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Native Plant Trust: Go Botany Discover thousands of New England plants

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 there, I'm trying to identify these showy plants that grow very tall along roads in VT. I appreciate your help!
    Answer
    Dear jebcas, good afternoon to you. These look like the flowering arrays of Phragmites (reed), most likely Phragmites australis(common reed). Without seeing the stem and leaf sheaths, I can't be certain of the species (we do have a native species, but it is much less common and not often roadside). Best wishes. (Wednesday, 12 January 2022)
  • Question
    I found this vine recently on a boulder in upland woods in Woburn, MA. Is it Vaccinium vitis-idaea? Thanks, Tom
    Answer
    Dear TomW, good afternoon. The image is a little small, but it appears to be Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) that is growing down a small rock face. The opposite leaves support this (Vaccinium species have alternate leaves). Best wishes. (Wednesday, 12 January 2022)
  • Question
    I am stumped on this plant I observed throughout the summer on a property in Orland Maine. Typically it was in moist, forested habitats. I only saw one instance where it had flowered and got only a blurry picture in September. The stem leaves are more divided than the basal leaves pictured and the seed heads looked a lot like a ranunculus or geum. Can you help with this little information?
    Answer
    Dear Cathy, good afternoon. The plants you have photographed may be Ranunculus recurvatus (hooked crowfoot). This species has basal leaves very much as pictured, with the upper leaves on the stem divided into distinct leaflets. The fruits are small, initially green achenes with a hooked beak. Best wishes. (Thursday, 16 December 2021)
  • Question
    Hello again, I know grasses are hard but I am hoping that I have enough information here for you to be able to tell me something about this grass. It is located on an island in Salem Sound, MA Thank you very Much! SueLB
    Answer
    Dear SueLB, good morning. Yes, they are difficult from photographs. What I can suggest is that these images look to capture Poa pratensis (Kentucky blue grass). It is likely either subsp. pratensis or subsp. angustifolia (both are non-native). I don't know for certain this is the correct identification, so if any control is to happen, let's be sure to collect a specimen so that a confident identification can be achieved. Best wishes. (Thursday, 9 December 2021)
  • Question
    Hello Dear Botonist, Firstly, how nice for you... Ageless! I am wondering if it is possible to tell what species this grass is. It is located on an island in Salem Sound, MA Thank you very much! SueLB
    Answer
    Dear SueLB, good morning. Grasses are very difficult to do from images, so please forgive the lack of certainty. The genus looks like Festuca (fescue), but it is hard for me to go any further without a specimen. Best wishes. (Monday, 6 December 2021)
  • Question
    I just received an answer to my question about a plant that materialized in my back yard in Wayland MA. Two people have identified it as a grass. The latest suggestion is sorghum bicolor which I think is very likely, but sorghum rarely grows in our climate. Where did it come from and what is its future? Is there a form of sorghum that does grow in the northeast?
    Answer
    Dear mabelde, good afternoon. I was the one who answered your question in the other format. Yes, Sorghum does grow in New England as an occasional escape from cultivation (even in Maine where I live I've seen it growing as a weed near agricultural feeds). I don't know where it came from, but it is likely to not continue growing at the site for long (the plants tend not to persist for long). Best wishes. (Wednesday, 1 December 2021)
  • Question
    Plant apps have given me an id of royal fern (Osmunda regalis) but to me this looks very different. Seen in October at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Sharon, MA, in a wetland area. Is it just fresh growth or something different?
    Answer
    Dear lfarnitano, good afternoon. While a bit unusual, it does look like the fern Osmunda spectabilis (American royal fern). While identification apps frequently make mistakes, I think this one led you to the correct species. Best wishes. (Wednesday, 1 December 2021)
  • Question
    I found the plant in the photos on the hill behind my house this fall in Wayland, MA. It appeared out of nowhere and is the only one of its kind. It looks like a small spindly cornstalk but the flowers at the top are different, whitish.
    Answer
    Dear mabelde, good afternoon. I don't know which species of grass you have photographed, but it does look like a member of the Sorghum genus. It might be Sorghum bicolor, but I would need to see a physical specimen to know this. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 30 November 2021)
  • Question
    I planted a tree many years ago that came in the mail from the Arbor Day Foundation. Now I suspect it may be a Bradford pear. It has stinky white flowers in early May and small, round, brown fruits.
    Answer
    Good morning Jenn, it certainly does appear to be a species of pear (genus Pyrus). The size of the fruits that you mentions supports the hypothesis of P. calleryana. As you likely know, this species is capable of naturalizing to the local landscapes from a seed source (though, I have not seen it "invasive" in New England). Best wishes. (Tuesday, 30 November 2021)
  • Question
    this is just leaf set but hopefully that will be enough to narrow down by family or genus! this is from a pretty arching shrub in the woodland behind my home, right along an old fenceline. i think it might've been planted, but the leaves are thick and tough with little spiny serrations and clusters of white flowers in spring.
    Answer
    thatonetreetho, good afternoon. I wish I could help, but from the image provided, I'm not able to assist. If this is a cultivated plant, it will make things much more difficult. If you can get images of the flowers in the spring, I'm certain we can get you started. Best wishes. (Thursday, 18 November 2021)

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