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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
    I sent you some pictures of this plant a month or so ago, before it came into bloom. I hope these pictures provide enough clues. Symphyothrichum whatchmacallitum? Thanks, Jula
    Answer
    Dear JuliaB, good morning. I do not recognize this species of Symphyotrichum. It is likely of hybrid origin, between a species with narrow leaves and one with cordate leaves. I would not be able to offer an identification without a specimen. If it is possible for you to collect and press one, let me know and I'll give you an address. My email is ahaines@nativeplanttrust.org. (Wednesday, 13 October 2021)
  • Question
    I've been trying to identify this aster species that has appeared in the moister portions of our sunny, open field in Lincoln County, ME. Stems are quite pubescent, sometimes more bristly and purple at base of plant. Light blue ray florets often number as few as 20. The larger of the alternate leaves have indistinctly toothed margins and they all clasp the stem. Involucral bracts feel soft. No plants taller than 14" (maybe due to mowing). My guess is Symphotrichum puniceum?
    Answer
    Dear winterbloomfarm, good afternoon. The plant you have photographed is most likely Symphyotrichum puniceum (purple-stemmed American-aster). It is a native species that only sometimes has a purple stem. It has obviously clasping leaves and large flower heads (such as you have photographed). Best wishes. (Wednesday, 13 October 2021)
  • Question
    I have these growing in my backyard, never had before. They are opening up and dark brown seed's are falling out, almost resemble almonds. I live in the middle of a city. They are growing from the tree's and wild Flowers I have growing in my backyard. I live in Gloversville NY
    Answer
    Dear wm.hayes, good afternoon. The plant you have photographed is wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata). This is a native member of the cucumber family that is found over much of the northeastern United States. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 12 October 2021)
  • Question
    Hi, I'm trying to do an illustration of this 19th century Floridian scene (first St. Augustine lighthouse) and I just can't figure out what kind of palms those are in the foreground on the left. Any ideas? Thank you! (I just noticed you're New England specialists ... but just in case!)
    Answer
    Dear hoboxia, good afternoon. As you suspected, my expertise is limited to the northeastern portion of North America. However, the plants look identifiable. You want to connect with folks in the southeastern US, which you can find on Index Herbariorum. With some searching, you should be able to find someone that can assist. Good luck. (Tuesday, 12 October 2021)
  • Question
    Hello I am in shamokin dam, PA. I live on an old floodplain of the susquehanna river. This plant is along a streambank, and the surrounding area may possibly be a wetland that is not delineated. Historical use may have altered the landscape (drained the wetland) and now it is in a more natural state. There are other OBL species nearby, and I wanted to know if this is a Northeastern Bulrush, or another species of sedge grass. Thanks.
    Answer
    Dear Penny, good afternoon. These do not appear to be Scirpus ancistrochaetus (northeastern bulrush). That species has characteristic arching branches of the inflorescence (these are quite straight). I do not know who this is from the images supplied, but it may be part of the Scirpus atrovirens complex, which includes S. atrovirens, S. hattorianus, and S. georgianus in the northeast. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 12 October 2021)
  • Question
    Hi Arthur, I have a two dogwoods inMass in my yard, Cornus mas, whose fruits are edible and Cornus Florida, whose fruits are said by some studies to be poisonous, or non-edible, or unpalatable but non-poisonous. I bit one of the drupes and it is very bitter with what looks like a high lipid content. I have a book that lists that Indians would regularly deseed the drupes, mash them up and cook/mix with other fruits. So it appears that Indians ate them cooked but I'm also told they are poisonous.
    Answer
    Dear Howard, good morning. I'm not aware of any reliable reports of Benthamidia florida (synonym: Cornus florida) being consumed as a food. The plant was used extensively for medicine by the Indigenous of Turtle Island (North America). However, food use appears to be absent based on the usual sources that I examine for ethnobotany. Best wishes. (Tuesday, 12 October 2021)
  • Question
    Hello Dear Botonist, I am wondering if it is possible to tell what this plant is, or set me in some sort of direction to find out. It is growing on a river bank in the lake's region of N.H. Thank you so much! SueLB
    Answer
    Dear SueLB, good morning. You have photographed Mitchella repens (partridge-berry), a native plant in the madder family. The opposite, evergreen leaves with a light-colored central vein and plant that trails over the ground are good characters to identify this species. (Tuesday, 12 October 2021)
  • Question
    Hi, I recently spotted this Monarda punctata growing along the path at the Coonamessett bog restoration project in Falmouth, MA. I don't see it listed for Barnstable county or see any other sightings on the Cape on iNaturalist. Do you agree that it's M. punctata? Thanks!
    Answer
    Dear ChuxPix65, yes, the image certainly appears to capture Monarda punctata quite well. I am not aware of sightings in Barnstable County. Do you believe this is possibly planted? You mention it was found near a restoratioh area--was this area seeded with wildflowers? Feel free to contact me at ahaines@nativeplanttrust.org so we can discuss further. (Tuesday, 12 October 2021)
  • Question
    Hello. I am trying to identify a group of Euonymus trees in Appalachian woodland habitat. They are either E. atropurpureus or E. europaeus. Oldest specimens in group are at least 8-10ft tall. No wings present on any of them. Leaves are pubescent underneath (though I have read this can be common to both species). No sign that they have flowered probably due to shady location. Is there any feature that can be used to definitively determine which species I am looking at besides flowers/fruit?
    Answer
    Dear mostyn, good morning. Unfortunately, the vegetative plants do not have a suite of good characteristics. It is the pubescence on the abaxial (undersurface) of the leaf that distinguishes Euonymus atropurpureus from E. europaeus. The hairs on E. atropurpureus are erect (i.e., stand up from the leaf surface), as opposed to any scattered hairs that might be present in the other species. Good luck. (Tuesday, 12 October 2021)
  • Question
    Hello! I need help identifying this pant. It was spotted in Hartford County, Connecticut in a meadow. Please help me!! Thanks!
    Answer
    Dear teaganq, good morning. I'm sorry, but I can't help you with your question. There just isn't enough to go on. If you find flowers or fruits, please send an additional image so I can try to assist you. Best wishes. (Monday, 4 October 2021)

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