Friday Nature Unknown

Monkshood-related Vine
Click to see the larger image on Flickr

…and the answer to yesterday’s Puzzler, below.

But the flower you see here is one I don’t know to species. It looks like Monkshood (see the cowl?) but is a weak climbing vine. It was growing supported by various wet-meadow annuals like cinnamon fern and such in partial shade.

If I don’t figure it out, I’ll ask an expert at the “bioblitz” in Rock Castle Gorge next weekend. Somebody will know it and I’ll have added another one to my life-list.

YESTERDAY’S PUZZLER: We’ve had an alarmingly dry late summer and so this sight is not so common if we get regular rains. But the white spores of this mushroom wafted out from the gills and have been undisturbed by rains for a couple of weeks.

So “natural spore-print” explains the white powder, as a couple of you knew. Not anthrax. Not cocaine. Not powdery mildew. And now you know!

UPDATE: ID now thought to be Aconitum uncinatum, blue Wolf’s Bane, and with the following lore from Wikipedia:

“Aconitum (/ˌækəˈnaɪtÉ™m/),[2] also known as aconite, monkshood, wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, mousebane, women’s bane, devil’s helmet, Queen of all Poisons, or blue rocket, is a genus of over 250 species of flowering plants belonging to the family Ranunculaceae.

These herbaceous perennial plants are chiefly native to the mountainous parts of the northern hemisphere,[3] growing in the moisture-retentive but well-draining soils of mountain meadows. Most species are extremely poisonous[4] and must be dealt with carefully.

The name comes from the Greek ἀκόνιτον, which may derive from the Greek akon for dart or javelin, the tips of which were poisoned with the substance, or from akonae, because of the rocky ground on which the plant was thought to grow.[5] The name may reflect that toxins extracted from the plant were historically used to kill wolves, hence the name wolf’s bane.”

And apparently the plant appears in Harry Potter’s tales.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Are those NSA micro cameras tucked inside the purple cowls? What with the current fondness for genetic modification, query whether Monsanto has been teaming up with sophisticated electronic surveillance contractors to devise a means for keeping a close watch on the undergrowth activities of potentially harmful insects and non-native plant species.

  2. I have yet to be able to take reliably high quality macro shots with the Canon Powershot G7X used here (compared to the Lumix Lx7 it replaced.) But the glass is good and I can crop a nice macro out of a larger image, and it holds up. I think I need more experience w the G7X to find the macro sweet spot. OTOH, the iPhone is no slouch but does not have very good ergonomics or shutter response time.