An interesting subset of plants Daniel and I have been finding are food plants. We are calling these plants waifs -stray plants that crop up here and there, but do not persist or reproduce in the same spot. They may come from seeds people drop from their lunches, plant intentionally, or perhaps come from seed people put out to feed the birds.
We found this little pea along a path in the wooded area between the Pool and the Great Hill. There was just one lone little plant snuggled up against the fence. See the black "eye" on the seed? That is black-eyed pea (Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata).
Two other waifs we commonly find are the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum, formerly Lycopersicon esculentum) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). Tomato likely comes from people's lunches and sorghum may come from bird seed. Feeding birds is a common occurrence in Central Park and sorghum, or milo, is an ingredient in many seed mixes
This is the time of year to look for asters and goldenrods flowering and fruiting. There are many goldenrods and they can be a challenge to identify. This one was delightfully not so difficult to key out. We found this little beauty on the woodland slope between the Pool and the Great Hill. The plant is large-leaved goldenrod (Solidago macrophylla), a native to our area. True to its name, the lower leaves are indeed large. They are sharply toothed and taper abruptly to the leaf stem (petiole).
The next two photos show species we did not collect this time because we already have them. They are the two most common wildflowers in the park. White snakeroot (Ageratina altissima, formerly Eupatorium rugosum) and White wood-aster (Eurybia divaricata, formerly Aster divaricatus). But lest we take them for granted, take a look at their beauty! And remember how important the fall Asteraceae are to wildlife. They provide late season nectar for insects and the insects in turn provide food for some species of migrating birds.
This next species, velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti, is a beautiful little plant in the Malvaceae. An annual plant from Asia, it is considered a weed in croplands as well as in horticultural and natural settings. It is especially a problem for corn growers, causing considerable loss of crops if not aggressively managed. We found a small patch growing in a woodland edge northwest of the North Meadow ballfields.
Another gorgeous non-native annual we found in the same area is the ivy-leaved morning glory Ipomoea hederacea. I included three photos here because I was fascinated with the striking hair on the stem, fruit and leaves. Although related to the hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) and the field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), it does not seem to be as aggressive.