Lily-leaved Twayblade

Purple Twayblade, Lily-leaved Twayblade, Large Twayblade, or Brown Widelip Orchid Liparis liliifolia This inconspicuous, native orchid blooms in May and June. Each plant grows from a new underground corm; the previous year’s corm withers away.  Two oval, waxy leaves emerge in April and eventually reach 4 to 6 inches in height. The small flowers begin to…

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…

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…

Foxglove Beardtongue

Penstemon digitalis Foxglove Beardtongue, Foxglove Penstemon, or Beardtongue These showy, native  wildflowers appear from April to June in sunny or partially sunny locations.  They grow from 3 to 5 ft. tall in brilliant masses; this group was photographed along the side of the road at Primland in Meadows of Dan. The two-lipped, tubular flowers are borne on…

Green and Gold

Golden Star or Green and Gold Chrysogonum virginianum You might be familiar with this plant from home gardens.  It is a native wildflower with a spreading habit and long-lasting flowers, so it makes an excellent ground cover in the garden. The bright yellow flowers with contrasting brown stamens are held high above the light green,…

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…

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 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…

Fire Pink

Silene virginica is Fire Pink Hot stuff! Five long, radiant, red petals adorn this flower. Each petal has a cute little notch at the end. The petals lead down to a long tube that holds the pistil and stamens. Given the tube-like shape of the flower, fire pink requires a pollinator with a long tongue or…

Putty-root Orchid

Adam and Eve Orchid or Putty-root Orchid Aplectrum hyemale Putty-root orchid is found throughout Virginia in moist forests, but it is often obscured by other herbaceous growth in the spring and summer, and by leaf litter in the fall and winter. In early May, you’ll notice the flower stalks emergining from the ground. In the early…

Wild Stonecrop

Woodland or Wild Stonecrop Sedum ternatum Wild stonecrop is a native sedum that prefers shaded woodlands. It is a mat-forming succulent with rounded leaves arranged in a whorled pattern. Fertile, upright stems bear beautiful, bright white blooms in May and June. Each flower has four white petals. Wild stonecrop is usually found on bare slopes…

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…

Lyre-leaved Sage

Wild Sage or Lyre-leaved Sage Salvia lyrata Lyre-leaved sage is another member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). In full bloom, the height of the plant is 1-2 feet. The stalk of flowers arises from a basal rosette of deeply (pinnately) lobed leaves. The tube-shaped flowers are blue to purple and about an inch long. The flowers…

Quaker Ladies

Houstonia caerulea Everyone has seen bluets before, but did you know that the real name for them is Quaker Ladies? This is a native plant that goes unnoticed most of the time, because it is so small and low-growing. That is, until springtime. That is when Quaker Ladies send up their slender flower stalks and the…

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,…

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…

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…

Meadow Rue

Thalictrum For this beautiful plant, it’s all about the foliage. Meadow rue has soft gray-green foliage that might remind you of the delicate leaves of columbine. The large, compound leaves are ternately divided (i.e. they are divided three times like a fern) into nine leaflets. The margin of each individual leaflet is gently rounded into…

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…

Wood Anemone

Anemone quinquifolia These plants are difficult to photograph! Anemones are also called windflowers, because the lightest breeze puts them in motion. Adding to the difficulty, the flowers close at night and on overcast days, making it hard again to get a good picture. So maybe it is no wonder that I only came across this…

False Solomon’s Seal

Smilacina racemosa Note the placement of the flowers of this plant at the tip of the stem. It is otherwise very similar to Solomon’s Seal in appearance: an upright, unbranched stem bearing alternating oval leaves. The plant produces bright red berries later in the season. Click on any image below to open the gallery.

Robin’s Plantain

Erigeron pulchellus I first discovered this early-blooming, daisy-like wildflower at my friend’s country house in Shawsville, Virginia. Later, I found it growing in early May in Wildwood Park (Radford), and at the entrance to Pandapas Pond in the Jefferson National Forest. Each time I was really struck by how beautiful it is. See if you agree!…

Hoary Puccoon

Stoneseed or Hoary Puccoon Lithospermum canescens If it were not for the unusually vibrant, orange to yellow color of these flowers, you would probably miss this little plant completely while walking in the great outdoors. The first time I discovered it, I found it in bloom in April of 2012, near Shawsville, VA.  The plants were growing on a…

Showy Orchis

Galearis spectabilis is the Showy Orchis! This orchid miraculously appears on the forest floor in April and May in Virginia.  It likes limey soils like we have here in Montgomery County, and it is often found on the edges of swampy terrain.  This week it is coming up on the hillside at my house and near the…

Shooting Stars

Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Stars! What a great name! This spring-blooming, perennial plant has a basal rosette of oblong leaves, each about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. In late April and early May, a stalk (or inflorescence) comes up from the center of the rosette and unfurls into a half-dozen or more white or…

Goldenseal

Hydrastis canadensis or Orange-root  Goldenseal is also known as organge-root because of its thick, yellow rhizome (or underground root). This inconspicuous wildflower is in danger of being over-harvested because the plant has numerous medicinal uses.  It is purported to have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and laxative effects, among others. Extracts of farm-raised goldenseal are sold in salves…

Solomon’s Seal

Polygonatum biflorum This handsome woodland plant grows upright as an unbranched stalk of alternating, oval leaves. The leaf edges are smooth. The plant has a look-alike, false solomon’s seal, but the two are easy to tell apart if the plants are in bloom. The flowers of solomon’s seal are born underneath the leaves, as seen in…

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…

Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja coccinea or Indian Scarlet Paintbrush  The color of this flower makes it a showstopper, and as you can imagine, hummingbirds love it. According to the “Easy Wildflowers” website, “The inconspicuous flowers bloom within a dense cluster of beautiful leafy bracts that are brilliant shades of orange, red, or sometimes yellow. Wild Indian Paintbrush flowers…

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…

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…

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….

Eastern Red Columbine

or Wild Columbine Aquilegia canadensis This beautiful red and yellow flower grows in thin soil on rock ledges and along rocky slopes in woods, ravines and bluffs.  The dainty flowers dangle from delicate stems, rocking constantly in the breeze. You can find columbine growing from April to July in Virginia.  The elaborate flowers are only…

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…

Largeflower Bellwort and Perfoliate Bellwort

Largeflower Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) and Perfoliate Bellwort( Uvularia perfoliata) Here are two bellworts with “perfoliate” leaves but a few subtle differences.  Large-flowered bellwort is a tall, nodding plant in springtime with large, dark yellow flowers that are sometimes hard to see because they can be hidden in leaves. The yellow “petals” hang in a disorderly, twisted fashion and the petals are…

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…