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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
    Hello, I believe this is a species of alder. Would I be far off in thinking this is speckled alder (Alnus incana)? The bark seems to exhibit the white lenticels which is, I think, indicative of this species. Thanks!
    Answer
    Dear sldz22, you do appear to have Alnus incana subspecies rugosa, which is a native shrub that fixes atmospheric nitrogen (i.e., it enriches the soil). All the species of alder are native to New England except Alnus glutinosa, a species that can grow to the size of small trees. Best wishes. (Friday, 2 December 2022)
  • Question
    Hello, wondering if this is yet another Ranunculus, this one perhaps not native? Leaves are definitely hairy; the leaf base is cordate. Found in the same floodplain area as the American gooseberry (North Providence, RI). Wondering also if the photo with the the two cordate leaves is the same plant as the first, but with with different leaves, as the species is, I believe, dimorphic? Thanks!
    Answer
    Dear sldz22, the species with three- to five-lobed basal leaves is a Ranunculus and is likely R. recuvatus (hooked crowfoot). The species with heart-shaped bases is not a crowfoot. I do not recognize the plant from the image (sorry). Best wishes. (Friday, 2 December 2022)
  • Question
    Hi, I don’t have a question about plants, but ‘m doing a spreadsheet about the plants can be founded on here. And I’m wondering about the abbreviation which are not explained in the Conservation Status of the plant. For example: code C
    Answer
    Dear anniez, the designation of "C" simply means that the plant is of conservation concern globally or regionally (i.e., it is rare throughout the world or throughout New England, respectively). It was a way to alert people that they have found something that perhaps could be reported to their local Natural Heritage Program due to its rarity. Best wishes. (Friday, 2 December 2022)
  • Question
    Hello, I fear this might be eastern black currant (Ribes americanum). The habitat is right, stream floodplain -- it's growing in a swampy area at the end of a reservoir. On slightly higher ground, but a stone's throw from the ribes, is a stand of mature white pine. (The woods is mostly white pine, with some birch, beech, oak and cedar at slightly higher elevations.) If this is R. americanum, should the park staff be informed? Not sure what to do. Thanks. (North Providence, RI.)
    Answer
    Dear sldz22, good afternoon. You have photographed a species of Ribes, but I do not know which species without seeing flowers/fruits in addition to the stems and leaves. Note that Ribes americanum does not have prickles along the stem (as you specimen does). I'm not certain why you mention that you fear this might be that species, as R. americanum is a native shrub that is uncommon in parts of New England. Best wishes. (Friday, 2 December 2022)
  • Question
    I think these are ash seeds. Can species be determined? They were scattered widely on a windy day (November 8, 2022) and it was not obvious which trees they fell from.
    Answer
    Dear jfc, yes, they are fruits (a samara) of the genus Fraxinus (ash). They look like Fraxinus americana (white ash) to me, given the wing of the fruit extends only a short distance down the body of the achene. Best wishes. (Thursday, 10 November 2022)
  • Question
    Hi! I'm researching for a writing project. What are the approximate percentages of book/online learning, lab work, and field work? Thanks so much!
    Answer
    Dear sherriedennis, good morning. I'm not certain what you are asking. I don't know if you mean in the botanical profession, for health, or what I experience. If the latter, it varies tremendously with the time of year. During the growing season I'm out a fair amount, but winter is time in the office (reading and writing), in the museum (herbarium), and in the lab doing morphological research. Best wishes. (Thursday, 10 November 2022)
  • Question
    If I pull burning bush up by the roots, is that at all effective in elimenating it? I am trying to avoid pesticides.
    Answer
    Dear mistertippy, the answer is yes. It's a lot of work, but it is the non-toxic way to control this species. While there may be a seed bank that will let the plants return (through seeds in the soil sprouting), if you stay with it long enough, you will eliminate the plants (or seriously reduce their numbers). So long as you aren't dealing with a large area, this is the way to go. Keep in mind that the soil disturbance can foster various non-natives to colonize the sight, so best to place the soil back and cover with leaves and similar natural compost (helps prevent non-native seed germination in those locations). Best wishes. (Monday, 7 November 2022)
  • Question
    Hello, I submitted a query as to the identity of this plant, but I now believe it is rattlesnake-root, perhaps either Nabalus altissimus or N. trifoliatus. And what I thought looked like "spines" on the leaf margins are actually teeth. I gather what sets these two species apart are the # of flowers in the flower head and the # of involucral bracts. Is that correct? Does the plant I photographed have 2 sets of involucral bracts or are those long petal-like parts ray flowers?Thanks.
    Answer
    Dear sldz22, that was my thought as well (you should receive my response shortly). The involucre (the series of bracts at the base of each flower head) are composed of two series, a shorter series and a longer series. Typically, this species has about 5 longer involucral bracts and about 5 ray flowers contained within each set of bracts. Best wishes. (Monday, 7 November 2022)
  • Question
    Could you help me identify this plant, please? I think it's European buckthorn, but the sprout I have has alternating leaves, while the common invasive buckthorn has opposite. Am I way off or is it another buckthorn? Thank you!
    Answer
    Dear halfcake, good afternoon. Rhamnus cathartica (European buckthorn) has variable leaf arrangement. It frequently shows alternate and subopposite leaves on the same plant. It does not regularly produce opposite leaves throughout a plant. While I can't see all the details needed for a confident identification, the plant looks like European buckthorn. Best wishes. (Monday, 7 November 2022)
  • Question
    Hello, Would this be the vegetative form of jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum?) Found in moist woods in Lincoln. RI. Thanks.
    Answer
    Dear sldz22, yes, you are correct. The plant in the photograph is a species of Arisaema. I can't tell you which of the three species in this complex it is, but most found in upland forests (and, for that matter, throughout New England) are Arisaema triphyllum. Best wishes. (Monday, 7 November 2022)

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