Pear-shaped Puffball

Lycoperdon pyriforme On a hike to the War Spur trail in late September, and then again at Pandapas Pond in late October, I found these mushrooms growing in abundance, on decaying logs. Although the common name of this fungus suggests a pear shape, these can also be round, as seen in the photo gallery below. When they are…

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…

Soapwort Gentian

Gentiana saponaria The vase or bottle-shaped flowers of soapwort gentian are blue or purple and closed.  The leaves are opposite, entire, lanceolate, hairless, and a bit shiny. This native perennial plant blooms from August to October. The flowers are pollinated by bumble bees, which have to fight their way into the flower.  Sometimes they chew their way in,…

Starry Campion

Silene stellata While on an August hike to Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory in West Virginia, I discovered this inconspicuous, and somewhat frail plant growing in the dry, rocky woodlands near the top of the mountain. I later saw the same plant in bloom in a similar habiat, at Wind Rock, near Mountain Lake. This is…

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…

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. …

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…

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…

Indian Cucumber Root

Medeola virginiana This native plant is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae). It grows in open, moist woods, often in groups. Five to nine simple leaves are gracefully whorled around a single stem. Plants that are going to flower this year put out a second tier of 3 to 5 leaves, bringing the overall…

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…

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…

Red Trillium

Red Trillium, Red Wakerobin, Southern Red Trillium Trillium erectum  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 and have triangular-shaped leaves…