Ravenel’s Stinkhorn

Phallus ravenelii I know this is kind of gross, but I believe in equal opportunity.  So– I found this gray-capped stinkhorn growing in the mulch in my neighbor’s yard in early October.  There were a lot of them growing in the same area, with many lying on the ground “deliquescing” while others were still emerging…

Golden Aster

Chrysopsis mariana Blooming in late summer, this showy, golden yellow aster grows in barren areas.  These were photographed growing along a steep roadside embankment on Brush Mountain in Southwest Virginia. The leaves are alternate, simple, entire to ever-so-lightly toothed, hairy, with a strong mid-rib. The leaves are larger at the bottom of the plant, growing smaller…

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…

Slender Gerardia

Agalinis tenuifolia (Gerardia tenuifolia) Slender Gerardia is a native annual that grows to about 2 feet in height. Note the slender, linear leaves and overall dark color (green to purple) of the foliage.  The leaves are opposite and entire. The flowers, borne on long pedicels, are light to dark pink with purple spots inside. They…

New England Aster

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae You’ll recognize this prolific fall bloomer: New England Aster can be found growing locally in both home gardens and open meadows. Gobs of showy, purplish flowers cover the top of this tall native plant and provide an important source of nectar for insects–especially migrating butterflies– at this time of year. Examine the photo…

Turtlehead

Chelone Fishmouth, snakemouth, turtlehead…  The common names of this flower come from the 2-lipped shape, which calls to mind an animal’s gaping mouth. The pink, red or white flowers are borne on a spike at the top of the plant.  The leaves are opposite, ovate to lanceolate, and have lightly toothed margins. Turtlehead enjoys life…

Black-eyed Susans

Rudbeckia hirta I think we all remember these pretty wildflowers from our childhood. They are so common, yet… So darn confusing!  There are more than 20 species in the genus Rudbeckia, plus many cultivars and varieties. More than one species shares the common name “black-eyed susan”. Rudbeckia hirta is both a native wildflower and a frequently planted…

Maximilian’s Sunflower

Helianthus maximiliani Here’s a tall and cheerful late-summer perennial that’s not only beautiful, but also a great source of food for wildlife. We generally expect sunflowers to be tall, and this one is no exception.  It can grow 3 to 10 feet in height (making it particularly hard to photograph!) The leaves and stem of Max’s Sunflower are distinctive. The…

Sneezeweed

Helenium autumnale I really like this species epithet: autumnale!  It reminds me of what is happening right now, ever so subtly, in the great outdoors:  There are little signs of autumn coming–the black gums dropping bright red leaves on the forest floor…  the preying mantis growing large and more conspicuous on the prowl… the late…

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,…

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…

Gaura

Gaura biennis If you are still hunting for summer beauty, look no further. Biennial Gaura is a dainty showstopper that has been blooming for months and could continue until frost. This tall, native plant can reach 4 to 6 feet in height. The stem is hairy and the leaves are alternate and lance-shaped, slightly toothed…

Kidneyleaf Grass-of-Parnassus

Parnassia asarifolia A friend led me to a sphagnum bog in the mountains near Glen Alton, and that’s where we found a beautiful white wildflower in bloom:  the Grass of Parnassus!  Surrounding this plant was an immense diversity of other moisture-loving plants including sphagnum moss, sundews, cotton grass, horsetails, shining clubmoss, and alder. First of…

Teasel

Dipsacus As summer takes a curtain call, new blooming flowers are harder to come by.  But in drying fields and along fencerows and roadsides, the tall, spiny remnants of teasel delight the eye.  Earlier in the summer, teasel produces inconspicuous white, pink or purple flowers on an oval cone of spines.  The visually interesting flower…

Great Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica It is a late summer treat to see great blue lobelia in full bloom, often alongside the fabulously red cardinal flower. Sometimes called “blue cardinal flower”, great blue lobelia resembles red cardinal flower, (Lobelia cardinalis), in stature, habitat, and structure. Both of these plants are tall wetland species with colorful flowers borne on terminal racemes. Their…

White Snakeroot

Ageratina altissima (Eupatorium rugosum) White Snakeroot is a poisonous plant that is native to North America. The plants are tall and can grow 3-4 ft. in height.  Snakeroot’s white flowers are born at the top of the plant in loose clusters that might remind you of boneset or a white ageratum. The substantial leaves of…

Yellow Crownbeard

Verbesina occidentalis This native perennial of moist and sunny places begins blooming in late summer and has a confusing look-alike called wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia, which blooms at about the same time.  They often occur together in the same area..  So let’s compare them:  Crownbeard and Wingstem are relatively tall plants with winged stems. Each is…

Common Rose Pink

Sabatia angularis Despite the name, there is nothing “common” about this plant! The rose-pink hue of the flower is really astounding. Each flower has 5 pink petals and 5 stamens with yellow anthers. The central yellow style is split in two, adding a festive “pop” to the center of the flower. At the base of…

Boneset

Eupatorium perfoliatum Common boneset is a perennial native that can be found growing locally in wet or damp areas. There are about 20 other white wildflowers that resemble boneset, but this plant is relatively easy to tell apart from the other look-alikes. Notice how the base of the leaves appear to wrap around the stem.  It…

Partridge Pea

Chamaechrista fasciulata  This late summer flower reminds me of the mimosa leaves that intrigued me as a child. It has pinnately compound leaves that are composed of 8 to 15 tiny, barbed leaflets that fold inward when you brush them with your finger. For further mystery, they close completely at night because they are sensitive…

Jimsonweed

Datura stamonium Jimsonweed is also called purple thorn apple.  One look at the purple stems and prickly fruit of this plant will tell you why. You’ll find it flowering in August and September, but your timing will have to be right. Generally, Jimsonweed flowers open at night and last only one day. Sometimes you can catch…

Wild Basil

Clinopodium vulgare or Satureja vulgaris Wild basil is a hairy mint with pointed oval leaves and clusters of pink to purple flowers.  The clusters are stacked on an erect, 4-sided stem that is distinctly wooly.  Morning dew will delight your eye as it glistens on the dried clusters long after the flowers fade. See the gallery…

Hoary Mountain Mint

Pycnanthemum incanum Here’s another native mint from the Lamiaceae family.  Like all the mints, this plant has 4-angled or square stems , opposite, elliptical leaves, and a pronounced mint fragrance.  Hoary mountain mint has white leaves at the top of the plant where the flowers arise.  The white to purple flowers are 2-lipped, with the…

Bittersweet Nightshade

Solanum dulcamara You might recognize the flower of this plant because it resembles lots of plants that you are already familiar with: tomato, eggplant, potatoes, ground cherry, jimsonweed, and horse nettle to name a few. These plants are all in the same family, Solanaceae, which is also known as the nightshade family. There are more…

American Poke

Phytolacca americana Also known as Virginia poke, American nightshade, pokeweed, and pokeberry, among other names, this native perennial is a towering beauty in fallow fields. American poke grows very tall (6-12 ft!) and typically inhabits waste areas and edge habitat. The leaves of American poke are simple, alternate, lanceolate, entire, and very large (up to…

Chanterelles in General

Cantharellus If you live here in Southwest Virginia, you’ll know its been raining steadily for most of the summer.  The ground is sopping wet and the streams and rivers are out of their banks. Everyone is getting a little tired of it by now.  But take a walk in the forest and you’ll find some…

Blue Mist Flower or Wild Ageratum

Conoclinium coelestinum Until today, I always thought of ageratum as a low-growing garden annual that you could buy readily in any garden center– but I never knew it was also a native wildflower! I recently found a colony of these plants growing along the side of a shallow pond in Blacksburg, VA. The plants were…

Soapwort or Bouncing Bet

Saponaria officianalis Early settlers brought seeds of soapwort to the U.S. from Europe.  It was actively cultivated in gardens.  An extract made from the juice of the plant was used to create suds when washing clothes–hence the name soapwort.  The plant was also called “Bouncing Bet”, after the old-timey name for a wash woman. From…

Chicory

Cichorium intybus Chicory, blue sailors, wild succory, coffeeweed, or cornflower…whatever you want to call it–how can you not LOVE the bright blue flowers of this tough little wildflower? In a summer field, chicory stands out because of its tall, rigid stems that almost appear woody.  Here and there along the stem appear aster-like flowers in…

Chicken of the Woods

Laetiporus These orange and yellow mushroom brackets are growing on a dead tree in the woods at Mountain Lake Conservancy in Virginia.  Also called sulphur shelf because of the color, this mushroom does not have gills.  It is a polypore mushroom.  As you can see from the photos, the fungus can produce very large numbers…

White Campion

  Silene latifolia On my way to work early this morning, a stand of showy White Campion caught my eye.  It was just growing in a roadside ditch that hadn’t been mowed yet.  I felt like it was a little bit early in the year for this plant to be in bloom (I think of this as…

Oyster Mushrooms

I’ve read that you can find oyster mushrooms just about any month of the year in the South.  I’ve now found them on the same dead tree in my yard in November, July, September, and May.  I even found some in early April in another location. So when can you find oyster mushrooms in Virginia?…