Yellow Clintonia or Blue-bead Lily

Clintonia borealis   Here’s a beautiful mountain wildflower that I’ve found growing in sheltered places beneath the rocky slopes of Bald Knob on Salt Pond Mountain.  The leaves of Yellow Clintonia (or Blue-bead Lily) somewhat resemble robust orchid leaves; they are 6 to 10-inches long, elliptical, and shiny. Each individual plant bears two to five of these large basal leaves. In…

Smooth Hawksbeard

Smooth Hawksbeard Crepis capillaris This aster is commonly found in bloom from spring until fall in agricultural fields and on disturbed sites. The 1-inch wide flower heads are made up entirely of yellow ray flowers –they look similar to dandelions. The flowers are held up on erect stems, well above the basal leaves. The deeply…

Tulip Poplar

Liriodendron tulipifera Although not technically a wildflower, you may find this flower on the ground in May and wonder what it is.  It is the flower of the tulip poplar tree (tuliptree, yellow poplar). Tulip poplar is the tallest of the eastern hardwood trees, which is one reason why you may not have seen the…

Indian Cucumber Root

Medeola virginiana This native plant is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae). It grows in open, moist woods, often in groups. Five to nine simple leaves are gracefully whorled around a single stem. Plants that are going to flower this year put out a second tier of 3 to 5 leaves, bringing the overall…

Roundleaf Ragwort

Packera obovata This pretty yellow aster caught my eye this week while walking in the woods at Pandapas Pond in the Jefferson National Forest. It was growing on a dry, rocky slope, mixed in with mosses. The diminutive flowers of Roundleaf Ragwort are only 3/4 in. wide and appear in open clusters at the top of…

Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchid

Moccasin Flower Cypripedium sp. Originally posted in May 2014: Usually, sometime around Mother’s Day, you can expect to find Yellow Ladies Slipper Orchids growing in open woods and along streams in Southwest Virginia. Growing up to 2½’ tall, this native orchid is large, conspicuous, but relatively uncommon. I went in search of it today, hoping…

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…

Whorled Loosestrife

Lysimachia quadrifolia Whorled loosestrife is a Virginia native wildflower. The name of the plant comes from both the whorl of simple leaves (usually four) that circle around an erect stem, and the whorled arrangement of the flowers, which emerge from the leaf axils.  The flower has five yellow petals with a conspicuous dab of red…

Yellow Rocket or Winter Cress

Burbarea vulgaris If “yellow rocket” refers to the the swift, spring-time explosion of mustard yellow flowers in local fields and ditches, then this is a very appropriate name for a wildflower. Yellow Rocket, or Common Winter Cress, blooms in profusion from April to June in Southwest Virginia. Yellow rocket is in the mustard family (Brassicaceae),…

Meadow Rue

Thalictrum For this beautiful plant, it’s all about the foliage. Meadow rue has soft gray-green foliage that might remind you of the delicate leaves of columbine. The large, compound leaves are ternately divided (i.e. they are divided three times like a fern) into nine leaflets. The margin of each individual leaflet is gently rounded into…

Hoary Puccoon

Stoneseed or Hoary Puccoon Lithospermum canescens If it were not for the unusually vibrant, orange to yellow color of these flowers, you would probably miss this little plant completely while walking in the great outdoors. The first time I discovered it, I found it in bloom in April of 2012, near Shawsville, VA.  The plants were growing on a…

Wild Oats or Sessile Bellwort

Uvularia sessilifolia Just one more nodding, bell-shaped flower for you, in pale yellow. This one goes by many names, including wild oats, cornflower, or sessile bellwort. If you look at the photos carefully, you will see that this supple plant is popping up on the forest floor in early spring, in close company with other…

Mountain Bellwort

Uvularia puberula If you look at the photo above, at first glance, the plant looks a bit like Solomon’s Seal, but it is glossier and the leaflets are more rounded. The stem is different too: it zigzags back and forth at every leaflet, and each stem is branched into two distinct parts. For two years now, I’ve…

Largeflower Bellwort and Perfoliate Bellwort

Largeflower Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) and Perfoliate Bellwort( Uvularia perfoliata) Here are two bellworts with “perfoliate” leaves but a few subtle differences.  Large-flowered bellwort is a tall, nodding plant in springtime with large, dark yellow flowers that are sometimes hard to see because they can be hidden in leaves. The yellow “petals” hang in a disorderly, twisted fashion and the petals are…

Marsh Marigold

Caltha palustrus Giant buttercups! That’s what these bright spring flowers look like at first glance! They are indeed members of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, but they are much larger than buttercups, and a lot showier. These marsh marigolds were growing in a wetland area on my neighbor’s property in Blacksburg. Nearby, skunk cabbage and golden ragwort…

Fairybells or Yellow Mandarin

Fairybells or Yellow Mandarin Disporum lanuginosum Here’s a new species for me: Fairybells! The nodding, yellowish-green flowers of this woodland understory plant are easy to miss, and perhaps that’s why I’ve never noticed it before. The plant itself looks a bit like false solomon’s seal, except that the stem is branched. The stems are pubescent (see photos) and purplish;…

Blue Cohosh

Caulophyllum thalictroides Coming up now in rich hardwood coves is a historically important medicinal plant called blue cohosh. The flowers of this herb are small and inconspicuous, but the profusion of delicate blue-green leaves (for which the plant is named) make up for the lack of showy flowers. Blue cohosh is a tall perennial—growing 2 to 3…

Golden Ragwort

Senecio aureus or Packera aurea Blooming now, April through May, is Senecio aureus, or Golden Ragwort!  The flower stalks of this spring wildflower can grow 12 to 30 inches in height, towering over a low, spreading groundcover of heart-shaped leaves. Each of the basal leaves is bluntly toothed and has a long stem, or petiole. The underside…

Welcome Spring 2015!

Spring is here, finally, and as if someone switched on a lightbulb after a long night’s sleep, the parade of spring ephemerals has quickly begun in our Appalachian woodlands. The first coltsfoot flowers were just peaking out last weekend, and today the bloodroot in my yard has already gone to seed. Run, don’t walk, to your favorite park…

Yellow Corydalis

Corydalis flavula The neatly dissected, compound leaves of Corydalis will remind you of Dutchman’s Breeches or Bleeding Hearts.  That’s because these plants are all in the same family–the fumewort family.  The plants in the Corydalis genus have elongated flowers that are held above the leaves. The species pictured here, Corydalis flavula, is a short, wild…

Spicebush

Lindera benzoin Early April is a great time to go for a walk in the woods to look for the first signs of spring. If you look carefully, all sorts of woodland characters are quietly making an appearance. You’ll find that bloodroot, trout lily, twinleaf, hepatica and Dutchman’s breeches are already in bloom. In fact, many of…

Yellow Trillium

Yellow Trillium (Trillium luteum) The striking leaves of this stout woodland wildflower are mottled with patches of silvery green. The plant has a lemon scent. Folklore holds that toads sit under the leaves to capture the bugs that are drawn to the flowers, hence the common name, toadshade.  Once planted, yellow trillium seeds very easily by…

Wood Poppy

Celandine Poppy Stylophorum diphyllum Among the earliest wildflowers to come up in my yard in April, wood poppies are tough and cold resistant. These native Virginia wildflowers grow quickly into tall plants that reach about 2 feet in height; they produce a profusion of bright yellow flowers from early spring through the summer. The large flowers will eventually give way to fuzzy, elongated seed…

Coltsfoot

Tussilago farfara Coltsfoot. This introduced species is a very early spring wildflower. The flowers appear before the leaves are formed, usually in March and April.  Someone informed me that an old-time common name for this plant was “Son Before Father”, because the flower comes up before the leaves fully develop. Gotta love those common names–this one…

Trout Lily

Dogtooth Violet or Trout Lily Erythronium americanum I went for years without ever seeing a trout lily. They grow low to the ground and come up in the earliest part of spring, when the weather is still cold and unpredictable. Pushing up from under last year’s leaf pack, they are difficult to spot because the…