Fly Agaric

Amanita muscaria var. formosa  It is October, and along with yellow leaves and orange pumpkins, there are large, yellowish-orange mushrooms coming up in my yard in Blacksburg! I found four or five of these mushrooms, growing under a group of hemlock trees, and a whole bunch more on my neighbor’s property, coming up under pines. As…

Ravenel’s Stinkhorn

Phallus ravenelii I know this is kind of gross, but I believe in equal opportunity.  So– I found this gray-capped stinkhorn growing in the mulch in my neighbor’s yard in early October.  There were a lot of them growing in the same area, with many lying on the ground “deliquescing” while others were still emerging…

Gem-studded Puffballs

Lycoperdon perlatum This information is taken directly from Wikipedia: “This mushroom, popularly known as the common puffball, warted puffball, gem-studded puffball, or the devil’s snuff-box, is a species of puffball fungus in the family Agaricaceae. A widespread species with a cosmopolitan distribution, it is a medium-sized puffball with a round fruit body tapering to a wide stalk. It is off-white with a top covered in…

Golden Aster

Chrysopsis mariana Blooming in late summer, this showy, golden yellow aster grows in barren areas.  These were photographed growing along a steep roadside embankment on Brush Mountain in Southwest Virginia. The leaves are alternate, simple, entire to ever-so-lightly toothed, hairy, with a strong mid-rib. The leaves are larger at the bottom of the plant, growing smaller…

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…

Ornate-stalked Bolete

Boletus ornatipes or Retiboletus ornatipes I love the color of this mushroom! It is mustard yellow! And note the ornate, netted pattern on the stipe (a reticulate stem)!  The ornate-stalked bolete is mycorrhizal on hardwoods, and in fact we found all of these mushrooms in a mixed-oak forest at Pandapas Pond, in Montgomery County, VA…

Cranefly Orchid or Crippled Cranefly

Tipularia discolor Updated August, 2017. It is August, and there is a mysterious orchid blooming in the woods right now. It is tall and delicate, oddly conspicuous, yet almost invisible to the eye. It is called the Crane-fly Orchid. Like Putty-root Orchid, the crane-fly orchid has a 2-part life cycle. In the fall (October), the…

Old Man of the Woods

Strobilomyces floccopus Once called the “pinecone mushroom”, this spiky character is certainly an interesting find on a summer’s walk in the woods.  The cap is speckled with black, wooly scales. Old Man of the Woods is a bolete (note the pores on the underside of the cap instead of gills) that is mycorrhizal on hardwoods….

Great Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica It is a late summer treat to see great blue lobelia in full bloom, often alongside the fabulously red cardinal flower. Sometimes called “blue cardinal flower”, great blue lobelia resembles red cardinal flower, (Lobelia cardinalis), in stature, habitat, and structure. Both of these plants are tall wetland species with colorful flowers borne on terminal racemes. Their…

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…

Green-Headed Coneflower

Rudbeckia laciniata You might guess that this is a composite (Family Asteraceae), and you’d be right.  Then, you might assume it is a sunflower or a coneflower because of its color and size.  I would. But from there, can you take it to species and spout off the common name? I usually stop short right…

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…

Partridge Pea

Chamaechrista fasciulata  This late summer flower reminds me of the mimosa leaves that intrigued me as a child. It has pinnately compound leaves that are composed of 8 to 15 tiny, barbed leaflets that fold inward when you brush them with your finger. For further mystery, they close completely at night because they are sensitive…

Wingstem

Verbesina alternifolia The common name of this plant, of course, comes from the distinctive stem, which has vertical ridges that are sometimes described as “wings”. (See the photos below.) The stem is usually unbranched, and the fast-growing plant can eventually reach great heights– up to 8 or 10 feet. Wingstem is sometimes called yellow ironweed…

Ironweed

Veronia  This very tall, late-summer flower is ubiquitous in our part of VIrginia.  The small, deep purple flowers begin to bloom in fields and along roadsides in August. The spectacular show of color continues through fall. Ironweed is a perennial wildflower, and a member of the Aster family. The leaves of the plant are elliptic to…

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…

Wild Basil

Clinopodium vulgare or Satureja vulgaris Wild basil is a hairy mint with pointed oval leaves and clusters of pink to purple flowers.  The clusters are stacked on an erect, 4-sided stem that is distinctly wooly.  Morning dew will delight your eye as it glistens on the dried clusters long after the flowers fade. See the gallery…

Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorium or Eutrochium Here’s a tall native wildflower that has large, serrated, whorled leaves and masses of rose pink blooms in late summer.  Joe Pye weed grows 4 to 7 feet in height and enjoys life in all sorts of damp places in southwest Virginia. Believe it or not, Joe Pye weed is a composite…

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…

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis It’s showtime—and this late-summer bloomer is as showy a flower as they come! Cardinal flower, a native perennial, produces bright red flowers on tall, unbranched stems. The flowers are produced on a raceme, which opens from the bottom first. Each individual flower is bright red and tubular, with 5 deep lobes that are…

Sundrops and Evening Primrose

Oenothera fruticosa They call me Mellow Yellow… Evening Primroses and Sundrops are very similar in appearance.  They both have lance-shaped leaves and an upright growth habit. They both bear large (~2-inch) yellow flowers, each with four petals and a large x-shaped stigma at the center. The flowers of Evening Primrose are mostly closed during the…

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…

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…

Knapweed

Centaurea Imagine a genus with 500+ species in it… Then imagine how intimidating it is to name a flower in this group to species! So in the interest of avoiding an error, I’ll stop at the genus level on this one. The folks at Wikipedia report that all the members of the genus Centaurea share…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

Striped Wintergreen or Pipsisewa

Chimaphila maculata Such a dainty, intriguing flower! I’ve been stalking it for a month now, waiting for it to come into bloom. Finally! Here it is in June at Pandapas Pond, near Blacksburg. This perennial evergreen herb is another forest floor inhabitant that could easily go unnoticed due to its size.  In flower it is…

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…

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…

Yellow Hawkweed or King Devil

Hieracium caespitosum (H. pratense) I’ve been spotting a new wildflower around town this week, and I even saw it a couple of days ago on top of Salt Pond Mountain, near Mountain Lake. It is hard to miss this plant because the flower stalks are tall and straight and they are topped with sunny yellow flowers…

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),…

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…