Heal-All or Self-Heal

Prunella vulgaris As the name would suggest, heal-all has been used to treat all kinds of maladies in the past. Traditionally,  the shape of a plant was often used to discern its medicinal uses, and so the shape of this flower, with its open mouth exposing the throat, led to it being used as a…

Bee Balm and Wild Bergamot

Monarda There are many species of Monarda, but all have the following things in common: the plants have square stems; the leaves are simple, serrated, opposite, and have petioles; there is a distinct smell of mint when the leaves are crushed; the large flowers arise from a whorl, and sometimes the whorls are stacked up…

Queen Anne’s Lace

Daucus carota Here she is in all her loveliness– Queen Anne’s Lace, named after Queen Anne of England, who was an expert lacemaker! This umbrella-shaped flower is made up of many tiny white flowers; together they form the “lacy” pattern characteristic of the wildflower’s inflorescence. Below the umbel of flowers is a spray of finely…

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…

Field Chamomile

Anthemis  I found this beautiful, small daisy growing in a shale outcropping at Pandapas Pond yesterday. Unlike other daisy-like flowers blooming at this time, this plant was relatively low-growing with small (1-inch) but robust flowers. The unique leaves were finely divided and almost lacy. The entire plant had a rather sprawling growth habit and appeared…

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…

Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly weed is a kind of milkweed.  The brightly colored, orange flowers are similar in shape to those of common milkweed. It is a native perennial that gets its name from the fact that the flowers are so attractive to butterflies.  Insects and hummingbirds are attracted to both the color and the large…

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…

Thimbleweed or Tall Anemone

Anemone virginiana Here’s another great Virginia wildlflower!  I first found this plant in flower on a walking trail (edge habitat) near my house in early-June. At the time, there were only a couple of small flowers to be seen and it looked like they were all past their prime. I had no idea what it was,…

Fly Poison

Stagger Grass, Crow Poison, or Fly Poison Amianthium muscaetoxicum Look here– a lovely flower with a poisonous punch! Fly Poison is blooming right now in the higher elevations at Mountain Lake, in Giles County.  This plant contains neurotoxins that are deadly enough to kill livestock. All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the bulb. …

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…

Skullcap

  Scuttelaria Skullcap is a native perennial wildflower.  The genus, Scuttelaria, is huge; there are 300 species worldwide. Ninety-plus species occur in North America alone. The flower get its name from the shape of the calyx (the group of sepals) at the base of the flower, which looks like a little helmet (or “skull cap”)….

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…

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…

Yellow Star Grass

Hypoxis hirsuta This bright yellow wildflower might pass for a buttercup at first glance. Look closely and you will see that the leaves of this plant are slender and grasslike, reaching about 12 inches in height.  The flowers appear on shorter stems that usually bear more than one flower bud. The inflorescence is less than…

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…

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…

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…

Showy Skullcap

Scutellaria serrata Here’s a beautiful wildflower! 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 the Mint…

Bowman’s Root

Indian Physic, Fawn’s Breath, or Bowman’s Root Gillenia trifoliate The five narrow petals on this white flower protrude from the center in an irregular fashion. Perched atop dainty red stems, the blooms appear to just float in the air! Spent flowers are replaced immediately by bright red calyxes. The bushy plant grows 2 to 3 ft….

Eastern Smooth Beardtongue

Penstemon laevigatas Jason Turman pointed out this mass of beardtongue flowers growing along a roadside at Primland. The purple-pink blossoms were buzzing with bumblebees at the end of May. Just like the foxglove beardtongue featured in the previous post, this plant grows 3-5 ft. in height and prefers sunny or partial sunny locations. It too has…

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,…

Yellow Clintonia or Blue-bead Lily

Clintonia borealis   Here’s a beautiful mountain wildflower that I’ve found growing in sheltered places beneath the rocky slopes of Bald Knob on Salt Pond Mountain.  The leaves of Yellow Clintonia (or Blue-bead Lily) somewhat resemble robust orchid leaves; they are 6 to 10-inches long, elliptical, and shiny. Each individual plant bears two to five of these large basal leaves. In…

Canada Mayflower

Maianthemum canadense Although Canada Mayflower is considered a northern species, it can be found growing  in Virginia in the higher elevations of the the Appalachian Mountains.  The plants pictured here were photographed along the ridge top of Salt Pond Mountain (near Mountain Lake) and also along the banks of Big Stoney Creek in Giles County….

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…

Cliff Saxifrage or Michaux’s Saxifrage

Saxifrage michauxii Delicate white flowers with red and yellow dots are dancing in the mountain breeze at Mountain Lake in Giles County!  Cliff Saxifrage lives in the tiny cracks between the rocks on Bald Knob, elevation 4,300 ft. Head out for a hike and see this unusual plant in bloom–in late May and June!

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…

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…

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…

Indian Cucumber Root

Medeola virginiana This native plant is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae). It grows in open, moist woods, often in groups. Five to nine simple leaves are gracefully whorled around a single stem. Plants that are going to flower this year put out a second tier of 3 to 5 leaves, bringing the overall…