Jewelweed

Impatiens capensis Jewelweed or touch-me-not is a tall annual that grows in moist areas, usually along the banks of streams, rivers and ponds.  The leaves are somewhat toothed and blue-green in color. Raindrops tend to bead up on the leaves, giving it a “bejeweled” appearance in sunshine. The trumpet-like or funnel-shaped flowers are yellowish-orange with…

American Wintergreen or Round-leaved Pyrola

Pyrola americana Also flowering in June is another member of the Wintergreen Family: Round-leaved Pyrola.  This low-growing, creeping perennial has shiny green leaves arranged in a rosette. Each leaf is 1 to 2 inches in length, rounded at the tip, and strongly veined. Several blooms are born on a spike (raceme). The hanging, white flowers…

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…

Striped Wintergreen or Pipsissewa

Chimaphila maculata Such a dainty, intriguing flower! I’ve been stalking it for a month now, waiting for it to come into bloom. Finally! Here it is in June at Pandapas Pond, near Blacksburg. This perennial evergreen herb is another forest floor inhabitant that could easily go unnoticed due to its size.  In flower it is…

Indian Pipe

Ghost Flower, Corpse Plant, or Indian Pipe Monotropa uniflora This wildflower lacks chlorophyll and is non-photosynthetic. In order to obtain carbon, it forms a parasitic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi that grow on tree roots. Indian pipes are found in rich, moist woods where there is a lot of leaf litter. There is one flower per…

Butter-and-Eggs

Linaria vulgaris This plant has many common names, including Common Toadflax, Wild Snapdragon, Yellow Toadflax, and of course, Butter-and-Eggs. Another “introduced” wildflower, it is native to Asia and Europe, but it is now a naturalized weed present in all of North America. Butter-and-Eggs is a perennial plant with erect stems and thin, threadlike leaves that…

Sulfur Cinquefoil

Rough-Fruited Cinquefoil or Sulfur Cinquefoil Potentilla recta
 Another “introduced species”, this tall flower of pastures, roadsides, and railroads has spread across the entire United States. In some states it is considered a noxious weed. Sulfur cinquefoil flowers are usually soft yellow, but sometimes they are white. Each of the 5 petals is shaped like a…

Viper’s Bugloss

Blueweed, Blue Devil, or Viper’s Bugloss Echium vulgare Viper’s Bugloss is a biennial that produces brilliantly blue flowers with long red stamens in June. The funnel-shaped flowers start out pink, but then later turn dark blue. The oblong leaves grow up to 6 inches long, are dotted with small white dimples and covered with tiny white…

Moth Mullein

Moth Mullein Verbascum blattaria Look for this biennial plant, June through September, in pastures, meadows, and along roadsides.  It can grow up to 5 feet tall! The photos above show the leaves arranged on the flowering stem in an alternate pattern, without petioles and gently clasping. These leaves are elliptic and slightly toothed. The dazzling…

Lance-leaved Coreopsis

Lanceleaf coreopsis, Lance-leaved coreopsis, or Lanceleaf tickseed Coreopsis lanceolata This bright yellow, perennial wildflower occurs in open areas and along roadsides. The bold flower head is large (1-2 inches in diameter) and is held on a tall, hairless stem, or peduncle. This is an aster, so the flower head is actually made up of ray…

Spiderwort

Tradescantia  Found in almost all counties of Virginia, spiderwort is both a native wildflower and a commonly cultivated garden plant. The plants can grow up to about two feet tall. Sometimes you will find them growing singly, but most often they occur in large clumps that look like tall, wild grass. The flowers bloom at…

Yellow Hawkweed or King Devil

Hieracium caespitosum (H. pratense) I’ve been spotting a new wildflower around town this week, and I even saw it a couple of days ago on top of Salt Pond Mountain, near Mountain Lake. It is hard to miss this plant because the flower stalks are tall and straight and they are topped with sunny yellow flowers…

Smooth Hawksbeard

Smooth Hawksbeard Crepis capillaris This aster is commonly found in bloom from spring until fall in agricultural fields and on disturbed sites. The 1-inch wide flower heads are made up entirely of yellow ray flowers –they look similar to dandelions. The flowers are held up on erect stems, well above the basal leaves. The deeply…

Galax

Galax urceolata Wandflower, Galax, or Beetleweed 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 the…

Flame Azalea

Rhododendron calendulaceum May is the time to look for the wild and magnificent Flame Azalea! Not to be outdone by Mountain Laurel, which also blooms in late spring, Flame Azalea is a shrub that practically sets the woods on fire with with its blaze of orange flowers. Wild azaleas don’t grow like the familiar, compact…

Tulip Poplar

Liriodendron tulipifera Although not technically a wildflower, you may find this flower on the ground in May and wonder what it is.  It is the flower of the tulip poplar tree (tuliptree, yellow poplar). Tulip poplar is the tallest of the eastern hardwood trees, which is one reason why you may not have seen the…

Yellow Rocket or Winter Cress

Burbarea vulgaris If “yellow rocket” refers to the the swift, spring-time explosion of mustard yellow flowers in local fields and ditches, then this is a very appropriate name for a wildflower. Yellow Rocket, or Common Winter Cress, blooms in profusion from April to June in Southwest Virginia. Yellow rocket is in the mustard family (Brassicaceae),…

Philadelphia Fleabane or Common Fleabane

Philadelphia fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus This aster-like flower is a composite: the flower you observe is really a “composite” of many smaller flowers.  The genus, Erigeron, includes scores of species, but I’ll take a chance and say that the one pictured here is Philadelphia fleabane, because of the way the leaves are wrapped around the hairy…

Marsh Blue Violets

Viola cucullata Marsh blue violet is a woodland violet with blue flowers that prefers moist places. The heart-shaped leaves grow from the base of the plant (no stem!) on long stalks.  The beautiful blue flowers are held above the leaves on even longer stalks.  The full height of the plant is between 5 and 10…

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…

Squawroot

Cancer-root, Squawroot, or Bear corn Conopholis americana Squawroot is a spring flowering plant, but it is non-photosynthetic.  Instead, it is parasitic on the roots of trees, usually oaks and beeches.  The above-ground part of the plant is the flowering structure, and it looks like a pine cone, or even a corn cob (Bear corn), rising…

Bishop’s Cap

Miterwort or Bishop’s Cap Mitella diphylla Bishop’s cap is a delicate, white wildflower that prefers moist, rich woodlands. It is content on limestone or sandstone-based soils. I’ve found it growing abundantly at Falls Ridge Preserve in Montgomery County in mid- to late spring, and also along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The name of the flower…

Dames Rocket

Hesperis matronalis Dames rocket looks (and acts!) a lot like honesty: a tall, introduced, spring-blooming plant with four-petaled flowers in pinkish purple or white. However, the leaves of damesrocket are elongated and lance-shaped,with a slightly toothed edge. The seedpod is also very long and thin, not round like money plant. It blooms in mid-May, while…

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…

Spicebush

Lindera benzoin Early April is a great time to go for a walk in the woods to look for the first signs of spring. If you look carefully, all sorts of woodland characters are quietly making an appearance. You’ll find that bloodroot, trout lily, twinleaf, hepatica and Dutchman’s breeches are already in bloom. In fact, many of…

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…