Spring 2016 is here

It was a deliciously early spring here in southwest Virginia.  At my house, where I have a small woodland surrounding my home, I had Hepatica and Bloodroot flowers blooming on March 17th!  That’s early! Trout Lilies were open in all their yellow splendor by March 20th!  Not far behind were the pink flowers of Allegheny Spurge –a gorgeous…

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…

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…

Sweet Everlasting

Now here’s a great name for a flower if I ever did hear one.  Sweet Everlasting! What a perfect name! Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium The flowers of Sweet Everlasting are a bit odd because they are dry to the touch, even when new.  That’s because the tiny flowers are wrapped in layers of dry, white bracts. Deep inside…

Nodding Ladies’ Tresses

Spiranthes cernua Twist and shout!  Luckily the bright white of these tiny orchids help them to stand out in the grass and weeds, otherwise they would be easy to miss in September meadows.  They stand only 4 to 12 inches in height. Nodding Ladies’ Tresses orchids bear their tiny flowers in a “double, intertwined” spiraling fashion…

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…

Kidneyleaf Grass-of-Parnassus

Parnassia asarifolia A friend led me to a sphagnum bog in the mountains near Glen Alton, and that’s where we found a beautiful white wildflower in bloom:  the Grass of Parnassus!  Surrounding this plant was an immense diversity of other moisture-loving plants including sphagnum moss, sundews, cotton grass, horsetails, shining clubmoss, and alder. First of…

Whorled Wood Aster

Aster acuminatus Here at the end of the summer you won’t find that many plants in full bloom in the forest, but here is one beauty you can look for now.  Found in wet or dry woods, the Whorled Wood Aster is a perennial that grows 1 to 3 feet tall, and blooms in late summer and fall….

Carolina Elephant’s Foot

Carolina Elephant’s Foot or Leafy Elephantfoot Elephantopus carolinianus Take a look at this late summer/early fall wildflower. It is a very unusual aster! Notice how each stem is terminated by three leafy bracts and a cluster of tiny blossoms? From a distance, it looks like each cluster is one circle of tiny white or lavender ray flowers, but…

Cowbane

Members of the carrot (or parsley) family include plants we often use as spices or as vegetables.  Most have umbel-shaped flowers (think umbrella!) that are quite fascinating structurally. You are probably familiar with Queen Anne’s Lace, or dill as common examples of plants with umbel-shaped inflorescences. Here is another member of the Carrot Family that…

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…

Poke Milkweed

Asclepias exaltata There are several species of milkweed in our area; the flowers might be pink, red, orange, green or white. Pictured above is a white species called poke milkweed or tall milkweed. It grows 3 to 6 feet in height and bears large, smooth leaves that are opposite and broadly elliptic in shape. When the…

White Snakeroot

Ageratina altissima (Eupatorium rugosum) White Snakeroot is a poisonous plant that is native to North America. The plants are tall and can grow 3-4 ft. in height.  Snakeroot’s white flowers are born at the top of the plant in loose clusters that might remind you of boneset or a white ageratum. The substantial leaves of…

Boneset

Eupatorium perfoliatum Common boneset is a perennial native that can be found growing locally in wet or damp areas. There are about 20 other white wildflowers that resemble boneset, but this plant is relatively easy to tell apart from the other look-alikes. Notice how the base of the leaves appear to wrap around the stem.  It…

Starry Campion

Silene stellata While on an August hike to Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory in West Virginia, I discovered this inconspicuous, and somewhat frail plant growing in the dry, rocky woodlands near the top of the mountain. I later saw the same plant in bloom in a similar habiat, at Wind Rock, near Mountain Lake. This is…

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…

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…

Slender Ladies’ Tresses

Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis Last summer I reported on Nodding Ladies’ Tresses, which I found growing in bog-like conditions near Glen Alton. Today I found a similar plant growing in a grassy, well-drained field right here in Blacksburg. This one is Green-Lipped Ladies’ Tresses, or Slender Ladies’ Tresses.  As the first part of the name…

Flowering Spurge

Euphorbia corollata Look at these dainty white flowers suspended in a loose cluster like Baby’s Breath!  What looks like a 5-petalled flower is actually not–the white structures you see are really bracts. There are super-tiny flowers cradled within these bracts that are nearly impossible to see! You might first recognize the leaves of flowering spurge…

Virgin’s Bower

Clematis virginiana Look up!  That white-flowering, climbing vine that is now covering young trees and shrubs along pathways in Blacksburg is absolutely stunning– and its name is Virgin’s Bower! Perhaps not surprisingly, this pretty native is a kind of Clematis. The 4-petalled flowers are about 1-inch wide and sweetly fragrant. Pollinators, including butterflies, bees of…

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…

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Goodyear pubescens   I love the leaves of this little native orchid.  Look at that symphony of color and design! The silver markings on the dark blue-green leaves, along with the bold stripe in the center of the leaf make it easy to identify as rattlesnake plantain. The “plantain” part of this plant’s name comes…

American Wintergreen or Eastern Teaberry

Gaultheria procumbens Pictured here is a little wildflower that has been sitting out in the cold all winter, holding fast to its tiny red berries.  As the plant’s common name implies, the round to elliptical, shiny leaves of American winterberry stay green all winter.  The cherry-red fruit persists as well. Wintergreen is technically a low-growing shrub,…

Small Green Woodland Orchid

Platanthera clavellata A few weeks ago, while looking for mushrooms, I spotted a small colony of orchids growing along the moist banks of a woodland creek near Pandapas Pond in Montgomery County. I immediately got pretty excited, mainly because I didn’t know what kind of orchids they were! It is sad to say, but this…

American Poke

Phytolacca americana Also known as Virginia poke, American nightshade, pokeweed, and pokeberry, among other names, this native perennial is a towering beauty in fallow fields. American poke grows very tall (6-12 ft!) and typically inhabits waste areas and edge habitat. The leaves of American poke are simple, alternate, lanceolate, entire, and very large (up to…

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…

Basil Bee Balm

Monarda clinopdia This tall, native mint can be found right now, in July, growing in fields and along roadsides. The tubular-shaped flowers are massed in a compact head at the top of the plant; each flower is white with red flecks.  The leaves are simple, opposite, and gently toothed. Like all the bee balms, the fragrant flowers are frequented…

Black Cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa If you have ever walked down the supplement aisle in a health food store, you’ve probably heard of Black Cohosh.  The plant has long been harvested from the Appalachian Mountains for medicinal use, and even today the roots are still collected and sold for cash to the supplement industry.  The primary use of teas, pills,…

Queen Anne’s Lace

Daucus carota Here she is in all her loveliness– Queen Anne’s Lace, named after Queen Anne of England, who was an expert lacemaker! This umbrella-shaped flower is made up of many tiny white flowers; together they form the “lacy” pattern characteristic of the wildflower’s inflorescence. Below the umbel of flowers is a spray of finely…

Daisy Fleabane or Annual Fleabane

Erigeron annuus Considering it is late June, we had an unusually cool and cloudy day today. I took advantage of the weather and enjoyed an afternoon walk at Heritage Park in Blacksburg. This park is also known locally as the “Old Brown Farm”, and I find myself walking there fairly often because I enjoy the…

Padleaf Rein Orchid

Platanthera orbiculata I was pleasantly surprised to spot a tall spike of white flowers in the forest above Mountain Lake Lodge yesterday. Even from the road I could tell it was something unusual. I was in search of another orchid (purple fringed orchid) that I had seen in that area in June a few years back,…

Yarrow

Considering how long I’ve been at this flower blog, it is a wonder that I haven’t posted a portrait of yarrow yet! It is so ubiquitous that it practically goes unnoticed in summer fields and roadsides. And yet, there is something very special about this simple white flower. Achillea millefolium Of course you know by now…

Field Chamomile

Anthemis  I found this beautiful, small daisy growing in a shale outcropping at Pandapas Pond yesterday. Unlike other daisy-like flowers blooming at this time, this plant was relatively low-growing with small (1-inch) but robust flowers. The unique leaves were finely divided and almost lacy. The entire plant had a rather sprawling growth habit and appeared…

American Wintergreen or Round-leaved Pyrola

Pyrola americana Also flowering in June is another member of the Wintergreen Family: Round-leaved Pyrola.  This low-growing, creeping perennial has shiny green leaves arranged in a rosette. Each leaf is 1 to 2 inches in length, rounded at the tip, and strongly veined. Several blooms are born on a spike (raceme). The hanging, white flowers…

Thimbleweed or Tall Anemone

Anemone virginiana Here’s another great Virginia wildlflower!  I first found this plant in flower on a walking trail (edge habitat) near my house in early-June. At the time, there were only a couple of small flowers to be seen and it looked like they were all past their prime. I had no idea what it was,…