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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
    Hi - I live in Topsfield Ma, and am looking to replace a dwarf bamboo plant which is very invasive. Do you know if the dwarf boxwood is an approved plant for this area? Thanks. Effie
    Answer
    Dear eypsila, boxwood might certainly be a nice choice, but it is not native to this region. Rather than choose this species, which native insects wouldn't be able to utilize in the same way, perhaps it would be best to have a discussion about the qualities you are seeking in a planting, and then we could find a native species that fits these characteristics. Please feel free to email me at ahaines[at]nativeplanttrust.org and I will try to help. (Monday, 15 July 2019)
  • Question
    Hi, Please verify my ID of the following: The leaves are simple, alternate and toothed. The leaf stem is minutely hairy. The flowers were white and in a loose spike. Based on the leaves and flower type, my assumption is that its Ceanothus americanus, however most references state this C. americanus as more shrub-like. The plant was less than 2ft tall, and appeared more herbaceous. It was located in southeastern CT, in a dry wooded areas along a road. Thank you!
    Answer
    Dear eehrlich, you appear to have photographed Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea). Your particular individual has sparser flowers than normal, but other features fit very well for this taxon. Best wishes. (Monday, 15 July 2019)
  • Question
    Hi, I can’t figure out what composite family member this is. Lactuca? Crepis? Hieracium? Habitat is woodland in southern Vermont. Inflorescence is a panicle. Ray flowers are consistently 5 in number. Sap is slightly milky. It is extremely common.
    Answer
    Dear rgrumbine, you've collected Mycelis muralis (wall-lettuce), a non-native member of the composite. The yellow ray flowers that consistently number five per capitulum, as you noted, are good traits to focus on for identification. It is sometimes invasive, especially after forestry operations. (Friday, 12 July 2019)
  • Question
    This is common in a small part of the woods in Lincoln, Massachusetts. It reminds me of Clethra alnifolia but it grows from single stems, making it a tree rather than a shrub in the key. It doesn't want to grow over 2 meters tall except in the sunniest spots. It is found along a stream but also up to a low ridge, maybe 10 feet elevation higher than the stream.
    Answer
    jfc, you've photographed Clethra alnifolia (coastal sweet-pepperbush), a native species that is most common along the coastal plain of New England, found mostly commonly in wetlands and along shorelines. Best wishes. (Friday, 12 July 2019)
  • Question
    Grass with fancy seed heads. Lincoln, Massachusetts. At the edge of a grassy patch under trees but getting more sun than in the woods.
    Answer
    Dear jfc, you have photographed Phleum pretense (timothy), a common grass of fields, clearings, and edges. It is found throughout much of New England. If you examine it closely, you will see the inflorescence is made up of spikelets that are very compressed and have awned glumes. (Friday, 12 July 2019)
  • Question
    Grass beside a narrow trail in the woods in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
    Answer
    Dear jfc, the plant pictured is a species of Brachyelytrum (long-awned wood grass). It is likely Brachyelytrum aristosum, the more common species in New England (Brachyelytum erectum is more common in western New England). (Friday, 12 July 2019)
  • Question
    A clump of something grasslike beside a narrow trail in the woods in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
    Answer
    Dear jfc, you appear to have photographed Carex swanii (Swan's sedge), a native member of section Porocystis. You can confirm this by noting the perigynia (inflated scales with carpellate flower inside) are densely pubescent, which I believe I can determine in the image. Best wishes. (Friday, 12 July 2019)
  • Question
    A shrub growing where driveway meets road in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
    Answer
    Dear jfc, I would like much to help, but there are too many details I need to be able to identify the shrub. If you have images of the lower leaf surface and closer image of the buds and branchlets, I may be able to assist. The grass (Elymus hystrix) growing at the base of the shrub is one of my favorites. (Friday, 12 July 2019)
  • Question
    Hi, I came across a nice healthy colony of Blue Ridge false lupine in Hillsborough County, NH. It hasn't been documented in this county by GO BOTANY. I've posted the sighting (so that it can be added) BUT CANNOT UPLOAD some nice photo's I took of it at location. Any tips as to uploading? Thanks, Rachel
    Answer
    Dear rayban19, good afternoon. Feel free to email me the images you are discussing. If correctly identified (and I have no reason to suspect they aren't), I can add that county for you. While I don't know why you can't upload the images, I can provide this workaround for the time being. My email address is ahaines[at]nativeplanttrust.org, thank you for getting in touch. (Friday, 12 July 2019)
  • Question
    Looking for confirmation or correction. Is this Lysimachia ciliata L. (fringed yellow-loosestrife)? Found in a wetland in the Town of Ticondergoa, NY. Thanks!
    Answer
    Dear MFD09, you have photographed Lysimachia ciliata, as you suspected. Beautiful image. This is a somewhat common species, usually found in wetlands and along shorelines. There are species closely allied to this one, but they are much less common. (Friday, 12 July 2019)

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