Flowers of common milkweed tend to be half-inch wide purple flowers that form a 2 inch wide ball-shaped cluster. The flowers have a sweet odor. Common milkweed is easy to tell apart from butterfly weed because the flowers are purple instead of orange, the stem is greenish in color, and the leaves are oval-shaped, rather than long and narrow.

Sullivant's Milkweed
Sullivant's milkweed is very similar to distinguish from common milkweed. They are both similar in height and their leaves look nearly identical. Even the flowers look identical. Sullivant's milkweed is rare, whereas common milkweed is, well, common. Generally, the presence of Sullivant's milkweed on a field indicates that it is a high quality field. The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking at the leaves. Common milkweed leaves generally form horizontally from the stem. Leaves on Sullivant's milkweed actually are angled upwards. Another way to tell them apart by their leaves is to look at their central veins. The central vein in a leaf of common milkweed is generally a pale green, however there may be a reddish/pinkish tint to it. With Sullivant's milkweed, the entire central vein is a distinct shade of pink. A last, and more difficult, way to tell them apart is by looking at their seed pods. The seed pods of common milkweed are generally rough, and have bumps and spikes. Seed pods of Sullivant's milkweed tend to be smooth, and almost waxy.

Swamp Milkweed
The last species of milkweed I would like to talk about today is swamp milkweed. Swamp milkweed is shorter, only 1-4 feet tall. Leaves of swamp milkweed are long, up to 8 inches long, but are also narrow, no more than 2 inches wide. It is easy to distinguish from common milkweed and Sullivant's milkweed, but it does resemble butterfly weed quite a bit. The first easy way to tell swamp milkweed apart from butterfly weed is that swamp milkweed has pinkish-purple flowers, whereas butterfly weed has vibrant orange flowers. The stem of swamp milkweed tends to be green, whereas butterfly weed has a dark red/brown stem. The leaves of swamp milkweed are smooth on both sides, whereas the leaves on butterfly weed are unusually hairy on their undersides. Leaves are also in an opposite pattern.

Well, that's all I have for today. These past two posts have been dedicated to telling different milkweed species apart from each other, and different dogbane species apart from each other. Tomorrow, I will wrap up the dogbane/milkweed segment by explaining how to tell dogbane species apart from milkweed species. Once again, the photos of milkweed posted today are not mine. Take care.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An Overview of Ohio Dogbane and Milkweed Species (part 1 of 3): Dogbane Species

For my first post, and for a few subsequent posts, I will be talking about dogbane and milkweed species. Dogbane and milkweed can be tricky to tell apart. Many people think milkweed is easy to identify because it has milky sap, but if you go and tear a dogbane leaf off the stem, you'll quickly realize that other plants have similar milky sap. The leaves of these two plants look quite a bit alike too. I will concentrate on these differences in a later post.

For this post, I would like to concentrate on the different species of dogbane found in Ohio, and how to tell them apart. Here in Ohio, there are four species of dogbane: clasping dogbane, Indian hemp, intermediate dogbane, and spreading dogbane. The name "dogbane" refers to the fact that the plant is toxic to dogs. In general, dogbane has opposite leaves, milky sap, and can form branches, usually right above the petiole of a leaf. The leaves tend to be oval, and have a vein pattern that seems to form a series of loops. The leaves are smooth, not serrated, and have a distinct "tip" at the end. The stems are green or reddish/brown in color, and are smooth, lacking hair. Towards the top of the plant, there tends to be a great deal of branching. The flowers form in clusters and are generally small (a quarter inch long) and are composed of 5 petals. The seeds of dogbane are generally long and narrow, forming clusters of 2 pods. Dogbane is widespread throughout the US.

1: Clasping Dogbane
The first species I have to talk about is clasping dogbane. Clasping Dogbane tends to be anywhere from 1-4 feet tall. It generally blooms in the summer, producing greenish-yellow flowers that have 5 petals, are bell-shaped, and about a quarter-inch long. Clasping dogbane has leaves that look a lot like those of Indian hemp. The easy way to tell the difference between the two is to notice that the leaves tend to clasp around the stem. This feature is unique to clasping dogbane.

2: Indian Hemp
The next species I have to talk about is Indian hemp. Indian hemp is one of the more common plants I come across. To me, it seems to look a lot like common milkweed, only smaller leaf sizes. Indian hemp doesn't resemble intermediate or spreading dogbane that much, but it does look similar to clasping dogbane. It is about the same size, with similar flowers (tending to be whiter). Some field guides and references I have seen DO categorize Indian hemp and clasping dogbane as the same species, however enough references that seem more reliable have separated these two, and therefor so will I. I could give a number of generalities that allow for the distinction of these two species, however I feel that only one distinction is necessary. Indian hemp leaves do not have the same clasping effect that clasping dogbane has, and Indian hemp leaves have a short, distinctive petiole.

3: Intermediate Dogbane
Intermediate dogbane looks different from Indian hemp and clasping dogbane. It's leaves tend to be shorter, only about 2"-4" long. It's stem tends to be a dark brownish-red, whereas the stems of Indian hemp and clasping dogbane are a green color, with a slight reddish hue. Intermediate dogbane, however, does resemble spreading dogbane quite a bit. Intermediate dogbane gets its name because it is the cross between Indian hemp and spreading dogbane. There are no really easy ways to tell intermediate dogbane apart from spreading dogbane, but I have a few tips. First, lets look at the vein pattern on the leaf. The series of vein loops on intermediate dogbane tends to be more bunched up, and the loops are a lot thinner. On spreading dogbane, these loops are a lot wider, almost squarish. If you look at the leaf petioles, intermediate dogbane has a well defined petiole, where spreading dogbane leaves barely have any petiole. I have noticed that intermediate dogbane generally has white flowers, where spreading dogbane has pinkish-purple flowers, however, intermediate dogbane may have other colors of flowers. 

4: Spreading Dogbane
Spreading dogbane also doesn't resemble clasping dogbane or Indian hemp, but it does represent intermediate dogbane. I feel that stating the differences between spreading dogbane and intermediate dogbane again would be redundant, so I will refrain from doing so. Instead I will skip to giving specifications on spreading dogbane. Spreading dogbane tends to be from 1 to 3 feet tall. Their leaves can be anywhere from 1"-4" long, with short petioles and a spike at the end. Their flowers are bell-shaped with 5 pinkish/purplish petals. Their stems are a dark red/brown color.

That is all I have for this evening. Tomorrow I will talk about the milkweed species of Ohio. Hopefully this blog can grow a bit. The pictures of the dogbane species that I have posted are not mine. The only picture on this blog that is mine is the picture of the milkweed beetle set as the header. I plan on replacing these dogbane pictures with pictures of my own when I can locate them to photograph.



I am currently involved in a Boy Scout award in our council that involves the identification of plants, along with rocks, wildlife, and astronomy. While researching, I found that there is no clear database on Ohio plants that I could find. Instead, I had to gather information from a variety of websites in order to build up a list of plants to identify. With this blog, I plan to post information on different plants and wildlife I stumble across (mainly from Ohio, but I may slip a few national plants in when I travel). I also will post tips for how to tell different plants apart.