Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Forest Mysteries

Today’s flower is St. John’s Wort, so named as its blooming typically coincides with the festival of St. John on June 24. This plant is (yet) another one brought over to the new world from Europe. I am starting to wonder what this area looked like before all these plants arrived from Europe. Some days it feels as though everything I thought was a native plant turns out to be an immigrant.

More of the forest’s annual plants around me are starting to turn yellow-ish and are beginning to die back. In addition to mayapple, last evening I saw a few raspberry bushes that are starting to yellow at the tips. I’m trying not to include any individual plants that may, for whatever reason, be stressed. If I don’t see several plants of the same species in different locations that are showing the same tendencies, I’m not including them. I’m starting to think that this beginning of the die-off is earlier than usual, though I have absolutely no idea why that would be so.

Even in dry years, August is typically the time I notice the annual plants beginning to yellow. 2008 has not been a dry year. It’s been pretty average for rainfall, even slightly (though not terribly) above average. The temperature has not, overall, been extreme either. However, in mid-June this area had a 3-day spell of near 100 degree temperatures, which was very high for that time of the year. Could that have somehow impacted when the annual plants start to die back?? Is the cause something else entirely? Perhaps the leaf canopy is thicker than usual and not allowing these plants to get the amount of sunlight they want. This is yet another mystery for which I have no answers. The forest is like that. Always something unusual going on., if I am observant enough to see it.


Cathy said...

Hmm, I thought the dry weather was causing some the ferns to go yellow and die.

Few of the birch's leaves are turning yellow too. Another tree I found last has some red leaves already. So what is going on?

Eva said...

I remember reading that St Johns wort was named for St John due to the red color of the flower sap alluding to his blood at beheading. So many stories with herbs.....

Carolyn H said...


I've never heard the story about the St. John's being so named because the red sap matched the blood of St. John. What a different and interesting story. Perhaps my story and yours still do work together, though. The flower does bloom around the time of the feast of St. John, but it probably is the only one of many that bloom around then to have red sap. So perhaps that's why this particular plant was named for St. John but not the others.

Carolyn H.