Fairybells or Yellow Mandarin
Here’s a new species for me: Fairybells! The nodding, yellowish-green flowers of this woodland understory plant are easy to miss, and perhaps that’s why I’ve never noticed it before. The plant itself looks a bit like false solomon’s seal, except that the stem is branched. The stems are pubescent (see photos) and purplish; the elliptical leaves are alternate, sessile, and entire. The leaves are ribbed with strong parallel veination (see photo at right).
The pendant flowers of this plant hang from the tips of the upper branches in sets of 2 or 3, but they are usually hidden from view because they drape beneath the leaves. They are about an inch across and appear to be comprised of 6 narrow petals that are pointed and reflexed like a lily (Family Liliaceae). Technically, the flowers are really composed of three sepals and three petals, but the structures look the same. Overall, the shape of the flower resembles a bell–hence the common name fairybell. Later in the summer, the flowers are replaced by orange-red berries, which quickly become food for wildlife. See photos in the gallery below.
The first time I saw this plant, it was growing on a moist hillside at Primland resort, near Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Growing nearby was white trillium, meadow rue, and a few morels. I later saw it growing along the banks of Big Stoney Creek in Giles County, and then at Mill Creek Nature Conservancy in the Ellett Valley. My latest find, and the one where it appeared to be growing in the greatest numbers, was at Wildwood Park in Radford. The plants were growing along the stream there, beside blue cohosh, bellwort, delphinium, and Jack in the Pulpit.
Bloomtime for Yellow mandarin is April and May. Get out there now and see it! 🙂