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80 Acres: New plant for the list, June 18 [Jun. 19th, 2016|12:07 pm]
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[Current Mood |curious]

R- found a tall blooming plant Saturday, June 18, that he didn't recognize: a colony growing  in the creek woods, in the 'swamp' area, now very wet again.  There's a kind of "sandbar" (except it's not sand, but alluvial mix from flash floods including black clay)  that gets midday sun.  He found a colony of these, 4 feet and more tall, and pulled the shortest one to bring back and show me.  It was about four feet.  By the time it got back to the house, it was fairly limp, the main stalk actually broken.  I snipped it short enough to fit in a pitcher, hoping it would perk up.  Some of the pictures were taken shortly after that; over time it did regain turgor so this morning I set it outside for a bit and took more pictures.

Clearly Mint Family--square stem, opposite leaves, flower shape.
Now IDed as Teucrium canadense

The color appears pink in some lights, lavender in others; this image was taken in late afternoon.

Here's some flower detail taken in the same session.

Key to ID: stamens protruding through cleft in tiny upper lip of flower.

I started looking for ID with my old Peterson Field Guide to Wildflowers of North-eastern and North-central North America, Ajilvsgi's Wildflowers of Texas (and could not find my Peterson for Texas & the Southwest, which I didn't put back on the shelf the last time I used it (DUh!)  I've found the Peterson useful even when it's not this region, as this is a transitional region.  Looking there, I was leaning toward Stachys tenuifolia.  It was getting late, but even so I pulled out the monster, Correll and Johnston's Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas and looked at the various Stachys entries...S. tenuifolia was listed for east fourth of Texas, which we aren't, but I've found eastern plants in various nooks and crannies here, esp. in the creek woods. (American elm, for one.)

This morning the cut end in the pitcher had soaked up even more water, and twisted its spike round to point at the window of the back door.  Many of the flowers had dropped, but it looks like more may open further up the spike.  I set it outside on a stump and took some more pictures, first of the entire plant, then the flowers, then the leaves.  I measured the leaves on the original stem, now very limp, as well.
All three stems with buds are now more upright (the "side" ones completely so)
Flower detail showing stages of bloom

Leaves are lanceolate, toothed, slightly rough.  Down the stem they're 3.25 inches long plus a 0.5 inch petiole. One
leaf (lower right) clearly shows the petiole.

This morning, I tried to look up this and possibly related plants on the National Wildflower Research Center's database of plants.  There's not an easy way to do a side-by-side comparison of closely related species, and the information needed for working up an ID isn't always in the plant description (missing for many plants, including the tall ones like this, is height.  There's generally less information than in a field guide.)  Anyway, going to bed I'd been happily thinking S. tenuifolia, but the images at the Wildflower Center and the references they gave suggested that that plant had more brightly colored flowers, and more obvious on the stalk, than the one we have here.  So I went back to Correll & Johnston, but....uncertainty still there.

Need a solid ID to put this plant on the 80-Acres list.   And of course I'd like to know how close I came to the right ID.


[User Picture]From: gifted
2016-06-19 10:30 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful find, hope more research turns up the answer. I imagine it would be exciting to find new animal or plant species on your own property.

I found a somewhat rare mushroom here once after three days of rain, in a dog park, which has only so far been registered as being as close as two states south, and is normally only seen overseas. :] I identified it as almost definitely being Amanita muscaria var. formosa. I'd never seen spotted mushrooms growing in rings before (amanita is what people usually draw when they think of the "toadstools" in "fairy rings", the most common form being red with white spots), so it was an enchanting find. Somehow, just the right conditions occurred for those spores to take (coniferous trees, dog poop, three days of rain leaving the ground with about three inches of temporary swamp), though it was amazing they had come this far in the first place.

Edited at 2016-06-19 10:31 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-06-20 01:54 am (UTC)
Stuff does travel...a lot of it with human aid (in camping gear and other luggage, in car tires and wheel wells, on peoples' shoes and in pets' fur. And that's aside from the deliberate transport of plants and animals.

But finding something we haven't found before is always fun, and figuring out what it is, and getting it into the species lists, is excitement and triumph. Then every walk out is more interesting because we know quite a lot of what we're seeing and that makes it easier to notice something different.
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From: (Anonymous)
2016-06-20 06:42 pm (UTC)

Book on Texas Flora?

Do you have access to a book on Texas flora with a dichotomous key. You seem knowledgeable enough to work through to an identification. Even so, in the off-chance this is an alien introduction you'd find yourself unable to get to a satisfactory result. I found a stand of Trautvetteria carolinensis in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado and also a stand in the forest of Montana just west of Flathead lake. The first instance drove me nuts (I'd made an erroneous assumption early on while keying it out) but when I found the Montana stand I saw it as an old friend. It was difficult to convince the other biologists what it was.

(I'm not sure how this comment will come out, Chrome assumes my first language is Russian)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-06-20 10:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Book on Texas Flora?

Thank you; I do own a state botany manual. Correll & Johnston's MANUAL OF THE VASCULAR PLANTS OF TEXAS is a huge fat book I used back in college; I did try out both of my top guesses from the field guide (one of which was right) but was thrown off by the plant description of T. canadense when I should have stuck to the description of the flowers. Leaves (including lack of "silvery" hairs on the back, and leaf shape) are different, as is the size (both field guide & Correll & Johnston gave a maximum height of ~36 inches; these plants are substantially taller.

Once my attention was directed back to the floral structure, the stamens coming out above the upper lip, through a division in it made the distinction--and that was even illustrated in the field guide if I had not been fixated on the extreme difference in leaf shape.

One _Teucrium_ species in Correll & Johnston is said to make it to 70 cm, but it also has lobed leaves, which this does not. (And it grows in a different part of the state.) I tried to use the USDA county occurrence map online, but the link came back "Server not found."

So yeah, the actual manual was useful, but even more useful would've been my paying attention to the careful drawing, side by side, of the floral parts of T. canadense and S. tenuifolia.

I toyed for awhile with the notion that Wood Elves had come through and grafted a T. canadense inflorescence on a S. tenuifolia plant, but...I just write fantasy; I don't mess with it in plant ID.

What a find your T. carolinensis was!

A lot of plants exist outside their supposed range...this little bit of remnant woodland had, until the recent drought, a small stand of American elms including two quite large ones, and three Carolina Buckthorn. We also have both Eastern Persimmon and Mexican Persimmon. (A few of the Eastern Persimmons appear to have survived the drought.)

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[User Picture]From: pameladean
2016-06-20 07:48 pm (UTC)
Amusingly, just today Jon Singer, receiving a report on the health of a mint cutting he had given me in a ziploc bag, also used the term "regaining turgor," which I don't recollect ever having heard before.

Yours is a really lovely plant. I hope it turns out to belong where it is.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-06-20 09:39 pm (UTC)
With the help of an acquaintance on Twitter, whose aunt is a professional botanist (and thanks to both of them) we now have an ID, included in the post.

And when I went to enter it into the list, I found the same plant listed for a very different location (west dry woods, not in the moist creek woods.) Back then, with a very basic and not great point and shoot digital (that, um, still used a 3.5 inch disk in it) or an old film camera I was not photographing everything; it was the next year I bought a digital SLR for documentation. I'm not sure I have that image still.

So did I err in the ID in 2004? Or did we have a dry-land variant of the species then, and the wet-land one now? Because the dry woods are up on a sort of hump (it's the tail end of a ridge merging into grassland, thin-soiled over limestone--the west dry woods has plants more typical of brushland to south and west of here: Mexican persimmon, bumelia, with a fringe of cedarleaf elm and live oaks. It's not the right habitat for T. canadense.

We don't walk through it now because many of the trees died or dropped limbs in the 2008-2015 drought (worst in 2010 to 2014 but below normal before that) and it's impossible to see what you're stepping into...we know western diamondbacks occupy that area. So I have no other records of the plant then IDed as T. canadense, but I don't see one thriving in that area.

You solve one mystery and more rise out of the ground.

Edited at 2016-06-20 10:16 pm (UTC)
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