Flower of the Day: Rattlesnake Weed


aka rattlesnake hawkweed
Hieracium venosum




This species of hawkweed is found in all US states east of Mississippi, as well as Quebec, and west of the Mississippi in Missouri and British Columbia. It’s endangered in Maine.

There are 37 native and 15 alien species of Heiracium in North America; at least one grows in every US state and Canadian province (except Nunavut).  Some of these are naturally occurring hybrids.  And several others are considered noxious weeds. And yet a few more are threatened or endangered.



This one grows up to 2 1/2 feet tall in dry, open woods and clearings, usually on rocky soils (or right on rocks).






It’s all over the Carderock area as well as the large bluff in the middle of the Billy Goat B trail.  It’s easy to distinguish from other hawkweeds: on the young plant, the basal leaves have a characteristic red venation, though that color fades as the plant ages.

20140408-rattlesnake weed foliage

Several sources state that the moniker “rattlesnake” comes from the fact that it shares habitat with actual rattlesnakes.


Flower of the Day: Long-Tube Valerian


aka few-flowered valerian
(from the specific epithet)
and large-flowered valerian
Valeriana pauciflora
(sometimes Caprifoliaceae)


From Florida to Alaska, there’s a valerian for almost every state (except for a few Great Plains and Midwestern ones). Fifteen native species occur across the US and Canada, plus one alien: Valeriana officinalis, the European plant used in alternative medicine.  Of the natives, only V. pauciflora is found in Maryland, and this species has a narrow range, from Pennsylvania to Illinois and south to Tennessee (with a few occurrences in northern Alabama).

The USDA site shows it in Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland; the Maryland Biodiversity Project shows it in Montgomery and Harford.  Either way, it’s endangered in the state.

20150514-20150514-_DSC0140That makes it even more special to stumble upon.  I’ve found five discreet stands in the Potomac Gorge; there must be more.  One of these stands comprised at least one hundred individual plants. Absolutely glorious in full bloom.

Each of these stands is located in deep woods, in low areas that are consistently moist but not wet. Not in the Potomac floodplain proper, but often along the banks of deep-cut rills just above it.

(<—– isn’t that elegant?)


20150507-20150507-_DSC0075Whenever I see a deep tube on a flower, I wonder who pollinates it.  Internet research got me almost no information, except this from the excellent Illinois Wildflowers site of Dr. John Hilty: “The long slender corollas suggests that the flowers are pollinated by bumblebees, butterflies, Sphinx moths, and possibly hummingbirds. The nectar of the flowers is inaccessible to most insects with short mouthparts.”

I’m not the most patient hunter.  Maybe next year, I’ll sit quietly in that hundred-plant area and see who comes visiting.




emerging foliage, April 6




budding up, May 1


I’ve always been fond of tiny flowers, and ephemeral things (like dewdrops and shadows), so I’m always trying to get the camera lens right in there, to get the closest possible shot, or at least a different perspective.  As a benefit, I’ve come to appreciate things in a new way.


plantain-leaved pussy toes
Antennaria plantaginifolia





Things like pussytoes, which have never been a favorite.  I’d spent some time trying to get good pictures of them, without much success, then one day last week I spotted a stand of pussytoes that looked… strange.


Like the flower heads were coated in spiderwebs.


It wasn’t ’til I got the lens closer that I saw what was really happening – they were going to seed. Quickly. A light breeze was pushing the seeds away as I worked.




This plant is a low-grower, a small basal rosette of gray-green foliage coming up in dry, rocky soils in full sun, with an inflorescence that might stand as much as two feet tall; the flower heads are small, and clustered tightly together.  About three dozen species of Antennaria grow across the US, six of which can be found in the mid-Atlantic.

Another common name for this species is woman’s tobacco.  I have no idea why.

Flower of the Day: Virginia Spiderwort


 aka spider lily

Tradescantia virginiana




More than two dozen species of Tradescantia grow in the US; most are natives, a few are alien.  Of these, only this one and T. ohiensis can be found in the Maryland Piedmont.  The plants stand two to three feet tall, and like moist soils and some shade.  The flowers open in the morning and close by early afternoon (maybe later on overcast days).  Each flower lasts only one day, but the plant can produce flowers over a period of a month or more.


This is a nice plant for the garden, and there are many hybrids in the nursery trade. Remember, if you garden to benefit wildlife (bees and butterflies visit spiderwort), look for the species rather than cultivars, which are often not recognized by the wildlife you’re trying to attract.

Here are a few brief articles on the subject: