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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 took more photos of our Long Island mystery grass, which I hope are sufficiently adequate for an ID. If not, let me know & I’ll try again. Thanks so much!
    Answer
    Dear MossGal, good afternoon. You appear to have a species of Festuca (fescue). To identify this, I would need a specimen (images won't suffice for some measurements I need). If you want to mail me a specimen, you are welcome to. Contact me at ahaines[at]nativeplanttrust.org and we can discuss details. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 21 May 2019)
  • Question
    This is the predominant grass in our backyard on Long Island. Based on these photos, are you able to identify it? I’m trying to remove much of it, but the root masses on each clump make it difficult. Do you think it’s a native? I’m wondering if it could be old turf grass, since there used to be a grass yard in this area. Thanks!
    Answer
    Dear MossGal, in order to identify this grass, I would need a close-up image of the spikelets and also of the ligule (the structure found at the junction of the leaf sheath and leaf blade). A description of the leaf blades (e.g., flat, involute) and their width in life would also assist. If you are able to get this information, I may be able to assist you further. (Friday, 17 May 2019)
  • Question
    Here are additional photos of our Long Island viburnum to help with identification. Thanks!
    Answer
    MossGal, good morning. I can't confidently identify the species of Viburnum you have photographed, but it appears to belong to the group that includes Viburnum dilatatum and V. wrightii (these are non-native species that have escaped cultivation). Once the leaves are fully expanded, it may be easier to determine who this is (and other characteristics, such as hairs on the flower stalks and the number of bud scales covering the winter buds will be necessary to determine). I hope this helps get you started. (Friday, 17 May 2019)
  • Question
    I’m having trouble with the uploader so this is the only image I can submit at this time. This is a viburnum, but can’t figure out which one - the stems are reddish, if this helps. Quite a few of them are popping up on our woodsy Long Island property. I’m hoping they’re native. Many thanks for your help.
    Answer
    MossGal, good morning. I can't confidently identify the species of Viburnum you have photographed, but it appears to belong to the group that includes Viburnum dilatatum and V. wrightii (these are non-native species that have escaped cultivation). Once the leaves are fully expanded, it may be easier to determine who this is (and other characteristics, such as hairs on the flower stalks and the number of bud scales covering the winter buds will be necessary to determine). I hope this helps get you started. (Friday, 17 May 2019)
  • Question
    Wondering if you could help identify the plant in this photo from my colleague. He pulled it from a beaver pond in the southern ADKs (Lake George area). Many thanks
    Answer
    Dear SunnyMona, this collection of plant material looks like a species of Chara (muskgrass), which is an aquatic alga that resembles a species of higher vascular plant. If your friend examines images online, he may be able to confirm this identification. (Thursday, 16 May 2019)
  • Question
    Hi Arthur! I submitted the following photo to the ELA photo contest. I had submitted it with my coarse ID of "Arrowwood Viburnum" ... ELA liked the photo but asked me if it's Viburnum dentatum (what I had assumed) or if it is Viburnum recognitum (which I somehow hadn't heard of)... it may be that we can't get the ID from this photo... i can go to the field where I found it. (it's growing edge of a farm field in North Yarmouth, ME). I am curious! Any guidance appreciated.
    Answer
    DEar limnjucy@gmail.com, your plant is Viburnum dentatum var. lucidum (synonym: Viburnum recognitum). They are both the same plant, so you are both correct. However, this taxon is generally recognized at the varietal level today. Let me know if this isn't clear. (Monday, 13 May 2019)
  • Question
    Help with ID please. Found April 28 Kennebunk Maine. Along the side of a trail, mixed pine/hardwood. Small plant 10-12 cm tall. Flowers about 1 cm. Thanks
    Answer
    Dear docj77, good morning. The plants in your picture belong to the species Houstonia caerulea (little bluet), a native member of the madder family (the same family that coffee belongs to). This is a spring flowering plant of open areas, sometimes ascending high into the mountains. (Tuesday, 30 April 2019)
  • Question
    Good morning Dr. I collected and photographed what appears to be Carex pensylvanica. I would appreciate your comment. Thank you in advance. I examined the blades below the culm and the characteristic triangular shape was present. The specimen was collect in Southbridge MA.
    Answer
    Dear califyank, good morning. Beautiful photograph--thanks again for sharing. Your plant certainly could be. The members of section Acrocystis (to which Carex pensylvanica belongs) are early flowering members of the sedge genus. Carex pensylvanica, like Carex lucorum, is a colonial species that forms broken lawns of leaves on the forest/woodland floor in some locations of New England. The rhizomatous habit is really important for distinguishing these species from other members of the section. I won't be able to tell you with confidence without mature perigynia, only to say your hypothesis is a very reasonable one. (Friday, 26 April 2019)
  • Question
    is this a weed or plant? I live in NY on Long Island. This plant I believe is something I purposely planted in my flower bed. It didn’t flower last year or die back completely. I don’t however know what it is.
    Answer
    Dear Carolsdaugher, good morning. I can't be certain without viewing the plants in the field, but it could be a species of Rumex (dock) that has volunteered in your garden. Some species have a leaf morphology such as you have photographed here. Best wishes. (Friday, 26 April 2019)
  • Question
    Please confirm if this is ground ivy. Popped up in my garden before turning soil over. Turner, Maine
    Answer
    Dear Cgoulette, the plant in the image isn't Glechoma hederacea (ground-ivy or Gill-over-the-ground). However, it is a member of the mint family (to which Glechoma hederacea also belongs). Without flowers, I can't tell you for certain, but it looks most like Lamium purpureum (red henbit). If correct, this will produce beautiful (though small) pink-purple flowers in a short time. Let me know if we were correct! (Friday, 26 April 2019)

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