By Janelle Eklund
Scattered along roads and in the forest splashes of yellow accent the forest bouquet of other colorful plants dressed in pinks, blues, whites, creams, and reds.
Large leaves of Black-Tipped Groundsel are at its base. As I slide my finger along the edge of the long leaves I feel tiny pointy protrusions. One or two single smaller leaves grace the stem. Twirling the stem between my two fingers the surface feels bumpy. On closer inspection with my hand lens, ridges line the circumference of the stem.
At the top the main stem fans out into many smaller stems where miniature leaves - bracts - circle longer green bracts. The triangular tip of each miniature bract is painted black, thus the name Black-Tipped Groundsel. Small spider web like hairs surround the bracts. A handy hand lens opens up this small world. Long thin yellow petals twirl out from the circle of bracts. In the center yellow pistils explode like a circle of fireworks.
As I inspect the plant with my hand lens it focuses on a beautiful critter sitting on a leaf bract seeming to be in suspended animation. Transparent wings with dark lines running through them are attached to its green puffy body. Six legs with bent knees seem to be resting. A shiny ball looking like a drop of water rests at the base of its neck. Two tiny black eyes are looking directly at the black tip of a bract. Above the eyes two antennae protrude from its head. It only slightly moved once during my long inspection. I don't know bugs very well but suspect it's an aphid. As much as we don't like these little critters, they are beautiful.
Invest in a hand lens and jump into the inner recesses of plants to explore their magical world.
From my light to yours-
References: Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories by Eric Hultén
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.