Wednesday, April 7, 2010

CRESS DISTRESS!

Okay you real wildflower experts—I need your help identifying the plant pictured here.
I made these photos a couple of days ago, and since then have been flipping through field guides and botany handbooks, trying to key it down…then dithering between various possibilities, and becoming seriously frustrated because I'm not quite satisfied with any of the choices I've come upon.
As my Uncle Raymond used to say, it's time to call in the big dogs!
Here's what you see in the photos…and what the rest of the plant looks like, described to the best of my limited botanical abilities.
First off, the blooms in the photos are tiny, not more than a quarter-inch across. (Yup, macro shot.) The plant itself is about six inches tall, the delicate stems green and smooth—not in the least hairy. On the upper part of the stem—but below the flowers and the long pods—are what seems to be a series of leaflets, 4-6 pairs. At the base of the grouping of stems (4-6 per plant) is a rosette of basal leaves which are rounded, not lobed or toothed. The plants are growing in the edge of my side yard, in fairly dry ground. They receive most of the day's worth of sun.
I'm pretty sure this is some sort of cress. But what? The basal leaves are completely wrong for lyre-leaved rock cress; and when I pull up other photos of small-flowered bitter cress, they don't look much like my blooms. The stem "leaflets" appears to rule out spring cress, as well.
I'm becoming cressfallen…uh, make that crestfallen.
I hate to run shots of a wildflower I can't name, but I'm getting tired of not knowing what is obviously a fairly common plant of my yard. I'd rather admit my ignorance than continue my puzzlement.
Besides, they're lovely little blooms, nameless or not.
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ADENNDUM
Leaves on the upper stem…
Basal leaves…
I've looked again and finally decided this must be small-flowered bitter cress. At least that's my final guess. It still doesn't quite fit the description to me—but given the references on my shelf, I'm not sure anything else comes as close. I still could be entirely wrong.
—————

14 comments:

madcobug said...

I am not an expert and have no idea what it is but I do know it is beautiful. Great shots! Helen

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Madcobug…

This one has me flummoxed, for sure. (Not at all a difficult thing.) But you don't have to know its name to know it's a lovely little flower.

Wanda said...

Could it be Lyre-leaved Rock Cress? If not, it's very similar and very pretty!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

I thought that, too—but the basal leaves are all wrong, fairly rounded rather than elongated. But you're right in that it does look almost identical otherwise. It is a pretty little thing.

Wanda said...

I was too anxious to identify it for you, should have finished the post. :) Hope someone knows!

Bernie said...

Oh I was sure Wanda would know, I do hope someone finds the answer for you Grizz....be well my friend,
........:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Hey, I appreciated your suggestion! I've been thumbing through my copy of Newcomb's time and again, trying to key it down with no luck…at least not what seems right to me.

Thanks for giving it a try—and if you think of anything else, let me know. Nobody's keeping score here. I can use any and all help.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Wanda came really close, except for the basal leaves—which you can't see in the photos, of course. That's one of the things that has me so puzzled… it looks like lyre-leafed rock cress but has these basal leaves totally unlike lyre-leaf; otherwise, it's a dead ringer. So she did really good. Lord knows I can't figure it out…

Cicero Sings said...

Hi,

I would think it was lyre leaved rock cress as well. Check out the leaf variation described on this page:

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Arabis%20lyrata

Kelly said...

...your first photo is spectacular. I have no idea. I'm a slacker when it comes to wildflowers, but I'm learning quickly (and you're helping!). I bet Jim McCormac would know...

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Cicero…

Lyre-leaved rock cress was my first thought, too, when I initially took the shots and pulled up a plant for closer inspection. But you know, no matter what reference I'd used, the point still comes back to the fact the basal leaves are just so rounded—not in the least elongated or notched—I can't quite convince myself they could be a variation. Part of the problem is that finding good photos or line illustrations that really show the basal leaves has been difficult. So it just might be that's the case…bad or faulty comparisons.

Anyway, I appreciate the reference site. It's one I hadn't used and looks like a really good one. I've already been looking a bit again this morning and trying to reevaluate. It's raining here at the moment and I have to go out for a few hours—but when I get back, I'll pluck a few more specimens, put them under the magnifiers, and look again…and maybe it will turn out to be lyre-leaved, after all. I hope so, frankly, as I'd like to think my first instinct was right. Moreover, I'd just like to settle this to my own satisfaction.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly…

That first shot was just one that somehow comes out better than you'd hoped or expected. Kismet.

Hey, I'm no wildflower expert. At best I'm a mediocre amateur enthusiast; I know the easy stuff, more or less…sometimes. I'm learning, learning, learning, and the path keeps winding ever onward. The way I figure, by the time I'm 187 years old, I'll be pretty good on the common plants, fair on the uncommon ones, and regularly baffled by which is which.

Tom said...

Could you please post more photos of the entire plant so that we heritage program botanists here at ODNR can get a better look?. Arabis lyrata is a state threatened species in Ohio- It's quite rare, i've never seen it in my ramblings across the state.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tom…

I'll try and shoot some other pix later today or tomorrow; I understand these aren't anywhere close to what's needed for an I.D.

I have had lyre-leaved rock cress pointed out to me in southeastern Ohio during several days of botanical field ramblings with a group of professionals who would know. I know, too, it is a rare plant, and not something I'd expect to find in my yard. That's one of the reasons why I dismissed my first inclination out of hand, though the upper part of the plant does resemble Arabis lyrata. I'm really sure it isn't. I'm also guessing it's just some common cress that I'm not quite able to identify—either because the plants are still forming or because I'm just not looking correctly. (Not to mention being botanically challenged and untrained!)

This is NOT a candidate for the Best Plant Finds of 2010 list, I assure you. The problem is most certainly my incompetence.