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…

Knapweed

Centaurea Imagine a genus with 500+ species in it… Then imagine how intimidating it is to name a flower in this group to species! So in the interest of avoiding an error, I’ll stop at the genus level on this one. The folks at Wikipedia report that all the members of the genus Centaurea share…

Common Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca Milkweed is an interesting plant on a variety of levels. Most of us already know that monarch butterfly larvae feed exclusively on milkweed leaves, which renders the caterpillars and butterflies toxic to predators. And most of us know that the plant’s name is derived from the fact that it produces a milky-white, sticky…

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…

Prince’s Pine or Pipsisewa

Prince’s Pine, Pipsisewa, Wintergreen, or Waxflower Chimaphila umbellate This is a very attractive native perennial that can be found in dry, mountain woodlands growing along side other kinds of wintergreen (like Striped Wintergreen , Round-leaved Pyrola, or American Wintergreen). Prince’s Pine has shiny-green, leathery, whorled leaves that are toothed. The pink to white flowers are waxy-looking…

Deptford Pink

Dianthus armeria Demure and understated, discovering this bright little flower blooming among the grasses makes me dream of going to Deptford!  Don’t you think it must be beautiful there? Although it is indeed introduced from Europe, and probably even England, it is not really from the town of Deptford. The flower was wrongly identified when…

Bladder Campion

Silene vulgaris Here’s a very tall, perennial plant that is new to me! Look at those balloon-like flowers!  They occur in clusters of up to 30 flowers at the top of a single flowering stalk. The 1-inch flowers have 5 white petals, but each petal is split to look like two. The sepals behind the…

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…

Smooth Phlox

Phlox glabberrima Here’s a showy “hot pink” wildflower that is coming into bloom in May. In contrast to other phlox species, the stem of Smooth Phlox is not hairy, hence the name “smooth”.  It’s leaves are opposite and lanceolate (long and narrow), without prominent veins. Smooth phlox flowers are deep pink and they are about a half to…

Addison’s Leatherflower

Clematis addisonii Addison’s Leatherflower is a threatened species that is native to the Ridge and Valley Province in Virginia.  Most of the remaining populations occur here in Montgomery County (Southwest VA).  The plant prefers dry, rocky, limestone hillsides, banks and ravines. Addison’s Leatherflower is a perennial vine that starts out as an erect plant but…

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…

Gaywings

Fringed Polygala or Gaywings Polygala paucifolia At first glance, the color and texture of this flower call to mind an orchid.  The complicated structure, complete with wing-like sepals, resembles a flying bird or airplane.  Two petals are joined together to make a tube; a third, lower petal is fringed. The rosy pink or purple flowers…

Spring Beauty

Claytonia caroliniana and Claytonia virginica There are two kinds of Spring Beauties in our area. Above is the “wide-leaved” Spring Beauty, or Claytonia caroliniana.  The single pair of leaves on this small plant are ovate to lanceolate; the margin is entire. The lovely pink to white flowers are sweetly marked –each of the 5 petals…