Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) You will find wild ginger, or Canadian ginger, growing in deciduous forests throughout the east coast, including Appalachia, but don’t bother looking for it in winter. This ginger is a deciduous, herbaceous plant (leaves disappear in fall). Ginger colonies form in the springtime from branching rhizomes that form just below the…

Honesty

Money Plant or Honesty Lunaria annua A native of Europe, this biennial has spread across much of the United States because it seeds so easily. In it’s first year it is a small plant, but in the second year it grows to 3 feet in height before it flowers and goes to seed. Well established now…

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…

Virginia Pennywort

Obolaria virginica We were out hunting for morels when we came across this somewhat obscure spring ephemeral, Virginia Pennywort. These plants were growing along the edge of the forest on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, Virginia. Pennywort is difficult to spot in the springtime forest because it is very short and non-descript. It only reaches…

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…

White Trillium

Trillium grandiflorum White Trillium  White trillium, or wakerobin, is a showy perennial wildflower that occurs in forested parts of Virginia (and most of the eastern states). The single, three-petaled, white flower is born on a delicate pedicle that arises from a whorl of three broad leaves (technically bracts). Other distinguishing features include three visible sepals…

Virginia Bluebells

Mertensia virginica Virginia bluebells are also called Virginia cowslip, or Roanoke bells.  I first spotted them here in Blacksburg in a friend’s yard, but soon learned that this native wildflower grows extensively along the banks of streams and rivers in this part of Virginia, making it a riparian species.  Last year I saw them growing…

Cutleaf Toothwort

Dentaria laciniata or Cardamine concatenata The leaves of this early spring wildflower occur in distinctive whorls of three. Each leaflet is deeply cut, sometimes so much so that it looks like there are five leaflets. Clusters of white to pinkish flowers are born at the top of the plant; each flower has four petals and…

Yellow Trillium

Yellow Trillium (Trillium luteum) The striking leaves of this stout woodland wildflower are mottled with patches of silvery green. The plant has a lemon scent. Folklore holds that toads sit under the leaves to capture the bugs that are drawn to the flowers, hence the common name, toadshade.  Once planted, yellow trillium seeds very easily by…

Wood Poppy

Celandine Poppy Stylophorum diphyllum Among the earliest wildflowers to come up in my yard in April, wood poppies are tough and cold resistant. These native Virginia wildflowers grow quickly into tall plants that reach about 2 feet in height; they produce a profusion of bright yellow flowers from early spring through the summer. The large flowers will eventually give way to fuzzy, elongated seed…

Twin Leaf

Jeffersonia diphylla Twin leaf emerges in mid-March or early April, and blooms soon after the first leaves appear.  It is found in damp, loamy soils in open woods in the eastern U.S., primarily in regions north of Virginia. The genus was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, who apparently grew it in his home garden at…

Coltsfoot

Tussilago farfara Coltsfoot. This introduced species is a very early spring wildflower. The flowers appear before the leaves are formed, usually in March and April.  Someone informed me that an old-time common name for this plant was “Son Before Father”, because the flower comes up before the leaves fully develop. Gotta love those common names–this one…

Rue Anemone

Anemonella thalictroides Tiny and delicate, the white to pinkish flowers of rue anemone explode in early spring like bright lights on the dark forest floor. The small, three-lobed leaves resemble meadow rue in appearance.  The plant is so dainty that it moves almost constantly in the slightest wind, making it a challenge to photograph!  Note…

Hepatica

Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) Three-lobed leaves that resemble the human liver! Hepatica! Liver leaf!  On the east coast, you may find this early-blooming spring wildflower in the sharp-leaved or round-leaved form.  And just to make it more complicated, they sometimes hybridize! Here is a description of hepatica from Wikipedia: “Bisexual flowers with pink, purple, blue, or…

Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis Here they come… like little soldiers rising from the earth– Bloodroot flowers!  Look how their arms are held tight to their sides as they pierce through the cold and damp of early March! These precious wildflowers are among the first to bloom in Southwest Virginia. At my house, the emergence of bloodroot flowers is truly the first sign…

Trout Lily

Dogtooth Violet or Trout Lily Erythronium americanum I went for years without ever seeing a trout lily. They grow low to the ground and come up in the earliest part of spring, when the weather is still cold and unpredictable. Pushing up from under last year’s leaf pack, they are difficult to spot because the…