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…

Whorled Loosestrife

Lysimachia quadrifolia Whorled loosestrife is a Virginia native wildflower. The name of the plant comes from both the whorl of simple leaves (usually four) that circle around an erect stem, and the whorled arrangement of the flowers, which emerge from the leaf axils.  The flower has five yellow petals with a conspicuous dab of red…

Yellow Rocket or Winter Cress

Burbarea vulgaris If “yellow rocket” refers to the the swift, spring-time explosion of mustard yellow flowers in local fields and ditches, then this is a very appropriate name for a wildflower. Yellow Rocket, or Common Winter Cress, blooms in profusion from April to June in Southwest Virginia. Yellow rocket is in the mustard family (Brassicaceae),…

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…

Wild Sasparilla

Aralia nudicaulis I found a section of hardwood forest at Primland that was carpeted with Wild Sasparilla! The plants were already past flowering in early June, but the flower stalks were still present below the leaves, and seeds were starting to form on them. See the gallery above. In early spring, before the leaf canopy…

Addison’s Leatherflower

Clematis addisonii Addison’s Leatherflower, Clematis addisonii, 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…

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…

Canada Violet

Viola canadensis Canada Violet goes by many names, but you may be most comfortable calling it White Violet, or Tall White Violet, because those are its most conspicuous field marks.  I usually think of violets as low-growing wildflowers, but this one can reach more than a foot in height.  The beautiful heart-shaped leaves can grow…

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…

Virginia Waterleaf

Hydrophyllum virginianum You will find Virginia Waterleaf blooming in rich woods during late spring and the early summer months.  Right now in early May, the plants are up and the flower buds have formed. Notice the mottled or “water-stained” appearance of the 3 to 7-lobed leaves.  The leaves and stem are very succulent (or “watery”), not unlike…

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!…

Jack in the Pulpit

Arisaema triphyllum What’s not to love about this native wildflower? It is exotic–practically sexy with all its twists and curves. Take a look at the photo gallery to see how variable in size and color the flowers of Jack in the Pulpit can be.  One thing they all have in common though, is the little…

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 orange-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…

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…

Mountain Bellwort

Uvularia puberula If you look at the photo above, at first glance, the plant looks a bit like Solomon’s Seal, but it is glossier and the leaflets are more rounded. The stem is different too: it zigzags back and forth at every leaflet, and each stem is branched into two distinct parts. For two years now, I’ve…

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…

Heartleaf

 Hexastylis sp. Here is a kind of ginger that is evergreen. That means you can find it in winter woods when there is otherwise very little green to be found. The waxy green, heart-shaped leaves of Heartleaf are often mottled with white (variegated); the leaf margins are smooth (or entire). The leaves and rhizomes 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…

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…