Eared false-foxglove has broader leaves than purple false-foxglove

False Foxgloves

The time when days start to become noticeably shorter, the nights more crisp, and the colors on the landscape more rich-late August into September-is one of my favorite times of the year. Several species of false-foxgloves blooming on prairies and savannas add charm to the season. Below I briefly profile a few that I have seen thus far this year.

Purple false-foxglove (Agalinis purpurea), an annual, is the most common species in SE Wisconsin. It occurs, sometimes in great abundance, on stream banks, in fens, and in low prairies. It favors the conditions created after fires or in areas that otherwise have sparse vegetation.

Purple false foxglove blooming in low prairie.

Purple false foxglove blooming in low prairie.

The short pedicels (floral stems) of purple false foxglove help distinguish it from other species.

The short pedicels (floral stems) of purple false foxglove help distinguish it from other similar species (e.g. Agalinis tenuifolia).

Eared false-foxglove (Tomanthera auriculata) was long thought to be extirpated from Wisconsin. Now, two extant populations are known. At this site, which was burned this spring, there may have been a hundred thousand or more plants in a three or four acre area. I missed peak flowering, but there were a few hold-outs. This annual species is partially parasitic (hemiparasitic), and heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is the favored host.

Eared false-foxglove has broader leaves than purple false-foxglove

Eared false-foxglove has broader leaves than purple false-foxglove

Large-flowered yellow false-foxglove (Aureolaria grandiflora) occurs in oak savannas. It is hemiparasitic and requires the presence of members of the white oak group such as bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) and white oak (Quercus alba). These plants were growing in remnant savanna on a small “island” rising nearly 100 feet out of surrounding marsh.

Large-yellow false-foxglove

Large-yellow false-foxglove

Annual Yellow false-foxglove (Aureolaria pedicularia) is similar to the former species, but it requires members of the red oak group, particularly black oak (Quercus velutina) and northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) as hosts. It is often found in sandy oak barrens.

Annual yellow false-foxglove growing beneath black oak

Annual yellow false-foxglove growing beneath black oak

Annual yellow false-foxglove up close

Annual yellow false-foxglove up close

All of the above species are pollinated primarily by bumble bees. I dropped the ball not getting any bees in the photos.

Cypripedium_parviflorum_makasin_2014_6

The White Deer at the Orchid Patch

Beauty is common if you look for it, but it is truly rare to step into the wild’s inner sactum, a place and condition apart from time and humanity. For me, I am always oblivious until I am there, when some element of the wild jolts me outside of my consciousness and into a place of pure feeling (the description is embarrassingly corny, but it’s the best I’ve got). And I am only ever there briefly, because almost as soon as the feeling hits, the mind reflects. I was there most often as a child. Now I’m lucky to be there once in years.

Most recently, I was at the Utica Lake tamaracks searching for the little yellow lady’s slipper, which had been reported there in the 1970’s. The tamaracks are thick with poison sumac and exotic shrubs like hybrid honeysuckle and glossy buckthorn. It is a traverse that requires balance, patience, and focus. The tamaracks are bisected by a small stream that drains Utica Lake. The canopy opens around the stream, and when I stepped out into the open, I had found about a dozen of the little yellow lady’s slipper orchids. I had also found another orchid, the showy lady’s slipper, which is even rarer in SE Wisconsin. The opening there provides just enough light for these orchids to hang on.

The little yellow lady's slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin)

The little yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin)

The showy lady's slipper (Cypripedium reginae). This orchid is becoming increasingly rare, because it requires ample light, and the boggy areas it prefers, often with some intrusion of calcareous groundwater, are increasing choked with glossy buckthorn.

The showy lady’s slipper (Cypripedium reginae). This orchid is becoming increasingly rare, because it requires ample light, and the boggy areas it prefers, often with some intrusion of calcareous groundwater, are increasingly choked with glossy buckthorn. This orchid blooms a few weeks after the little yellow lady’s slipper. I had to return to get a shot of it in flower.

As I stood there with the orchids on the sedges of the bank, a branch snapped in the tamaracks across the stream. I looked up from the orchids, and my eyes were quickly drawn to a large, white form approaching through the trees. For a brief moment, I did not understand what I saw, and I felt something akin to wonder and terror together. It was a white deer. I muttered an expletive, and it turned tail and ran, leaving me there standing stupid with a cloud of mosquitos and deer flies.

I didn't raise my camera in time to catch the deer, and it wouldn't have been right anyway. I did happen upon a spot where it had bedded down and left behind white hairs.

I didn’t raise my camera in time to catch the deer, and it wouldn’t have been right anyway. I did happen upon a spot where it had bedded down and left behind white hairs.

A white deer is not a miracle. Neither are orchids or tamaracks. The moment on the bank had nothing to do with any of those things apart from the others. It was everything, and I would describe it as everything that was there as well as everything that was not. There was no meaning or message. The experience was limbic. Still, there was something best described as spiritual. I felt like I was the deer. I wonder if it wasn’t how a deer, a wolf, or a bird feels all of the time. Or something that man has lost in looking.

A few more elements from the tamaracks….

Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

Mitella_nuda_2014_1 Naked mitrewort (Mitella nuda). These stood 3-4 inches tall, their nickle-sized leaves looking like decorations pinned to the mossy logs and roots [/caption]

After the Sky Dance

While bending down to pluck deer ticks off of my pants, I was lucky enough to spot this female woodcock on her nest at Lulu Lake SNA. I was mildly startled when she came into focus out of the leaf litter–I had almost stepped right on her. I very slowly reached for my camera and took this photo.

American woodcock (Scolopax minor) on her nest (4/30/14)

American woodcock (Scolopax minor) on her nest (4/30/14)