Flowers and Fruits
On this page, I’m providing some photos and descriptions of (at least) six flowers and (at least) six fruits. The flowers are from at least six different families, and the fruits are of different types.
Milkweed – Fruit type: Follicle Asclepiadaceae – Milkweed Family
Common milkweed’s (Asclepias syriaca) are of the follicle type, meaning they split along one side when ripe. It’s unicarpellate, but there are many seeds in each “pod”/follicle. Large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) are shown on a common milkweed pod above. They primarily feed on the seeds, so are of limited harm to the plant if monarch caterpillars are feeding on the leaves, per Joe Boggs of OSU Extension (https://bygl.osu.edu/node/544). Milkweed species are a host plant for monarch caterpillars.
Common milkweed’s inflorescence type is an umbel.
These plants were at Prairie Oaks Metro Park in western Franklin County, where they are protected from mowing and herbicides.
Stinging nettle – Fruit type: Achene Urticaceae – Nettle family
At first, I was thrown off by this round, green growth (photo 3 above) on the flower heads of stinging nettle, Urtica dioica. But on further investigation, it looks like this is just an insect gall that is described here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/coreyraimond/5874636987. Instead of a berry or drupe, the fruit is an achene http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide/single_weed.php?id=81 , and they are starting to form on the flowers depicted in photos 1 and 2 above. The seeds will eventually look more like those found at these sites: http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide/display_photo.php?id=81&photo=618 and https://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/urtica/dioica/.
The inflorescence is “catkin-like” (http://www.ediblewildfood.com/stinging-nettle.aspx). This specimen was in a floodplain at Prairie Oaks Metro Park, in a generally damps, well-shaded area.
Indian grass – Fruit type: Grain Poaceae ⁄ Gramineae – Grass family
Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a tall (up to 5 or 6 feet) that is an important part of the prairie ecosystem, and one of the dominant grasses. The fruit is a grain, growing on a panicle inflorescence; I’d call the form spikelets. This specimen was found at Prairie Oaks Metro Park, where it might be a remnant of the original prairie species in western Franklin County and the Darby Plains, although it seems likely prairie grasses were planted at or near this site. It tends to grow on hydric/wet soils, with relatively flat topography.
Multiflora rose – Fruit type: Etaerio/Aggregate with achenes Family: Rosaceae
The rose hip of multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) (above, oval green fruit on the ends of the stem, forming a corymb inflorescence), is a bit confusing as to fruit type. One author states “since the achenes represent separate ripened ovaries all derived from a single flower, the entire rose hip could be considered an aggregate fruit” and “another term for an aggregate cluster of ovaries all derived from a single flower is the “etaerio.” In fact, a rose hip (Rosa) eaten as an entire fruit could be considered an etaerio of achenes enclosed by a fleshy receptacle.” (https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/ecoph17.htm). In any case, this is a nasty invasive that was found at Prairie Oaks Metro Park.
Honey locust – Fruit type: Legume Family: Fabaceae ⁄ Leguminosae – Pea family
Honey locust, Gleditsia tricanthos, is a member of the Fabaceae family, and a legume. It has a thorny trunk and is thorny on many branches. These are its seed pods hanging from the pinnately-leaved branches. The fruit type is legumes. This specimen was found at Prairie Oaks Metro Park, along the edge of an old field undergoing succession. USDA says the size of the pods “is highly variable, and they give off a very strong, sweet aroma when they ripen and fall to the ground. Honey locust is a pioneering woody species commonly found in overgrown pastures, fields, fence lines, and wood lot edges” https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_gltr.pdf . The seeds are eaten by wildlife and domestic animals.
I assume the inflorescence is a spike – see this photo at: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20p?see=I_SB66137&res=640
Bush honeysuckle – Fruit type: Berry Family: Caprifoliaceae
Bush honeysuckle is a bit difficult to determine to species; this might be Lonicera maackii, but I should probably play it safe and calling this specimen Lonicera spp. ( http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide/single_weed.php?id=54). The fruit appears to be a berry, with maybe a few drupes or achenes inside. OSU Extension says: “While honeysuckle fruit is abundant and rich in carbohydrates it lacks the high-fat and nutrient-rich content that most of our native plants provide migrating birds. Wherever invasive honeysuckle shrubs displace our native forest species there is a huge potential impact on these migrating bird populations due to the reduction in availability of native food sources” (https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/F-68). This specimen was at Prairie Oaks Metro Park, and it’s extremely common there in the understory of the woods, and is very invasive across central Ohio. Lonicera species are so invasive it is the Ohio Invasive Plant Council’s number 1 fact sheet: https://www.oipc.info/uploads/5/8/6/5/58652481/1factsheethoneysuckles.pdf.
You might call the inflorescence type a raceme, if you assume the branchlets are the peduncle, then the flowers/berries are on short pedicels. Maybe they are a small cyme.
Great angelica – Fruit type: schizocarp Family: Apiaceae – Parsley
Great angelica, Angelica atropurpurea, as a member of the Apiaceae, has a schizocarp as a fruit, and the inflorescence is an umbel.
Box elder – Fruit type: samara Family: Aceraceae
The fruit type of Acer negundo, box elder, is a samara. This one was in Clark County in a residential area, and left when houses were built on either side of it. The inflorescence is a raceme (https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=acne2).
Canada goldenrod: Solidago canadensis Asteraceae (Aster Family)
Canada goldenrod is very common in old fields and disturbed areas, and sometimes forms thick, monoculture stands The flowers of Solidago canadensis are in the form of a panicle with tiny flowers in compound heads(http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/cn_goldenrodx.htm). Though tiny, the flowers are actinomorphic and have ray and disk flowers, i.e., radiate. “Flowers form under 1 cm wide, single flower-like capitula surrounded by involucral bracts. Capitulum flowers yellow, ray-florets tongue-like; disk florets tubular, small. Stamens 5. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels” (http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/kukkakasvit/canada-goldenrod). There are about 100 goldenrod species in North America, and the site just cited states that it escaped from cultivation gardens in Finland early in the 20th century. Asteraceae flowers have an inferior (epigynous) ovary.
New England aster (Aster novae-angliae) Family: Asteraceae
New England aster, Aster novae-angliae, is very common in central Ohio by September, often co=-occurring with Canada goldenrod. It has ray (purple) and disk (yellow) flowers. The flower is actinomorphic. Per the Encyclopedia of Life, “Each composite flower consists of numerous gold or yellow disk florets, which are surrounded by 30 or more ray florets that are purple, lavender, or light pink. Each composite flower is about 1½” across. A mature plant may bear two dozen or more of such flowers, putting forth a showy display” (http://eol.org/pages/392592/details). Asteraceae flowers have an inferior (epigynous) ovary.
White snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) Aster family (Asteraceae)
This is a common flowering plant in Prairie Oaks Metro Park, occurring most often in wooded areas that are slightly open to light, such as along trails, although it can be found in sunny areas. Illinois Wildflowers” site states: “The upper stems terminate in compound corymbs or flat-headed panicles of flowerheads that span 2-6″ across. The branches of this inflorescence are light green and glabrous (or nearly so). Each flowerhead is about ½” across and contains 10-30 disk florets that have brilliant white corollas and styles. There are no ray florets. Each disk floret is about 3-5 mm. across when it is fully open, consisting of a small tubular corolla with 5 lobes that are spreading and pointed and a divided style that is strongly exerted from the corolla. At the base of each flowerhead, there is a single series of linear floral bracts that are light green and non-overlapping” (http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/woodland/plants/wh_snakeroot.htm). The corolla appears to be composed of 5 petals. The flower is actinomorphic. Importantly, this species seems to have a new name: “White Snakeroot has been reassigned recently to the genus Ageratina, although it is still often referred to as Eupatorium rugosum” (http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/woodland/plants/wh_snakeroot.htm). The new name is Ageratina altissima, and it’s in the Aster family (Asteraceae). Asteraceae flowers have an inferior (epigynous) ovary.
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) Pokeweed family (Phytolaccaceae)
The flowers of pokeweed are on a short raceme, and it is an inderterminant infloresecence. Flowers might be forming, and relatively fresh, which the other end of the raceme has berries that are maturing. Per Illinois Wildflowers, “The flowers are about ¼” across, consisting of 5 lobed white or pink sepals that flare outward, no true petals, and several green carpels folded together in the center” (https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/pokeweed.htm). The flower is actinomorphic. The berries are eaten by songbirds, but are toxic to humans. DO NOT EAT THEM.
Spotted touch-me-not/Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) Touch-Me-Not family (Balsaminaceae)
Spotted touch-me-not, or orange jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, looks very similar to it’s congeneric relative, Pale Touch-me-not, I. pallida), which has a yellow flower. I. capensis has a zygomorphic flower, maturing to a pod that explodes when ripe. this is a pretty cool ting – people are surprised when the pod reacts so “violently!”
Per Illiinois Wildflowers, “Each flower is about 1″ long and has a conical shape with upper and lower lips. There are 3 sepals and 5 petals (although this is difficult to discern). Two lateral sepals are small and membrananous; they are light green to light yellow and are located behind the upper lip. The third sepal forms the conical posterior of the flower, including the small nectar spur. This portion of the flower is typically light orange and shiny; the nectar spur usually bends forward to a position underneath the rest of the flower. The petals form the front of the flower and are usually dark orange with reddish streaks or brown dots. One petal forms the upper lip, which is curved upward, while 2 fused petals form the lower lip. The lower lip often is divided into 2 lobes and functions as a landing pad for visiting insects. There are also 2 smaller lateral petals between the upper and lower lips of the flower. A cluster of stamens with white anthers lies underneath the ovary near the upper lip” (http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/wetland/plants/or_jewelweed.htm).
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) Bellflower family (Campanulaceae)
Great blue lobelia is a zygomorphic flower. Each flower has a blue-violet corolla that is bell-shaped and has two lips. Per Illinois Wildflowres’ site, “The upper lip has 2 slender erect lobes that curve slightly inward or backward, while the lower lip has 3 descending lobes that are oblong-lanceolate. Near the throat of the flower at the base of the lower lobes, there is a pair of small white patches. The green calyx is deeply divided into 5 linear-lanceolate teeth; it is conspicuously hairy. The calyx teeth are long and spreading” ( http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/wetland/plants/gb_lobeliax.htm).
This one was found in the woods at Prairie Oaks Metro Park. They seem to prefer shaded areas.
Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis) Dayflower family (Commelinaceae)
Asiatic dayflower is an alien, introduced species, but it is in its own family, Commelinaceae. (Yes, its origin is in Asia.) “This flower is about ½–1″ across, consisting of 2 large blue petals, 1 small white petal, 3 sepals, 5-6 stamens, and a long white style. The sepals are usually pale white and translucent. The upper stamens have showy yellow anthers; they are sterile, but help to attract insects to the flower. The lower stamens are longer than the upper stamens and fertile, although their anthers are less showy. An upturned spathe that lies underneath the flower is green and about 1-2″ long. The upper margins of this spathe are free all the way to the base” ( https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/asia_dayflower.htm). This flower is very diverse! It seems unusual to have a spathe underlying the upper, blue flower. And the stamens of different lengths are interesting. ” These infertile stamens are termed staminodes. The fertile stamens are dimorphic” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commelina_communis).
The inflorescences of Asiatic dayflower are called “cincinni (singular: cincinnus), which are also called scorpioid cymes” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commelina_communis). This specimen was found at Prairie Oaks Metro Park in a disturbed area.
Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) Mint family (Lamiaceae)
Obedient plant has dense spikes that are most colorful in late summer (late August/early September in central Ohio). The flowers are pinkish and look like snapdragons. The flower of the obedient plant is a pretty spike inflorescence, but apparently of limited value to wildlife. Illinois Wildflowers states: “The inflorescence consists of tall spikes of flowers at the ends of the upper stems. A spike is up to 10″ long and consists of 4 rows of densely packed horizontal flowers or their buds. The tubular flowers are white, lavender, or purplish pink, and they often have dots, fine stripes, or swirls of a slightly darker color. Each flower is about 1″ long, has 2 lips, while 4 purple anthers are visible near the upper lip. This upper lip is a broad hood, while the lower lip is divided into 3 lobes – the larger central one functioning as a landing pad for insects, which is accompanied by 2 smaller side lobes” (https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/obed_plantx.htm).
This plant is grown in flower gardens, and it has escaped from cultivation. I’ve been told it can be aggressive, but does not seem to be a major concern for crowding out other species. It is limited to moist/wet areas, including the prairies and wetlands of central Ohio.
This specimen was found in a small wetland at Prairie Oaks Metro Park near Big Darby Creek.