Late July Mushrooms

Here are a few unusual mushrooms from a recent walk in the Gateway Trail and Pandapas areas around Blacksburg, Virginia.

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,…

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…

Jack O’Lantern Mushroom

Omphalotus illudens No, it is not time for Halloween, but it IS time for bright orange mushrooms to start popping out of the ground to do a little pre-holiday scaring. The Jack O’Lantern Mushroom is pretty distinctive, so you should have little trouble identifying this one.  If a big patch of orange catches your eye…

The Blusher

Amanita rubescens Here’s a classic mushroom, warts and all. “The Blusher” is a common, colorful mushroom in the genus Amanita that has a prominent ring (and sometimes a full veil) on the stem.  The cap is reddish-brown to yellow-beige and freckled with warts; the stem tends to take on the color of the cap. The…

July Mushroom Foray at Pandapas Pond

So much rain this summer in Southwest Virginia…it is a banner year for fruits and vegetables, and especially for wild mushrooms. Another mushroom foray around the Pandapas Pond area in Montgomery County produced the following fun assortment of wild fungi in our local woods. The best highlight for me was moose antlers ! What we found…

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…

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…

Black Trumpets

Craterellus cornucopioides Although I’ve heard of edible black trumpet mushrooms before, I was not expecting to find them today. I practically fell over them on my way to pick up a few chanterelles! Once I got a good look at them, I started to find them at just about every spot where I also found…

Mushroom Foray #5

A July 8th mushroom foray with John Ford (can you call a two-person mushroom hunt a “foray”?) resulted in a whole bunch of new species for me.  Here are some of the species we found.  If you can identify some of the “mystery” species, please leave me a comment.  Thanks! Golden-gilled Gerronema And finally, found…

July 4th Mushroom Walk

Here are a few of the interesting fungi I found growing at Pandapas Pond on July 4th.  I know a few of these, but some of them are unidentified. If you know what they are, will you drop me a line?  Thanks! Click on any image in the gallery for a larger view.

Chanterelles in General

Cantharellus If you live here in Southwest Virginia, you’ll know its been raining steadily for most of the summer.  The ground is sopping wet and the streams and rivers are out of their banks. Everyone is getting a little tired of it by now.  But take a walk in the forest and you’ll find some…

Blue Mist Flower or Wild Ageratum

Conoclinium coelestinum Until today, I always thought of ageratum as a low-growing garden annual that you could buy readily in any garden center– but I never knew it was also a native wildflower! I recently found a colony of these plants growing along the side of a shallow pond in Blacksburg, VA. The plants were…

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…

Chicory

Cichorium intybus Chicory, blue sailors, wild succory, coffeeweed, or cornflower…whatever you want to call it–how can you not LOVE the bright blue flowers of this tough little wildflower? In a summer field, chicory stands out because of its tall, rigid stems that almost appear woody.  Here and there along the stem appear aster-like flowers in…

Heal-All or Self-Heal

Prunella vulgaris As the name would suggest, heal-all has been used to treat all kinds of maladies in the past. Traditionally,  the shape of a plant was often used to discern its medicinal uses, and so the shape of this flower, with its open mouth exposing the throat, led to it being used as a…

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…

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…

Common Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca Milkweed is an interesting plant on a variety of levels. Most of us already know that monarch butterfly larvae feed exclusively on milkweed leaves, which renders the caterpillars and butterflies toxic to predators. And most of us know that the plant’s name is derived from the fact that it produces a milky-white, sticky…

Large Purple Fringed Orchid

Platanthera grandiflora Ooo-la-la!! Look what I found! While searching for something else, I practically stumbled on this little pink firebomb up in the woods at Mountain Lake. On first glance, I thought it was “just Phlox”, which started to bloom in the woods near Blacksburg recently. Then I took a couple steps closer and nearly…

Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly weed is a kind of milkweed.  The brightly colored, orange flowers are similar in shape to those of common milkweed. It is a native perennial that gets its name from the fact that the flowers are so attractive to butterflies.  Insects and hummingbirds are attracted to both the color and the large…

Jewelweed

Impatiens capensis Jewelweed or touch-me-not is a tall annual that grows in moist areas, usually along the banks of streams, rivers and ponds.  The leaves are somewhat toothed and blue-green in color. Raindrops tend to bead up on the leaves, giving it a “bejeweled” appearance in sunshine. The trumpet-like or funnel-shaped flowers are yellowish-orange with…

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…

Fly Poison

Stagger Grass, Crow Poison, or Fly Poison Amianthium muscaetoxicum Look here– a lovely flower with a poisonous punch! Fly Poison is blooming right now in the higher elevations at Mountain Lake, in Giles County.  This plant contains neurotoxins that are deadly enough to kill livestock. All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the bulb. …

Lily-leaved Twayblade

Purple Twayblade, Lily-leaved Twayblade, Large Twayblade, or Brown Widelip Orchid Liparis liliifolia This inconspicuous, native orchid blooms in May and June. Each plant grows from a new underground corm; the previous year’s corm withers away.  Two oval, waxy leaves emerge in April and eventually reach 4 to 6 inches in height. The small flowers begin to…

Skullcap

  Scuttelaria Skullcap is a native perennial wildflower.  The genus, Scuttelaria, is huge; there are 300 species worldwide. Ninety-plus species occur in North America alone. The flower get its name from the shape of the calyx (the group of sepals) at the base of the flower, which looks like a little helmet (or “skull cap”)….

Prince’s Pine or Pipsisewa

Prince’s Pine, Pipsisewa, Wintergreen, or Waxflower Chimaphila umbellate This is a very attractive native perennial that can be found in dry, mountain woodlands growing along side other kinds of wintergreen (like Striped Wintergreen , Round-leaved Pyrola, or American Wintergreen). Prince’s Pine has shiny-green, leathery, whorled leaves that are toothed. The pink to white flowers are waxy-looking…

Painted Trillium

Trillium undulatum Oh, where do I start with this uncommon wildflower? The coppery-green leaves?  The undulating tips of the dainty white petals? The glamorous scarlet blaze at the flower’s center? Maybe I should just say, “This little trillium is a real showstopper!” Like all the trillium species, the leaves, petals, and sepals of painted trillium…

Chicken of the Woods

Laetiporus These orange and yellow mushroom brackets are growing on a dead tree in the woods at Mountain Lake Conservancy in Virginia.  Also called sulphur shelf because of the color, this mushroom does not have gills.  It is a polypore mushroom.  As you can see from the photos, the fungus can produce very large numbers…

Yellow Star Grass

Hypoxis hirsuta This bright yellow wildflower might pass for a buttercup at first glance. Look closely and you will see that the leaves of this plant are slender and grasslike, reaching about 12 inches in height.  The flowers appear on shorter stems that usually bear more than one flower bud. The inflorescence is less than…

Viper’s Bugloss

Blueweed, Blue Devil, or Viper’s Bugloss Echium vulgare Viper’s Bugloss is a biennial that produces brilliantly blue flowers with long red stamens in June. The funnel-shaped flowers start out pink, but then later turn dark blue. The oblong leaves grow up to 6 inches long, are dotted with small white dimples and covered with tiny white…

Moth Mullein

Moth Mullein Verbascum blattaria Look for this biennial plant, June through September, in pastures, meadows, and along roadsides.  It can grow up to 5 feet tall! The photos above show the leaves arranged on the flowering stem in an alternate pattern, without petioles and gently clasping. These leaves are elliptic and slightly toothed. The dazzling…

Lance-leaved Coreopsis

Lanceleaf coreopsis, Lance-leaved coreopsis, or Lanceleaf tickseed Coreopsis lanceolata This bright yellow, perennial wildflower occurs in open areas and along roadsides. The bold flower head is large (1-2 inches in diameter) and is held on a tall, hairless stem, or peduncle. This is an aster, so the flower head is actually made up of ray…

Spiderwort

Tradescantia  Found in almost all counties of Virginia, spiderwort is both a native wildflower and a commonly cultivated garden plant. The plants can grow up to about two feet tall. Sometimes you will find them growing singly, but most often they occur in large clumps that look like tall, wild grass. The flowers bloom at…

Showy Skullcap

Scutellaria serrata Here’s a beautiful wildflower! The dainty flowers are two shades of purple and they are held high above the simple and attractive foliage. The morphology of the flower is interesting at each stage of development–from new buds to maturity. Just take a look at some of the photos below… Skullcaps are in the Mint…

Bowman’s Root

Indian Physic, Fawn’s Breath, or Bowman’s Root Gillenia trifoliate The five narrow petals on this white flower protrude from the center in an irregular fashion. Perched atop dainty red stems, the blooms appear to just float in the air! Spent flowers are replaced immediately by bright red calyxes. The bushy plant grows 2 to 3 ft….

Elegant Stinkhorn

Mutinous elegans Now really… elegant stinkhorn?  This is an oxymoron if I ever heard one! The very mention of the word stinkhorn should make you quiver –not make you anticipate something ELEGANT! The best common name I’ve seen for this fungus is probably Devil’s Dipstick.  The structure and color suggest a stick that’s just been…

Foxglove Beardtongue

Penstemon digitalis Foxglove Beardtongue, Foxglove Penstemon, or Beardtongue These showy, native  wildflowers appear from April to June in sunny or partially sunny locations.  They grow from 3 to 5 ft. tall in brilliant masses; this group was photographed along the side of the road at Primland in Meadows of Dan. The two-lipped, tubular flowers are borne on…