Black Cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa If you have ever walked down the supplement aisle in a health food store, you’ve probably heard of Black Cohosh.  The plant has long been harvested from the Appalachian Mountains for medicinal use, and even today the roots are still collected and sold for cash to the supplement industry.  The primary use of teas, pills,…

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,…

Dwarf Larkspur

Delphinium tricorne Sometimes in blue, sometimes in white, and sometimes in both blue and white, dwarf larkspur can be found blooming right now in local woodlands. This plant is among the showiest of the spring wildflowers, and it is a great reason to schedule some time outdoors soon. Before dwarf larkspur comes into bloom, the first cluster of basal leaves are…

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…

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!…

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…

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…

Fairybells or Yellow Mandarin

Fairybells or Yellow Mandarin Disporum lanuginosum Here’s a new species for me: Fairybells! The nodding, yellowish-green flowers of this woodland understory plant are easy to miss, and perhaps that’s why I’ve never noticed it before. The plant itself looks a bit like false solomon’s seal, except that the stem is branched. The stems are pubescent (see photos) and purplish;…

Blue Cohosh

Caulophyllum thalictroides Coming up now in rich hardwood coves is a historically important medicinal plant called blue cohosh. The flowers of this herb are small and inconspicuous, but the profusion of delicate blue-green leaves (for which the plant is named) make up for the lack of showy flowers. Blue cohosh is a tall perennial—growing 2 to 3…

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 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…

Star Chickweed

Stellaria pubera It seems like so many of our spring wildflowers are WHITE!  Some, like star chickweed, can easily go unnoticed because they are so small.  But look closely and you’ll see something here worth admiring: the five tiny white petals of this flower are deeply lobed, such that it looks like there are 10…

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…

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…

Dutchman’s Breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) I love these little Appalachian beauties!  The plant gets its name from the shape of the white flower, which looks like a pair of pants, or “breeches”. The bright little pants dangle from a raceme above the plant, as if they were suspended from a clothesline! Dutchman’s Breeches have  delicately cut…

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…