Bradleys

Lactarius volemus The genus name of this mushroom refers to the “milky” latex that quickly flows when the flesh of the mushroom is cut or broken. Locally known in Southwest Virginia as swamps or bradleys, Lactarius volemus is an edible mushroom species. The top of the cap is burnt orange and smooth when young; the rim is…

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…

Nodding Ladies’ Tresses

Spiranthes cernua Twist and shout!  Luckily the bright white of these tiny orchids help them to stand out in the grass and weeds, otherwise they would be easy to miss in September meadows.  They stand only 4 to 12 inches in height. Nodding Ladies’ Tresses orchids bear their tiny flowers in a “double, intertwined” spiraling fashion…

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…

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…

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis It’s showtime—and this late-summer bloomer is as showy a flower as they come! Cardinal flower, a native perennial, produces bright red flowers on tall, unbranched stems. The flowers are produced on a raceme, which opens from the bottom first. Each individual flower is bright red and tubular, with 5 deep lobes that are…

Steeplebush or Hardhack

Spiraea tomentosa I think we are all familiar with spirea as a landscape ornamental. Familiar cultivars with names like Bridal Wreath, Gold Flame, Little Princess, and Neon Flash grace gardens across the South. Most of these have flat or rounded clusters of pink or white flowers in early summertime. Contrast this flower arrangement with Steeplebush….

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…

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…

Painted Trillium

Trillium undulatum Oh, where do I start with this uncommon wildflower? The coppery-green leaves?  The undulating tips of the dainty white petals? The glamorous scarlet blaze at the flower’s center? Maybe I should just say, “This little trillium is a real showstopper!” Like all the trillium species, the leaves, petals, and sepals of painted trillium…

Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia Run, don’t walk! Put on your hiking shoes and head up any Appalachian mountain trail (right now!) in May and June and you will  be rewarded with gorgeous Mountain Laurel blooms. This evergreen shrub can put on a spectacular display, since it varies in height from 3 to 15 feet and forms thick…

Flame Azalea

Rhododendron calendulaceum May is the time to look for the wild and magnificent Flame Azalea! Not to be outdone by Mountain Laurel, which also blooms in late spring, Flame Azalea is a shrub that practically sets the woods on fire with with its blaze of orange flowers. Wild azaleas don’t grow like the familiar, compact…

Mountain Phlox

Phlox latifolia Big flowers on a little stem!  I literally stumbled on this low-growing phlox as I walked along the banks of Big Stoney Creek at Glen Alton in mid-May. The area would best be described as “open” woodlands. Unlike many of the other phlox species in our area, mountain phlox blooms early (mid-May to…

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…

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…

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…

Skunk Cabbage

Symplocarpus foetidus Early March. The snow is just melting off and the first warm rays of spring have begun. Step outside, and most of the plant world is still asleep.  The leaves on the ground are heavy and soggy, and beneath them the ground is still very cold. This is the time for early-evening woodcock…