Black-eyed Susans

Rudbeckia hirta I think we all remember these pretty wildflowers from our childhood. They are so common, yet… So darn confusing!  There are more than 20 species in the genus Rudbeckia, plus many cultivars and varieties. More than one species shares the common name “black-eyed susan”. Rudbeckia hirta is both a native wildflower and a frequently planted…

Pinesap

Montropa hypopithys Popping up from below the forest leaf litter–look at this: is it a plant? A kind of fungus? If you are familiar with Indian Pipe, you might guess that these two organisms are related, and you’d be right. Pinesap, like Indian Pipe, is a non-photosynthetic flowering plant that gets its energy from organic matter…

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…

Teasel

Dipsacus As summer takes a curtain call, new blooming flowers are harder to come by.  But in drying fields and along fencerows and roadsides, the tall, spiny remnants of teasel delight the eye.  Earlier in the summer, teasel produces inconspicuous white, pink or purple flowers on an oval cone of spines.  The visually interesting flower…

Common Rose Pink

Sabatia angularis Despite the name, there is nothing “common” about this plant! The rose-pink hue of the flower is really astounding. Each flower has 5 pink petals and 5 stamens with yellow anthers. The central yellow style is split in two, adding a festive “pop” to the center of the flower. At the base of…

Gray-Headed Coneflower

Ratibida pinnata Here’s another native coneflower with a thimble-shaped head and drooping petals, but this time the head is gray to brown in color and the pale yellow, drooping “petals” (or ray flowers) number only 5 to 10.  This is Gray-Headed Coneflower, and like the Green-Headed Coneflower, the leaves of this plant are alternate. The gray-headed…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

Bittersweet Nightshade

Solanum dulcamara You might recognize the flower of this plant because it resembles lots of plants that you are already familiar with: tomato, eggplant, potatoes, ground cherry, jimsonweed, and horse nettle to name a few. These plants are all in the same family, Solanaceae, which is also known as the nightshade family. There are more…

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…

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…

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…

Golden Chanterelles

Cantharellus cibarius It’s time to get out in our local forests and maybe find a “pot of gold”: dozens of big, fresh chanterelles crowded into a small patch, yours for the taking. There is not much more to say about this, except “wow, they are mighty fine brushed with olive oil and garlic, and then grilled whole over…

Nodding Thistle or Musk Thistle

Carduus nutans As my previous post about thistles noted: “there are many species of thistles, including the locally common Bull thistle, Canada thistle, Plumeless thistle, Musk thistle, and Field thistle. Some are native and some are introduced. You can find thistles blooming throughout the summer and they are are never hard to find! Just ask any pollinator!” This…

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…

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?…