Another Blue Thing

Forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum) is a small annual forb in the Lamiaceae, easy to miss because the flowers are small, too. It’s worth stopping to take a close look, though, because the color is stunning, and mint family flowers are just nifty.




For detailed information about forked bluecurls, see this post from 2016.Many thanks to my friend B for posting about this find on social media; I hadn’t seen forked bluecurls in years, and dropped everything to go photograph them.

“It Sounds Seussian”

My friend P wrote that when I posted a picture of purple-headed sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum) on social media. I included a few pictures in my August 7 post here, but want to share a few more. It’s such a photogenic flower!  That’s a pearl crescent (Phyciodes tharos) sitting on the flower head.

Here are a few more pictures from my August ramblings on the banks of the Potomac.



fogfruit, aka frogfruit (Phyla lanceolata; Verbenaceae)





blue vervain (Verbena hastata; Verbenaceae)








riverbank goldenrod (Solidago racemosa; Asteraceae)




tall meadow rue (staminate flowers; Thalictrum pubescens; Ranunculaceae)



Another “Swamp” Plant

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata; Apocynaceae) is found in habitats similar to swamp candles (see previous post).  They’re pretty easy to distinguish from common milkweed (A. syriaca): the flowers are a richer, more saturated pink color, and are borne in flatter, sparser clusters; also the leaves of swamp milkweed are much more narrow.

I don’t have much of anything new to say about them (see this post from 2017); I just wanted to share a few pictures from early August.

Click on each picture to see it better.



Seven years ago while taking an evening walk along the Potomac, Steve spotted a yellow-flowering plant lighting up the dusk.

This year I went back to the same place and was happy to find that swamp candles (Lysimachia terrestris; Primulaceae) still bloom there.

This species grows up to three feet tall, preferring wet soils. Various authorities state that flowers are borne on terminal racemes, but I often see axillary racemes growing sideways, as shown in the top photo.

Swamp candles are native to eastern North America, ranging from Manitoba to Newfoundland and south to Georgia; they’re also found in a few places in the Pacific northwest, apparently introduced by accident*.

Whenever I see plants like this in wild places, I wonder why they aren’t common in horticulture. This is a handsome plant with beautiful flowers that last a reasonably long time. Surely there’s some place for it in the home landscape.

*the Native Plant Trust’s gobotany website

A Blue Thing; a New Thing

Earlier this month, while searching the riverbank for showy flowers, I stumbled across two new-to-me flowering plants. Quite a surprise, considering how many species I’ve catalogued in the gorge over the past seven years.

The first was growing among cardinal flowers. I knew right away that it was in the mint family, and it didn’t take long to key out once I got home. Scutellaria lateriflora, aka mad-dog skullcap, is a medium-height forb of wet, sunny areas.


It appears to be one of the most widespread species of Scutellaria, occurring in almost all of North America except for the desert West and parts of western and northern Canada. The flowers are tiny, less than one centimeter long, and are borne on terminal and axillary racemes*.


The other find was ditch stonecrop, Penthorum sedoides. Older wildflower guides place this species in the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae), and very old guides place it in the Saxifragaceae; currently it is placed in a family of it’s own, Penthoraceae, with only one other species (P. chinense) and no other genera.

It does look like our native woodland stonecrop, but the plants aren’t succulent, and they prefer wet soils (unlike woodland stonecrop, which likes dry soils)**.



Ditch stonecrop ranges from Quebec to Florida, going west into the prairie; also one small area along the Oregon/Washington border, and maybe British Columbia. Probably it was introduced in these Pacific Northwest areas.



*Illinois Wildflowers  Dr. John Hilty

**Wildflowers of the Atlantic Southeast  Laura Cotterman, Damon Waitt, and Alan Weakley (Timber Press, 2019)