Blooms in August. Wait until next year… unless you know where to dig up the tubers now.

Flower Groundnut

Sorry I’m late sending photo of groundnut vine. Wonderful little bunches/balls of reddish-brown/maroon and cream, dense, pea-like blossoms grow in moist soil in August It’s still out there to be found in September but it is going to seed now. It is proof that Native Americans lived around here. It is edible and should be harvested in early November. It is considered an invasive by cranberry farmers.

Per Tamara Dean in Orion Magazine article, “Stalking the Wild Groundnut”:

Indeed, for centuries Apios americana was a staple in the diets of many Native Americans, which explains why it grows profusely where they once encamped. Almost every part of the plant is edible — shoots, flowers, the seeds that grow in pods like peas, but, most importantly, the tubers. These tubers (the groundnuts) are swellings that form along a thin rhizome, like beads on a necklace. They can be small as a fingernail or, rarely, large as a melon. And as with other root vegetables, they sweeten after a frost and overwinter well in a cool, damp place, offering sustenance in a time when the land provides little other food. Pilgrims were taught to dig and cook groundnuts by the Wampanoags, and these “Indian potatoes” probably spared the newcomers from starvation. Henry David Thoreau knew and ate the tubers. He wrote in his journal, “In case of a famine, I should soon resort to these roots.”

However, neither Thoreau nor the Native Americans nor the Pilgrims could have known how healthy groundnuts are. Like potatoes, they are high in starch. But they’re also relatively high in protein, containing up to 17 percent — about three times as much as potatoes. In addition, studies from at least two U.S. universities reveal that groundnuts contain a significant quantity of isoflavones, chemicals linked to a decreased incidence of prostate and breast cancers. Plants for a Future, a British organization that educates the public on “edible, medicinal, and useful plants for a healthier world,” ranks Apios americana as the fourth-most-important plant in its database of seven thousand.



Another lovely invasive!

Flower yellow flag iris

This is the invasive yellow flag iris. The blue flag iris is not an invasive.  But I can’t find the one or two that have sometimes bloomed down in the marsh. The yellow flags have totally taken over the pond and marsh since John stopped mowing down there. I hate to say how lovely and cheerful they are. Since it would take me more than a lifetime to pull them up I will just have to enjoy them…

The deadly cuteness of invasives


Some invasives are really hard to hate. Japanese honeysuckle is lovely to look at, lasts for awhile in a vase and it’s fun to show kids how to suck the juice out of it.  Exotic honeysuckle replace native forest shrubs and herbaceous plants by their invasive nature and early leaf-out. They shade out herbaceous ground cover and deplete soil moisture. Seeds are readily dispersed by birds. Some research suggests that the plant inhibits the growth of other plants in its vicinity.

flower multiflora

What rose has more blossoms tumbling down in joyful waterfalls than the multiflora rose?

Native To: Eastern Asia (Amrine 2002)

Date of U.S. Introduction: Late 1700s (Amrine 2002)

Means of Introduction: Cultivated as an ornamental, for erosion control, and as a living fence (Amrine 2002)

Impact: Forms dense thickets that invade pastures and crowd out native species (Munger 2002)

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Bring on the pandas!

Tree bamboo

Did you know that naturalists refer to stands of bamboo in the metropolitan Washington area as “Dead Zones”?  Nothing can live in them! Nothing can eat them! Nothing else can grow in a stand of bamboo. I’ve walked past this one every day for years, never really considering how totally impenetrable it is. I think I hear birds calling from deep inside the stand but maybe they are all sitting on the top of the bamboo stalks.  I wonder if there are nests in the bamboo.  Obviously you can’t see very far into it. Wish we could chop it down and send it to the pandas at the National Zoo. Of course it would grow right back… But the pandas would be happy.

Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. One of the fastest growing plants on earth, there is a variety of bamboo that can grow 3 feet in a day. Bamboo has a higher specific compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete and a specific tensile strength that rivals steel. The new shoots are edible but read up on them before you proceed because they contain a toxin taxiphyllin that produces cyanide in the gut.

In the Chinese culture, bamboo, plum blossom, orchid and chrysanthemum are referred to as the “Four Gentlemen” and represent the four seasons. Because of their perseverance under the harsh conditions of winter, pine, bamboo and plum are referred to as the “Three Friends of Winter”.  Several Asian cultures believe humanity emerged from a bamboo stem.  IKEA sells bamboo plants for good luck.

Garlic Mustard is not the first two items on a shopping list.

Flower garlic mustard

Garlic mustard is a delicious, critically invasive herb. Before I knew that it was an invasive, I knew it was yummy, raw or cooked. I am embarrassed to admit I planted it in my yard.  Even if we all set out to collect and eat it, garlic mustard has the upper hand. It is one of the few non-native plants that can spread rapidly through the forest floor in the spring, greatly reducing the diversity of all species. A single vigorous plant can produce up to 7,900 seeds. Fortunately/unfortunately most only produce about 600 seeds per year. Try it! You’ll like it!

Earth Day revisited


Your difficult job is to save the delicate native Trout Lily by pulling out the dominant Lesser Celandine and its bulblets. Its speckled leaves remind me of fishing for brook trout with my grandfather deep in the Adirondack forests.

This cheerful flower, also known as Fig Buttercup, was brought from Europe as an ornamental. It creates a dense carpet (check out its sturdy, overlapping leaves) that prevents native ephemerals like trout lily, bloodroot and wild ginger from surviving. I know it’s cute but be strong!