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…

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…

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…

Virginia Bluebells

Mertensia virginica Virginia bluebells are also called Virginia cowslip, or Roanoke bells.  I first spotted them here in Blacksburg in a friend’s yard, but soon learned that this native wildflower grows extensively along the banks of streams and rivers in this part of Virginia, making it a riparian species.  Last year I saw them growing…

Wood Poppy

or Celandine Poppy Stylophorum diphyllum Among the earliest wildflowers to come up in my yard in April, wood poppies are tough and cold resistant. These native Virginia wildflowers grow quickly into tall plants that reach about 2 feet in height; they produce a profusion of bright yellow flowers from early spring through the summer. The large flowers will eventually give way to fuzzy, elongated…

Coltsfoot

Tussilago farfara Coltsfoot. This introduced species is a very early spring wildflower. The flowers appear before the leaves are formed, usually in March and April.  Someone informed me that an old-time common name for this plant was “Son Before Father”, because the flower comes up before the leaves fully develop. Gotta love those common names–this one…

Dutchman’s Breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) I love these little Appalachian beauties!  The plant gets its name from the shape of the white flower, which looks like a pair of pants, or “breeches”. The bright little pants dangle from a raceme above the plant, as if they were suspended from a clothesline! Dutchman’s Breeches have  delicately cut…

Hepatica

Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) Three-lobed leaves that resemble the human liver! Hepatica! Liver leaf!  On the east coast, you may find this early-blooming spring wildflower in the sharp-leaved or round-leaved form.  And just to make it more complicated, they sometimes hybridize! Here is a description of hepatica from Wikipedia: “Bisexual flowers with pink, purple, blue, or…

Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis Here they come… like little soldiers rising from the earth– Bloodroot flowers!  Look how their arms are held tight to their sides as they pierce through the cold and damp of early March! These precious wildflowers are among the first to bloom in Southwest Virginia. At my house, the emergence of bloodroot flowers is truly the first sign…

Trout Lily

Dogtooth Violet or Trout Lily Erythronium americanum I went for years without ever seeing a trout lily. They grow low to the ground and come up in the earliest part of spring, when the weather is still cold and unpredictable. Pushing up from under last year’s leaf pack, they are difficult to spot because the…

Skunk Cabbage

Symplocarpus foetidus Early March. The snow is just melting off and the first warm rays of spring have begun. Step outside, and most of the plant world is still asleep.  The leaves on the ground are heavy and soggy, and beneath them the ground is still very cold. This is the time for early-evening woodcock…