First Up

A few days ago I headed to Sugarloaf Mountain for my first botanizing session of 2018. I found lots more trailing arbutus, but it’s still in bud. I’ll keep checking.

Some of the aliens are starting to flower (veronicas, bittercresses), but otherwise the only plant blooming is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus; Araceae). The two pointy things pictured here are spathes, modified leaves (bracts) that enclose the flowers, shown below. 

 

Skunk cabbage is a plant of wet places. When it’s not growing right in water, it’ll be in very wet soil. In a few weeks the leaves will start emerging and unfurling. A stand of bright green skunk cabbage is a cheery sight in early spring, but don’t step on them unless you want first-hand knowledge of how they got that common name.

 

Just Around the Corner

A few days ago a friend reported seeing spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) blooming on the Billy Goat C trail. Damn, that’s early!  Think I’ll head out tomorrow and have a look, because it has been literally months since I last photographed a wildflower.

<—not my friend’s picture; one of mine from last year

 

 

 

Except for this one: trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), a low-growing evergreen in the Ericaceae. Please forgive the picture quality; it’s a quick iPhone snapshot to remind me to go back and look for it again, because it’s already budding up, and I’ve never seen one in bloom. If I manage to catch it flowering I will of course be writing about it here.

Nerd moment: I just realized it’s time to start my 2018 spreadsheet.

When One Color Isn’t Enough (part 2)

Thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit and solid rain makes for a dreary day outside, but it’s hygge in my parlor, with a fire in the wood stove and chili on the kitchen stove, and lots of wildflower pictures on my computer. Here are some of the summer-blooming ones.

Phryma leptostachya (lopseed; Phrymaceae)

This is a very small flower – you need good eyesight or a hand lens to make out the colored structures on the upper petal – but the plants are fairly large, about two feel tall with large leaves and a long terminal flower spike (sometimes there are a few axillary spikes as well). The flowers open for a short period of time in mid July.

Polygala sanguinea (field milkwort, purple milkwort; Polygalaceae)

Most of the Maryland Biodiversity Project records for this annual species are in the piedmont and northern coastal plain. The plants seem to like dry, sunny conditions, and bloom in mid summer.

Justicia americana (water-willow; Acanthaceae)

This aquatic plant grows in large masses in shallow waters. When the river level drops in mid summer you can get close enough to see the flowers in detail. Individual flowers last only a few days, but overall a colony will flower for several months.

Lindernia dubia (false pimpernel; Linderniaceae, formerly Scrophulariaceae)

A tiny little flower on low-growing, weedy-looking plants that are mudflat ephemerals, emerging from river banks when the water level gets low at the height of summer. You have to be a real botanerd to appreciate these.

 

Liparis liliifolia (purple twayblade; Orchidaceae)
<—cleeck-ay moi!

Ah, orchids. Infinitely fascinating. This one blooms in late spring, in undisturbed forest areas. It’s listed S2S3 (state rare) in Maryland. If you find a stand be sure to report it to the Maryland Biodiversity Project!

Phyla lanceolata (fogfruit; Verbenaceae)

This sprawling perennial forms large stands in the very wet soils next to streams and ponds. As with everything else on this page, you have to get up-close to really see and appreciate how complex the colors are. Colonies will have a few flowers (or a lot of flowers) open for most of early to mid summer.

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (narrow-leaved mountain mint; Lamiaceae)

The one area where I find these tall, slender plants growing is rocky and sunny and close to the Potomac, so it seems that there is always a tiny breeze moving the plants around. One year the stand was mowed down, presumably by people clearing the trail. Another year it was flooded out. One of these years I will finally get a crystal-clear closeup of the tiny flowers.

When One Color Isn’t Enough (part one)

More pictures to keep us dreaming of warmer weather. This time, spring-blooming multi-colored flowers.

Erigenia bulbosa (harbinger-of-spring; Apiaceae)

This is one of our earliest blooming native plants (the only one I can think of that blooms earlier is skunk cabbage). These anthers turn quickly from dark red to black, giving rise to another common name, pepper-and-salt.

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)

That’s right, bluebells again, because here they are in several different colors all in one clump. I can’t wait to see them again.

Galearis spectabilis (showy orchis; Orchidaceae)

This surprisingly common terrestrial orchid grows in all the physiographic provinces in Maryland, but we have the most records for it in the piedmont and coastal plain. Look for it blooming in April and May in rich, moist soils in wooded areas.

Viola sororia (common blue violet, white form ; Violaceae)

Common blue violets are, well, pretty common around here. They seem quite fond of edge areas and open woodlands, always in moist soils. They can be found all over Maryland, blooming from late March into early May.

Cypripedium acaule (pink lady’s slipper; Orchidaceae)

Like most orchids, pink lady’s slipper has specific growing requirements, which means you won’t find it just anywhere. But it does grow pretty much all over the state. Look for it flowering in early May, in rich, undisturbed woodland soils.

Penstemon hirsutus (hairy beardtongue; Plantaginaceae)

This bizarre-looking flower is found mostly in the northern part of Maryland, but there’s a reliable stand on the Billy Goat B trail. Look for it in lean soils (rocky areas) in full sun light, blooming from early to late May.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry; Rubiaceae) [click on this one!]

What can I write about partridgeberry that I haven’t written before? This is one of my very favorites; I go looking for it every year at the end of May. The plants grow very long but stay very low, creeping along rocks. We have records for it in every Maryland county.

Thalictrum coriaceum (maid-of-the-mist; Ranunculaceae)

Although it isn’t on the Maryland RTE list, we only have records for it in three quads in Montgomery County. I think that’s rather odd, and suspect it’s due to misidentification (see The Botanerd’s Handy Guide to Thalictrum Species). That bright pink on the sepals and filaments turns quickly to brown.

Rubrum et Luteum

There just aren’t that many red and orange flowers native to the Maryland Piedmont, and I’ve only seen three of them. That makes me a little sad.

Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper; Bignoniaceae)

This herald of summer, with four-inch flowers on vines up to forty feet long, starts blooming in mid or late June and can go through early August. Look for it climbing up and along boulders and tree snags in open areas.

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower; Campanulaceae)

This plant is a real showstopper, with clusters of lurid red flowers atop stems up to four feet tall. Look for it growing in very wet places, like right on river banks. It blooms from mid August into September.

Impatiens capensis (jewelweed; Balsaminaceae)

Look for the rather large yet wispy plants growing in wet places, like small seasonal streams. They bloom on and off from late spring until late summer. 

Here are links to some of the other red and orange blooming species in this area:
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)  Beloved of gardeners everywhere. Great pollinator plant.
Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle) There are just a few records of this in the Piedmont; mostly it’s a plant of the Coastal Plain.
Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine)
Lilium superbum (Turk’s cap lily)

Rosea

There are a lot of pink wildflowers in the Maryland Piedmont. As with blue and purple, “pink” can vary quite a bit, from almost white to practically red.

Claytonia virginica (spring beauty; Portulacaeae)

One of our earliest ephemerals, blooming as early as late February after a warm winter, and lasting into May. In woodland soils almost everywhere. Usually white with a pink tint.

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)

Virginia bluebell buds start violet and turn pink before opening blue, except when the flowers are pure white or pure pink. I visit this stand every year just to make sure that the flowers really are all pink from start of bloom through senescence. They are.

Cercis canadensis (redbud; Fabaceae)

Around here, this understory tree usually blooms in April, when other trees are just starting to blush green. It’s a beautiful effect, though maybe not as stunning as…

 

Rhododendron periclymenoides (pinxter azalea; Ericaceae)

I don’t know that we have a more stunning native shrub than this. I’ve seen it in rocky, wet areas in Rachel Carson Conservation Park and Sugarloaf Mountain; it blooms in mid spring.

Silene caroliniana ssp. pensylvanica (wild pink; Caryophyllaceae)

Look for the flowers in early April to late May. These low-growing plants are often found in dry, rocky soils in open woodlands. There are several stands near Carderock.

 

Valeriana pauciflora (long-tube valerian, large-flower valerian; Valerianceae)

This delicate plant (S1/endangered) has an explosive inflorescence that usually opens in May. A great photo has always eluded me, despite hours and hours and hours of trying, because the plants bloom in the deep shade of dense woods. Shade is the bane of photographers. Maybe this year.

Hibiscus laevis (halberd-leaved rosemallow; Malvaceae)

Unlike the previous species, this one likes bright, sunny riverbanks. I love how it just glows in the light! Sometimes considered a forb and sometimes as a shrub, it’s a very tall plant with stems that get somewhat woody as the season progresses; but, like a forb, it dies back to the crown in autumn. Watch for it in early to mid summer. S3 in Maryland.

Hylodesmum nudiflorum (naked-flower tick trefoil; Fabaceae)

The tick trefoils can be tricky to identify, but this one stands out because the flowers are borne on leafless stems. The genus Desmodium was recently split, with some species placed in a new genus, Hylodesmum. According to the excellent gobotany site, species in the former as sun-loving, and species in the latter are shade-loving.

Desmodium paniculatum (panicled tick-trefoil; Fabaceae)

This one blooms in mid to late summer. It grows in moist to dry soils in sun to part shade, and does well in disturbed areas.

Lespedeza virginica (Fabaceae) Not seen as often as the alien invasive L. sericea, this species grows in dry areas, blooming in mid to late summer.

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed; Apocynaceae)

If you want to spend hours being entertained by bees and butterflies, park yourself in front of a stand of milkweeds. I’ve seen them blooming in wet soils in sunny areas from late June to late August.

Persicaria amphibia (water smartweed; Polygonaceae)

Or, as I prefer to call it, DPP (damn pink persicaria). I’m fairly certain I’ve ID’d it correctly. Sometimes I’m not particularly attracted to a species until I sit and study it awhile and try to get good close-up pictures. So it was with this one. Click on the pic to see it larger. It’s pretty up close!

Sabatia angularis (rosepink; Gentianaceae)

I’ve only seen this plant once, in the shade of a small shrub even though it’s a sun-loving species. Watch for it in dry soils in open places. What a beautiful color.

Purpurea -> Rosea

More colorful pictures to take our minds away from winter browns and grays.

Lespedeza repens (creeping lespedeza; Fabaceae)

Watch for this low-growing vine-like forb in open rocky areas of woodlands; it blooms in mid summer.

 

 

Allium cernuum (nodding onion; Amaryllidaceae)

I find this native onion blooming in early to mid summer. It grows on rocky outcrops near rivers.

 

Polygala polygama (racemed milkwort; Polygalaceae)

This beauty may have been my find of the year: it’s S1/threatened, and even though it ended up that this population was known to the Maryland DNR, it wasn’t known to me! All I can say is keep your eyes open, because the most wonderful things can be found in unexpected places.

Geranium maculatum (wild geranium; Geraniaceae)

Look for this blooming in moist, rich woodlands in early to mid spring.

 

 

Geranium caroliniana (Carolina cranesbill; Geraniaceae)

The first time I saw this I thought it was a “weed”, since it was growing out of cracks in concrete curbing in a parking lot. Unexpected places. It’s charming when viewed up close. Or maybe I just love them all.

Geranium robertianum (herb-robert; Geraniaceae)

This species is S1 in Maryland, with only a few records of it in scattered locations. I’ve never seen it here; this one was in upstate New York.

 

Oxalis violacea (violet wood-sorrel; Oxalidaceae)

All the Maryland Oxalis species are yellow flowering, except for this one. Although not rare, I don’t see it very often; I believe it may have specific cultural requirements. Look for it in dry woodlands, blooming in early to mid spring.