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…

Bur Cucumber

Sicyos angulatus This fuzzy, climbing annual will grow in shady, moist areas. It can put out runners that extend up to 25 feet across the ground. Often, it climbs over shrubs and small trees using thin tendrils to anchor it to branches as it ascends.  The growth habit is much like a grape vine. At…

Green Adder’s Mouth Orchid

Malaxis unifolia or Microstylis unifolia Here’s a small member of the orchid family that is widely distributed across the eastern and central United States, yet is uncommon to find. Its small size combined with its overall green color make it difficult to see even when it is present in an area. As the species name…

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,…

Ragged Fringed Orchid

Platanthera lacera Here’s a lovely native orchid blooming now, in mid-June. I found this one growing in a hay field at Heritage Park in Blacksburg. It is fairly common on the east coast, although this is my first time ever seeing it. I was pretty excited to find it 🙂 ! Two common names for…

Fly Poison

Stagger Grass, Crow Poison, or Fly Poison Amianthium muscaetoxicum Look here– a lovely flower with a poisonous punch! Fly Poison is blooming right now in the higher elevations at Mountain Lake, in Giles County.  This plant contains neurotoxins that are deadly enough to kill livestock. All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the bulb. …

Indian Cucumber Root

Medeola virginiana This native plant is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae). It grows in open, moist woods, often in groups. Five to nine simple leaves are gracefully whorled around a single stem. Plants that are going to flower this year put out a second tier of 3 to 5 leaves, bringing the overall…

Green Violet

Hybanthus concolor Can a plant that is almost 3 feet tall really be a violet?  It turns out it can, based on some of the technical features of the flower. Unlike the violets that you are already familiar with, this member of Violaceae has tiny green flowers, hairy stems, and alternate, elliptical leaves that can grow up…

Jack in the Pulpit

Arisaema triphyllum What’s not to love about this native wildflower? It is exotic–practically sexy with all its twists and curves. Take a look at the photo gallery to see how variable in size and color the flowers of Jack in the Pulpit can be.  One thing they all have in common though, is the little…

Solomon’s Seal

Polygonatum biflorum This handsome woodland plant grows upright as an unbranched stalk of alternating, oval leaves. The leaf edges are smooth. The plant has a look-alike, false solomon’s seal, but the two are easy to tell apart if the plants are in bloom. The flowers of solomon’s seal are born underneath the leaves, as seen in…

Fairybells or Yellow Mandarin

Fairybells or Yellow Mandarin Disporum lanuginosum 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;…

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…