Jacob’s Ladder

  Polemonium  Jacob’s Ladder is a biblical reference to the story of Jacob, who dreamed of a ladder to heaven.  This plant’s leaves branch in an opposite fashion and appear like rungs on a ladder.  The small (1/2-inch) purple or bluish (lavender) flowers grow in clusters and have a bell-like shape with protruding stamens.  The…

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…

Virginia Waterleaf

Hydrophyllum virginianum You will find Virginia Waterleaf blooming in rich woods during late spring and the early summer months.  Right now in early May, the plants are up and the flower buds have formed. Notice the mottled or “water-stained” appearance of the 3 to 7-lobed leaves.  The leaves and stem are very succulent (or “watery”), not unlike…

Dwarf Crested Iris

Iris cristata The heavy spring rains will keep most of us huddled inside for now, but outside the plant world is singing–yes, singing in the rain. Tended by invisible hands, miniature gardens are bursting from the forest floor with color and promise.  Here’s just one example, Dwarf Crested Iris! As the name implies, Dwarf Crested…

Birdsfoot Violet

Viola pedata This violet gets its name from the cut-out shape of the leaf: it looks like a bird’s foot!  Something else remarkable about this pretty little plant is the broad, flat face of the flower (1-inch wide), which is somewhat reminiscent of a cultivated pansy. The petals are lilac-purple to blue-white, and sometimes the…

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…

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…

Gaywings

Fringed Polygala or Gaywings Polygala paucifolia At first glance, the color and texture of this flower call to mind an orchid.  The complicated structure, complete with wing-like sepals, resembles a flying bird or airplane.  Two petals are joined together to make a tube; a third, lower petal is fringed. The rosy pink or purple flowers…

Honesty

Money Plant or Honesty Lunaria annua A native of Europe, this biennial has spread across much of the United States because it seeds so easily. In it’s first year it is a small plant, but in the second year it grows to 3 feet in height before it flowers and goes to seed. Well established now…

Dames Rocket

Hesperis matronalis Dames rocket looks (and acts!) a lot like honesty: a tall, introduced, spring-blooming plant with four-petaled flowers in pinkish purple or white. However, the leaves of damesrocket are elongated and lance-shaped,with a slightly toothed edge. The seedpod is also very long and thin, not round like money plant. It blooms in mid-May, while…

Wild Blue Phlox

Phlox divaricata My wooded yard is full of this tall, lovely wildflower!  Although it is called blue phlox, the flowers sometimes appear pink or purple. Look closely and you will see that the outer edge of the flower petal is notched outward.  The stem of this plant is hairy and slightly sticky; the leaves at…

Red Trillium

Red Trillium, Red Wakerobin, Southern Red Trillium Trillium erectum  Another Virginia native, red trillium is a springtime perennial that can be found in flower from April until June.  Luckily for us, the individual scarlet flowers can persist for up to a full month. All the trilliums arise from an underground rhizome and have triangular-shaped leaves…

Virginia Bluebells

Mertensia virginica Virginia bluebells are also called Virginia cowslip, or Roanoke bells.  I first spotted them here in Blacksburg in a friend’s yard, but soon learned that this native wildflower grows extensively along the banks of streams and rivers in this part of Virginia, making it a riparian species.  Last year I saw them growing…

Gill-Over-The-Ground vs. Purple Dead Nettle

Glechoma hederacea I’m going to take a break from weeding my garden to recognize two very fast-spreading members of the mint family (Laminaceae).  The first one gets the Award for being “Most Insufferable”. Gill-over-the-ground (AKA Ground Ivy or Creeping Charlie) is a low-growing mint with a creeping habit. Like many garden weeds, it tolerates the…

Hepatica

Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) Three-lobed leaves that resemble the human liver! Hepatica! Liver leaf!  On the east coast, you may find this early-blooming spring wildflower in the sharp-leaved or round-leaved form.  And just to make it more complicated, they sometimes hybridize! Here is a description of hepatica from Wikipedia: “Bisexual flowers with pink, purple, blue, or…