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…

Pinesap

Montropa hypopithys Popping up from below the forest leaf litter–look at this: is it a plant? A kind of fungus? If you are familiar with Indian Pipe, you might guess that these two organisms are related, and you’d be right. Pinesap, like Indian Pipe, is a non-photosynthetic flowering plant that gets its energy from organic matter…

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…

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…

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis It’s showtime—and this late-summer bloomer is as showy a flower as they come! Cardinal flower, a native perennial, produces bright red flowers on tall, unbranched stems. The flowers are produced on a raceme, which opens from the bottom first. Each individual flower is bright red and tubular, with 5 deep lobes that are…

Canada Lily

Lilium canadense It’s showtime! Here’s an exotic-looking Virginia native that is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae). Canada Lily grows in moist woods and along wood margins. Reaching 2-5 feet tall, the erect plant has an unbranched stem with whorls of 3-8 elongated leaves; the leaf edges are smooth (not toothed). The nodding flowers…

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…

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…

Climbing Milkweed

Matelea decipiens Here is an unusual milkweed! Climbing milkweed is a native, hairy vine with opposite, heart-shaped leaves. The leaf margins are smooth (or entire). Clusters of small, five-petalled, reddish-brown flowers appear in late spring (May). Later in the summer a long seedpod will replace the flowers.  The seedpod and seeds look similar to those…

Flame Azalea

Rhododendron calendulaceum Not to be outdone by Mountain Laurel (which is also blooming now in mid-May in the Appalachians from Pennsylvania to Georgia) is the wild and magnificent Flame Azalea! This tall shrub sets the spring woods on fire, and that’s a fact! Wild azaleas don’t grow like the compact shrubs we are all used to…

Fire Pink

Silene virginica is Fire Pink Hot stuff! Five long, radiant, red petals adorn this flower. Each petal has a cute little notch at the end. The petals lead down to a long tube that holds the pistil and stamens. Given the tube-like shape of the flower, fire pink requires a pollinator with a long tongue or…

Wood Betony

Canadian Lousewort or Wood Betony Pedicularis Canadensis Wood Betony is a native wildflower that often grows in large colonies. These photographs were taken at Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia, in early-May. Large drifts of wood betony could be found growing in the woods behind the hotel there. Some of the yellow flowers were photographed…

Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja coccinea or Indian Scarlet Paintbrush  The color of this flower makes it a showstopper, and as you can imagine, hummingbirds love it. According to the “Easy Wildflowers” website, “The inconspicuous flowers bloom within a dense cluster of beautiful leafy bracts that are brilliant shades of orange, red, or sometimes yellow. Wild Indian Paintbrush flowers…

Eastern Red Columbine

or Wild Columbine Aquilegia canadensis This beautiful red and yellow flower grows in thin soil on rock ledges and along rocky slopes in woods, ravines and bluffs.  The dainty flowers dangle from delicate stems, rocking constantly in the breeze. You can find columbine growing from April to July in Virginia.  The elaborate flowers are only…

Little Heartleaf

 Hexastylis minor (or H. heterophylla?) Fair warning: I may have two different species listed on this page–I’m not sure of the ID.  Drop me a note if you know for sure. This species of ginger has heart-shaped leaves that are smooth, waxy, and evergreen; they are often mottled with white. The leaves appear singly, or…

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) You will find wild ginger, or Canadian ginger, growing in deciduous forests throughout the east coast, including Appalachia, but don’t bother looking for it in winter. Ginger is a deciduous, herbaceous plant (leaves disappear in fall). Ginger colonies form in the springtime from branching rhizomes that form just below the soil…

Red Trillium

Red Trillium, Red Wakerobin, and/or Southern Red Trillium Trillium erectum and Trillium sulcatum 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…

Skunk Cabbage

Symplocarpus foetidus Early March. The snow is just melting off and the first warm rays of spring have begun. Step outside, and most of the plant world is still asleep.  The leaves on the ground are heavy and soggy, and beneath them the ground is still very cold. This is the time for early-evening woodcock…