Kayak Excursion Big Bass Lake

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Big Bass Lake is largely undeveloped, and was terrific to explore in kayaks on Sunday. In it areas of open water are connected by shallower channels.

The shallow channels and the water edges are crowded with lily pads and other vegetation.

Yellow Pond Lily

(Nuphar variegata)

In Big Bass Lake these Yellow Pond Lilies (a.k.a Water Cabbage, Cow Lily, Frog Lily) were interspersed with the more common white water lilies (Nymphaea odorata).

In reading about plants like this, I’m learning that nearly all of them are edible and/or medicinal in some way. Also medicinal properties typically are all over the board. Too complicated to write about all of it, so I won’t bother…

Harlequin Blueflag

(Iris versicolor)

These are scattered around the shore of Big Bass lake. When seeing the first clump, I wondered whether it might be a remnant planting left over from an abandoned cabin. However, they are prevalent and present in totally inaccessible marshy areas, so clearly they are native.

Consulting the Minnesota Wildflowers website, I learned that there are two varieties of native iris in the state. South of the cities Iris virginica  predominates, and in the north it is Iris versicolor . The species overlap to some extent, and are roughly similar. The MN wildflower website provides tips to distinguish between the two.

Tufted Loosestrife

(Lysimachia thyrsiflora)

This “tufted loosestrife” is also in marshy areas at the edges of the lake, but it has a small flower much less showy than the iris.

The story behind its name is that Lysimachus, a king of ancient Sicily, once calmed an enraged ox by feeding it some of this plant. So, the plant caused the ox to “loose” “strife”. This must be true — I found it on-line…

Beaver Lodge at Big Bass Lake

There must be a lot of them here — the lodge is huge.

Included an image of the sunset yesterday at home

— an extra because it was really nice.

Solstice Panoramas, Spittlebugs and Cow Parsnip

Panorama at 9:30 PM of the summer solstice

Disappointed at overcast skies during the latest sunset of the year.

Panorama photo during kayaking today. Still overcast, but with dramatic effect on the sky and water.

Spittlebugs

This is a strange thing that we noticed on several different plants during today’s dog walk — masses of bubble-foam. Online search quickly identified this as the work of “spittlebugs”, which are the nymph form of the froghopper insect. A good explanation of this behavior is given in a recent NY Times article. Terrific images of the spittlebug in action are available on a webpage from Ohio State.

Cow Parsnip

This is a Cow Parsnip plant along the Paul Bunyan bike trail between Hackensack and Backus. It a very dramatic big plant, and we had no idea what it was before consulting the “Picture This” app. It is a native plant, but is a close relative of a nasty invasive weed, the Giant Hogweed. Exposure to sap of the Giant Hogweed causes severe phytophotodermatitis — which results in rashes when the skin is subsequently exposed to sunshine. The Cow Parsnip can cause the same issue, but to a lesser extent.

For those who are risk takers and/or exceptionally hungry, many parts of the Cow Parsnip are edible. A webpage from Forager Chef will tell you all you need to know to enjoy Cow Parsnip in your next meal.

Yellow

Yellow, purple/pink, and white are the most prevalent colors for wildflowers here in the Minnesota lake country — maybe that is true in general. I’d guess these colors are most effective in attracting pollinators, which would be good subject for a future post — after I’ve done some research. In any case, as the title suggests, the subject for this post will be yellow wildflowers that we have seen here in late May to mid June.

Golden Ragwort

(Packera aurea)

It turns out that there are two different sorts of plants, both called ragwort. There are several varieties in the genus Packera that are native to North America, and there is another ragwort, Senecio jacobaea, native to Eurasia.

The European ragwort is considered an undesirable weed, although it does provide considerable nectar for desirable pollinators. Its unpopularity is reflected in colloquial names like stinking Willie, and cankerwort. Several alkaloid compounds are present in this plant that are somewhat toxic to livestock.

The North American version of ragwort, as pictured above, doesn’t have the same negatives. It is described as a hardy effective ground-cover, and is available from nurseries specializing in native plants.

Yellow Salsify

(Tragopogon dubius)

This one is very common, but is surprisingly attractive if you take the time to look at it closely. The colloquial name, yellow goats-beard, is another plus. Its habit is to shut its blossom at mid-day, which explains another of the colloquial names, Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon. The native habitat of the Yellow Salsify is southern Europe and central Asia, but now it is widespread throughout North America.

Silver Cinquefoil

(Potentilla argentea)

Silver cinquefoil is one of the 300 species of potentilla. The undersides of its leaves are covered with silvery hair, which explains “silver” in its name. “Cinquefoil” comes from the Old French “cinc” (five) and “feuille” (leaf), so; five-leafed. Cinquefoils grow wild in most of the cooler regions of the world.

Large Flowered Bellwort

(Uvularia grandiflora)

This one we saw only briefly in late May. It is an unobtrusive plant, but it makes me wonder — why are so many plants named “wort”? The definition of wort I’m familiar with is the liquid solution of malt sugars that is fermented to make beer.

As you’d expect, google readily came up with the answer, courtesy of the blog gardeningonmars.com. “Wort” comes from the Old English “wyrt” which means root. In general “wort” is used to indicate that a plant was thought to have some medicinal value. The original convention was to use -wort as a suffix attached to the word for the health issue that it supposedly benefited, e.g. liverwort, bloodwort, feverwort, etc..

Early June Wildflowers

Walking dogs once or twice daily, you notice that there is a huge variety of flowering plants along the roadsides in the Minnesota lake country.  Also, as the spring and summer goes on there is a procession to the flowering, from one type of wildflower to another.  All very interesting, but up until this year I had nearly no idea of what plants I was seeing.

So, earlier this year I downloaded an app, Picture This, that does a good job identifying plants photographed with your phone.  It has been real informative.   Using this app, along with some on-line research, mnnorthlake.com  will regularly share photos and information about local plants.

The plants will be shown in approximate order of their flowering, from spring through summer and fall.  I’ll start with a terrific plant that I had not known about before:

Hoary Puccoon

(Lithospermum canescens)


Strange name, right?  In plant ID’s the word “hoary” seems to come up frequently.   In this context it denotes plants with leaves that are covered with short, dense, greyish white hairs.  “Puccoon” is derived from a Native American word referring to a plant that produces pigment.  Apparently its taproot yields reddish-purple juice that can be used as dye.

The Hoary Puccoon was one of the first wildflowers that we noticed blooming in late May, and it is still blooming in mid-June.  It is common alongside county roads, typically in small “bouquets” as seen in the picture.  According to comments on www.minnesotawildflowers.info (a great website) puccoons are difficult to successfully propagate – otherwise they’d likely be popular garden plants.

Inland Serviceberry

(Amelanchier interior)

These bushes were blooming early this year just as other trees were getting their leaves in late May.  There are several species of serviceberries that are difficult to distinguish.  Because inland serviceberry is common in Minnesota, it is my best guess as to identification.  Serviceberries are native plants to Minnesota, but are also used in landscaping as ornamental shrubs.

Serviceberry plants are a favorite food of deer and rabbits.  The berries are edible and reportedly taste like blueberries; the berries ripen in June which is why the plant is also called Juneberry. 

 Red Columbine

(Aquilegia canadensis)

These columbines are very common in the area, both in ditches and alongside trails through the woods.  They started blooming in early June and are still going strong.  Most other wildflowers are white, yellow, or pink/purple, so these salmon red flowers really stand out.