Elderberry in Winter

by Carl Strang

American elder, or elderberry, is a shrub with a fairly broad ecological range, though it usually wants its feet somewhat wet.

The large flower clusters produce many small black berries.

The large flower clusters produce many small black berries.

In winter it often takes the form of a cluster of stems.

The overall profile often is vase-like, vaguely reminiscent of ocotillo.

The overall profile often is vase-like, vaguely reminiscent of ocotillo.

The stems have unimpressive tips.

The stems have unimpressive tips.

The thick twigs are covered in lenticels. The paired buds will produce compound leaves. ]

The thick twigs are covered in lenticels. The paired buds will produce compound leaves. ]

Advertisements

Fruiting Accelerates

by Carl Strang

A few berries and other fruits attracted the attention of birds and mammals earlier in the season, for instance those of the black raspberry.

Black raspberries b

But autumn is the time when the greatest diversity of fruits can be found. Many plants ripen their fruits to coincide with the fall migration season, when traveling birds are happy to fuel themselves on fruits and, subsequently, spread the seeds around. I have been recording ripening dates of fruits at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Some, like the bittersweet nightshade, are not native to the area.

Solanum dulcamara fruit b

Others, like elderberry, long have been part of the local scene.

Elderberry fruit b

Additional fruits to this point in the season have been those of pokeweed,

Pokeweed fruit b

smooth Solomon’s seal,

Smooth Solomon's seal fruit b

and staghorn sumac.

Staghorn sumac b

There will be more to report as autumn proceeds. I should note as a reminder that though these fruits attract birds, some are poisonous to us.

Some Wetland Plants

by Carl Strang

To this point in the season I have included wetland plants with prairie plants in my accounts of species flowering at Mayslake Forest Preserve. This time I’ll feature them separately. It has been a while since the common cattails flowered.

Cattail b

Their seeds are ripening now. Though elderberry can occur in woodlands, at Mayslake this shrub grows mainly in wetlands.

Elderberry 1b

The pink and white flowers of swamp milkweed are my favorites in genus Asclepias.

Swamp milkweed 2b

Spotted Joe Pye weed is a wetland plant that superficially resembles its woodland relative, purple Joe Pye weed.

Spotted joe-pye weed b

A less conspicuous wetland species is the common water horehound.

Common water horehound b

Most buttercups bloom early in the season. An exception is the bristly buttercup.

Bristly buttercup b

Two of the knotweeds recently began to bloom along the stream: Lady’s thumb

Lady's thumb 2b

and smartweed.

Smartweed 1b

Late summer brings hummingbirds, gradually making their way south. Among the flowers that especially appeal to them, being red and tubular in shape, is the cardinal flower.

Cardinal flower 2b

Finally, here is the first of the late season beggar’s ticks group, the bur marigold.

Bur marigold b

And that brings us up to date.

%d bloggers like this: