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…

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…

Welcome to Virginia Wildflowers!

Virginia Wildflowers is a natural history photo gallery and casual field guide to wildflowers and mushrooms. Most of the images you’ll find here were taken in the mountainous region of southwestern Virginia, an area rich in biodiversity. For this website, I use a digital camera to capture close-ups of the identifying features of each species: usually…

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,…

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…

Black-eyed Susans

Rudbeckia hirta I think we all remember these pretty wildflowers from our childhood. They are so common, yet… So darn confusing!  There are more than 20 species in the genus Rudbeckia, plus many cultivars and varieties. More than one species shares the common name “black-eyed susan”. Rudbeckia hirta is both a native wildflower and a frequently planted…

Maximilian’s Sunflower

Helianthus maximiliani Here’s a tall and cheerful late-summer perennial that’s not only beautiful, but also a great source of food for wildlife. We generally expect sunflowers to be tall, and this one is no exception.  It can grow 3 to 10 feet in height (making it particularly hard to photograph!) The leaves and stem of Max’s Sunflower are distinctive. The…

Nodding Ladies’ Tresses

Spiranthes cernua Twist and shout!  Luckily the bright white of these tiny orchids help them to stand out in the grass and weeds, otherwise they would be easy to miss in September meadows.  They stand only 4 to 12 inches in height. Nodding Ladies’ Tresses orchids bear their tiny flowers in a “double, intertwined” spiraling fashion…

Virginia Marsh St. Johnswort

Triadenum virginicum  September arrived in Blacksburg this week on the heels of cold front. Suddenly the evening temperatures dropped into the 50’s and the breezy, pleasant afternoons called for long sleeves. Roll that weather forecast into a long, Labor Day weekend, and needless to say, we had to get out for a few hikes in…