Monday, April 13, 2009
Shadblow. Redbud. Cherry trees. All in glorious bloom. Obviously, not in Saratoga County. We went to our son Peter's for Easter, in southern New Jersey near Philadelphia, and oh what a beautiful show of flowering trees! Spring is nearly a month advanced down there. What a treat to contemplate what we have in store.
Peter's neighborhood has a stream running through it, and the banks of this stream just teem with a plant whose glossy green leaves and bright yellow star-shaped flowers spread out to carpet all the yards that abut this stream. The plant is called Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), a member of the buttercup family. It thrives in masses in New Jersey, and I was tickled last May to find a single plant of this species growing along a stream in the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve here in Saratoga County. I have since learned that I shouldn't have been so pleased. Apparently, it is considered quite an aggressive invasive species and should be eradicated wherever it is found. Too bad. It sure is pretty. But so is Purple Loosestrife. If I find it again this spring I'll pull it out. (Sigh!)
This plant is another example of how common names can often confuse us. We have two other celandines around here: just plain Celandine (Chelidonium majus), a common alien weed of alleys and vacant lots, and Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), an American native wildflower normally found further west than New York but escaped from gardens and naturalizing here. Both belong to the poppy family, both have pretty, many-lobed leaves, both have four-petaled yellow flowers (the Poppy a spectacular one!), and neither one is related in any way to Lesser Celandine.
Makes you wonder who comes up with these confusions. Loosestrife is another example. Most of us know by now that Purple Loosestrife is an aggressive alien. But then we have all these native plants called Loosestrife, too: Yellow, Fringed, Whorled, Tufted are four that come to mind. Nice plants. Non-aggressive. And not a one belongs to the loosestrife family. They're primroses, every one. Go figure. I guess that's why real wildflower nuts only use Latin names.