"Where flowers bloom so does hope" Lady Bird Johnson
All photos taken at Isanti Pinestead
Medicago sativa, Fabaceae (Pea or Bean) Family
We don't have much Alfalfa growing wild, just a couple of clumps. We don't know if the seeds blew in or were carried in or if it was possibly planted here as a crop before we bought the land in 1986. We do have a lot of Orange Sulphur butterflies around throughout the summer and Alfalfa is a prime host plant for them. (WFMN 39, WDB 108)
Onoclea sensibilis, Onocleaceae (Sensitive Fern) Family
It's difficult to identify the various fern types as they don't have a flower, but we think this is the Bead Fern. It grows in our ditch along highway 65. (WDB 270)
Lotus corniculatus, Fabaceae (Pea or Bean) Family
It's a funny name for a nice little yellow flower. However, the name comes, not from the flower, but from the seed pods which develop later in the season. The stiff somewhat branching pods resemble a birds foot. We have only a few clumps of it at the farm which don't interfere with the trees, but much of I-35 as you approach Duluth has a solid yellow strip of Birds-foot Trefoil along each side in mid to late July. (WDB 76)
Rudbeckia hirta, Asteraceae (Aster) Family
One of our truly flower flowers. The Black-eyed (or Brown-eyed) Susan is a favorite because of the distinctive contrast between the dark brown to black center and the surrounding petals. We have several clumps of them on the farm. They always seem to be in clusters, we don't see loners. (WFMN 359,
Verbena hastata, Verbenaceae (Vervain) Family
We had never even noticed Blue Vervain before until we started on this project. "Keeping your eyes open" really pays off. With it's flowering cone it was easy to identify. We wish we could always say that. (WFMN 49)
How we have Lichen growing on our sand is puzzling. However, these little red guys are called British Soldiers (remember the "red coats" of the revolutionary war days). We found them in an area that had been shaded by some of our larger Fraser Fir. There must have been just enough shade and dampness for them to get established.
Plantago major, Plantaginaceae (Plantain) Family
We don't know what if anything you can say-- either good or bad-- about Broadleaf Plantain. It's just one more weed that seems to be well established around the farm. Since it stays low, it's not really much of a problem, but it's not much to look at either. (WW 405)
Brome is a grass that grows in several of the more sandy areas of the farm. These photos were taken in the Blue Spruce in front of the gift shop.
Scirpus spp. Cyperaceae (Sedge) Family
We find Bulrush in several of the damper areas of the farm. They don't interfere with the trees to any extent so they are another example of one of our 'live and let live' relationships. However, brown flowers don't rate very high on our attractiveness list.
Linaria vulgaris, Plantaginaceae (Plantain) Family
It seems like they should have called this one simply Eggs, after all the egg yolk is just as yellow as butter. Actually it's other common name is Toadflax, so we'll stick with Butter and Eggs. B & E uses the proven strategy that if one color will attract pollinators, two will be better yet. (WFMn 389, WDB 166)
Asclepias tuberosa, Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed) Family
We found one patch of Butterfly-weed growing in the Norway Pine. We hadn't noticed it until now and we sure hope it spreads. We don't know why they call it a weed as it would look great in anyone's flower gardens. In addition to its beauty, because it is part of the milkweed family, it is another host plant for Monarch butterflies. (WFMn 85)
Solidage canadensis, Asteraceae (Aster) Family
We do have some Canada Goldenrod growing in the fields, but it grows really thick along the tree line behind the garden area. As a flower it's sort of ragged looking, not all that pretty. In this picture the sunlight striking it makes it appear more yellow then gold. Goldenrod often gets a bad rap as a source of hay fever pollen, but ragweed is the real culprit. For some reason Goldenrod is often host to wasp or fly larvae which result in the formation of a large growth called a gull. (WFMn 391,WFNA 135, WW 174)
We put Canada Hawkweed in the "nothing special" category. It grows tall and spindly and just looks, well, "weedy". Fortunately, it's not a thickly growing plant and doesn't cause any real problems other then growing fast and making our mowed areas look shabby. (WFMn 325, WDB 211)
Canada Thistle is one plant we wish we didn't have to contend with. When small they are almost like a ground cover and since we don't go barefoot in the fields it's not an issue. However, they don't stay small; they grow to about three foot tall before flowering. Canada Thistle cannot be dug out; the roots spread horizontally and removing the core plant simply means each section of remaining root will sprout again. Canada can have them back! (WW 109)
Columbine seem to be scattered throughout the fields; not a lot, but enough to add some color. We do have some hummingbirds around and Columbine may be one of the reasons why. Since they can grow up to a foot or two they can possibly begin to interfere with our smaller trees, but, for the most part, they are too thinned out to cause any problems. (WFMn 167, WFNA 468)
Milkweed is quite common throughout our fields. Three neat things we did not know about milkweed until reading WFMn is that the pollen is contained in little sacs that catch on the legs of insects and is then inserted into slits on other Milkweed plants. Also the "milk" contains cardiac glycosides and, if eaten, causes hot flashes, rapid heart rate, and general weakness. Finally, milkweed is the exclusive host on which Monarch Butterflies lay their eggs. The emerging caterpillars eat the toxic sap and, in turn, become toxic to birds and other insects. (WFMn 107, WW 39, WFNA 79)
The Common Mullein comes from Europe and it's history is recorded all the way back in Roman times. It is a biennial plant; the first year it has a low rosette shape (left), low enough to stay under the lawn-mower blades. In it's second year it becomes 4-5' high (center) and gets an almost cane-like toughness to it, but also displays some nice yellow flowers for much of the summer. Because it grows straight and narrow and doesn't spread, it doesn't interfere with the trees to any extent but it does interfere with our sense of neatness. (WFMn 401, WW 553, WDB 136)
The flowers are pretty, but Creeping Charlie or Ground Ivy grow very thick and just tall enough that they can smother a young seedling. It's one we wish we didn't have. Fortunately, we have found it in only one field and only in limited amounts. (WDB 86)
Curled Dock (or Curly Dock) grows in some of our lower heavier areas and along the sides of the creek. We can't be more polite than to say it is simply an ugly plant, both when it is smaller (on left in mid-May) and (if we let it, we try not to) when it is 4'-5' high and going to seed (on right in mid-July). The small three-winged seeds (it seems like there is a million of them) turn a dirty brown in July and really stand out against all the other green vegetation. (WDB 124)
The common dandelion is everywhere throughout the fields in the spring. We consider it a great ground cover, but you wouldn't want to live by us -- you'd have an uncontrollable yard-full. The reference book states that the dandelion taproot can be roasted and ground as a coffee substitute, but, no-thanks, I'll take Starbucks. (WFMn 343, WW 187, WFNA 569)
The Evening Primrose is one of our more beautiful flowers -- if you can catch it open. It opens late in the evening and is gone the next morning. (WDB 154)
We'll have to be more on our toes next spring to catch the False Lily of the Valley in bloom. It grows in the oak woods and, as we have mentioned elsewhere, the Poison Ivy makes our forays into them somewhat infrequent. (WFMn 203, WFNA 303)
Field Thistles are another plant we wish we didn't have. While they have a pretty flower, it's not one that we want and we try to use it's appearance as a reminder to get in there and cut it out before it goes to seed.
Gray Goldenrod, like it's close cousin Canada Goldenrod (above), becomes much too perfuse for our liking in August as it's flowers become evident.
Green Foxtail is another very common weed growing throughout our fields. It's actually a member of the grass family. Most of it gets nipped by mowing although some close to trees gets missed. It's generally not thick enough to be a serious problem. It falls into the "just live with it" category for us. (WW 491)
Physalis heterophylla, Solanaceae (Nightshade) Family
Ground Cherry is another example of a plant that only grows in a certain area of the farm (in the White Pine field). The fruit doesn't look at all like a cherry; it has a pale green papery husk that has a resemblance to a Chinese lantern. Inside this husk is a green berry that ripens to a yellow orange color. The berry is toxic when green, but edible when ripe (no thanks, we'll pass). The leaves remind us of a tomato plant, but it stays low to the ground so to us it's just more beneficial ground cover.
The Hedge Bindweed is a member of the Morning Glory family. It would probably look nice climbing a trellis, but it's not so nice when it's climbing a premium Fraser Fir as in this picture. It usually establishes itself under the tree and we don't even know it's there until it pops out three or four feet up the tree. Our only real defense is to get down under the tree and clip it. It will grow back, but it is usually a couple of years before it is a problem again. (WFMn 275, WW 283)
In July our fields are sprinkled with the white flower clusters of the Hoary Alyssum. There are literally thousands of them and they add a delicate texture to the fields. (WFMn 225, WDB 164)
Horseweed is another common weed throughout our fields (it seem like we use this phrase often, but when we have weeds, we have weeds). As with many of the other weeds, mowing holds most of it back (but doesn't kill it). Interestingly, it gets it's name not because horses like it, but because they dislike it! It contains a chemical which irritates their nostrils. (WW 123)
Lesser Daisy Fleaband look like a miniature daisy (only about 1/2 inch in size) but surprisingly have many more rays (the white petals) then a full sized daisy. The rays can be pink, but we have only seen the white ones. They grow throughout the farm but tend to get lost among all the other white and yellow blossoms. (WFMn 99, WDB 116)
The Longspine Sandbur is one of the curses of living in sand country. You know fall is approaching when you come out of a field with a couple of dozen on your pants. Worse yet if they are on your sock. They poke through and prick you! And you get pricked again as you try to remove them. Our Christmas tree customers usually don't have to put up with them as the frost and snow lays them down on the ground, however, if no snow, the "lucky" family member who gets down on their hands and knees to cut the tree generally picks up a bunch of them as souvenirs. (WW 434)
This is one of the top contenders for best flower on the farm. Orange Hawkweed turns some of our fields into alpine meadows. While there can be a lot of them, they really don't interfere with the trees to any extent. (WFMn 79)
Pennycrest is another one of those "flowers" that looks like a plain old weed. It's stem is not attractive and the flower is nothing special. The flower generally looks like it has seen better days-- even at it's best. (WFMn 249)
This is one plant we have learned to spot a mile away. Most of our family is highly susceptible to it. We do spray it if we find in the Christmas trees or lanes, however, the oak woods are full of it and the best solution is to stay out of them until after the first snow. (WW 14, WFNA 54)
Pussytoes are very different than most of our wild flowers. They tend to form an oval about three to four feet wide; within it they grow very thick and give off a substance that inhibits any other plants from growing within the oval. If you look close you'll see it's all pussytoes and nothing else. (WFMn 229)
Ragweed is another reason why hay fever sufferers had better stay away until Christmas. A small tree can easily disappear in a clump of several ragweed plants as they can grow several feet tall and are fairly bushy. We have quite a bit of it and no amount of yanking is ever enough. (WDB 201)
We put red clover into the love-hate category. We love it because it fixes nitrogen into the soil. We hate it because it can grow thick enough and tall enough (about 1-2ft) to "take down" a seedling. It usually doesn't kill them, but it can hold them back for a year or two. We would like to use it as a ground cover if it were only a little better mannered. Because it is not a climber, we have no problem with having it in the larger trees. (WFMn 163)
This weed goes into the plus column. It's more of a ground cover than anything. The delicate red flower stalks only grow to six inches or so and carpet the fields with a red hew.
Rough Cinquefoil is another escaped ornamental, but it is not the problem for us that it is for other farms that have pasture-land as it is toxic to animals. For us it's a ground cover with pretty yellow flowers throughout the spring and summer. As long as a plant doesn't climb the trees, we're fine with it. (WW 533)
We have one corner of our Balsam Fir field that is a little lower and damper than the other areas. This is the only place where we have found Smooth Souringrush. There is not much of it and it doesn't seem to interfere with the trees so we mostly leave it alone. However, it doesn't like to be mowed so we find in mostly in the tree rows, not in the lanes. (WW 308)
Where to they get these names? Spiderwort is a very delicate purple flower that seems to like to be scattered. They are generally three to four feet apart and don't look like they have much of a chance competing with the other weeds. They grow mostly along the southwest side of the oak grove out toward Highway 65 where they get full sun and the weed cover is lighter. (WFMn 33).
This is the flower you read about in all the folk medicine literature. The oil in it's leaves were (are?) used to cure all sorts of ills. For us, it's just one more item of summertime beauty. We don't have a lot of it and it doesn't really interfere with the trees so we simply enjoy it.
We do have some lower ground along the creek, but it must not be swampy enough for Swamp Milkweed as we haven't found any in these areas. However, we have found it in our ditches along Highway 65. It's a beautiful plant, much prettier than Common Milkweed. (WDB 145)
The Common Tansy doesn't impress us too much. It grows tall and spinney and its flower is small and tight and not much to look at. Everything has a place and a purpose, that's about as much as we can say about it. (WFMn 377, WDB 176)
Timothy is another hay crop that now grows wild. From our viewpoint it's "bottle brush" tops never get big enough to cause any problems. It's just one more mixed in with all the rest. (WDB 261)
The Tufted Vetch, (we just refer to it as purple vetch) is another European import that has become a huge nuisance. It is a member of the pea family and was originally introduced as a rotation crop (to help rebuild the soil between other crop plantings). However, it is a climber; it can literally smother a small to medium size tree, pulling down the trees branches and inhibiting it's growth. It cannot be pulled out of the ground as the vines break off and leave the roots behind. Because the vetch normally get sprouts under the trees we cannot get at it with a lawn-mower. It is widespread on the farm and one of our biggest nuisance weeds. (WDB 104)
We don't normally have water in the creek in July; it's usually dry by then. But with all the rains this year (2011), it's still flowing! So in the pond area by the bridge a number of Water Plantain have appeared. (WDB 141)
Maybe White Sweet Clover is tender when young (it was once grown as hay), but by mid-summer it is one large course tough plant. It gets up to 5'-6' tall which is more than big enough to interfere with the trees. If we find some crowding the trees when we are shearing, we give it a yank. (WFMn 309)
We have a few wild blackberry bushes growing around the farm. We are ok with them as long as they are not in the Christmas tree fields -- the berries may fall off, but the thorns stay on! They sure are great eating come mid to late August. (WBF 230)
Wild Cucumber is another climber that we are continually pulling off the trees (photo on right). Even in our light sandy soil you can't pull it out of the ground. It simply breaks off and then starts growing again. We tend to notice the fruit in the fall when it drys out and becomes a very light-skinned shell. However, we learned from WFMA that earlier in the year it actually does smell and taste like a cucumber. But don't start thinking salad ingredient as eating it can result in an upset stomach and diarrhea. (WFMn 303, WFNA 209)
Wild grapevines grow everywhere around the farm. We do harvest some of the vines from the woods to use as decorations in the gift shop and also for grapevine wreaths. We harvest only a fraction of the vines available. It doesn't harm the plant as it starts growing right back the next year. But it does help the trees as the vines can distort and even kill them. However, the plants also spread into the Christmas tree fields (the seeds are probably carried by birds). In the Christmas trees we have to cut them out as soon as we spot them or they can turn the tree into a Charlie Brown. (WBF 166)
We found one patch of Butterfly Weed growing in the Norway Pine. We hadn't noticed it until now and we sure hope it spreads. We don't know why they call it a weed as it would look great in anyone's flower gardens. In addition to its beauty, because it is part of the milkweed family, it is another host plant for Monarch butterflies. (WFMn 85)
Our all time favorite ground cover! The Wild Strawberry gives us pretty white flowers most of the summer plus some very small berries. Best of all the plants lie almost flat on the ground, no more than one or two inches high. Frankly, because of their size, they are hardly worth the effort to pick for eating, especially when there is a great pick-your-own strawberry place (Rod's Berry Farm, 763-444-6353, www.rodsberryfarm.com) down the road from us just a few miles to the east. (WFMn 207, WFNA 477, WDB 17)
The Wood Sorrel is one of those small flours that you can easily miss. Another great ground cover from our viewpiont.
The Woodland Sunflower is a perennial that blooms throughout the summer and into fall so it is a nice wild-flower to have around. Like a number of other plants that don't grow very high, it doesn't interfere with the trees. (WFMn 373)
Common Yarrow is another flower that fills our fields with white during the summer. (WFMn 287)
We don't have a lot of Yellow Goat's Beard and they seem to be scattered, so we missed it in its flowering stage. However, really shows up when it turns to seed as it looks like a dandelion except that the seed head is 2-3 times the size. Luckily we came upon this one before the wind came up. (WDB 353)