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…

White Snakeroot

Ageratina altissima (Eupatorium rugosum) White Snakeroot is a poisonous plant that is native to North America. The plants are tall and can grow 3-4 ft. in height.  Snakeroot’s white flowers are born at the top of the plant in loose clusters that might remind you of boneset or a white ageratum. The substantial leaves of…

Boneset

Eupatorium perfoliatum Common boneset is a perennial native that can be found growing locally in wet or damp areas. There are about 20 other white wildflowers that resemble boneset, but this plant is relatively easy to tell apart from the other look-alikes. Notice how the base of the leaves appear to wrap around the stem.  It…

Starry Campion

Silene stellata While on an August hike to Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory in West Virginia, I discovered this inconspicuous, and somewhat frail plant growing in the dry, rocky woodlands near the top of the mountain. I later saw the same plant in bloom in a similar habiat, at Wind Rock, near Mountain Lake. This is…

Jimsonweed

Datura stamonium Jimsonweed is also called purple thorn apple.  One look at the purple stems and prickly fruit of this plant will tell you why. You’ll find it flowering in August and September, but your timing will have to be right. Generally, Jimsonweed flowers open at night and last only one day. Sometimes you can catch…

Slender Ladies’ Tresses

Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis Last summer I reported on Nodding Ladies’ Tresses, which I found growing in bog-like conditions near Glen Alton. Today I found a similar plant growing in a grassy, well-drained field right here in Blacksburg. This one is Green-Lipped Ladies’ Tresses, or Slender Ladies’ Tresses.  As the first part of the name…

Virgin’s Bower

Clematis virginiana Look up!  That white-flowering, climbing vine that is now covering young trees and shrubs along pathways in Blacksburg is absolutely stunning– and its name is Virgin’s Bower! Perhaps not surprisingly, this pretty native is a kind of Clematis. The 4-petalled flowers are about 1-inch wide and sweetly fragrant. Pollinators, including butterflies, bees of…

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Goodyear pubescens   I love the leaves of this little native orchid.  Look at that symphony of color and design! The silver markings on the dark blue-green leaves, along with the bold stripe in the center of the leaf make it easy to identify as rattlesnake plantain. The “plantain” part of this plant’s name comes…

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…

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…

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…

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. …

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 or American Wintergreen). Prince’s Pine has shiny-green, leathery, whorled leaves that are toothed. The pink to white flowers are waxy-looking and borne…

Striped Wintergreen or Pipsisewa

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…

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…

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…

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….

Foxglove Beardtongue

Foxglove Beardtongue, Foxglove Penstemon, or Beardtongue Penstemon digitalis 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…

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…

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!

Speckled Wood Lily or Black-bead Lily

Clintonia umbellulata There are two Clintonias blooming now in forests in Southwest Virginia. One has yellow flowers and one has white flowers. Speckled Wood Lily (or Black-bead Lily) is the common name of the white version.  The large leaves of this plant are oval-shaped and might put you in mind of the Pink Lady’s Slipper orchid. These leaves tend to grow in…

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…

Pussytoes

Antennaria Antennaria:  This is a difficult genus, containing several species in our area. Since I’m not a botanist, I am going to stop at the genus level here and simply say that all the flowers on this page are members of the genus, Antennaria, or Pussytoes! Don’t you LOVE the name? Soft and wooly, with white…

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…

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…

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 For me, this early-flowering beauty was first found in April, at my friend’s country house in Shawsville, Virginia.  More recently, I found it in Wildwood Park in Radford, growing right next to Hoary Pucoon. The genus of the plant, Erigeron, will tell you it is a “fleabane”, although this one is shorter, and…

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…

Spring Beauty

Claytonia caroliniana and Claytonia virginica There are two kinds of Spring Beauties in our area. Above is the “wide-leaved” Spring Beauty, or Claytonia caroliniana.  The single pair of leaves on this small plant are ovate to lanceolate; the margin is entire. The lovely pink to white flowers are sweetly marked –each of the 5 petals…

White Trillium

Trillium grandiflorum White Trillium  White trillium, or wakerobin, is a showy perennial wildflower that occurs in Virginia and most of the eastern states. The single flower of the trillium plant opens in late March and early April. In some areas, trillium can be found growing in great profusion on the forest floor, before the leaf…

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 or “toothed”, 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…

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…