Friday, May 15, 2015

Ornamentals Bonanza

I don't only photograph native plants or plants that I know a lot about. Sometimes I just like to take photos of some pretty ornamentals. So I've decided to create a dedicated post for some of the photos I've taken of some local ornamentals in bloom.

Forsythia sp.
First up, we have some Forsythia sp. bushes. This is a very popular ornamental shrub, introduced in North America; most species are from Asia but one is from Europe and I don't know how to tell which species I'm dealing with. Forsythia sp. are members of the Oleaceae (olive family), and display some of the distinctive characteristics thereof: highly numerous, heavily scented flowers (the scent of the shrub was hard to describe -- not sweet, but strong); they are mostly woody plants; they have a number of floral characteristics that can be read about on the wikipedia page for Oleaceae.
Forsythia sp.
Forsythia sp.'s ornamental appeal is of course in the dense floral display in early spring. The shrub blooms rather riotously before the formation of the leaves.

Glechoma hederacea
Next up, a tiny plant I have seen in the cemeteries, which I believe to be tiny possibly as a result of regular mowing. It generally fits the description of Glechoma hederacea (ground ivy & many other names). If anybody knows different, I would be happy to hear from you! 

Glechoma hederacea
G. hederacea is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint family) native to Europe and transported to North America by European settlers. It is considered naturalized here and identified as a weed in many places. Note that it is not listed on the CWF website for invasive species in Canada.

Malus sp.
And of course the Malus spp. (crab apples) are hard to miss, blooming in great profusion right now. They are very dramatic and wonderfully scented.

Malus sp.
There is a fair amount of variation in the flower colour for Malus sp., and a huge variety of them are found in the Mont-Royal Cemetery, including this dark pink type:

Malus sp. dark pink variety
Malus sp. dark pink variety
There were also quite a few lighter pink varieties like the ones below:

Malus sp. lighter pink variety

Malus sp. lighter pink variety
There also were some individuals, unfortunately too tall, which appeared to have red-tinted leaves as well as very dark reddish flowers, and many other variations besides. I don't know how much of the variation is attributable to species vs individual difference.

Malus spp. are native to the northern hemisphere, but I cannot identify each species enough to determine whether it's native to the Montreal region or not. They are members of the Rosaceae (rose family) and exhibit some of the distinctive characteristics of this family: radial symmetry of flowers, 5 petals, 5 sepals, spiral arrangement of stamens. This family's members are often very showy. It is also an economically important family, counting among its members the majority of pit fruit (eg apples, pears, cherries, peaches, plums, apricots) and many nuts (eg almonds).

Syringa vulgaris
And of course, the Syringa vulgaris (common lilac) have started to bloom. This species, like Malus spp, is very hard to miss due to its showy floral display and wonderful scent.

S. vulgaris inflorescence
This species is native to the Balkan Peninsula and has been introduced all over the world as an ornamental. In North America it is considered an introduced but non-invasive species, as it does not spread excessively or overtake native plants. When it is found in the wild, it is usually on former sites of human habitation where it was deliberately planted.

S. vulgaris
Like Forsythia spp, S. vulgaris is a member of the Oleaceae (olive family) and exhibits some of the family's distinctive traits, including the heavy scent, numerous flowers, woody structure, and common floral characteristics.

I don't bother to pick these anymore, but sometimes I take photos just so that I can prove that I've still got it. I seem to have particularly good pattern recognition software in my brain, because I have always been able to spot 4-leaf clovers at a glance. Here's a photo of one I noticed on one of my walks:

Four-leaf clover - clearly the victim of some insect predation
I believe that my ability comes from simple exposure; I spent an enormous amount of my time as a child foraging, and just wandering in the woods with my forester/naturalist father who would happily tell me what I was looking at. The ability is much broader than simple 4-leaf clover spotting; it extends to identifying and classifying all sorts of plants, spotting unassuming/subtle/camouflaged plants and animals, and to spotting illness/damage/infection/infestation in plants, and so comes in very handy for me in the field.

It has so far been a gorgeous spring.

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