Painted Trillium

Trillium undulatum Oh, where do I start with this uncommon wildflower? The coppery-green leaves?  The undulating tips of the dainty white petals? The glamorous scarlet blaze at the flower’s center? Maybe I should just say, “This little trillium is a real showstopper!” Like all the trillium species, the leaves, petals, and sepals of painted trillium…

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…

Showy Skullcap

Scutellaria serrata This is one of my favorite wildflowers! The dainty flowers are two shades of purple and they are held high above the simple and attractive foliage. The morphology of the flower is interesting at each stage of development–from new buds to maturity. Just take a look at some of the photos below… Skullcaps are in…

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…

Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia Run, don’t walk! Put on your hiking shoes and head up any Appalachian mountain trail (right now!) in May and June and you will  be rewarded with gorgeous Mountain Laurel blooms. This evergreen shrub can put on a spectacular display, since it varies in height from 3 to 15 feet and forms thick…

Yellow Clintonia or Blue-bead Lily

Clintonia borealis   Here’s a beautiful mountain wildflower that I’ve found growing in sheltered places beneath the rocky slopes of Bald Knob on Salt Pond Mountain.  The leaves of Yellow Clintonia (or Blue-bead Lily) somewhat resemble robust orchid leaves; they are 6 to 10-inches long, elliptical, and shiny. Each individual plant bears two to five of these large basal leaves. In…

Canada Mayflower

Maianthemum canadense Although Canada Mayflower is considered a northern species, it can be found growing  in Virginia in the higher elevations of the the Appalachian Mountains.  The plants pictured here were photographed along the ridge top of Salt Pond Mountain (near Mountain Lake) and also along the banks of Big Stoney Creek in Giles County….

Speckled Wood Lily or Black-bead Lily

Clintonia umbellulata There are two Clintonias blooming now in forests in Southwest Virginia. One has yellow flowers and one has white flowers. Speckled Wood Lily (or Black-bead Lily) is the common name of the white version.  The large leaves of this plant are oval-shaped and might put you in mind of the Pink Lady’s Slipper orchid. These leaves tend to grow in…

Pussytoes

Antennaria Antennaria:  This is a difficult genus, containing several species in our area. Since I’m not a botanist, I am going to stop at the genus level here and simply say that all the flowers on this page are members of the genus, Antennaria, or Pussytoes! Don’t you LOVE the name? Soft and wooly, with white…

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…

Whorled Loosestrife

Lysimachia quadrifolia Whorled loosestrife is a Virginia native wildflower. The name of the plant comes from both the whorl of simple leaves (usually four) that circle around an erect stem, and the whorled arrangement of the flowers, which emerge from the leaf axils.  The flower has five yellow petals with a conspicuous dab of red…

Wild Sasparilla

Aralia nudicaulis I found a section of hardwood forest at Primland that was carpeted with Wild Sasparilla! The plants were already past flowering in early June, but the flower stalks were still present below the leaves, and seeds were starting to form on them. See the gallery above. In early spring, before the leaf canopy…

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,…

Green Violet

Hybanthus concolor Can a plant that is almost 3 feet tall really be a violet?  It turns out it can, based on some of the technical features of the flower. Unlike the violets that you are already familiar with, this member of Violaceae has tiny green flowers, hairy stems, and alternate, elliptical leaves that can grow up…

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…

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…

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…

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….

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…

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…

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…

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;…

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…

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…

Cutleaf Toothwort

Dentaria laciniata or Cardamine concatenata The leaves of this early spring wildflower occur in distinctive whorls of three. Each leaflet is deeply cut, sometimes so much so that it looks like there are five leaflets. Clusters of white to pinkish flowers are born at the top of the plant; each flower has four petals and…

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…