Welcome to Virginia Wildflowers!

Virginia Wildflowers is a natural history photo gallery and casual field guide to the wildflowers of Virginia.  Most of the photos you will find on this website were taken by me, near my home in southwestern Virginia. This region, which includes the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, is rich in biodiversity. It is a beautiful…

Swamp Milkweed or Silkplant

Asclepias incarnata Pretty enough for any garden, the deep pink blossoms of this summer milkweed beg you to stop and smell the flowers! Dozens of individual blooms are borne on stout umbels at the top of a 2-5 ft. tall plant. Look closely to see the five, up-turned petals on each flower. Sweet! The leaves (see photo below) are opposite,…

Heal-All or Self-Heal

Prunella vulgaris As the name would suggest, heal-all has been used to treat all kinds of maladies in the past. Traditionally,  the shape of a plant was often used to discern its medicinal uses, and so the shape of this flower, with its open mouth exposing the throat, led to it being used as a…

Fringed Loosestrife

Lysimachia ciliata Yellow loosetrifes have 5 yellow petals; this species differs from the others in a couple of ways.  First, the edges of the flower petals are gently wavy or toothed.  You can observe that in the photo above.  Also, the flowers of this plant always face downward (nodding), such that you have to turn them over…

Padleaf Rein Orchid

Platanthera orbiculata I was pleasantly surprised to spot a tall spike of white flowers in the forest above Mountain Lake Lodge yesterday. Even from the road I could tell it was something unusual. I was in search of another orchid (purple fringed orchid) that I had seen in that area in June a few years back,…

Large Purple Fringed Orchid

Platanthera grandiflora Ooo-la-la!! Look what I found! While searching for something else, I practically stumbled on this little pink firebomb up in the woods at Mountain Lake. On first glance, I thought it was “just Phlox”, which started to bloom in the woods near Blacksburg recently. Then I took a couple steps closer and nearly…

Jewelweed

Impatiens capensis Jewelweed or touch-me-not is a tall annual that grows in moist areas, usually along the banks of streams, rivers and ponds.  The leaves are somewhat toothed and blue-green in color. Raindrops tend to bead up on the leaves, giving it a “bejeweled” appearance in sunshine. The trumpet-like or funnel-shaped flowers are yellowish-orange with…

American Wintergreen or Round-leaved Pyrola

Pyrola americana Also flowering in June is another member of the Wintergreen Family: Round-leaved Pyrola.  This low-growing, creeping perennial has shiny green leaves arranged in a rosette. Each leaf is 1 to 2 inches in length, rounded at the tip, and strongly veined. Several blooms are born on a spike (raceme). The hanging, white flowers…

Pale-Spike Lobelia

Lobelia spicata This small-flowered lobelia has striking white to pale blue flowers that are borne on an unbranched stem (12-36 inches). The alternate leaves are ovate to spatulate, narrower at the base than at the tip. They tend to occur on the lower part of the stem, and some may form a loose basal rosette–…

Striped Wintergreen or Pipsissewa

Chimaphila maculata Such a dainty, intriguing flower! I’ve been stalking it for a month now, waiting for it to come into bloom. Finally! Here it is in June at Pandapas Pond, near Blacksburg. This perennial evergreen herb is another forest floor inhabitant that could easily go unnoticed due to its size.  In flower it is…

Indian Pipe

Ghost Flower, Corpse Plant, or Indian Pipe Monotropa uniflora This wildflower lacks chlorophyll and is non-photosynthetic. In order to obtain carbon, it forms a parasitic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi that grow on tree roots. Indian pipes are found in rich, moist woods where there is a lot of leaf litter. There is one flower per…

Painted Trillium

Trillium undulatum Oh, where do I start with this uncommon wildflower? The coppery-green leaves?  The undulating tips of the dainty white petals? The glamorous scarlet blaze at the flower’s center? Maybe I should just say, “This little trillium is a real showstopper!” Like all the trillium species, the leaves, petals, and sepals of painted trillium…

American Lily-of-the-Valley

Convallaria majuscula Until now, I did not know that Lily of the Valley grows wild in the Appalachian Mountains! The form that most of us know, the garden variety, was imported from Europe and then popularized in American gardens. But this species–the wild one- is a few degrees different, and it is appropriately called American Lily-of-the-Valley. First…

Moth Mullein

Moth Mullein Verbascum blattaria Look for this biennial plant, June through September, in pastures, meadows, and along roadsides.  It can grow up to 5 feet tall! The photos above show the leaves arranged on the flowering stem in an alternate pattern, without petioles and gently clasping. These leaves are elliptic and slightly toothed. The dazzling…

Spiderwort

Tradescantia  Found in almost all counties of Virginia, spiderwort is both a native wildflower and a commonly cultivated garden plant. The plants can grow up to about two feet tall. Sometimes you will find them growing singly, but most often they occur in large clumps that look like tall, wild grass. The flowers bloom at…

Showy Skullcap

Scutellaria serrata Here’s a beautiful wildflower! The dainty flowers are two shades of purple and they are held high above the simple and attractive foliage. The morphology of the flower is interesting at each stage of development–from new buds to maturity. Just take a look at some of the photos below… Skullcaps are in the Mint…

Oxeye Daisy

Leucanthemum vulgare or Chrysanthemum leucanthemum Here’s a flower that everyone knows: the daisy! There are several daisy-like flowers in our area, but this one, Oxeye Daisy, is probably the most common in fields and along roadsides in late spring and summer. Blooms can last for up to a month, making daisies a ubiquitous part of…

Foxglove Beardtongue

Penstemon digitalis Foxglove Beardtongue, Foxglove Penstemon, or Beardtongue These showy, native  wildflowers appear from April to June in sunny or partially sunny locations.  They grow from 3 to 5 ft. tall in brilliant masses; this group was photographed along the side of the road at Primland in Meadows of Dan. The two-lipped, tubular flowers are borne on…

Yellow Hawkweed or King Devil

Hieracium caespitosum (H. pratense) I’ve been spotting a new wildflower around town this week, and I even saw it a couple of days ago on top of Salt Pond Mountain, near Mountain Lake. It is hard to miss this plant because the flower stalks are tall and straight and they are topped with sunny yellow flowers…

Galax

Galax urceolata Wandflower, Galax, or Beetleweed The white spikes of galax rise up like magic wands in late May and June in the woodland forests of Appalachia. The tall spikes can grow 1 to 2 feet high over a basal rosette of shiny green leaves. The flowers wave gently in the breeze, earning this plant the…

White Baneberry

Doll’s Eyes or Baneberry Actaea pachypoda The compound leaves of baneberry are toothed and pinnate, similar in some ways to black cohosh in appearance. The white flowers appear mid-spring in a dense cluster at the top of a stem. The flowers give way to small berries later in the summer. When fully ripe, each berry…

Flame Azalea

Rhododendron calendulaceum May is the time to look for the wild and magnificent Flame Azalea! Not to be outdone by Mountain Laurel, which also blooms in late spring, Flame Azalea is a shrub that practically sets the woods on fire with with its blaze of orange flowers. Wild azaleas don’t grow like the familiar, compact…

Putty-root Orchid

Adam and Eve Orchid or Putty-root Orchid Aplectrum hyemale Putty-root orchid is found throughout Virginia in moist forests, but it is often obscured by other herbaceous growth in the spring and summer, and by leaf litter in the fall and winter. In early May, you’ll notice the flower stalks emergining from the ground. In the early…

Wood Betony

Canadian Lousewort or Wood Betony Pedicularis Canadensis Wood Betony is a native wildflower that often grows in large colonies. These photographs were taken at Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia, in early-May. Large drifts of wood betony could be found growing in the woods behind the hotel there. Some of the yellow flowers were photographed…

White Campion

  Silene latifolia On my way to work early this morning, a stand of showy White Campion caught my eye.  It was just growing in a roadside ditch that hadn’t been mowed yet.  I felt like it was a little bit early in the year for this plant to be in bloom (I think of this as…

Addison’s Leatherflower

Clematis addisonii Addison’s Leatherflower, Clematis addisonii, is a threatened species that is native to the Ridge and Valley Province in Virginia. Most of the remaining populations occur here in Montgomery County (Southwest VA). The plant prefers dry, rocky, limestone hillsides, banks and ravines. Addison’s Leatherflower is a perennial vine that starts out as an erect…

Wild Geranium

Wood Geranium, Cranesbill, or Wild Geranium Geranium maculata  What a spring it is for wild geranium!  Today I found drifts of them growing along the roadside next to Big Stoney Creek in Giles County.  Although these were open-grown, I also found plenty growing in the woods around Glen Alton and White Rocks campground. Wild geranium…

Dwarf Crested Iris

Iris cristata The heavy spring rains will keep most of us huddled inside for now, but outside the plant world is singing–yes, singing in the rain. Tended by invisible hands, miniature gardens are bursting from the forest floor with color and promise.  Here’s just one example, Dwarf Crested Iris! As the name implies, Dwarf Crested…

Birdsfoot Violet

Viola pedata This violet gets its name from the cut-out shape of the leaf: it looks like a bird’s foot!  Something else remarkable about this pretty little plant is the broad, flat face of the flower (1-inch wide), which is somewhat reminiscent of a cultivated pansy. The petals are lilac-purple to blue-white, and sometimes the…

Gaywings

Fringed Polygala or Gaywings Polygala paucifolia At first glance, the color and texture of this flower call to mind an orchid.  The complicated structure, complete with wing-like sepals, resembles a flying bird or airplane.  Two petals are joined together to make a tube; a third, lower petal is fringed. The rosy pink or purple flowers…

Eastern Red Columbine

or Wild Columbine Aquilegia canadensis This beautiful red and yellow flower grows in thin soil on rock ledges and along rocky slopes in woods, ravines and bluffs.  The dainty flowers dangle from delicate stems, rocking constantly in the breeze. You can find columbine growing from April to July in Virginia.  The elaborate flowers are only…

Blue Cohosh

Caulophyllum thalictroides Coming up now in rich hardwood coves is a historically important medicinal plant called blue cohosh. The flowers of this herb are small and inconspicuous, but the profusion of delicate blue-green leaves (for which the plant is named) make up for the lack of showy flowers. Blue cohosh is a tall perennial—growing 2 to 3…

Virginia Bunchflower

Melanthium virginicum or Veratrum virginicum For a few years now, I’ve been seeing this large, grass-like plant growing in odd clumps up on Salt Pond Mountain, but I didn’t really know what it was.  This year, I was lucky enough to be up there when it was blooming, and I literally gasped when I saw…

Dogbane or Indian Hemp

Apocynum cannabinum If you’re trying to identify this plant for the first time, you might reasonably assume it is a kind of milkweed. You’d be right. Dogbane is a milkweed relative—they are in the same Family— but in different genera (Apocynum vs Asclepias). Young dogbane plants look very much like milkweed in terms of leaf…

Downy Yellow False Foxglove

Aureolaria virginica Downy Yellow False Foxglove is a perennial found in dry, oak forests. I spotted this plant today (July 13) on a Forest Service road near Poverty Creek/Pandapas Pond Recreation Area. As the name implies, the stems and leaves of this native are covered in downy hair. The leaves are opposite and quite varied…

Tassel Rue

Trauvetteria carolinensis In late spring and early summer, look for Tassel Rue growing along the banks of mountain streams. I recently spotted it at two of my favorite hiking places along the Blue Ridge Parkway: Rock Castle Creek Gorge and Crabtree Falls. The small flowers of tassel rue grow in a panicle at the top…

Mushroom Foray August 2018

The New River Valley Mushroom Club met at Pandapas Pond in late August for a 4-hour mushroom foray. The group of 25 “hunters” scoured the forest and then met up again at the picnic tables to sort and identify their finds. Below are some photos of the bounty of mushrooms they collected. It was a…

Spring 2018

Welcome back! Here’s my advice: Run–Do Not Walk– to your favorite wildflower location in Virginia! Spring is advancing quickly now that the temperatures have warmed up, and the number of species currently in bloom is astounding. The following photos were taken today, May 1st, at Falls Ridge Nature Preserve in the Ellett Valley. Please explore…

Spring 2017 is here!

In the interest of getting things started again here at Virginia Wildflowers, I am copying some photos from last spring to re-familiarize you with the progression of spring flowers that may be blooming in your area now. I’ve been out wandering these last few weeks, keeping a close watch on the ground for the “first signs…

Spring 2016 is here

It was a deliciously early spring here in southwest Virginia.  At my house, where I have a small woodland surrounding my home, I had Hepatica and Bloodroot flowers blooming on March 17th!  That’s early! Trout Lilies were open in all their yellow splendor by March 20th!  Not far behind were the pink flowers of Allegheny Spurge –a gorgeous…

Shining Clubmoss

Huperzia lucidula It is the first of January! Happy New Year! At our house, we welcomed the new year with a walk in the woods with our new puppy, Grace. When she grows up, she’ll be my new photography assistant, but for now, she just tags along and enjoys all the great smells in the…

Prince’s Pine

Lycopodium obscurum or Dendrolycopodium obscurum This is the last of three New Year’s posts about local varieties of clubmoss. Prince’s Pine (sometimes called Ground Pine, Princess’s Pine, or Flat-branched tree clubmoss) is an evergreen beauty.  Thanks to branching, it is a tad bushier than Ground Cedar, so each individual plant ends up looking like a tiny hemlock or pine tree. The “leaves” of the plant…

Ground Cedar

Diphasiastrum digitatum or Lycopodium digitatum Clubmosses (Lycopdodiaceae) are ancient evergreen perennials that can be spotted easily in the winter woods when all the other forest floor plants are “sleeping”.  They have reproductive structures that are shaped like clubs, hence the name. When I was a college student in the way-back-when, the clubmosses were all called “Lycopodiums”…

Foxtail Clubmoss

Lycopodiella alopecuroides I went to the coast for Christmas this year and was lucky to get out for a nice walk at a Nature Conservancy property while I was there. I know December is not the best time of the year for botanizing, but I took my camera anyway… I would have been happy to…

Seedbox

Ludwigia alternifolia The cute little square seed pods of Ludwigia alternifolia, or Seedbox, are drying now in winter fields along with other stars of summer, like Queen Anne’s Lace and Ironweed. When fully dry, the hard seeds inside these boxes will rattle when shaken, giving rise to another common name, Rattlebox. This dainty member of the evening primrose family has 4-petalled,…

Horse Nettle

Solanum carolinense Horse nettle is a perennial native that is a member of the potato family of plants. You may recognize the flower and leaves as bearing some similarities to common garden vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant. The flowers are star-shaped, white to purple in color, with 5 lobes.  A prominent yellow center contains a group…

Shaggy Mane Mushrooms

Coprinus comatus Today I spotted the largest Shaggy Mane Mushroom I have ever seen–nearly a foot tall!–so of course I have to post about it! Shaggy Manes are a kind of mushroom commonly referred to as “inky caps”.  That’s because they grow quickly and then “melt” into a pool of black ooze that looks like INK.  I know, that’s…

Bittersweet

Bittersweet. Fall is rushing toward closure, and with it– the leaves are falling from the sky and stacking up like piles of newspaper around me. If you listen, you can hear it. The change of seasons: bittersweet. Fall is at once beautiful and melancholy…  the mesmerizing glory of scarlet leaves against a clear blue sky…the ominous…

Witch Hazel

Hamamelis virginiana Witch Hazel  or American Witchhazel is a native shrub or small forest understory tree that grows 10-30 feet in height. The branches have a wide-growing habit such that the trees often have a “crooked” appearance. The 2-6-inch leaves are alternate and oval with wavy margins. The remarkable thing about witch-hazel is its odd bloom time: September-October-November! The…

Pear-shaped Puffball

Lycoperdon pyriforme On a hike to the War Spur trail in late September, and then again at Pandapas Pond in late October, I found these mushrooms growing in abundance, on decaying logs. Although the common name of this fungus suggests a pear shape, these can also be round, as seen in the photo gallery below. When they are…

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Hericium erinaceus Just in time for Halloween: Fungi with TEETH! This pure white mushroom is quite the rock star in the fungus world, being both an edible and medicinal fungus.  It grows on recently downed or wounded hardwood trees, which is exactly where I found these! As a mushroom, Lion’s Mane is just a mass of white spines,…

Leucopaxillus albissimus

Here we are at the end of October… Yellow maple leaves are falling steadily around me, with a little help from light rain. The forest floor is totally covered in leaf litter by now, making it hard to find fall mushrooms, even if they are out there.  But—under the protection of hemlock trees in my…

Crimson Waxy Caps

Hygrocybe punicea A late October surprise: A profusion of Crimson Waxy Caps growing along the Skullcap Trail in the Jefferson National Forest! It was wonderful to find these gorgeous red mushrooms mixed in among the falling leaves of Chestnut Oak and Sourwood trees. This was my first hike in a long time where I didn’t…

Yellow Gymnopilus

Gymnopilus luteus It is October, and the mushrooms are popping everywhere–in the grass, on logs and mulch, and of course on the forest floor. Frankly, I find this very distracting! The robust mushrooms seen above are commonly called Yellow Gym or Yellow Gymnopilus. They grow on wood and have a medium to large, dry cap,…

Fly Agaric

Amanita muscaria var. formosa  It is October, and along with yellow leaves and orange pumpkins, there are large, yellowish-orange mushrooms coming up in my yard in Blacksburg! I found four or five of these mushrooms, growing under a group of hemlock trees, and a whole bunch more on my neighbor’s property, coming up under pines. As…

Ravenel’s Stinkhorn

Phallus ravenelii I know this is kind of gross, but I believe in equal opportunity.  So– I found this gray-capped stinkhorn growing in the mulch in my neighbor’s yard in early October.  There were a lot of them growing in the same area, with many lying on the ground “deliquescing” while others were still emerging…

Gem-studded Puffballs

Lycoperdon perlatum This information is taken directly from Wikipedia: “This mushroom, popularly known as the common puffball, warted puffball, gem-studded puffball, or the devil’s snuff-box, is a species of puffball fungus in the family Agaricaceae. A widespread species with a cosmopolitan distribution, it is a medium-sized puffball with a round fruit body tapering to a wide stalk. It is off-white with a top covered in…

Giant Puffballs

Calvatia gigantea Well, it’s officially October!  Where did the summer go?  Weeks have gone by with little rain and fall mushrooms in our area of Virginia have been somewhat scarce lately.  But something tells me that’s about to change!  We’ve had several days of rain earlier this week and now a deluge is predicted for…

Golden Aster

Chrysopsis mariana Blooming in late summer, this showy, golden yellow aster grows in barren areas.  These were photographed growing along a steep roadside embankment on Brush Mountain in Southwest Virginia. The leaves are alternate, simple, entire to ever-so-lightly toothed, hairy, with a strong mid-rib. The leaves are larger at the bottom of the plant, growing smaller…

Honey Mushrooms

Armillaria Honeys! Here’s another new mushroom for me! There are two honey mushroom species pictured in this gallery—both are parasitic on hardwood trees.  Armillaria mellea has a distinct ring, or annulus on the stipe and a partial veil when new; the gills are attached; the color is typically honey yellow. Armillaria tabescens is ringless; the…

Bradleys

Lactarius volemus The genus name of this mushroom refers to the “milky” latex that quickly flows when the flesh of the mushroom is cut or broken. Locally known in Southwest Virginia as swamps or bradleys, Lactarius volemus is an edible mushroom species. The top of the cap is burnt orange and smooth when young; the rim is…

Slender Gerardia

Agalinis tenuifolia (Gerardia tenuifolia) Slender Gerardia is a native annual that grows to about 2 feet in height. Note the slender, linear leaves and overall dark color (green to purple) of the foliage.  The leaves are opposite and entire. The flowers, borne on long pedicels, are light to dark pink with purple spots inside. They…

Onion-stalk Lepiota

Lepiota cepaestipes or Leucocoprinus cepaestipes Look here! A delicate white mushroom growing in my mulch pile! It just goes to show you, if you never get around to spreading your mulch, it will eventually become a garden of its own! This diminutive species is common in urban areas because it likes to grow in wood…

Purple-stemmed and New York Aster

Aster… I have a limit as to how long I’ll try to key out difficult flowers, and I’ve hit mine with the fall asters! Right now, there are autumn-blooming asters everywhere that bear alternate, lanceolate leaves that lack petioles and clasp the stem. The leaf margin is usually gently toothed. Each flower head has 30 or more ray flowers…

New England Aster

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae You’ll recognize this prolific fall bloomer: New England Aster can be found growing locally in both home gardens and open meadows. Gobs of showy, purplish flowers cover the top of this tall native plant and provide an important source of nectar for insects–especially migrating butterflies– at this time of year. Examine the photo…

Nodding Bur Marigold

Bidens cernua In late summer and early fall, you might come across this showy little sunflower growing in wet places. Reaching just 3 feet in height, Nodding Bur Marigold has much smaller flowers than your average sunflower–its flower heads are only about 1 to 2 inches across! Like most miniature things, this petite version of a sunflower is pretty darn cute. Bur Marigold is a composite with 6 to…

Autumn Coralroot

Corallorhiza odontorhiza Here is a small, leafless orchid that can be found growing in local forests in the fall. Lacking leaves, it is a non-photosynthetic plant; it gets its nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi. The entire plant consists of a stem that is purplish to green, yellow or brown. It grows 3-8 inches in height, and…

Turtlehead

Chelone Fishmouth, snakemouth, turtlehead…  The common names of this flower come from the 2-lipped shape, which calls to mind an animal’s gaping mouth. The pink, red or white flowers are borne on a spike at the top of the plant.  The leaves are opposite, ovate to lanceolate, and have lightly toothed margins. Turtlehead enjoys life…

Conical Waxy Cap

Hygrocybe conica Conical Waxy Cap is also called witch’s hat, and for good reason.  Note the pointed tip on this colorful “waxcap” mushroom that makes it look like a little witches’ hat.  The mushroom cap varies in color from yellow-orange to scarlet red. The gills also vary from white to orange to red. It has…

Coker’s Amanita

Amanita cokeri This very large, poisonous Amanita has white warts on the cap and erupts from a large basal bulb. The gallery below shows two Coker’s Amanita mushrooms before they erupted from the bulb, and then again a few days later.  (The veil is evident on one of the mushrooms.)  The warts on the cap will…

Sweet Everlasting

Now here’s a great name for a flower if I ever did hear one.  Sweet Everlasting! What a perfect name! Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium The flowers of Sweet Everlasting are a bit odd because they are dry to the touch, even when new.  That’s because the tiny flowers are wrapped in layers of dry, white bracts. Deep inside…