Green and Gold

Golden Star or Green and Gold Chrysogonum virginianum You might be familiar with this plant from home gardens.  It is a native wildflower with a spreading habit and long-lasting flowers, so it makes an excellent ground cover in the garden. The bright yellow flowers with contrasting brown stamens are held high above the light green,…

Fire Pink

Silene virginica is Fire Pink Hot stuff! Five long, radiant, red petals adorn this flower. Each petal has a cute little notch at the end. The petals lead down to a long tube that holds the pistil and stamens. Given the tube-like shape of the flower, fire pink requires a pollinator with a long tongue or…

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,…

Philadelphia Fleabane or Common Fleabane

Philadelphia fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus This aster-like flower is a composite: the flower you observe is really a “composite” of many smaller flowers.  The genus, Erigeron, includes scores of species, but I’ll take a chance and say that the one pictured here is Philadelphia fleabane, because of the way the leaves are wrapped around the hairy…

Mayapples

May Apples (Podophyllum peltatum) Mayapples are beautiful, umbrella-like plants that grow in moist woods. Some of the plants have just one large, deeply divided leaf, while others have two leaves. A relatively large white flower appears under the 2-leafed plants sometime in May; a green berry or “apple” develops soon thereafter.  By mid-June, the plant begins to fade to…

Wild Geranium

Wood Geranium, Cranesbill, or Wild Geranium Geranium maculata  What a spring it is for wild geranium!  Today I found drifts of them growing along the roadside next to Big Stoney Creek in Giles County.  Although these were open-grown, I also found plenty growing in the woods around Glen Alton and White Rocks campground. Wild geranium…

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…

False Solomon’s Seal

Smilacina racemosa Note the placement of the flowers of this plant at the tip of the stem. It is otherwise very similar to Solomon’s Seal in appearance: an upright, unbranched stem bearing alternating oval leaves. The plant produces bright red berries later in the season. Click on any image below to open the gallery.

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…

Showy Orchis

Galearis spectabilis is the Showy Orchis! This orchid miraculously appears on the forest floor in April and May in Virginia.  It likes limey soils like we have here in Montgomery County, and it is often found on the edges of swampy terrain.  This week it is coming up on the hillside at my house and near the…

Shooting Stars

Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Stars! What a great name! This spring-blooming, perennial plant has a basal rosette of oblong leaves, each about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. In late April and early May, a stalk (or inflorescence) comes up from the center of the rosette and unfurls into a half-dozen or more white or…

Goldenseal

Hydrastis canadensis or Orange-root  Goldenseal is also known as organge-root because of its thick, yellow rhizome (or underground root). This inconspicuous wildflower is in danger of being over-harvested because the plant has numerous medicinal uses.  It is purported to have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and laxative effects, among others. Extracts of farm-raised goldenseal are sold in salves…

Solomon’s Seal

Polygonatum biflorum This handsome woodland plant grows upright as an unbranched stalk of alternating, oval leaves. The leaf edges are smooth. The plant has a look-alike, false solomon’s seal, but the two are easy to tell apart if the plants are in bloom. The flowers of solomon’s seal are born underneath the leaves, as seen in…

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…

Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja coccinea or Indian Scarlet Paintbrush  The color of this flower makes it a showstopper, and as you can imagine, hummingbirds love it. According to the “Easy Wildflowers” website, “The inconspicuous flowers bloom within a dense cluster of beautiful leafy bracts that are brilliant shades of orange, red, or sometimes yellow. Wild Indian Paintbrush flowers…

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…

Squawroot

Cancer-root, Squawroot, or Bear corn Conopholis americana Squawroot is a spring flowering plant, but it is non-photosynthetic.  Instead, it is parasitic on the roots of trees, usually oaks and beeches.  The above-ground part of the plant is the flowering structure, and it looks like a pine cone, or even a corn cob (Bear corn), rising…

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…

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….

Eastern Red Columbine

or Wild Columbine Aquilegia canadensis This beautiful red and yellow flower grows in thin soil on rock ledges and along rocky slopes in woods, ravines and bluffs.  The dainty flowers dangle from delicate stems, rocking constantly in the breeze. You can find columbine growing from April to July in Virginia.  The elaborate flowers are only…

Bishop’s Cap

Miterwort or Bishop’s Cap Mitella diphylla Bishop’s cap is a delicate, white wildflower that prefers moist, rich woodlands. It is content on limestone or sandstone-based soils. I’ve found it growing abundantly at Falls Ridge Preserve in Montgomery County in mid- to late spring, and also along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The name of the flower…

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…

Heartleaf

 Hexastylis sp. Here is a kind of ginger that is evergreen. That means you can find it in winter woods when there is otherwise very little green to be found. The waxy green, heart-shaped leaves of Heartleaf are often mottled with white (variegated); the leaf margins are smooth (or entire). The leaves and rhizomes 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…

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) You will find wild ginger, or Canadian ginger, growing in deciduous forests throughout the east coast, including Appalachia, but don’t bother looking for it in winter. This ginger is a deciduous, herbaceous plant (leaves disappear in fall). Ginger colonies form in the springtime from branching rhizomes that form just below the…

Honesty

Money Plant or Honesty Lunaria annua A native of Europe, this biennial has spread across much of the United States because it seeds so easily. In it’s first year it is a small plant, but in the second year it grows to 3 feet in height before it flowers and goes to seed. Well established now…

Dames Rocket

Hesperis matronalis Dames rocket looks (and acts!) a lot like honesty: a tall, introduced, spring-blooming plant with four-petaled flowers in pinkish purple or white. However, the leaves of damesrocket are elongated and lance-shaped,with a slightly toothed edge. The seedpod is also very long and thin, not round like money plant. It blooms in mid-May, while…

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…

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…

Virginia Pennywort

Obolaria virginica We were out hunting for morels when we came across this somewhat obscure spring ephemeral, Virginia Pennywort. These plants were growing along the edge of the forest on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, Virginia. Pennywort is difficult to spot in the springtime forest because it is very short and non-descript. It only reaches…

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…

Wild Blue Phlox

Phlox divaricata My wooded yard is full of this tall, lovely wildflower!  Although it is called blue phlox, the flowers sometimes appear pink or purple. Look closely and you will see that the outer edge of the flower petal is notched outward.  The stem of this plant is hairy and slightly sticky; the leaves at…

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…

Spring Beauty

Claytonia caroliniana and Claytonia virginica There are two kinds of Spring Beauties in our area. Above is the “wide-leaved” Spring Beauty, or Claytonia caroliniana.  The single pair of leaves on this small plant are ovate to lanceolate; the margin is entire. The lovely pink to white flowers are sweetly marked –each of the 5 petals…