Late summer is an challenging time to analyze flowers, as most flowers have stopped blooming for the year. Most of the ones that are still in bloom are members of the family Asteraceae. A few examples you are probably familiar with are the cone flowers, most (if not all) species of sunflower and chicory. While the Asteraceae are beautiful and wonderful and important, they do not lend themselves to easy analysis using the worksheet template that follows. Don’t fret, though. I’ve selected a few Asteraceae for the Wildflower Identification portion of this page.

FLOWER ANALYSIS WORKSHEET

Flower #1: Great Lobelia

Great Lobelia or Lobelia siphilitica.

This flower was found here (location and habitat/environment): Woodland edge along a creek

It is on page 52 in Newcomb’s Wildflowers.

Common name: Great Lobelia              Scientific name: Lobelia siphilitica

Corolla: number of petals  5      separate or fused? Fused

Calyx: number of sepals          separate or fused? Fused

Adroecium: number of stamens     separate, fused or arranged in any special way? Appear to be fused around the pistil.

Gynoecium type: unicarpellate, apocarpous, or syncarpous (and # of carpels =2) Syncarpous
How can you tell? (Cite the features were apparent about the number of carpels.) Two lobes of the stigma can be seen between the fused stamens (Iowa Plants).

Flower type/ovary position: Hypogynous, perigynous or epigynous?  Perigynous

Flower symmetry: actinomorphic (regular) or zygomorphic (irregular)? Zygomorphic

Additional distinctive features: Flower is striped on the underside.

 

FLOWER ANALYSIS WORKSHEET

Flower #2: Spotted Jewelweed or Touch-me-not

Spotted Jewelweed or Impatiens capensis.

This flower was found here (location and habitat/environment): Woodland interior along a creek

It is on page 54 in Newcomb’s Wildflowers.

Common name: Spotted Jewelweed or Touch-me-not     Scientific name: Impatiens capensis

Corolla: number of petals  5        separate or fused? Fused – looks very much like 3 petals (WIMasterGardenerProgram)

Calyx: number of sepals 3           separate or fused? Separate

Adroecium: number of stamens 5     separate, fused or arranged in any special way?  Fused

Gynoecium type: unicarpellate, apocarpous, or syncarpous (and # of carpels =5) Syncarpous
How can you tell? (Cite the features were apparent about the number of carpels.) Difficult to tell as the carpels are fused (NC Extension Gardener)

Flower type/ovary position: Hypogynous, or perigynous or epigynous?  Hypogynous

Flower symmetry: actinomorphic (regular) or zygomorphic (irregular)? Irregular

Additional distinctive features: Once ripe, seed capsules explode when touched and “shoot” the seeds out hence the name Touch-me-not (NC Extension Gardener).

 

FLOWER ANALYSIS WORKSHEET

Flower #3: Trumpet Creeper

Trumpet Creeper or Campsis radicans.

This flower was found here (location and habitat/environment): Urban garden, but also grows in moist woods and thickets (Newcomb’s Wildflowers)

It is on page 328 in Newcomb’s Wildflowers.

Common name: Trumpet Vine or Trumpet Creeper   Scientific name: Campsis radicans

Corolla: number of petals 5         separate or fused? Fused

Calyx: number of sepals 5          separate or fused? Fused

Adroecium: number of stamens        separate, fused or arranged in any special way?  Separate

Gynoecium type: unicarpellate, apocarpous, or syncarpous (and # of carpels =2) Syncarpous
How can you tell? (Cite the features were apparent about the number of carpels.) Two lobes on the stigma. Was also observable when the corolla was removed.

Flower type/ovary position: Hypogynous, or perigynous or epigynous?  Hypogynous

Flower symmetry: actinomorphic (regular) or zygomorphic (irregular)? Regular

Additional distinctive features: Small nectar ports on the external calyx. Vining plant.

 

FLOWER ANALYSIS WORKSHEET

Flower #4: Sweet Autumn Clematis

Sweet Autumn Clematis or Clematis terniflora.

This flower was found here (location and habitat/environment): Growing on a wood pile in an urban backyard. Not planted.

It is on page _____ in Newcomb Wildflowers. Not a native wildflower.

Common name: Sweet Autumn Clematis         Scientific name: Clematis terniflora

Corolla: number of petals 0       separate or fusedNo true petals- Sepals act as petals (Illinois Wildflowers).

Calyx: number of sepals 4           separate or fused?  Separate

Adroecium: number of stamens 30+       separate, fused or arranged in any special way?  Separate

Gynoecium type: unicarpellate, apocarpous, or syncarpous (and # of carpels =5+ Apocarpous
How can you tell? (Cite the features were apparent about the number of carpels.) Easily visible and unfused. 

Flower type/ovary position: Hypogynous, perigynous or epigynous?  Hypogynous

Flower symmetry: actinomorphic (regular) or zygomorphic (irregular)? Regular

Additional distinctive features: Vining plant.

 

Wildflower Identification

Finding and identifying native wildflowers is something I’ve always enjoyed. Native plants are extremely important parts of their respective ecosystems and are perfectly suited for the conditions in their home areas. Many of our Ohio native plants and flowers have large and efficient root systems so they can still access water during our hot, dry summers. If you choose to bring any wildflowers into your home garden, you’ll notice that most kinds of wildlife absolutely love them. These flowers were built for these birds, insects and mammals! They’ve evolved together over time and each is perfectly suited to meet the other’s needs.

Once you wade into the realm of identifying wildflowers, you’ll quickly notice that many of them, especially the flowers themselves,  look verrrry similar. A guide, such as Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, with what’s called a dichotomous key will be your friend! To use the key in Newcomb’s to identify wildflowers, you’ll need to classify the flower type as regular or irregular (are they radially symmetrical or obviously not), classify the plant as a wildflower, shrub or vine, and then classify the margins of the leaves (the way the edges of the leaves are shaped). These classifications will help you find the group number for your wildflower. You’ll then turn to  the group number in the Locator Key, which starts on page 1, and begin working through a “choose your own adventure”-style checklist to figure out what wildflower you’re looking at.

I’ve intentionally chosen some flowers that look similar to one another to demonstrate how helpful the key is and then one more that I just enjoy!

 

Giant Sunflower

Helianthus giganteus

Newcomb’s p. 388

The first wildflower I selected for identification is the Giant Sunflower. These are truly impressive to behold! As you can see in both of the photos, the leaves are “lance shaped” and shallowly toothed, which means that the marginal serrations are not super obvious. Newcomb’s reports that the heads of the flowers are usually between two and three and a half inches wide, that the stems are often purple and that the plants stand between five and ten feet high. The Giant Sunflowers in these photos can be found in the prairie restoration area at Whetstone Park. The planting itself is dry, but it is located on a floodplain. Giant Sunflowers are very tolerant of damp, swampy conditions.

Giant Sunflower or Helianthus giganteus.

Giant Sunflowers.

Fun fact about the Giant Sunflower that I just learned today! Apparently, since these guys are frequently found in wetland areas, beavers sometimes utilize the stalks when making their dams and lodges (Illinois Wildflowers Info). This is in addition to the many, many other birds, insects and mammals that use different parts of this plant in their daily lives.

 

Gray-headed Coneflower

Ratibida pinnata

Newcomb’s p. 374

Next up is another yellow flower from the Asteraceae family, the Gray-headed Coneflower. The petals on these flowers are long and droopy, as you can see in the picture below. According to Newcomb’s, the larger leaves on Gray-headed Coneflower plants are pinnate and each stem has between three and seven “lance-shaped, toothed leaflets”. This is a much more middling plant in terms of height, standing only between three and five feet high. This Gray-headed Coneflower was transplanted from Deer Haven Park in Delaware County to my personal pollinator planting (with permission, of course). Gray-headed Coneflowers prefer a dry soil and this one is definitely getting it!

Gray-headed Coneflower or Ratibida pinnata.

Gray-headed Coneflowers are another species that are popular with wildlife, particularly birds and insects. They are also commonly used for erosion control, which I didn’t know (Grow Native). As I mentioned above, I have these in my personal pollinator planting and can personally recommend them for that purpose. As Ohio natives, Gray-headed Coneflowers self-spread, they tolerate dry conditions very well and don’t require much in the way of watering or other maintenance. What more could you ask for?!

 

Cup Plant

Silphium perfoliatum

Newcomb’s p. 392

Cup Plants are fascinating yellow flowered Asteraceae, but its unique leaves make it much easier to identify. Pairs of leaves join together at their bases to form a cup! Look down below at the second picture for an example. It hadn’t rained in a while when I took that picture, but when it does rain, these cups (not altogether surprisingly) fill with water. The flower heads are between two and three inches wide, according to Newcomb’s, and have many rays. The stems are square, which is another helpful identification feature. These guys stand anywhere from four to eight feet high. In my experience, they’re usually in the six foot range. This Cup Plant was also photographed in the prairie restoration area at Whetstone Park. Cup Plants are frequently found in either thickets or on the banks of streams, according to Newcomb’s.

Cup Plant or Silphium perfoliatum.

Cup Plant “cup”.

As you may have guessed if you’ve learned anything about my by reading my posts, my favorite thing about Cup Plant is how wildlife interact with it. Not surprisingly, when rain water fills the “cups”, small birds, insects and even amphibians will drink water from them. The flowers are also popular with American Goldfinches in the fall, as they are an excellent seed (fruit!) source.

 

Monkey Flower

Mimulus ringens

Newcomb’s p. 100

Here is the wildflower I selected just because I like it: the Monkey Flower. Monkey Flowers are definitely not Asteraceae, as you may have guessed. The flowers are usually purple like the one pictured below, but can also be found in pink and (rarely) white. These guys are fairly small, with about an inch-long flower. Apparently, according to Newcomb’s, it resembles a grinning face because the throat of the flower is partly closed with the ridged, yellow palate you can see in the picture. I suppose I can see it! Monkey Flowers bloom in the summer and early autumn and like wet areas. This one was found in a woodland edge area near a creek in rural Fairfield county. Monkey Flowers can be differentiated from the less common Winged Monkey Flower by looking at the length of the flower stalk compared to the length of the calyx. The flower stalk is longer than the calyx in the Monkey Flower and shorter than the calyx in the Winged Monkey Flower. Calyx is just the collective term for the sepals, which are the (frequently green) structures found at the base of the petals.

Monkey Flower or Mimulus ringens.

So if you take a look at the way the Monkey Flower is structured, you’ll notice that it almost looks like a closed up little cave. For this reason, its pollen is inaccessible to many insects. Bumblebees, though, the little bowsers that they are, are able to force themselves through the partly closed “mouth” and access the nectar inside. They are one of the few insects able to get nectar from Monkey Flowers! (Illinois Wildflowers)

That’s it for the fleurs, friends. While the pickings are a little slimmer in the late summer, you can see that there is still plenty going on in the wonderful world of wildflowers. Remember to always plant native for wildlife!