Friday, March 31, 2006

Bloodroot Root

Under normal circumstances, I would NEVER try to photograph the root of a wildflower because I would not dig it up. However, if you read my story from yesterday (see Bloodroot Leaf) you will understand that I saved these plants from bulldozers and a ten foot layer of compressed fill dirt. Having these special plants in hand, as I did quite literally, I decided to get a quick photograph of the roots before putting them back where they belong--a few inches under the ground.
The thing I like best about this image is that it SHOWS how bloodroot got its name. The root is a reddish orange color, kind of like blood. The sap that runs through the stem and leaves is also a reddish orange color. Thus, if the plant gets damaged, it appears to bleed. I have read that the native Americans used the sap of this plant as ink for dying fabrics and for use as warpaint. And, of course, when they did sacrifice plants for this purpose, they did so with appreciation and respect.

Bloodroot Flower Closeup

Another Closeup, similar to the one two entries below this. I backed up just a bit to include a little bit more of the flower. I figured it would be nice to not cut off the stamen toward the top and bottom of the frame. I shifted the center of the flower a little bit more toward the right to avoid too much symmetry. As with all the bloodroot shots from March 30, this is sidelit by the sun, and also diffused to reduced the harshness of the light and therefore reduce the contrast in the image.

Bloodroot Flower Petals

Bloodroot Flower Petals, March 30, 2006. I created this image to show the interesting vein pattern of bloodroot's flower petals. Eavh petal is about a 1/2 inch long (or 1 centimeter). I chose this framing because the background includes other bloodroot flowers. The layering of flowers seemed kind of neat because it offers some repetition and helps show the depth in the frame. I am glad to know that I was able to get there in the nick of time to save these beautiful flowers from the bulldozers. See yesterday's entry (Bloodroot Leaf) for the complete story on that.

Bloodroot Flower Closeup

Bloodroot flower closeup, March 30, 2006. The sunlight came from the side to light this flower, though I diffused the light somewhat to make it less harsh. I like the way this image shows the stamen covered with pollen. There so much depth to the flower, that only the tips of the closest stamen are in focus. Deeper into the frame, the elements become out of focus, even with my aperature set to f-29. I offset the flower just slightly to the right to avoid having an image that was "too" symmetrical.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bloodroot Leaf

Bloodroot leaf, March 30, 2006. Still wrapped loosely around the stem, this leaf is in the very early stages of development, less than one inch long. When full grown, it could be 4 to 6 inches long and across. I love the way this image shows the texture and shape of the edges of these really cool leaves. This image is lit by sunlight, from the left, with a diffuser. I used a very thin diffuser, actually a pop-up "laundry basket" rather than the regular more thick diffuser that I usually carry in my backpack.
I rescued this plant two days ago along with several others from a steep, rocky hillisde that is currently buried under 10 feet of dirt (and packed down by bulldozers)--in preparation for the construction of an on-ramp not far from my house. I got out there Tuesday evening, about 28 hours after they first closed the old road. It had rained most of the day on Tuesday, so the big yellow machines did not start their job of ripping into the hillside. I parked in a parking lot not far from the "sacred" location where bloodroots had bloomed last year. And I went out with small shovel and hand rake. I dug up four big clumps of bloodroot, in the midst of broken beer bottles and all kind of other trash. I was happy to be liberating these beautiful flowers from this ugly hillside home. As far as I know, I found and saved them all. Timing was perfect: The bloodroot was just barely beginning to emerge from the dirt--none was in bloom yet, and most were just little spikes sticking out of the dirt. Even one week sooner, and I would have been unable to find these special plants in midsts of all the "weeds" and "grass" and trash.
Within 12 hours after my rescue mission was complete, the destruction had begun. By the time I drove by the next morning, the road had already been crumbled into gravel. By that afternoon, the bulldozers had already started scraping one hillside and filling in the area where the road was, and filling over and packing the dirt on top of the hillside where these wonderful flowers had been living. I saved them in the nick of time. And today they rewarded me with many flowers in bloom...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Skunk Cabbage CLOSE Up

Skunk Cabbage Flower, March 29, 2006. For this shot, I used my Nikon Micro 200 mm lens along with my Tamron 1.7 teleconverter. This combination of optics got me CLOSER to any skunk cabbage flower than I have ever been able to get to before. However, depth of field was a little shallow, so I cranked "up" my f-stop to f-29, thus making the aperature about as small as I ever make it, maximizing the depth of field. Compared to f-22, which I usually use for closeup work like this, I could see the that this shot was better. The flowers toward the left edge of the "ball" are in pretty good focus with f-29, but were a little too fuzzy when using f-22.
I got this photo while visiting my friends in Floyd County, VA. See below for another favorite shot that I got there today. After photographing these cabbages for a while, I went over to the Blue Ridge Parkway, pickig it up at mile 155 and heading south to Maybry Mill. I found more skunk cabbages there, and will post photos of them later (see above).

Skunk Cabbage Flowers, Past Their Peak

Skunk Cabbage, March 29, 2006. Friends invited me to their home in Floyd County, VA today so I could photograph their cabbages beside a stream. This group of three flowers was probably in full bloom last week. I like the way this image shows how the flowers "decay" and dry up as the light green leaves are just beginning to emerge. The tallest leaf is currently about six inches high, but will get somewhat darker in color and reach a length of about 2 to 3 feet this summer. Each plant will literally resemble a giant cabbage!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bloodroot Bud

Bloodroot bud, March 17, 2006. This little sprout is about two inches tall. I like the way this image shows the leaf, still tightly wrapped around the stem. Many spring flowers first emerge in a manner similar to this, with leaves held tightly against the stem, or folded. Also, with many wildflowers, the leaves begin with reddish pink color, and slowly become more green after exposure to the sun. The sun triggers the production of chlorophyll. I returned to this same place ten days later, and photographed this same flower in full bloom. See the full bloom below.

First Bloodroot flower to Open

Please click on this one to get a better view. Bloodroot flower, March 27, 2006. I saw this same flower ten days before (see above), when it was just a tiny bud--the first and only bud that I could find that day. This flower has probably been blooming for at least a couple days, based on the condition of its stamen and pistil. (See below for a pristine, freshly opened flower.) I like the way this image shows the pollen scattered all over the petals. Pollinators can be messy!

Bloodroot Blossom

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, March 27, 2006. This flower was just beginning to open up when I found it around 1:30 PM. The sun was shining, but was somewhat diffused by a thin layer of clouds. I really like the way this image shows the anatomy of the flower. The stemen around the edges are covered with golden pollen, which is delivered to the stigma (the vase-shaped structure in the center) by a pollinator, such as a bee.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tootwort Sprout (Buds and Folded Leaves)

Cut-Leafed Toothwort, March 20, 2006. When the sprout first emerges from the soil, the leaves are folded up along with the buds. The sprout starts off as a reddish color, but becomes darker green with exposure to sunlight--which triggers the formation of chloryphyll. There is a braod-leaved toothwort, which I have so far only seen in northern Michigan, in forests of the upper peninsula.

Hepatica Among Leaf Litter

A clump of Hepatica leaves, March 20, 2006, left over from last year. To read more about hepatica leaves, see entry from a couple days ago (below).

Hepatica Closeup

Hepatica flower, March 20, 2006. This flower appears somewhat tattered due to the cold weather and snow flurries. Harsh conditions like this do not kill the plant, though they do diminish its beauty.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hepatica Leaf

Two species of Hepatica can be found in the eastern forest: Hepatica acutiloba and Hepatica americana. The species can be distinguished by the shape of their leaves. This one, with acute, sharp-tipped leaves, is Hepatica acutiloba. Hepatica americana has round lobes. These are leaves left over from last growing season. Thick and leathery, they survive the winter intact, for the most part. They are stiff and strong and shiny. New leaves start to form around this time, but come out fuzzy and light green.
Hepatica gets its name from the appearance of the leaves, which due to the mottled purple color and the three lobes, reminded people of the liver. Hepatica refers to liver.

Hepatica Portrait

Hepatica looks like a pale pink buttercup, which makes a lot of sense since it is in the buttercup family. This is more of a snapshot than a carefully made photograph of Hepatica, but sometimes that is the best I can do. I used my 200 mm lens, from a distance, and captured this clump of Hepatica in bloom across the trail from where I stood. I wanted to get closer up, and I wanted more color. But it was cold that day and for the previous few days, so the flowers were not exactly photogenic. But this photo does a great job of simply showing what Hepatica looks like. Check other photos posted here to see the characteristic leaves. I shot this with a 35 mm SLR (Nikon D-70) format, but cropped the edges of the 2/3 ratio to make a square. Sometimes I allow myself the freedom to compose a shot as though I were working with a square view finder, rather than a rectangle.

Monday, March 20, 2006


March 17, 2006. Toothwort, Dentaria laciniata, buds are nearly ready to bloom. I found lots of tootwort while walking through the forest on Friday. Of the hundred-plus plants, only one had started to bloom. Toothwort is a member of the mustard family, and is one of the few mustard species that lacks that strong "spicy" flavor and aroma. The flower, which I will post later, is white (or light pink), with four petals. The plant is about 4 or 5 inches high.
This plant gets its name for either one of two reasons. First, the leaves are toothed, hence toothwort. But also, as the flower petals grow past the sepals, and get ready to pop out of their buds, the white petals cling tightly together, forming an "incisor" shape--similar to somebody's tooth.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Skunk Cabbage

March 15, 2006. This is Skunk Cabbage, or Symplocarpus foetidus, one of the very first wildflowers to bloom each spring. Often, this flower is found blooming under a layer of snow. The plant actually generates heat (byproduct of metabolism) that melts the snow around it.
Thanks to a friend who invited me to her land, I was able to photograph a patch of skunk cabbages in Giles County, VA. The patch was growing along a stream in an area covered with small trees and multiflora rose (OUCH!). Growing among the cabbages, I found small green sprouts of bedstraw (Galium), as shown in the photo above.

Here is a closeup, showing the flowers inside the skunk cabbage hood. The small projections on the surface of the "ball" hold the pollen. The plant emits a somewhat rotten smell, which attracts flies. Flies arrive, pick up some pollen as they walk around, and move on to the next plant, thus transfering pollen from one plant to another. This time of year, the weather is typically too cold for bees, but not usually for flies--so flies are the more reliable pollinators.

What I like best about this shot is that the flower (the "ball" inside the hood) can be seen along with the rest of the plant. Skunk cabbage flowers typically have a mottled greenish-burgundy color on their thick, leathery hoods. The relative amount of each color varies, as you can see in the photos shown on this page.

Here is a closer view of some flowers that were curled up along the underside of a log.