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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
    I've noticed a pine on the Joppa Flats property that I haven't noticed before. It looks to me like Pinus mugs, with the short, bluish needles. It looks to have been planted, so I guess that is why it is missing in the distribution map for Essex County. Could you confirm or correct for me?
    Answer
    chaffeemonell, good morning. I'm not certain you have photographed Pinus mugo. The upright habit isn't typical, but the winter buds look very large for this taxon. The winter buds suggest Pinus sylvestris. If it is planted, then it would not be included on Go Botany (the only plants mapped their are wild or naturalized). (Wednesday, 18 September 2019)
  • Question
    Hi: Any thoughts on a species ID for this aster...growing in a field, up to 4 ft. high. Thanks
    Answer
    Dear JMP, it is hard for me to be confident without a close-up image of the involucral bracts, but it appears you have photographed Symphyotrichum pilosum (awl American-aster), a native species of open habitats. Best wishes. (Wednesday, 18 September 2019)
  • Question
    Hello, I would like help please with classification of Hypopitys. GoBotany recognizes two species currently, which I think is fairly new? I found this plant in the Blue Hills which matches the criteria for H. languinosa: pink stem, flowering in late Aug. Is that definitive? The distribution map on GoBotany does not document it in Milford County https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32031443 Thank you
    Answer
    Dear ljcost, If you have an image you could upload or sent to me (ahaines@nativeplanttrust.org) I could help you with the identification. Deep pink to red stems during flowering are definitive (know that Hypopitys monotropa can become tinged with pink in fruit, but it is pale in flower and the coloration is fruit is quite muted compared with H. lanuginosa). I am not aware of Milford County in New England. Do you mean Norfolk County? (Wednesday, 18 September 2019)
  • Question
    This was along the trail, on dry forest floor, around Sandy Pond in Lincoln, MA. There were a couple of other specimens nearby.
    Answer
    Dedar Whbn3, good morning. This plant is Pyrola americana (round-leaved shinleaf). Some specimens of this native plant have light colored veins on the leaves (as yours does here) and some do not. (Wednesday, 18 September 2019)
  • Question
    I've been wondering recently if Marsh Elder and Common Ragweed might be related more closely than just being in the same family (Asteraceae). They have unusual and markedly similar flowers. Perhaps the same Tribe or Subtrribe? Are there any other genera that have similar flowers/fruits?
    Answer
    chaffeemonell, yes, they belong to the same tribe (Heliantheae), and also the same subtribe (Ambrosiinae). These are plants that have chaff (i.e., receptacular bracts) between the disk flowers and stamens with distinct (as opposed to fused together) anthers. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 17 September 2019)
  • Question
    Hello - I'm curious about this little plant which I've discovered in a woodland edge area where I've been removing invasives. Sorry there's no flower in the photo but I'm hoping its habit is distinct enough to a trained eye that you might be advised to identify it for. Thank you,
    Answer
    calexander23, good morning. I might have been able to identify this, but I would need some additional information. Location is very important, without knowing (generally) where this image came from I will have more trouble. Also, an image from the side so I can see the stem and leaf arrangement would be really helpful. I'm sorry, in this case, from the one image, I can't help. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 17 September 2019)
  • Question
    Hello, again. I came across this plant a couple of days ago in an old deserted sandy parking lot in Sturbridge, MA. It stands about 50 cm tall. Any ideas? Thanks, --Carl
    Answer
    Dear Carl, you have photographed a species of Lespedeza (bush-clover). It looks like you have Lespedeza capitata (round-headed bush-clover), a native species that is found throughout much of New England. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 17 September 2019)
  • Question
    I'm not sure if this is wild or a garden escape. It's near a house with a lot of non-New England plants, away from the landscaped area. I browsed Lamiaceae and did not find a convincing match. Eastern Massachusetts, in a row of tall plants at the edge of the woods.
    Answer
    jfc, these are small individuals of Leonurus cardiaca (motherwort), a member of the mint family. The lower leaves will be three-lobed near the apex. It is naturalized here and there around New England. I see it most often in ME around old homesteads and farm lands. (Monday, 16 September 2019)
  • Question
    Greetings! A couple of weeks ago, I sent you a picture of a new (to me) aquatic plant. Since it wasn't a tracheophyte, you could only provide some helpful suggestions. So, after a bit of searching, I determined the wee beastie to be Riccia fluitans L., a liverwort in the order Marchantiales. I attach a picture of a whole bunch of them in a small aquarium. --Carl
    Answer
    Thank you Carl! (Monday, 16 September 2019)
  • Question
    Roque Bluffs, Washington Co. Maine. Tiny 5 part blossoms less than 2mm. Thin grass-like stem. Plants, 10" - 16" aprox. high. Leaves about an inch or less long, narrow; cauline, not many. Not toothed, have midrib. Frail inconspicuous plant growing in sandy roadside, wet boggy area. I was brushing it out of the way to take Hypericum (H.canadense?) photo and didn't realize it wasn't a grass stem. Round-leaved sundew and Rose Pogonia on other side of road.
    Answer
    Carol, I can't see enough of this plant to be certain, but you should check images of Linaria canadensis (synonym: Nuttallanthus canadensis), oldfield toadflax. It is a common species in Maine. (Monday, 16 September 2019)

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