What’s Up? White Flowers

White flowers recently seen in the greater Carderock area.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica; Boraginaceae) are of course normally blue, but every once in awhile you’ll see a stand of white ones. Look for them in floodplains and adjacent moist slopes.



Look for twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla; Berberidaceae) on rocky slopes along Billy Goat B; it will likely be done blooming by tomorrow.



Moss phlox (Phlox subulata; Polemoniaceae) should be blooming for at least another month. As you can see from the photo, it doesn’t need much soil. Look for in on large rock formations along the Potomac River.



Lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata; Brassicaceae) is another rock-loving species. They’re so wispy they can be hard to see, but should be blooming for at least another month.



Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis; Papaveraceae) is almost done blooming. You can find it in rich woodlands, usually in colonies.




Early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis; Saxifragaceae) grows in thin soils in rocky woodlands. It’s one of the earliest bloomers but lasts for a fairly long time.



Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides; Ranunculaceae) is just starting to bloom. It’s common in the Maryland piedmont but for some reason there isn’t much of it in the Potomac gorge. Look for it in the very open wooded areas near the Marsden Tract. It should bloom for another month.

Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) and the closely-related squirrel corn (D. canadensis; Papaveraceae) are both blooming in moist woodlands. In past years I’ve observed that the latter starts blooming a week or so after the former, so if you want to see both, go hunting soon. Neither lasts for long.

So Many Flowers, Still Not Enough Time

And here’s the report for yesterday, April 8, along Billy Goat B and the area between it and Carderock proper.

  • lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata)
  • smooth rockcress (Boechera laevigata)
  • slender toothwort (Cardamine angustata)
  • cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)
  • redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)
  • short-spurred corydalis (Corydalis flavula)
  • Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
  • trout lily (Erythronium americanum)
  • twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)
  • spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
  • Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
  • early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis)
  • golden ragwort (Packera aurea)
  • wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata)
  • moss phlox (Phlox subulata)
  • littleleaf buttercup (Ranunculus abortivus)
  • bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
  • star chickweed (Stellaria pubera)
  • rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)
  • toadshade (Trillium sessile)
  • sessile bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) –just one, but lots of plants; more flowers soon!
  • downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula)
  • common blue violet (Viola sororia)

So Many Flowers, So Little Time

Apologies for not posting timely updates. Pictures coming soon. Here’s the Billy Goat C report for last Thursday (April 4); many of these should still be blooming.

  • cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)
  • spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)
  • Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
  • squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis)
  • harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa) –almost done
  • trout lily (Erythronium americanum)
  • spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
  • Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
  • golden ragwort (Packera aurea)
  • wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata)
  • toadshade (Trillium sessile)
  • downy yellow violet (Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula)

Quick Carderock Update

I had a quick look around the Carderock area on Friday (March 29), and saw the following plants blooming or budding. Also had fun taking closeup shots.

Arabidopsis lyrata (lyre-leaved rockcress): a few flowers  –>


Boechera laevigata (smooth rockcress): buds
Cardamine angustifolia (slender toothwort): buds

<–Cardamine concatenata (cut-leaf toothwort): flowers

Claytonia virginica (spring beauty): lots of flowers
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches): a lot of buds, a few flowers



Dirca palustris (leatherwood): full bloom –>




<–Erythronium americanum (trout lily): gobs of leaves; 5 flowers

Lindera benzoin (spicebush): flowers




Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells): lots of buds, just a few open flowers    –>




<–Micranthes virginiensis (early saxifrage): full bloom

The next few weeks should be spectacular.

Late March

Things are still moving along slowly in the Potomac Gorge, but with warmer weather coming I expect the show will really get going soon.

On March 25 I found large patches of harbinger-of-spring blooming near Billy Goat B.


The bluebell buds should open in the next few days.





A few cutleaf toothwort are out, and lots of spring beauties, of course. Spicebush is also starting to bloom.




And there were several bloodroots flowering near Old Angler’s.

See LW’s comments on the last post for an update of the area around Carderock.


Thanks to a heads-up from a friend, I was able to get out to Billy Goat C for a little while a few days ago and shoot harbinger-of-spring. Still not much else to report, except more spring beauties are opening. Also happy to report that parks personnel are applying herbicide to lesser celandine, a particularly nasty invasive alien that hides behind cheery yellow flowers; plants quickly form a monoculture and are difficult to eradicate.

I also hiked about 2/3 of Billy Goat B. High water made it tricky in one spot, and I bailed before getting to the area where the worst damage is, but the trail has finally reopened. I saw nothing blooming there except spring beauties. But with warm weather, plants will emerge and bloom fast.

Interested in finding bloom dates for particular species? Scroll to the top and pull down the menu for plants by either common name or binomial to see observed bloom times in past years.

I Am So Ready

What a winter this has been! Temperatures bouncing around, crazy amounts of rain, or sleet, or snow, or any combination of the three… My favorite trails are all a mess of slick mud.

<–a single harbinger-of-spring plant emerging on March 6, 2019

blooming (February 28, 2018) –>





Nonetheless I’ve taken a few quick hikes to see if anything’s coming up yet. Last year on March 5, round-lobed hepatica was blooming on the Cabin John Trail, along with a single incredibly early Virginia bluebell. This year on March 5, I saw a single clump of hepatica leaves, without buds.

^ one spring beauty with two buds, March 6, 2019

blooming (April 10, 2018) –>



On the Billy Goat trails last year I saw the earliest harbingers-of-spring and spring beauties on February 28. This year on March 6, I saw a single harbinger plant barely up, one spring beauty with two buds, a single golden ragwort budding up, and quite a few Virginia bluebell plants poking out of the mud.

^ golden ragwort in bud, March 6, 2019

 blooming (April 5, 2017) –>




It’s going to be an interesting year. Flood damage in the Potomac Gorge is the worst I’ve seen in six years of monitoring the area. Alien invasives are starting to emerge from the mud and sand; did the floods do any real harm to those populations? Will that allow the natives a chance to grow better, or were they equally affected?

^ Virginia bluebells emerging from the mud, March 6, 2019

a stupidly early Virginia bluebell opening on March 5, 2018 –>


Hang in there, friends –spring is almost here.

Virginia bluebells carpeting the floodplain (April 10, 2017)