…But Wait, What’s This?

20160512-_DSC0195Growing close by the wild blue indigo I wrote about yesterday was this plant. No flowers yet, just yellow buds. Light green leaves, not quite as blue-gray as the indigo’s, but with the shape and in an arrangement that strongly suggests the pea family. Could it be Baptisia tinctoria?


I’ve gone back to that area twice just to look for this plant and have been completely unable to find it. I can’t tell you how pissed off at myself I am – for not taking photos of the surrounding area, to make it easier to find. Oh, and it’s raining again.  Gah!

Persistence Pays Off, Part Two



Mud, rock, and poison ivy.

That’s what I stepped into and on and over and around one recent morning, down by the Potomac, while trying to photograph wild blue indigo (Baptisia australis, Fabaceae).


As I wrote around this time last year, I saw flower buds in this stand of plants in 2014, but then there was a bit of a flood and the plants were wiped out. Then, in 2015, I totally missed seeing the flowers, though I did see the seedpods.


I wasn’t going to miss it three years in a row. Despite an extraordinarily rainy May I’ve trudged out to this area about once a week, then every day or two as I saw the buds developing. The river is running really high, lapping at the rocks where the plants are growing, but it hasn’t covered them yet, though as it turns out the bedrock terraces of the Potomac gorge are exactly the habitat this species loves, so the occasional flood doesn’t bother it at all.


Wild blue indigo is listed as S2/threatened in Maryland, so finding a big, healthy stand is kinda special. (It’s also threatened in Indiana and endangered in Ohio.) Mostly wild blue indigo grows in Oklahoma and Kansas, with a few occurrences in nearby parts of Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri. According to BONAP’s North American Plant Atlas, it is present but rare in about a dozen states east of the Mississippi River.



Persistence Pays Off, Part One


puttyroot; Adam and Eve
Aplectrum hyemale

In May of 2014 I saw puttyroot for the first time, two plants and one spike of flowers. After that I saw the seedheads on the spike. Every time I was in the area I’d go by the patch, and (except in summer) I’d see the plants. But in 2015 for some reason they didn’t bloom. I learned later that this is often the case with some species of orchid: if conditions aren’t just right, they won’t bloom.

A puttyroot plant has a single ground-level leaf that comes up in autumn, persists through the winter, and dies back before the plant sends up the flower spike in late spring.


A few weeks ago I saw a new spike coming up. I went back again and again, despite the miserable rainy weather we’ve been having, until finally I saw the flowers.


Puttyroot ranges from Quebec south to North Carolina, with scattered occurrences a little further south than that, and west as far as Oklahoma, Kansas, and Minnesota. It’s endangered in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, threatened in Vermont, rare in Pennsylvania, and special concern in Connecticut. In the Maryland Piedmont I’ve seen the plants in the Potomac gorge, Patapsco Valley State Park, and on Sugarloaf Mountain.

Catoctin Mountain Park


Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense, Asparagaceae)

Catoctin Mountain Park consists of more than 5,000 acres along Catoctin Mountain, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are the front range of the Appalachians. It’s in the Blue Ridge physiographic province (not the Piedmont where I usually hunt), so unsurprisingly I saw some different wildflowers when I went hiking in the Owen’s Creek area this past weekend. In general, plants were blooming about two weeks later than in the Piedmont. We saw:

  • golden alexanders
  • perfoliate bellwort
  • wood betony*
  • sweet cicely
  • hooked crowfoot
  • Indian cucumber root
  • flowering dogwood
  • common fleabane
  • wild geranium
  • wild ginger
  • false hellebore* (in bud)
  • jack-in-the-pulpit
  • mayapple
  • Canada mayflower*
  • miterwort
  • one-flower cancer root*
  • long-bracted orchid* (in bud)
  • showy orchis, including all-white form
  • golden ragwort
  • rue anemone
  • golden saxifrage*
  • clustered snakeroot
  • squaw root
  • nodding trillium*
  • several species of violet

the unmistakeable trunk of shagbark hickory (Carya ovata, Juglandaceae)

And there was a nice selection of non-flowering plants:

  • broad beech fern
  • christmas fern
  • cinnamon fern
  • hay-scented fern
  • horsetail
  • northern maidenhair fern
  • New York fern
  • rattlesnake fern
  • sensitive fern
  • silvery glade fern
  • intermediate wood fern
  • spinulose wood fern

northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum, Pteridaceae)

The ones marked with an asterisk were new to me, so it was a good day. Since I was with a group, though, I couldn’t concentrate on photography, so I just took snapshots, and none of them are any good. If it stops raining I might go back and try to get good pictures, and then I’ll post about these plants.



an all-white flowering showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis)

ps: A pedantic note: all the binomial (eg, Latin) names in this post should be italicized, but wordpress won’t let me do that with captions. I might have to stop doing captions for that reason.

Another Blue Violet


three-lobe violet, wood violet,
early blue violet
Viola palmata, formerly V. triloba

As I’ve written before, violet ID can be tricky, because they hybridize freely and because the taxonomists are always changing the names.


With leaves like this, though, it seems a safe bet to say this is three-lobe violet. The older guidebooks name it Viola triloba, and you’ll still find references to that on-line, but per ITIS it’s now considered V. palmata.


USDA lists both V. triloba and a hybrid, V. x palmata, with different ranges, so it’s no use reporting on that, other than to say that this violet, whatever species it is, is found primarily in the eastern part of the country.

I found these about halfway up Sugarloaf Mountain, on the west side, growing by the ones or twos in patches of rue anemone.