Tag Archives: identifying plants

Puzzling Out Beggar Ticks

After going through the plant pictures for last year, I find I’ve completed pictures for 330 plants. This is deceptive. I’ve actually completed pictures for more plants, but don’t know what they are. This leaves me puzzling out beggar ticks among others.

There are ten species listed for Dent county and two others possibly here. I have completed pictures for four or five of these. I don’t know which ones.

bush beggar ticks flowers
Many beggar tick plants are genus Desmodium. This plant is a bush. The flowers fit the regular plan. The seed pod is single, but looks like a beggar tick.

How is that possible? With beggar ticks, genus Desmodium, family Fabaceae, this is easy. The flowers look a lot alike. Many of the plants look a lot alike.

Most flowers are a plum pink. They have two petals standing up and overlapping a bit or fused. These have greenish white teardrops at the base with a dark red purple border.

The other petals form a slipper sticking out. This may be closed around the stamens and pistil. It might not be. One characteristic to look for.

pink beggar ticks flower
This is yet another variation on a beggar ticks flower. The white parts of the eyes are missing. The slipper is open. The flowers are scattered along the stalk. Surely this one will be easy to identify. If I keep looking.

Flowers can be small and close together down a long stem. They can be larger and spaced out. Puzzling out which is which is difficult.

The leaves are in sets of three leaflets. These can be long and narrow or short and round. They can be sharply pointed or have blunt tips. Some plants are a mix.

The plants are often several stems from a central rootstock. At least one is a bush.

white beggar ticks flowers
Most beggar ticks flowers are some shade of pink. These are white. They are lining the flower stalk. They do have the little eyes at the base of the upright petals. They should be in the genus Desmodium.

Seed capsules referred to as beggar ticks are the other important item. Usually there are several seed capsules in a string. Usually these are covered with short, stiff hairs so the capsules stick to fur or clothing. Some strings are fewer than five, Some are more than five.

This is often my problem. I get pictures of the plant, leaves and flowers, but don’t find the same plant to get pictures of the seed capsules. I’m left puzzling out beggar ticks missing a vital piece of information.

Are you confused yet?

There are keys. I work my way through them slowly referring to the glossary for terms and still taking a guess.

beggar ticks seed pods
Beggar ticks are larger than the small football shaped beggar lice. The flat pods are covered with short hairs and attach to passing fur or clothes immediately. The strings often break up as they are pulled off. Different kinds have slightly different shapes and numbers of pods in a row.

There are pictures online. I take a notebook, look each one up and sketch the flowers, stems, leaves and seed capsules noting special characteristics. Once I have all of these done, I will work my way through my pictures.

As the beggar ticks get going this year, I’m ready. I have marking tape. I will tag the plants I’m working on so I know which is which when I go back for seed capsule pictures.

I’m tired of puzzling out which beggar ticks are which.

Invasive Plants Everywhere

It’s strange how I forget to take some pictures for so many plants. My quest to fill in these blanks took me back to ShawneeMac Lakes where I also found several invasive plants.

What is an invasive plant? It’s a plant usually from some other country that is now spreading through native habitats.

How do these invasive plants get here? Some arrive by accident. Colonists brought over crop seed to plant and the invasive plants were mixed in. These are such plants as the plantains, shepherd’s purse, corn speedwell and many other common weeds.

invasive plants include Oriental bittersweet

The native bittersweet and the Oriental bittersweet are very similar in appearance and seeds. The Oriental is very aggressive and can kill the trees it climbs. I’m not sure which this is and will check the flowers this spring.

Another way such plants arrive is by invitation. Some are herbs or edible and are brought over as crops. Some are pretty and gardeners bring them over to decorate their gardens.

Once growing, plants flower and produce seeds. The seeds scatter growing into new plants. Consider the dandelion and how many seeds one plant produces.

Walking around the trail at ShawneeMac I was not concerned with invasive plants. I had a list of plants I needed winter bud pictures for. Even though I knew about where to find these plants, I’m always on the lookout for new ones.

invasive plants include Japanese honeysuckle

Japanese honeysuckle flowers have a wonderful scent that hangs in the air around the vines. It blooms for months. It covers fences, other plants and buildings.

Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive plant. It can be a terrible problem piling up over native plants, smothering them under thick vines and leaves that stay green through the winter. There is a lot of this at ShawneeMac Lakes.

The little vine climbing up the side of a tree was a bit similar with opposite green leaves. It wasn’t Japanese honeysuckle. Those leaves have smooth edges. These had teeth. The winter bud is different too. I took pictures to look it up later.

invasive plants include wintergreen vines

Gardeners like wintergreen as a ground cover in shady areas. It spreads into wild areas and climbs trees and shrubs burying them under foliage.

The American holly plants are pretty this time of year. The hawthorn had nice buds on it. One of the hazelnuts still had a few nuts on it.

When I first saw this plant, I noticed the red seeds with wings over them. There are a number of plants with such seeds including the wahoo tree. But this wasn’t that plant. I took some pictures of bark, bud, twig and seed to look up later.

invasive plants include burning bush

Burning bush is easily recognized by the wings on its twigs. It makes a nice hedge when trimmed. In wild areas it spreads by seed crowding out native shrubs.

I knew about the bittersweet vines. There are two similar ones. One is a native plant. The other is an invasive Oriental vine. I tend to think the ones at ShawneeMac lakes are the invasive one, but won’t be sure until spring when the vines flower.

Once home I took out “Shrubs and Woody Vines” from the Missouri Department of Conservation. That vine seems to be wintergreen, as invasive species. The bush is burning bush, also an invasive plant.

Invasive plants grow wherever they can find a place. More than these few find a place at ShawneeMac Lakes.

Finding New Plants

Over the years I have found a lot of new plants, new to me that is. The plants are not new. They have been there all along unnoticed.
Last year a new fence was put up along the road to keep some cattle in. The bulldozer came out and scraped all the plants away leaving bare dirt. The fence went in.
This year I keep finding new plants growing along that fence. Once I find them, I take pictures and maybe a sample leaf or stem. The guidebooks come out.

Virginia plantains were new plants to me

Virginia plantain has strongly veined leaves covered with hair. It is unusual because the plants vary in size but all look alike. The flower spike is the same type seen in other plantains.

The first find reminded me that plant families have many similarities. The plant looked like a hairy version of one of the wild greens I’ve enjoyed eating.

Broad-leafed plantain

The broad strongly veined leaves are so distinctive in broad-leafed plantain. Early in the spring the small leaves start appearing and are great additions for salads and potherbs. They have a mild taste.

Botanists have sorted plants into groups. Each individual kind of plant is a species and has a species name. One thing I have noticed about these is how many times the same specific name is used for different plants. Even so the plants names are not the same.
The species are grouped into genera. A genus is a group of plants with similar flowers. Usually more than the flowers will be similar.
The genera are grouped into families. I keep my wildflower pictures sorted by plant families.
One of the nice things about living in a smaller town is being recognized at the places I often go such as the local library. Such was the case the other day when the librarian let me know about a new book about plants called “The Plant and Flowers Collection.”
This book is not a reading book although it does have some text. Instead it goes through different groups of plants with beautiful pictures showing the range of the families.
What difference does this make?

new plants with this flower spike must be plantains

The flower spike is short in English plantain but still resembles that of broad-leafed, bracted and Virginia plantains.

For my two new plants I found along that new fence it made a lot of difference and saved a lot of time. These two plants both belong to the same family as that wild green.
The wild green is the Rugel or broad-leafed plantain Plantago rugelii. It is an introduced plant growing wild all over in lawns and out of the way places. Another plantain, the English or narrow-leafed plantain Plantago lanceolata is another of my familiar wild greens.

English plantain

Another great mild tasting wild green, English or narrow-leafed plantain has long leaves but still the strong veins. The flower spike is typical too.

Both of these plantains have long leaves with parallel veins. Both of these put up flower stalks with tiny flowers forming rings around them starting near the bottom and progressing upwards.
My two new plants have the long leaves with the parallel leaves. They have the same kind of flower stalks. They are plantains.

new plants can be new models of known plants

Bracted plantain leaves are much narrower than the others I’ve seen but still have strong veins. The flower spike is fancy with the long bracts sticking out.

Unlike my wild greens, the first is native and called hoary plantain Plantago virginica. The second one is the bracted plantain or buckthorn Plantago aristata.
Finding new plants is exciting. Knowing characteristics of plant families makes finding their names so much easier.