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…

Blue Vervain

Verbena hastata No need to bend over to see this tall beauty!  Blue vervain grows 2 to 5 feet tall! I found these plants growing on the banks of Pandapas Pond in June and July in Montgomery County, Virginia. The 5-petaled, violet-blue flowers of blue vervain are borne on unique branching spikes. The flowers on…

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…

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…

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 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…

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…

Great-spurred Violet

Viola rostrata In general, I think violets are hard to identify with real certainty, but thankfully this one has a few distinctive characteristics, starting with an extremely long “spur” on the back of the flower. There are also “toothed stipules”, or very small serrated leaflets in the space where the leaf meets the stem (see photo). And while some…