By the roadside 25: Dianthus barbatus

Although this wasn’t growing in a garden I don’t think it’s a wildflower. Rather I believe it’s a Dianthus barbatus, otherwise know as ‘Sweet William’, which originated in a garden somewhere and has been blown, carried by birds – who knows how – to where it is now growing.

According to Wikipedia:

Sweet William is a species of Dianthus native to southern Europe and parts of Asia which has become a popular ornamental garden plant. It is a herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial plant growing to 13–92 cm tall, with flowers in a dense cluster of up to 30 at the top of the stems. Each flower is 2–3 cm diameter with five petals displaying serrated edges. Wild plants produce red flowers with a white base, but colours in cultivars range from white, pink, red, and purple to variegated patterns. The exact origin of its English common name is unknown but first appears in 1596 in botanist John Gerard’s garden catalogue. The flowers are edible and may have medicinal properties. Sweet William attracts bees, birds, and butterflies.

Sweet William is a herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial plant native to the mountains of southern Europe from the Pyrenees east to the Carpathians and the Balkans, with a variety disjunct in northeastern China, Korea, and southeasternmost Russia. It grows to 13–92 cm tall (depending on the variety), with green to glaucous blue-green tapered leaves 4–10 cm long and 1–2 cm broad. The flowers are produced in a dense cluster of up to 30 at the top of the stems and have a spicy, clove-like scent; each flower is 2–3 cm diameter with five petals with serrated edges; in wild plants the petals are red with a white base.

There are two varieties:

Dianthus barbatus var. barbatus. Southern Europe. Leaves broader, up to 2 cm broad.
Dianthus barbatus var. asiaticus Nakai. Northeastern Asia. Leaves slenderer, not over 1 cm broad.

The Wikipedia article goes on to suggest how the name came about:

Many legends purport to explain how Sweet William acquired its English common name, but none is verified. “Sweet William” is often said to honour the 18th century Prince William, Duke of Cumberland. As a result of the Duke’s victory at the Battle of Culloden and his generally brutal treatment of the king’s enemies, it is also claimed that the Scots sometimes call the flower “Stinking Billy”. Though this makes a nice story, it is entirely untrue. The Scots sometimes refer to the noxious ragwort, as “Stinking Billy” in memory of the infamous Duke. Phillips speculated that the flower was named after Gerard’s contemporary, William Shakespeare. It is also said to be named after Saint William of York or after William the Conqueror. Another etymological derivation is that william is a corruption of the French oeillet, meaning both “carnation” and “little eye”. Sweet William is a favourite name for lovelorn young men in English folkloric ballads, e.g., “Fair Margaret and Sweet William.”

By the roadside 24: Ranunculus acris

Also known as meadow buttercup, tall buttercup, common buttercup and giant buttercup.

According to Wikipedia:

This species is variable in appearance across the world. It is a somewhat hairy plant that has ascending, ungrooved flowing stems bearing glossy yellow flowers about 25 mm across. There are five overlapping petals borne above five green sepals that soon turn yellow as the flower matures. It has numerous stamens inserted below the ovary. The leaves are compound, with three lobed leaflets. Unlike Ranunculus repens, the terminal leaflet is sessile. As with other members of the genus, the numerous seeds are borne as achenes. This and other buttercups contain ranunculin, which breaks down to the toxin protoanemonin, a chemical that can cause dermatitis and vomiting.

It’s considered to be invasive in many US States.

By the roadside 23: Kalmia latifolia

Also called mountain laurel, calico-bush, or spoonwood, is a broadleaved evergreen shrub in the heather family, Ericaceae.

According to Wikipedia:

It is an evergreen shrub growing to 3–9 m tall. The leaves are 3–12 cm long and 1–4 cm wide. Its flowers are round, ranging from light pink to white, and occur in clusters. There are several named cultivars today that have darker shades of pink, near red and maroon pigment. It blooms in May and June. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Roots are fibrous and matted.

The plant is naturally found on rocky slopes and mountainous forest areas. It thrives in acidic soil, preferring a soil pH in the 4.5 to 5.5 range. The plant often grows in large thickets, covering great areas of forest floor. In the Appalachians, it can become tree-sized but is a shrub farther north. The species is a frequent component of oak-heath forests. In low, wet areas, it grows densely, but in dry uplands has a more sparse form.

By the roadside 22: Rosa Multiflora

We’re still in Spring (barely) and things are blooming around the lake. So it’s time to continue with my series of things encountered while walking the dog.

This is Rosa Multiflora – also known commonly as multiflora rose, baby rose, Japanese rose, many-flowered rose, seven-sisters rose, and Eijitsu rose. It is native to eastern Asia, in China, Japan and Korea.

According to Wikipedia:

It is a scrambling shrub climbing over other plants to a height of 3–5 m, with stout stems with recurved prickles (sometimes absent). The leaves are 5–10 cm long, compound, with 5–9 leaflets and feathered stipules. The flowers are produced in large corymbs, each flower small, 1.5–4 cm diameter, white or pink, borne in early summer. The hips are reddish to purple, 6–8 mm diameter.

Two varieties are accepted by the Flora of China:

Rosa multiflora var. multiflora. Flowers white, 1.5–2 cm diameter.
Rosa multiflora var. cathayensis Rehder & E.H.Wilson. Flowers pink, to 4 cm diameter.

This stuff is growing everywhere so I wasn’t surprised to learn that in North America it’s considered an invasive species.

According to US National Park Service:

Multiflora rose was introduced to the eastern United States in 1866 as rootstock for ornamental roses. Beginning in the 1930s, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service promoted it for use in erosion control and as “living fences” to confine livestock. State conservation departments recommended multiflora rose as cover for wildlife. More recently, it has been planted in highway median strips to serve as crash barriers and reduce automobile headlight glare. Its tenacious growth habit was eventually recognized as a problem on pastures and unplowed lands, where it disrupted cattle grazing, and, more recently, as a pest of natural ecosystems. It is designated a noxious weed in several states, including Iowa, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

It’s a pity because I find it quite attractive.