Wood Blewit

Clitocybe nuda or Lepista nuda I’m a sucker for uniquely colored mushrooms, so finding purple mushrooms is especially fun for me. The Wood Blewit fits the bill! Young wood blewits are often blue-ish in color; field guides describe the color as purplish-blue/violet or lavender. The color may fade to mauve or tan over time. The…

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…

Great Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica It is a late summer treat to see great blue lobelia in full bloom, often alongside the fabulously red cardinal flower. Sometimes called “blue cardinal flower”, great blue lobelia resembles red cardinal flower, (Lobelia cardinalis), in stature, habitat, and structure. Both of these plants are tall wetland species with colorful flowers borne on terminal racemes. Their…

Common Rose Pink

Sabatia angularis Despite the name, there is nothing “common” about this plant! The rose-pink hue of the flower is really astounding. Each flower has 5 pink petals and 5 stamens with yellow anthers. The central yellow style is split in two, adding a festive “pop” to the center of the flower. At the base of…

Blazing Star or Gayfeathers

Liatris spicata Liatris is a tall perennial that is native to Virginia and prefers moist  ground. You will find it in low meadows  and along the edges of ponds and wetlands. It can grow  4′ to 6′ in height, so it is hard to miss when it is in bloom! Believe it or not, this plant is an aster, but it only…

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis It’s showtime—and this late-summer bloomer is as showy a flower as they come! Cardinal flower, a native perennial, produces bright red flowers on tall, unbranched stems. The flowers are produced on a raceme, which opens from the bottom first. Each individual flower is bright red and tubular, with 5 deep lobes that are…

Blue Vervain

Verbena hastata No need to bend over to see this tall beauty!  Blue vervain grows 2 to 5 feet tall! I found these plants growing on the banks of Pandapas Pond in June and July in Montgomery County, Virginia. The 5-petaled, violet-blue flowers of blue vervain are borne on unique branching spikes. The flowers on…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) You will find wild ginger, or Canadian ginger, growing in deciduous forests throughout the east coast, including Appalachia, but don’t bother looking for it in winter. This ginger is a deciduous, herbaceous plant (leaves disappear in fall). Ginger colonies form in the springtime from branching rhizomes that form just below the…

Honesty

Money Plant or Honesty Lunaria annua A native of Europe, this biennial has spread across much of the United States because it seeds so easily. In it’s first year it is a small plant, but in the second year it grows to 3 feet in height before it flowers and goes to seed. Well established now…

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…

RAMPS!

Allium tricoccum Ramps are blooming now, in early July, in our local forests! “Ramps” are wild onions (sometimes called “wild leeks”) that grow in the forests of the Appalachian Mountains. They don’t look like the traditional onions that you would grow in the garden.  Ramps look more like “lily of the valley”–the leaves are elliptical, broad…

Golden Ragwort

Senecio aureus or Packera aurea Blooming now, April through May, is Senecio aureus, or Golden Ragwort!  The flower stalks of this spring wildflower can grow 12 to 30 inches in height, towering over a low, spreading groundcover of heart-shaped leaves. Each of the basal leaves is bluntly toothed and has a long stem, or petiole. The underside…

Red Trillium

Red Trillium, Red Wakerobin, Southern Red Trillium Trillium erectum  Another Virginia native, red trillium is a springtime perennial that can be found in flower from April until June.  Luckily for us, the individual scarlet flowers can persist for up to a full month. All the trilliums arise from an underground rhizome and have triangular-shaped leaves…

Morels

Morels Obviously, this is not a wildflower… but morels need to be included among my springtime posts because they are such a favorite. At our house, we wait for morel season with great anticipation! Our most consistent observation has been that we find morels under dead or dying elm trees, and under tulip poplars, ash…

White Trillium

Trillium grandiflorum White Trillium  White trillium, or wakerobin, is a showy perennial wildflower that occurs in forested parts of Virginia (and most of the eastern states). The single, three-petaled, white flower is born on a delicate pedicle that arises from a whorl of three broad leaves (technically bracts). Other distinguishing features include three visible sepals…

Virginia Bluebells

Mertensia virginica Virginia bluebells are also called Virginia cowslip, or Roanoke bells.  I first spotted them here in Blacksburg in a friend’s yard, but soon learned that this native wildflower grows extensively along the banks of streams and rivers in this part of Virginia, making it a riparian species.  Last year I saw them growing…

Wood Poppy

Celandine Poppy Stylophorum diphyllum Among the earliest wildflowers to come up in my yard in April, wood poppies are tough and cold resistant. These native Virginia wildflowers grow quickly into tall plants that reach about 2 feet in height; they produce a profusion of bright yellow flowers from early spring through the summer. The large flowers will eventually give way to fuzzy, elongated seed…

Twin Leaf

Jeffersonia diphylla Twin leaf emerges in mid-March or early April, and blooms soon after the first leaves appear.  It is found in damp, loamy soils in open woods in the eastern U.S., primarily in regions north of Virginia. The genus was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, who apparently grew it in his home garden at…

Trout Lily

Dogtooth Violet or Trout Lily Erythronium americanum I went for years without ever seeing a trout lily. They grow low to the ground and come up in the earliest part of spring, when the weather is still cold and unpredictable. Pushing up from under last year’s leaf pack, they are difficult to spot because the…

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. Whenever I find things in the woods that I’ve never seen before,…

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…