skip to Main Content

Antsy Acorns

Live Oak Acorns on Tree

I learned something on my walk today. Sometimes southern live oak acorns sprout while still on the tree!

live oak acorns

Don’t they look like worms crawling out? Live oak acorns aren’t viable for very long after they fall from the tree, and sometimes they get  a head start.

Root Tip of Sprouting Live Oak Acorn

That jelly-like glob at the end will help keep the root tip from drying out until it gets good soil contact, and then adhere it to the ground once it lands.

Southern live oaks (Quercus virginiana) are host plants for Horace’s Duskywing, White M Hairstreak, and Northern Hairstreak butterflies, and the Consular Oakworm moth. Hopefully the caterpillars of one of these is the reason for so many ragged leaves!

[EDITED 11.08.15 to add:

Acorns sprouting on the tree is called vivipary and is most likely to occur during warm, wet fall weather. It is common in southern live oaks and sometimes occurs in other oak species as well.

Collection and Care of Acorns PDF

“A New Method of Germinating Acorns for Forest Planting” by John W. Harshberger, 1916

The Importance of Root-cap Mucilage for Plant and Soil
Root cap mucilage can serve several purposes. It might also keep excess water out of the acorn.

Southern Live Oak

Thanks to members of the NCNPS Facebook page for prompting me to dig a little deeper! ;)]

Beyond the Parking Lot

Flooded field in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina

You never really have to go far to botanize. Spending a day in the mountains or in a state park is nice, but sometimes all you need to do is walk to the edge of the parking lot!

Ocean Isle Beach Agalinis

This field beside a Lowe’s Foods near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, is a textural sweep of fall color and wildflowers. Beach false foxglove (Agalinis fasciculata) bobs in the breeze at the edge of the muck.

Agalinis fasciculata Beach False Foxglove

I think my thumb is clearer in this picture than the inside of the flower is, but it’s pretty in there, dotted and luminous.

Ocean Isle Beach Field

Fresh succulence dots the sandy path and relieves the melancholic tug of waning light and fading plants.

Ocean Isle Beach Field

Grasses and young loblolly pines dominate higher and drier expanses of the field.

Rustweed (Polypremum procumbens)

Was this poor plant victim of a worker using spray paint to mark something? In his field guide Wildflowers of the Sandhills Region, Bruce Sorrie says that everyone has probably seen this plant, but I had either not seen it or never noticed. It is rustweed (Polypremum procumbens), and that crazy orange is its natural fall color!

Ocean Isle Beach Turkey Tails

A turkeytail fungus (Trametes versicolor) grows on the remnants of a woody stem covered with sand.

Ocean Isle Beach Field

Thoroughworts (Eupatorium spp.) and other asteraceous plants have bloomed out, but their fluffy seedheads still provide food for wildlife.

Ocean Isle Beach Field Flora

Further along, the plant cover is more dense and shrubby.

Ocean Isle Beach Field

That row of palms in the background above is the entrance to a new neighborhood.

Ocean Isle Beach Development

Here’s the view of the field from the neighborhood entrance. Plants under the palms leave a little to be desired if you’ve gotten to know the field even a little bit.

Ocean Isle Beach Development

Native pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is much better than pruned-to-death (quite literally!) loropetalum, but even that is far less compelling than the wild and wonderful just beyond. Let’s backtrack a little and see what else we can find there.

Ocean Isle Beach Baccharis

Sea myrtle (Baccharis halimifolia) opens its foamy white blooms.

Ocean Isle Beach Sea Myrtle

Come in close for a view of sea myrtle’s female flowers.

Ocean Isle Beach Shrub

Inkberry holly (Ilex glabra) doles out its black berries to birds all winter long.

Ocean Isle Beach Shrub

A titi (Cyrilla racemiflora)! Dangling strings of beads make pretty plant jewelry, don’t they?

Ocean Isle Beach Plants

Seedbox (Ludwigia sp.) is more interesting in fruit than in bloom. Those square-topped capsules are worth marveling.

Ocean Isle Beach Fall Color

Just look at the incredible diversity in this small field! Is that sumac beside the sea myrtle? And the goldenrods are fabulous. I hope you enjoy the lush view as much as I do. Take a look beyond a parking lot near you soon and see what you can find.

Ocean Isle Beach Field

There are hours and hours of happy discoveries here.

Happy botanizing, friends!

Calycanthus floridus

Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus)

Scientific name: Calycanthus floridus Linnaeus

Common names: Sweet-shrub, Carolina Allspice, Sweet-bubby, Strawberry-shrub

Family: Calycanthaceae

Nativity: Southeastern United States

Location: Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, Pinehurst, NC

Date: April 28, 2015


Yucca at the Dune's Edge

During vacation this time last year, my daughter and I noticed fruits on these yuccas (Yucca aloifolia) at the edge of the boardwalk as we went to the beach late one day. My curious girl with the pretty nails impulsively picked one and snapped it in half…

Yucca Seedpod in Cross Section

… and declared it looked like okra.

Both yucca and okra produce capsules that eventually dry and split open to release their seeds, and both are edible when young. Yucca fruits taste rather like soap (especially when raw), or if you’re lucky, squash (which is more likely if you roast it). Okra has its prickly hairs and all that mucilage, but the flavor is mild and agreeable.

North Carolina Coast

As we left, a quick snap of the view behind us turned out better the ones I work hard on.

Curious girl might have enjoyed learning that yucca is edible, but she wasn’t about to try it. We walked on the beach for a while looking for shells and turtle nests, and then went home and ate okra from Holden’s instead.

Edible Plants of the Gulf South, Charles M. Allen, PhD, Andrew W. Allen, B.S., and Harry H. Winters, M.D., Allen’s Native Ventures, LLC, 2005.

Viola hastata

Yellow Halberdleaf Violet (Viola hastata)

Scientific name: Viola hastata Michaux

Common names: Spearleaf violet, silverleaf violet, halberd-leaf violet

Family: Violaceae

Nativity: Eastern United States

Location: Reedy Creek Nature Preserve, Charlotte, NC

Date: March 11, 2012

Significantly Rare

Crested Coralroot (Hexalectris spicata)

Walking back to the dorm at Native Plant Camp (commonly known as the Cullowhee Conference), my sharp-eyed friend spotted this barely visible growing thing on the steep bank beside the parking lot.

This was yesterday as the sun was going down and we still had miles to go before we slept in a manner of speaking, so I climbed up quickly in my botanizer’s flip-flops to see what it was. I snapped this photo as I was sliding back down. (Maybe I should rethink the flip-flops.) I wish now I had gotten a few more shots.

The plant is a native orchid, crested coralroot (Hexalectris spicata), which in North Carolina is considered significantly rare and imperiled.

Chlorophyll-free, crested coralroot gets its nutrition from mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. Flowers appear between April and August. It is typically found in dry soils in the vicinity of oaks, junipers or pines.

You’d think you would have to go deep into the woods to see something like that, wouldn’t you? What a sweet find!



Brunswick County, NC

Brunswick County, North Carolina, is one of the most botanically interesting places you can go. It is the home of Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, sundews, and several other species of carnivorous plants. Native orchids are well represented as well. It isn’t even necessary to go to a park or reserve; if you look carefully, you will see many of these plants along the roadsides throughout the county. I visit as often as I can—it is just south of Wilmington, or about an hour or so north of Myrtle Beach.

The numbers below correspond to the order of the photos in the gallery slider above. Please do leave a comment if you would like ask a question or offer information about any of these plants or botanizing in Brunswick County.

(1) Botanizing in a Brunswick County preserve

(2) Rose pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossioides)

(3) Toothache grass (Ctenium aromaticum)

(4) Red pitcher plant, sweet pitcher plant (Sarracenia rubra)

(5) Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

(6) Small coastal plain spreading pogonia (Cleistesiopsis oricamporum)

(7) Narrowleaf whitetop sedge (Rynchospora colorata)

(8) Swamp azalea, clammy azalea (Rhododendron viscosum)

(9) Sheep’s laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)

(10) Red pitcher plant, sweet pitcher plant (Sarracenia rubra)

(11) Coppertop pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava var. cuprea)

(12) Unidentified native azalea

(13) Purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea)

(14) Sundews (Drosera spp.)

(15) NOID

(16) Grassleaf Barbara’s-buttons (Marshallia graminifolia)

Wildflowers and Herbs along the Blue Ridge Parkway

wildflowers along the blue ridge parkway, spotted mandarin

Spotted Mandarin (Prosartes maculata, syn. Disporum maculatum)

Members and friends of the North Carolina Native Plant Society took a hike into the woods this weekend to check out the wildflowers doing their thing along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Besides the intriguing (and uncommon) spotted mandarin, we saw several species of trillium, both pink and yellow lady’s slipper orchids, shooting star, wood betony, and dwarf delphinium.

Some herbs along the path (not in bloom) were blue cohosh, black cohosh, bee balm, bloodroot, toothwort, pepperweed, stoneroot, squaw root, mayapple, and cucumber root.

Bluets—in huge clumps throughout the sunny spots—were so charming! At least five species of violets were blooming at the wood’s edges, and as the perfect green foil for all these beautiful blooms, no less than a dozen species of native ferns!

The complete list of blooms and plants we saw would take pages, but these are some of the most talked about in our group. It’s almost too much diversity to deal with—with so many questions and field guide consultations, it took us hours to go a mile!

Wildflowers Along NC 179

My mind is always in the gutter. I just can’t help it—roadside botanizing is one of my favorite things to do! How can you drive by without stopping when the wildflowers are so pretty and abundant?

Along Highway 179 between Shallotte and Ocean Isle Beach, NC, the lyre leaf sage caught my eye first. I parked in a neighborhood and then walked back to look around.

A sprinkling of small white flowers covered the ground for at least 50 yards between the car and highway. I didn’t recognize them right away, but in the back of my mind assumed something in the Rose family.

Then I started to realize there was a red haze under them. ?? Hmm.

Lyre-leaf Sage (Salvia Lyrata)
Stachys Sp. Along NC Hwy 179
Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum Cinnamomeum)
Oak And Pine Sandy Woods
Drosera Brevifolia
Drosera Brevifolia
Mossy Green
Salvia Lyrata With Red Truck

What a delight to discover they were sundews! Thousands of them lined the sandy edge of the pine forest in the sun next to the road.

It had been worth stopping if I didn’t see another thing, but there was plenty more. It would have been easy to hang out for a hour or two. Click on the gallery photos and see if you find anything interesting—there were so many plants per square yard, I couldn’t begin to name them all.

When we aren’t looking …

This short video, “Carnivorous Plants,” was created in response to an animation assignment at California Institute of the Arts by student Seth Boyden. It’s really, really cute…and very well done!

According to the artist, the following plants are featured in the video: Dionaea muscipula, Nepenthes alata, Sarracenia flava, Drosera capensis, Drosera dichotoma, Pinguicula vulgaris and Sarracenia purpurea

Happy viewing! And TGIF!

Buck(eye) Wild

I was driving along the road from Ocean Isle Beach to Sunset one day when I thought I noticed something red streak by. Red isn’t that common along coastal roadsides; shades of green, tan, and gray tend to dominate. It’s a subtle palette, and one that makes other colors stand out. I turned the car around.

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

It’s funny how exciting it can be to see something so familiar in an unfamiliar place. Even if red buckeye is native to NC, I usually see it as a garden plant.

Red Buckeye at the NC coast

It’s a pretty sight out here along the road with the Intracoastal Waterway behind it. Don’t you love the teeny live oak in the distance? It looks as if it’s standing right in the water.

Little Bits of Green

Are you starting to notice weeds showing up in your yard and around the neighborhood? I saw all of these during a stroll around the block yesterday:

  • Chickweed (Stellaria media), with blooms
  • Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), with blooms
  • Wild garlic (Allium vineale)
  • Dead nettle (Lamium purpureum)
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), with blooms
  • Corn speedwell (Veronica arvensis)

These plants have been food and medicine historically, and they’re certainly welcome live greenery this time of year. But whether you use them or just remove them, they’re a good excuse to get outside and spend some time in the garden.


#phenology #wildplants #foraging #herbs

Back To Top
×Close search
%d bloggers like this: