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…

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…

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…

Gaura

Gaura biennis If you are still hunting for summer beauty, look no further. Biennial Gaura is a dainty showstopper that has been blooming for months and could continue until frost. This tall, native plant can reach 4 to 6 feet in height. The stem is hairy and the leaves are alternate and lance-shaped, slightly toothed…

Perennial Sweet Pea

Lathyrus latifoliés Everlasting Pea, Perennial Sweet Pea You’ve seen this plant before! In sunny spaces, both in back yards and open fields, Perennial Sweet Pea, or Everlasting Pea, is a staple of summer. You can’t deny its gorgeous allure…sometimes pink, sometimes white, and sometimes so dark in color that it looks magenta, this member of…

Cranefly Orchid or Crippled Cranefly

Tipularia discolor Updated August, 2017. It is August, and there is a mysterious orchid blooming in the woods right now. It is tall and delicate, oddly conspicuous, yet almost invisible to the eye. It is called the Crane-fly Orchid. Like Putty-root Orchid, the crane-fly orchid has a 2-part life cycle. In the fall (October), the…

August Fields and Roadsides

Now is a great time to go outside for a walk and learn a bunch of new wildflowers– all at one time!  The fields and roadsides are ablaze with tall, colorful, conspicuous wildflowers. You will not have to hunt for them–many of these species grow 3 to 7 feet tall! Yellow flowers are dominating the…

Teasel

Dipsacus As summer takes a curtain call, new blooming flowers are harder to come by.  But in drying fields and along fencerows and roadsides, the tall, spiny remnants of teasel delight the eye.  Earlier in the summer, teasel produces inconspicuous white, pink or purple flowers on an oval cone of spines.  The visually interesting flower…

American Germander

Teucrium canadense Often observed in large, showy colonies, American Germander is a tall perennial (2-3 ft) in the mint family that blooms in mid-summer. Like all mints, it has a 4-sided stem. The leaves have strong venation and are opposite, ovate to lanceolate, and serrated. The large leaves can grow 2-5 inches in length. The…

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…

Three Birds Orchid or Nodding Pogonia

Originally posted on VIRGINIA WILDFLOWERS:
Triphora trianthophora Flowering colony of Three Birds Orchid Last summer, in the month of August, I discovered the diminutive Three Birds Orchid on a mulched path in my neighbor’s garden. I went straight home to look it up in my field guide, since I never encountered it before. The common…

Three Birds Orchid or Nodding Pogonia

Triphora trianthophora Last summer, in the month of August, I discovered the diminutive Three Birds Orchid on a mulched path in my neighbor’s garden. I went straight home to look it up in my field guide, since I never encountered it before. The common name, Three Birds Orchid, is intriguing. Apparently the orchid often bears…

Wild Basil

Clinopodium vulgare or Satureja vulgaris Wild basil is a hairy mint with pointed oval leaves and clusters of pink to purple flowers.  The clusters are stacked on an erect, 4-sided stem that is distinctly wooly.  Morning dew will delight your eye as it glistens on the dried clusters long after the flowers fade. See the gallery…

Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorium or Eutrochium Here’s a tall native wildflower that has large, serrated, whorled leaves and masses of rose pink blooms in late summer.  Joe Pye weed grows 4 to 7 feet in height and enjoys life in all sorts of damp places in southwest Virginia. Believe it or not, Joe Pye weed is a composite…

Steeplebush or Hardhack

Spiraea tomentosa I think we are all familiar with spirea as a landscape ornamental. Familiar cultivars with names like Bridal Wreath, Gold Flame, Little Princess, and Neon Flash grace gardens across the South. Most of these have flat or rounded clusters of pink or white flowers in early summertime. Contrast this flower arrangement with Steeplebush….

Knapweed

Centaurea Imagine a genus with 500+ species in it… Then imagine how intimidating it is to name a flower in this group to species! So in the interest of avoiding an error, I’ll stop at the genus level on this one. The folks at Wikipedia report that all the members of the genus Centaurea share…

Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea When you see the word Echinacea, you probably think “cold remedy”.  Of all the native plants that have made their way from the field to the medicine cabinet, this one is probably one of the most famous. The roots and leaves of Purple Coneflower, whose genus name is Echinacea, have long been used to treat…

Square-stemmed Monkey-flower

Mimulus ringens Monkey flower is a tall native wildflower that is fond of wet places.  Like all members of the snapdragon group, monkeyflower has 2 lips that surround an open “mouth”.  The upper lip has 2 frilly lobes and the lower lip has 3 lobes.  If you squeeze the two lips together you can make…

Soapwort or Bouncing Bet

Saponaria officianalis Early settlers brought seeds of soapwort to the U.S. from Europe.  It was actively cultivated in gardens.  An extract made from the juice of the plant was used to create suds when washing clothes–hence the name soapwort.  The plant was also called “Bouncing Bet”, after the old-timey name for a wash woman. From…

Swamp Milkweed or Silkplant

Asclepias incarnata Pretty enough for any garden, the deep pink blossoms of this summer milkweed beg you to stop and smell the flowers! Dozens of individual blooms are borne on stout umbels at the top of a 2-5 ft. tall plant. Look closely to see the five, up-turned petals on each flower. Sweet! The leaves (see photo below) are opposite,…

Bee Balm and Wild Bergamot

Monarda There are many species of Monarda, but all have the following things in common: the plants have square stems; the leaves are simple, serrated, opposite, and have petioles; there is a distinct smell of mint when the leaves are crushed; the large flowers arise from a whorl, and sometimes the whorls are stacked up…

Common Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca Milkweed is an interesting plant on a variety of levels. Most of us already know that monarch butterfly larvae feed exclusively on milkweed leaves, which renders the caterpillars and butterflies toxic to predators. And most of us know that the plant’s name is derived from the fact that it produces a milky-white, sticky…

Large Purple Fringed Orchid

Platanthera grandiflora Ooo-la-la!! Look what I found! While searching for something else, I practically stumbled on this little pink firebomb up in the woods at Mountain Lake. On first glance, I thought it was “just Phlox”, which started to bloom in the woods near Blacksburg recently. Then I took a couple steps closer and nearly…

Prince’s Pine or Pipsisewa

Prince’s Pine, Pipsisewa, Wintergreen, or Waxflower Chimaphila umbellate This is a very attractive native perennial that can be found in dry, mountain woodlands growing along side other kinds of wintergreen (like Striped Wintergreen , Round-leaved Pyrola, or American Wintergreen). Prince’s Pine has shiny-green, leathery, whorled leaves that are toothed. The pink to white flowers are waxy-looking…

Deptford Pink

Dianthus armeria Demure and understated, discovering this bright little flower blooming among the grasses makes me dream of going to Deptford!  Don’t you think it must be beautiful there? Although it is indeed introduced from Europe, and probably even England, it is not really from the town of Deptford. The flower was wrongly identified when…

Striped Wintergreen or Pipsissewa

Chimaphila maculata Such a dainty, intriguing flower! I’ve been stalking it for a month now, waiting for it to come into bloom. Finally! Here it is in June at Pandapas Pond, near Blacksburg. This perennial evergreen herb is another forest floor inhabitant that could easily go unnoticed due to its size.  In flower it is…

Bladder Campion

Silene vulgaris Here’s a very tall, perennial plant that is new to me! Look at those balloon-like flowers!  They occur in clusters of up to 30 flowers at the top of a single flowering stalk. The 1-inch flowers have 5 white petals, but each petal is split to look like two. The sepals behind the…

Motherwort

Leonurus cardiaca Here’s a very tall, sturdy member of the mint family–Motherwort! Note the reddish, square stems covered in fine hair, and the variety of leaf shapes from the bottom of the plant (5 lobes) to the top of the plant (2-3 lobes). All the leaves are opposite and the venation is strongly defined. The tubular, pinkish flowers occur in whorls…

Eastern Smooth Beardtongue

Penstemon laevigatas Jason Turman pointed out this mass of beardtongue flowers growing along a roadside at Primland. The purple-pink blossoms were buzzing with bumblebees at the end of May. Just like the foxglove beardtongue featured in the previous post, this plant grows 3-5 ft. in height and prefers sunny or partial sunny locations. It too has…

Violet Wood Sorrel

Oxalis violacea Also known as “wild shamrocks”, this little native plant has both pretty flowers AND pretty leaves! Ranging in height from 4 to 8 inches, Violet Wood Sorrel is what you might call a “stemless” plant. That’s because each leaf emerges directly from the ground on a long petiole (there is no stem). The…

Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia Run, don’t walk! Put on your hiking shoes and head up any Appalachian mountain trail (right now!) in May and June and you will  be rewarded with gorgeous Mountain Laurel blooms. This evergreen shrub can put on a spectacular display, since it varies in height from 3 to 15 feet and forms thick…

Pink Lady’s Slipper

or Moccasin Flower Cypripedium acaule One of the showiest orchids in our local forest, the pink lady’s slipper appears between May and July. Before it flowers, you may notice the leaves lying quietly on the forest floor: there are usually just two of them, and strong parallel veins are evident on the oval leaves. When the…

Smooth Phlox

Phlox glabberrima Here’s a showy “hot pink” wildflower that is coming into bloom in May. In contrast to other phlox species, the stem of Smooth Phlox is not hairy, hence the name “smooth”.  It’s leaves are opposite and lanceolate (long and narrow), without prominent veins. Smooth phlox flowers are deep pink and they are about a half to…

Mountain Phlox

Phlox latifolia Big flowers on a little stem!  I literally stumbled on this low-growing phlox as I walked along the banks of Big Stoney Creek at Glen Alton in mid-May. The area would best be described as “open” woodlands. Unlike many of the other phlox species in our area, mountain phlox blooms early (mid-May to…

Addison’s Leatherflower

Clematis addisonii Addison’s Leatherflower 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 plant but…

Philadelphia Fleabane or Common Fleabane

Philadelphia fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus This aster-like flower is a composite: the flower you observe is really a “composite” of many smaller flowers.  The genus, Erigeron, includes scores of species, but I’ll take a chance and say that the one pictured here is Philadelphia fleabane, because of the way the leaves are wrapped around the hairy…

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…

Showy Orchis

Galearis spectabilis is the Showy Orchis! This orchid miraculously appears on the forest floor in April and May in Virginia.  It likes limey soils like we have here in Montgomery County, and it is often found on the edges of swampy terrain.  This week it is coming up on the hillside at my house and near the…

Shooting Stars

Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Stars! What a great name! This spring-blooming, perennial plant has a basal rosette of oblong leaves, each about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. In late April and early May, a stalk (or inflorescence) comes up from the center of the rosette and unfurls into a half-dozen or more white or…

Trailing Arbutus

Epigaea repens Trailing arbutus is a native, evergreen, creeping plant that grows on rocky slopes.  I frequently see it growing on the eroded banks of roads and trails as I am out walking in the forest.  This time of year, you might find it with your nose first–it has a sweet fragrance that permeates the…