Honey Mushrooms

Armillaria Honeys! Here’s another new mushroom for me! There are two honey mushroom species pictured in this gallery—both are parasitic on hardwood trees.  Armillaria mellea has a distinct ring, or annulus on the stipe and a partial veil when new; the gills are attached; the color is typically honey yellow. Armillaria tabescens is ringless; the…

Purple-stemmed and New York Aster

Aster… I have a limit as to how long I’ll try to key out difficult flowers, and I’ve hit mine with the fall asters! Right now, there are autumn-blooming asters everywhere that bear alternate, lanceolate leaves that lack petioles and clasp the stem. The leaf margin is usually gently toothed. Each flower head has 30 or more ray flowers…

Coker’s Amanita

Amanita cokeri This very large, poisonous Amanita has white warts on the cap and erupts from a large basal bulb. The gallery below shows two Coker’s Amanita mushrooms before they erupted from the bulb, and then again a few days later.  (The veil is evident on one of the mushrooms.)  The warts on the cap will…

Nodding Ladies’ Tresses

Spiranthes cernua Twist and shout!  Luckily the bright white of these tiny orchids help them to stand out in the grass and weeds, otherwise they would be easy to miss in September meadows.  They stand only 4 to 12 inches in height. Nodding Ladies’ Tresses orchids bear their tiny flowers in a “double, intertwined” spiraling fashion…

Kidneyleaf Grass-of-Parnassus

Parnassia asarifolia A friend led me to a sphagnum bog in the mountains near Glen Alton, and that’s where we found a beautiful white wildflower in bloom:  the Grass of Parnassus!  Surrounding this plant was an immense diversity of other moisture-loving plants including sphagnum moss, sundews, cotton grass, horsetails, shining clubmoss, and alder. First of…

Destroying Angel

 Amanita bisporigera  One of many poisonous mushrooms in the genus Amanita, the destroying angel is probably the most poisonous of all.  It appears in summer, first as a white “egg” that will form the base.  As the mushroom grows, the cap appears conical. When the cap eventually opens, the surface of the cap is smooth…

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…

Yellow Fringed Orchid

Platanthera ciliaris This magnificent, bright yellow-orange orchid blooms in July and August in our area.  It can be found in open woods, in either dry or wet places, although most of the photos below were taken in boggy places. As you can see, these exotic flowers are borne in a dense cluster at the top…

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…

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…

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…

Common Mullein

Verbascum thapsus Common mullein is a large biennial plant that can grow 5 to 6 feet in height.  The distinctive, grayish-green, oval leaves are covered in a downy hair that is very soft to the touch. In the plant’s first year, only a basal rosette of leaves appears. In the second year, a tall flower…

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. …

Deptford Pink

Dianthus armeria Demure and understated, discovering this bright little flower blooming among the grasses makes me dream of going to Deptford!  Don’t you think it must be beautiful there? Although it is indeed introduced from Europe, and probably even England, it is not really from the town of Deptford. The flower was wrongly identified when…

Painted Trillium

Trillium undulatum Oh, where do I start with this one? The coppery-green leaves?  The undulating tips of the dainty white petals?  The glamorous blaze of scarlet at the flower’s center?  This little wildflower is a real showstopper! Painted trillium is uncommon in our area, and the one below is the first I’ve ever seen! Like…

Galax

Wandflower, Galax, or Beetleweed Galax urceolata 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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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 little heartleaf,…

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,…

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…

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…

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….

Red Trillium

Red Trillium, Red Wakerobin, and/or Southern Red Trillium Trillium erectum and Trillium sulcatum 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…

White Trillium

Trillium grandiflorum White Trillium  White trillium, or wakerobin, is a showy perennial wildflower that occurs in Virginia and most of the eastern states. The single flower of the trillium plant opens in late March and early April. In some areas, trillium can be found growing in great profusion on the forest floor, before the leaf…