Welcome to Virginia Wildflowers!

Virginia Wildflowers is a natural history photo gallery and casual field guide to wildflowers and mushrooms. I live in Southwest Virginia, so most of my photos were taken in this part of the state.

I’ve been taking photos of local wildflowers for four years now. I try to capture close-ups of leaves, stems and flowers, and then I post the photos along with basic natural history information. In the spring and summer of 2015, I finally reordered the species found here by season (at least roughly), so hopefully they will be easier to search now. If you look at the list to the left, spring flowers are at the very bottom of the list, followed by summer flowers in the middle, and fall flowers and mushrooms are near the top.

My goal in making this site was to teach myself about native wildflowers in my home area.  An added benefit would be to help someone else (–maybe you?) learn the same. Drop me a note if you have a comment or question, and please feel free to correct my I.D. work if you think I’ve got something misidentified. This is a hobby for me and I’m always learning.

If you arrived here because you are looking for information about a specific plant, try using the search widget in the right sidebar. Common names and latin names can be entered there and searched. If you would just like to browse what is here, try scanning the archive in the left sidebar.

Most of my posts contain photo gallery/slideshows, so please be sure to click on the gallery to open a larger viewer.

Welcome to Virginia Wildflowers! Enjoy your visit!

Shaggy Stalked Bolete

Heimioporus betel, The Southern Bolete

Usually, the cap of a mushroom is the notable feature, but in this case the stem is the star of the show. If you like odd-looking mushrooms, this interesting species will probably get your attention.

The Shaggy Stalked Bolete has a very long, lacy stem. It almost looks like stretched out honeycomb. Mushroom experts describe it as a reticulated stipe.  The contrasting, small cap can range in color from orange to yellowish brown on top, and the pore surface underneath is yellow. The size of the cap seems distinctly out of proportion to the tall stem. Another feature to note: the cap may appear very shiny or sticky.

These boletes are mycorrhizal and can be found growing on the forest floor beneath hardwoods and pines.

See the gallery below for an array of pretty specimens.  Most of mushrooms in the gallery were photographed on Brush Mountain near Blacksburg in August.

Spring 2016 is here

My first post of the season!  Sorry I’m so late getting back… Let’s catch up!

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Bloodroot

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 2oth!  Not far behind were the pink flowers of Allegheny Spurge –a gorgeous wild ground cover that for me is a fond reminder of springtime in Mississippi forests.  By March 27th, some of my favorites, Twin Leaf and Dutchman’s Breeches, were in full flower too.  So much excitement, so early in the season! Even though I couldn’t get out to the local forests, I was able to snap some photos right here in my woods. See the gallery below if you need a reminder of what these little ephemerals look like.

Wild Ginger came up next, and then Virginia Bluebells; Heartleaf, Trillium and Solomon’s Seal poked their heads out too.  In early April, Skunk Cabbage was already past flowering and fully leafed out! Springtime was looking mighty fine!

But then- you guessed it- the cold came back last weekend.😦

Ugh!  The temperatures dropped into the 20’s, and there were several days of gusty winds, deep frost, and even an inch or two of snow! Talk about a demoralizing turn of events…this was going to be quite a set-back!

And it was.  Many new leaves, buds, and flowers were burned by the freeze.  Many will have to start over😦 . But if there’s one thing you can learn from observing nature, it is the power of resilience.  Just three days after all that bad weather, today I found new redwhite, and yellow trillium in bloom! Morels are even up.  It’s spring again!

So here’s to second chances, and to more wildflower adventures ahead!  I promise to get out more, and I will definitely post more often.  I hope you’ll be around to share my adventures in the months ahead (and vice versa).  Stay in touch!                               -Gloria

Click any photo to open the gallery.

 

 

American Wintergreen or Eastern Teaberry

Gaultheria procumbens

American Wintergreen fruit
American Wintergreen fruit

Pictured here is a little wildflower that has been sitting out in the cold all winter, holding fast to its tiny red berries.  As the plant’s common name implies, the round to elliptical, shiny leaves of American winterberry stay green all winter.  The cherry-red fruit persists as well.

Wintergreen is technically a low-growing shrub, although at 3 to 6 inches in height, that fact is easy to overlook. It spreads across the forest floor by rhizomes, and is common in hardwood and pine forests.

But let’s get down to the important part: can you eat these attractive little fruits? Sort of!  It turns out that the fruit, leaves, and branches of wintergreen impart a nice, mint flavor (think Teaberry gum) when casually chewed. They can also be boiled to make tea. However, eating the leaves outright is not advised.

At one time, the aromatic “oil of wintergreen” was derived from this plant and used to make flavorings and medicines. Teas made from wintergreen were often used for general pain relief– that’s because a key component of the plant is actually an aspirin-like compound.

Flowering time for wintergreen is summer.  The flowers are small, white, nodding, and resemble the flowers of other heaths, like blueberries. Click on any of the photos below for a closer view.

Seedbox

Ludwigia alternifolia

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The common name “Seedbox” refers to these unusual, cube-shaped seedpods

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, bright yellow flowers that are only a half inch in diameter and sprout from the leaf axils. Four prominent sepals are visible behind the circular petals, as you can see in the photo below.  Compare the size of this flower to the 2-inch yellow flowers of Sundrops, or Common Evening Primrose.

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Four rounded, yellow petals and four large sepals

The leaves of Seedbox are alternate, entire, narrowly lanceolate, and pointed. The plant is much-branched, and grows 3 to 4 feet in height. You’ll find it blooming summer through fall; it prefers damp habitat, like marshes, seeps, and other wet areas.

The plants in the gallery below were found growing at the base of Brush Mountain in August. The seedpods were photographed later in late November. Plants growing nearby included Cardinal Flower, Blue Lobelia, and Swamp Milkweed, all plants that prefer to keep their feet wet.

 

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 of long anthers.

Horse nettle has spiny stems and leaves and is therefore sometimes called “Tred-softly”.  The 3-5 inch leaves are alternately arranged and irregularly lobed and toothed. And because it bears yellow tomato-like fruits that are very poisonous,  it is sometimes called Devil’s Tomato.

You will typically find horse nettle growing in waste places or along fences rows in pastures and fields.  They reach 2-3 feet in height and can be found throughout the growing season in the South. The ripened fruit persists long after the leaves have faded and are a common site in winter fields.

Related plants include Bittersweet Nightshade and Ground Cherry.

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!

A very tall Shaggy Mane mushroom found growing along a trail in early November in Blacksburg.
A very tall Shaggy Mane mushroom found growing along a trail in early November in Blacksburg.

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 a gross description, but it’s true. Believe it or not, inky caps are edible (so they say) despite their obvious shortcomings.  However, they must be collected when the mushrooms are young and the gills are still white, which means you have very little time to find them.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat inky caps. I just heard you can because my husband constantly reminds me that you can. (I think this is something he learned in college 35 years ago.) He often encourages me to pick them and cook them up.

A long time ago I did succumb to his encouragement. It happened when I found an especially attractive group of Shaggies growing along a trail in Oregon. That’s them in the photos below–1st) growing in the ground and 2nd) steaming on a plate! To my recollection, they were just OK sautéed in butter…but really, I think they are just more novel than anything else. To tell you the truth, I think I was just so scared I was eating something poisonous that I probably forgot to enjoy them!

(BTW, I am required to tell you: “never eat wild mushrooms unless you consult an expert and know for sure what you are putting in your mouth”. Also, I am NOT a mushroom expert!)

Now, back to Shaggy Manes… These unique gilled-mushrooms often grow in close groups, although sometimes they grow alone. They are shaped like narrow cylinders when the first come up–sort of like a closed umbrella. They can be white or tannish in color. The exterior of the cap is flaky, or “shaggy”, and the underside of the cap bears white to pink gills on the first day.

As I said earlier, they grow very quickly and in no time at all, the closed umbrella begins to open into a bell-shape.  At this point, the mushroom will look more like the skirt of some messy prom dress (see above)–but noteworthy nonetheless.  If you turn the cap over, you will see that the white gills are now dark black.

It’s all downhill from there… the mushroom will begin to “deliquesce”, or auto-digest, into a thick black ooze.

Another name for this strange-looking mushroom–and one that is quite apt– is “lawyer’s wig”!  Look for it in the summer and fall, when it often grows in “fairy rings” (a big circle of mushrooms) on lawns and along the sides of roads where the soil has been disturbed.

Shaggy Mane mushrooms are saprobes, which means they Iive off of decaying organic matter. That’s a GOOD thing for all of us–they are nature’s recyclers!

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Young Shaggy Manes
Young Shaggy Manes
Shaggy Mane Mushrooms
Shaggy Mane Mushrooms

a natural history gallery of wildflowers and mushrooms

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