Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A little botany lesson

One of the things that's interesting and frustrating about identifying wildflowers is that there are so many that look alike.  There.  I've said it.  After a while you can tell what some of the look-alikes  are by slight differences in color or height, but when you're first learning them it's nearly impossible.  There are a couple varieties of sunflower on Green Mountain right now that are really hard to distinguish if you only look at the flower.  The Bush Sunflower (Helianthus pumilus) starts blooming in June and is widespread.  But late in the summer, another sunflower, Goledeneye (Heiomeris multiflora), takes its turn.  I just saw the first Goldeneyes of the year this last weekend.  There's an easy way to tell the two apart, but it's in the leaves, not the flower.
Bush Sunflower (left) and Goldeneye (right)
The Bush Sunflower has hairy, rough leaves and stems.  If you rub a leaf between your fingers you can fell how rough it is..  Sometimes the hairs on the leaves catch dust and make the leaves look dirty.  On the other hand, Goldeneye's leaves are narrower, and are smooth and somewhat shiny.  Once you've stopped to look at one it makes it a lot easier to spot as your're walking by.  

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