Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia Run, don’t walk! Put on your hiking shoes and head up any Appalachian mountain trail (right now!) in May and June and you will  be rewarded with gorgeous Mountain Laurel blooms. This evergreen shrub can put on a spectacular display, since it varies in height from 3 to 15 feet and forms thick…

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…

Canada Mayflower

Maianthemum canadense Although Canada Mayflower is considered a northern species, it can be found growing  in Virginia in the higher elevations of the the Appalachian Mountains.  The plants pictured here were photographed along the ridge top of Salt Pond Mountain (near Mountain Lake) and also along the banks of Big Stoney Creek in Giles County….

Galax

Galax urceolata Wandflower, Galax, or Beetleweed The white spikes of galax rise up like magic wands in late May and June in the woodland forests of Appalachia. The tall spikes can grow 1 to 2 feet high over a basal rosette of shiny green leaves. The flowers wave gently in the breeze, earning this plant the…

Cliff Saxifrage or Michaux’s Saxifrage

Saxifrage michauxii Delicate white flowers with red and yellow dots are dancing in the mountain breeze at Mountain Lake in Giles County!  Cliff Saxifrage lives in the tiny cracks between the rocks on Bald Knob, elevation 4,300 ft. Head out for a hike and see this unusual plant in bloom–in late May and June!

White Baneberry

Doll’s Eyes or Baneberry Actaea pachypoda The compound leaves of baneberry are toothed and pinnate, similar in some ways to black cohosh in appearance. The white flowers appear mid-spring in a dense cluster at the top of a stem. The flowers give way to small berries later in the summer. When fully ripe, each berry…

Pink Lady’s Slipper

or Moccasin Flower Cypripedium acaule One of the showiest orchids in our local forest, the pink lady’s slipper appears between May and July. Before it flowers, you may notice the leaves lying quietly on the forest floor: there are usually just two of them, and strong parallel veins are evident on the oval leaves. When the…

Pussytoes

Antennaria Antennaria:  This is a difficult genus, containing several species in our area. Since I’m not a botanist, I am going to stop at the genus level here and simply say that all the flowers on this page are members of the genus, Antennaria, or Pussytoes! Don’t you LOVE the name? Soft and wooly, with white…

Flame Azalea

Rhododendron calendulaceum May is the time to look for the wild and magnificent Flame Azalea! Not to be outdone by Mountain Laurel, which also blooms in late spring, Flame Azalea is a shrub that practically sets the woods on fire with with its blaze of orange flowers. Wild azaleas don’t grow like the familiar, compact…

Smooth Phlox

Phlox glabberrima Here’s a showy “hot pink” wildflower that is coming into bloom in May. In contrast to other phlox species, the stem of Smooth Phlox is not hairy, hence the name “smooth”.  It’s leaves are opposite and lanceolate (long and narrow), without prominent veins. Smooth phlox flowers are deep pink and they are about a half to…

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…

Mountain Phlox

Phlox latifolia Big flowers on a little stem!  I literally stumbled on this low-growing phlox as I walked along the banks of Big Stoney Creek at Glen Alton in mid-May. The area would best be described as “open” woodlands. Unlike many of the other phlox species in our area, mountain phlox blooms early (mid-May to…

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…

White Campion

  Silene latifolia On my way to work early this morning, a stand of showy White Campion caught my eye.  It was just growing in a roadside ditch that hadn’t been mowed yet.  I felt like it was a little bit early in the year for this plant to be in bloom (I think of this as…

Wild Stonecrop

Woodland or Wild Stonecrop Sedum ternatum Wild stonecrop is a native sedum that prefers shaded woodlands. It is a mat-forming succulent with rounded leaves arranged in a whorled pattern. Fertile, upright stems bear beautiful, bright white blooms in May and June. Each flower has four white petals. Wild stonecrop is usually found on bare slopes…

Wild Sasparilla

Aralia nudicaulis I found a section of hardwood forest at Primland that was carpeted with Wild Sasparilla! The plants were already past flowering in early June, but the flower stalks were still present below the leaves, and seeds were starting to form on them. See the gallery above. In early spring, before the leaf canopy…

Addison’s Leatherflower

Clematis addisonii Addison’s Leatherflower, Clematis addisonii, is a threatened species that is native to the Ridge and Valley Province in Virginia. Most of the remaining populations occur here in Montgomery County (Southwest VA). The plant prefers dry, rocky, limestone hillsides, banks and ravines. Addison’s Leatherflower is a perennial vine that starts out as an erect…

Quaker Ladies

Houstonia caerulea Everyone has seen bluets before, but did you know that the real name for them is Quaker Ladies? This is a native plant that goes unnoticed most of the time, because it is so small and low-growing. That is, until springtime. That is when Quaker Ladies send up their slender flower stalks and the…

Canada Violet

Viola canadensis Canada Violet goes by many names, but you may be most comfortable calling it White Violet, or Tall White Violet, because those are its most conspicuous field marks.  I usually think of violets as low-growing wildflowers, but this one can reach more than a foot in height.  The beautiful heart-shaped leaves can grow…

Virginia Heartleaf

Hexastylis virginica This is another form of heartleaf ginger.  The plants pictured on this page are sporting new spring leaves: glossy and dark green.  Later they can become frosted with white. The leaves are 2 to 3 inches wide and up to 6 inches tall, and as the name implies, they are heart-shaped.  Unlike other heartleafs,…

Devil’s Urn

Urnula craterium I’m not sure about this identification, but these are such neat fungi that I just had to post them. These are cup fungi, or Ascomycetes. This one forms such a perfect cup that it holds water. I found this group in May at Mountain Lake in Giles County, VA.  As you can see,…

Marsh Blue Violets

Viola cucullata Marsh blue violet is a woodland violet with blue flowers that prefers moist places. The heart-shaped leaves grow from the base of the plant (no stem!) on long stalks.  The beautiful blue flowers are held above the leaves on even longer stalks.  The full height of the plant is between 5 and 10…

Green Violet

Hybanthus concolor Can a plant that is almost 3 feet tall really be a violet?  It turns out it can, based on some of the technical features of the flower. Unlike the violets that you are already familiar with, this member of Violaceae has tiny green flowers, hairy stems, and alternate, elliptical leaves that can grow up…

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…

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…

Dwarf Crested Iris

Iris cristata The heavy spring rains will keep most of us huddled inside for now, but outside the plant world is singing–yes, singing in the rain. Tended by invisible hands, miniature gardens are bursting from the forest floor with color and promise.  Here’s just one example, Dwarf Crested Iris! As the name implies, Dwarf Crested…

Jack in the Pulpit

Arisaema triphyllum What’s not to love about this native wildflower? It is exotic–practically sexy with all its twists and curves. Take a look at the photo gallery to see how variable in size and color the flowers of Jack in the Pulpit can be.  One thing they all have in common though, is the little…

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…

Trailing Arbutus

Epigaea repens Trailing arbutus is a native, evergreen, creeping plant that grows on rocky slopes.  I frequently see it growing on the eroded banks of roads and trails as I am out walking in the forest.  This time of year, you might find it with your nose first–it has a sweet fragrance that permeates the…

Gaywings

Fringed Polygala or Gaywings Polygala paucifolia At first glance, the color and texture of this flower call to mind an orchid.  The complicated structure, complete with wing-like sepals, resembles a flying bird or airplane.  Two petals are joined together to make a tube; a third, lower petal is fringed. The rosy pink or purple flowers…

Heartleaf Foamflower

Tiarella cordifolia I have this plant growing in my garden as a woodland ground cover, and right now, in late April, it is beautiful!  Although you can find foamflower for sale in many nurseries, this is indeed a native perennial plant.  The photos here were taken in the forest near White Rocks campground in Giles County….

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…

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;…

RAMPS!

Allium tricoccum Ramps are blooming now, in early July, in our local forests! “Ramps” are wild onions (sometimes called “wild leeks”) that grow in the forests of the Appalachian Mountains. They don’t look like the traditional onions that you would grow in the garden.  Ramps look more like “lily of the valley”–the leaves are elliptical, broad…

Oyster Mushrooms

I’ve read that you can find oyster mushrooms just about any month of the year in the South.  I’ve now found them on the same dead tree in my yard in November, July, September, and May.  I even found some in early April in another location. So when can you find oyster mushrooms in Virginia?…

Red Trillium

Red Trillium, Red Wakerobin, Southern Red Trillium Trillium erectum  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 and have triangular-shaped leaves…

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…

White Trillium

Trillium grandiflorum White Trillium  White trillium, or wakerobin, is a showy perennial wildflower that occurs in forested parts of Virginia (and most of the eastern states). The single, three-petaled, white flower is born on a delicate pedicle that arises from a whorl of three broad leaves (technically bracts). Other distinguishing features include three visible sepals…