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…

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…

Balsam Mountain Gentian

Gentiana sp. The last days of August… Today, I was pleasantly surprised to find this tall species of Gentian growing in the meadows of Grayson Highland State Park. At first I thought it was Bottle Gentian, but the bright green color of the leaves, the large size of the flowers, and the high elevation locale led…

Stiff Gentian

Gentianella quinquefolia Just when I thought that the growing season had advanced to the point where no new flowers would come my way, surprise–here comes Stiff Gentian!  Members of the Gentian family offer great late-season color, especially in the realm of blues, purples, and violets. Stiff gentian differs in a few significant ways from the other gentian species found…

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…

Great Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica It is a late summer treat to see great blue lobelia in full bloom, often alongside the fabulously red cardinal flower. Sometimes called “blue cardinal flower”, great blue lobelia resembles red cardinal flower, (Lobelia cardinalis), in stature, habitat, and structure. Both of these plants are tall wetland species with colorful flowers borne on terminal racemes. Their…

Thistle

Circium sp. Thistle.  Is it a beautiful purple wildflower that generously produces nectar for butterflies and seeds for small birds like the American Goldfinch? Or, is it a treacherous weed of fields and pastures that is a scourge for farmers everywhere?  Can I paint a fair portrait? It is both.  This prickly plant bears plump flower heads on tall stems, in…

Ironweed

Veronia  This very tall, late-summer flower is ubiquitous in our part of VIrginia.  The small, deep purple flowers begin to bloom in fields and along roadsides in August. The spectacular show of color continues through fall. Ironweed is a perennial wildflower, and a member of the Aster family. The leaves of the plant are elliptic to…

Purple-flowering Raspberry

Rubus odoratus On an August hike to Wind Rock in the Jefferson National Forest, I found an odd shrub with very large, maple-shaped leaves and bold, reddish-purple flowers. The stems of this plant were reddish-brown and covered with fine hairs. Although the plant lacked real thorns, the sticky hairs on the stem definitely called to…

Jimsonweed

Datura stamonium Jimsonweed is also called purple thorn apple.  One look at the purple stems and prickly fruit of this plant will tell you why. You’ll find it flowering in August and September, but your timing will have to be right. Generally, Jimsonweed flowers open at night and last only one day. Sometimes you can catch…

Spotted Coralroot

Corrallorhiza maculata It’s early August, and the community of plants and fungi on the forest floor is changing once again. The dense cover of spring’s herbaceous growth is now withering, leaving open spaces that reveal late-season treasures. Recent rains have fed a new crop of colorful mushrooms, and with them, here and there, a few…

Blazing Star or Gayfeathers

Liatris spicata Liatris is a tall perennial that is native to Virginia and prefers moist  ground. You will find it in low meadows  and along the edges of ponds and wetlands. It can grow  4′ to 6′ in height, so it is hard to miss when it is in bloom! Believe it or not, this plant is an aster, but it only…

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…

Hoary Mountain Mint

Pycnanthemum incanum Here’s another native mint from the Lamiaceae family.  Like all the mints, this plant has 4-angled or square stems , opposite, elliptical leaves, and a pronounced mint fragrance.  Hoary mountain mint has white leaves at the top of the plant where the flowers arise.  The white to purple flowers are 2-lipped, with the…

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…

Bittersweet Nightshade

Solanum dulcamara You might recognize the flower of this plant because it resembles lots of plants that you are already familiar with: tomato, eggplant, potatoes, ground cherry, jimsonweed, and horse nettle to name a few. These plants are all in the same family, Solanaceae, which is also known as the nightshade family. There are more…

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…

Blue Mist Flower or Wild Ageratum

Conoclinium coelestinum Until today, I always thought of ageratum as a low-growing garden annual that you could buy readily in any garden center– but I never knew it was also a native wildflower! I recently found a colony of these plants growing along the side of a shallow pond in Blacksburg, VA. The plants were…

Heal-All or Self-Heal

Prunella vulgaris As the name would suggest, heal-all has been used to treat all kinds of maladies in the past. Traditionally,  the shape of a plant was often used to discern its medicinal uses, and so the shape of this flower, with its open mouth exposing the throat, led to it being used as a…

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…

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…

Nodding Thistle or Musk Thistle

Carduus nutans As my previous post about thistles noted: “there are many species of thistles, including the locally common Bull thistle, Canada thistle, Plumeless thistle, Musk thistle, and Field thistle. Some are native and some are introduced. You can find thistles blooming throughout the summer and they are are never hard to find! Just ask any pollinator!” This…

Lily-leaved Twayblade

Purple Twayblade, Lily-leaved Twayblade, Large Twayblade, or Brown Widelip Orchid Liparis liliifolia This inconspicuous, native orchid blooms in May and June. Each plant grows from a new underground corm; the previous year’s corm withers away.  Two oval, waxy leaves emerge in April and eventually reach 4 to 6 inches in height. The small flowers begin to…

Skullcap

  Scuttelaria Skullcap is a native perennial wildflower.  The genus, Scuttelaria, is huge; there are 300 species worldwide. Ninety-plus species occur in North America alone. The flower get its name from the shape of the calyx (the group of sepals) at the base of the flower, which looks like a little helmet (or “skull cap”)….

Viper’s Bugloss

Blueweed, Blue Devil, or Viper’s Bugloss Echium vulgare Viper’s Bugloss is a biennial that produces brilliantly blue flowers with long red stamens in June. The funnel-shaped flowers start out pink, but then later turn dark blue. The oblong leaves grow up to 6 inches long, are dotted with small white dimples and covered with tiny white…

Spiderwort

Tradescantia  Found in almost all counties of Virginia, spiderwort is both a native wildflower and a commonly cultivated garden plant. The plants can grow up to about two feet tall. Sometimes you will find them growing singly, but most often they occur in large clumps that look like tall, wild grass. The flowers bloom at…

Showy Skullcap

Scutellaria serrata This is one of my favorite wildflowers! The dainty flowers are two shades of purple and they are held high above the simple and attractive foliage. The morphology of the flower is interesting at each stage of development–from new buds to maturity. Just take a look at some of the photos below… Skullcaps are in…

Venus’ Looking Glass

Triodanis perfoliata Venus’s Looking Glass is a smallish annual that you might find growing in dry woods and open fields during the summer months. The deep violet blue color of the flower will catch your eye, even though the plant is short (10-20 inches high) and the leaves and flowers are very small. At first glance, this appears…

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…

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…

Lyre-leaved Sage

Wild Sage or Lyre-leaved Sage Salvia lyrata Lyre-leaved sage is another member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). In full bloom, the height of the plant is 1-2 feet. The stalk of flowers arises from a basal rosette of deeply (pinnately) lobed leaves. The tube-shaped flowers are blue to purple and about an inch long. The flowers…

Purple Phacelia

Phacelia bipinnatifida Purple phacelia is a native, biennial wildflower that blooms in spring and bears clusters of lavender-blue flowers. At a distance, the flowers resemble wild geranium—delicate, cup-shaped flowers dangling loosely from the top of a 1-2 ft. plant. But in this case, the flower color is more purple than pink—more like the flower color…

Dwarf Larkspur

Delphinium tricorne Sometimes in blue, sometimes in white, and sometimes in both blue and white, dwarf larkspur can be found blooming right now in local woodlands. This plant is among the showiest of the spring wildflowers, and it is a great reason to schedule some time outdoors soon. Before dwarf larkspur comes into bloom, the first cluster of basal leaves are…

Virginia Heartleaf

Hexastylis virginica This is another form of heartleaf ginger.  The plants pictured on this page are sporting new spring leaves: glossy and dark green.  Later they can become frosted with white. The leaves are 2 to 3 inches wide and up to 6 inches tall, and as the name implies, they are heart-shaped.  Unlike other heartleafs,…

Marsh Blue Violets

Viola cucullata Marsh blue violet is a woodland violet with blue flowers that prefers moist places. The heart-shaped leaves grow from the base of the plant (no stem!) on long stalks.  The beautiful blue flowers are held above the leaves on even longer stalks.  The full height of the plant is between 5 and 10…