Newfoundland: A Few More Wildflowers

And, back to Newfoundland, with a few more wildflowers I found in various locations,

Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea; Asteraceae) is found in Canada, New England, the northern Mid-Atlantic, the upper Mid-West, and the mountainous West; in Maryland it’s only in a few scattered locations.


Oyster plant (Mertensia maritima; Boraginaceae) is found on beaches in northern North America and parts of Europe. I found it in Iceland last summer and specifically went looking for it when driving past Birchy Cove. It’s closely related to our showy native Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

Roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia; Droseraceae) is a carnivorous plant with circumboreal distribution; in the US it’s found in New England, the Appalachians, the upper Mid-West, scattered locations in the West, Canada and Greenland. In Maryland it’s found in Garret County and parts of the Coastal Plain. Look for it in sunny wetlands (bogs, fens, and so on).

Gall-of-the-earth (Prenanthes trifoliata, formerly Nabalus trifoliatus or N. trifoliolatus; Asteraceae) is found in a variety of dry habitats in eastern Canada, New England, and south through the Appalachians. It’s endangered in Ohio, and though not on the RTE list in Maryland, is only known in Talbot County. Apparently it (and/or other Prenanthes species) was used in folk medicine, and has an exceedingly bitter taste, hence the common name.

Scots lovage (Ligusticum scoticum; Apiaceae) grows in rocky areas along the coasts of northern North America and Europe. It’s endangered in Connecticut and New York and special concern in Rhode Island. Supposdely it’s edible, tasting like lovage, which is to say like really strong celery.

Striped or creeping toadflax (Linaria repens; Plantaginaceae) is an alien found in only a few spots in North America. It’s native to Europe, and closely related to the more commonly occurring alien weed known as butter-and-eggs (L. vulgaris).


I spotted this Myosotis species (Boraginaceae) and photographed it from a great distance; there was no way to get close enough for a better picture or identification. The forget-me-nots are notoriously difficult to identify, as are their close relatives the phacelias, about which I’ve complained many times in this blog. But that borage blue is a beacon.

Yellow pond lily (Nuphar variegata, sometimes N. lutea ssp. variegata; Nymphaeaceae) is widespread in ponds across the northern US and Canada; it’s endangered in Ohio. The USDA PLANTS Database shows it present in Maryland but the Maryland Biodiversity Project has no records for it. The closely related spatterdock (N. advena) is found all over Maryland, though, including water pockets in cliffs in the Potomac Gorge.

In the same family is fragrant water lily, Nymphaea odorata. As you can see from the picture, I found both species growing together in one of the inunmerable ponds in the center of the Bonavista peninsula. Frgrant water lily can be found in almost every state and province of the US and Canada.

American burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis; Rosaceae) is native to the eastern US and Canada as well as the Pacific Northwest; sadly, it’s threatened or endangered in nine states, including Maryland. It’s an eye-catching plant with its tall, fluffy spikes of flowers. Look for it growing in bogs and other wet areas (including roadsides).

Roseroot (Rhodioloa rosea, formerly Sedum rosea; Crassulaceae) is a subarctic plant found in a few parts of northern North America as well as in Iceland and Europe. I saw this one specimen flowering near Spillar’s Cove and am really kicking myself for not taking the time to get better pictures.

Native Umbellifers (Apiaceae, part 4)

Now that you know a little about umbellifers, have a look at these native wildflowers. Some of them are not as obviously umbelliferous as others; you would almost have to look at them with a hand lens to tell. (The bloom times mentioned below are for the Maryland Piedmont, based on recent years.)


Erigenia bulbosa
Harbinger of spring, aka salt-and-pepper, blooms as early as mid March, and maybe as late as mid April. It’s listed S3 (watchlist) in Maryland, is endangered in New York and Wisconsin, and threatened in Pennsylvania. It’s a perennial of rich woodlands, with flowers in compound umbels; there are 1-6 flowers per umbellet and 1-4 umbellets per umbel*. The near umbel in this picture, with four umbellets, is about the width of a nickel.


Zizia aurea
Golden alexanders can bloom as early as late March and if they start later, might last ’til late May. This species is also S3/watchlist in Maryland, and is listed as special concern in Rhode Island. The compound umbels typically have around 12 umbellets, each with about 21 flowers*.


Osmorhiza claytonii
I’ve seen sweet cicely blooming as early as early April and as late as mid May. The plants tend to be in flower rather longer than the previoius two species. There are no conservation issues. This species also has compound umbels, with each umbellet sporting 4-7 flowers**.


Chaerophyllum tainturieri
Hairy-fruit chervil generally blooms from about mid April to about mid May. Each flower measures around 3/32″ wide. This is another species whose flowers are in compound umbels. There are no conservation issues.

clustered snakeroot closeup


Sanicula odorata
Clustered snakeroot blooms for a long period, starting as early as late April and lasting maybe ’til mid June. It’s threatened in Massachusetts and New Hampshire but abundant in the Maryland Piedmont. In late May it seems to be a dominant understory forb, growing in great swaths in the woods along the Billy Goat B and C trails and the Cabin John trail. There are 20-60 flowers in each umbellet, and 1-5 umbellets per one-half inch wide umbel*.



Cryptotaenia canadensis
Honewort also blooms for a long period of time, typically from late May to late June. Once again the flowers are in compound umbels, with 3-10 flowers per umbellet and 3-10 umbellets per umbel*. Like clustered snakeroot it grows profusely in Maryland piedmont woodlands.


*from Dr. John Hilty’s wonderful Illinois Wildflowers site.
**Minnesota Wildflowers

Tasty Umbellifers (Apiaceae, part 2)

Many umbelliferous plants are used as vegetables, herbs, and spices. Here’s a list.

But first, a note on terminology: although everyone refers to the spices as “seeds”, they’re actually fruit, specifically a type called schizocarp, a dry fruit that will split into segments, each of which contains one seed; plants in the Apiaceae always have schizocarps that split in two parts. In the text below I’m sticking with common usage and referring to them as seeds. But really they’re fruit.


Daucus carota   Although the carrot is a biennial plant, the roots are harvested during the first year of growth. The plant is native to Eurasia, but found in the wild in all the lower 48 states and much of Canada; as wildflowers, they’re called Queen Anne’s lace, and on noxious weed lists in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Washington. Older sources sometimes refer to two subspecies, D. carota ssp. sativus and D. carota ssp. carota; these names are now considered obsolete by ITIS.


Pastinaca sativa   Like the carrot, the parsnip is a biennial plant whose roots are harvested during the first year. Also native to Eurasia and now established in North America except in the Deep South. Parsnip is a prohibited noxious weed in Ohio.


Apium graveolens  The stalks, leaves, and seeds of celery are used. The plant is a biennial native to central and southern Europe, southwestern Asia and North Africa. Probably. Celery has been cultivated for so long there’s a lot of confusion about its origins. It’s become established in parts of the US, in an arc running from New York south, west, and then north into Washington. The variety A. graveolens var. rapaceum is grown for the root, called celeriac.

Perideridia  There are 13 species in this genus, all with the common name yampah. It’s a perennial plant native to western North America. The roots were an important food source for Native Americans.

Arracacia xanthorrhiza   Arracacha is a perennial native to the Andes, grown for the edible root.

Foeniculum vulgare   Sometimes incorrectly labeled anise, fennel is a perennial grown for the swollen stalks at the base of the plant (the “bulb”). It’s native to the Mediterranean but has naturalized in much of Europe and in the warmer parts of the US. Fennel is on the California Invasive Plant Council’s Invasive Plant Inventory for moderate invasiveness and severe impact (2006 version).

Levisticum officinale  The native range of lovage is uncertain; probably Europe or Asia. It’s a perennial and once established can be hard to get rid of. Both the stalks and leaves can be eaten. The flavor is intense, like some sort of super-celery. A little goes a long, long way.

Anthriscus cerefolium (sometimes spelled cereifolium) This southern European native is an annual plant that deserves more respect. Chervil is used mostly in French cuisine, in delicate dishes because the flavor is mild. Although the leaves are sold in dried form, don’t bother buying them; the volatile oils are lost during drying and the result is flavorless. Chervil is trivially easy to grow from seed.

Petroselinum crispum   Parsley is a biennial generally used as an annual, since the leaves can get harsh or bitter in their second season. There are scattered populations established in parts of the US, but it’s not listed anywhere as a weed. It’s native range is uncertain, possibly the Levant or nearby areas.

Anethum graveolens   Dill is annual, naturalized in much of the US and Canada but native to Asia minor and the Mediterranean. Both leaves and seeds are used. The common name “dill weed” is a clue that this plant is really easy to grow.

Carum carvi   Caraway is an established alien in Canada and the northern half of the US (more or less), and a B-list noxious weed in Colorado. It’s a biennial native to Eurasia and north Africa. Caraway seed is familiar as the dominant flavor in rye bread and aquavit.

Pimpinella anisum   I blame Alton Brown (of Good Eats fame) for the increasingly widespread mispronunciation of the word “anise”. It’s pronounced ANis, not anEECE (google it). The plant is an annual native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. My Italian forebears would roll in their graves if I used anything other than anise seed to flavor pizzelles.

Myrrhis odorata   Both the leaves and seeds of cicely are used as a flavoring, though the use is not widespread. The plant is a perennial native to south-central Europe, with scattered naturalized populations in the US and Canada.

Coriandrum sativum   Called cilantro for the leaves, shoots, and roots, and coriander for the seed, this annual is native to southeastern Europe, southwestern Asia, and north Africa. It’s present in parts of North America but not listed as a weed by any authorities.

Eryngium foetidum  Grown for the leaves, culantro (often confused with cilantro) is used in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Central America. It also grows in Georgia and Florida. I can’t find any authoritative information about its native range, but it is a tropical annual.

Cuminum cyminum   Cumin is an annual plant native to the eastern Mediterranean and central Asia. The seeds are used in many cuisines around the world.

Bunium bulbocastanum   The seeds of this perennial plant are known as black cumin, black caraway, and kala jeera. It’s native to southeastern Europe and south Asia.

Trachyspermum ammi   Ajwain is an annual native to south Asia, grown for the seeds.

Ferula assa-foetida   The dried and ground sap or resin of the roots of this perennial is called asafoetida. The powder is used sparingly in various Indian cuisines, more as a flavor enhancer than a flavor in itself. The plant is native to western Asia.


now my kitchen smells like an Indian restaurant

Many umbelliferous plants contain poisons of various sorts, including some of the plants described above. More on that next time.

Foods, Flavorings, and Poisons: Plants of the Apiaceae (part 1)

The Apiaceae, also known as Umbelliferae, is the 16th largest plant family in the world (1), with almost 3,800 species in over 300 genera (2). Plants in this family are found almost everywhere (except Antarctica), but mainly in northern hemisphere temperate regions and tropical highlands. Within the US, the Apiaceae is the 11th largest family, with 349 (native) species.

Sixty-five species of umbellifers can be found in the state of Maryland, though 28 of these are non-native, and many of those are waifs (plants that are alien and known to be present, but not in established populations). Of the 65, maybe half are present in the piedmont.

Umbellifers are usually herbaceous and can be annual, biennial, or perennial. Although identifying individual species can be difficult, as a family they are easy to recognize. There are always exceptions, but general characteristics to help you identify them include:

  • hollow stems (between the nodes)
  • sheathing at the nodes
  • compound or twice-compound pinnate or palmate leaves, arranged alternately
  • aromatic foliage
  • seeds enclosed in schizocarps (a dry, often woody fruit)
  • tiny flowers arranged in umbels or more often compound umbels


This last characteristic is the one from which the older family name is taken. An umbel is an arrangement like an umbrella, with pedicels (individual flower stalks) all growing from the same point. In a compound umbel, multiple secondary peduncles originate from one point and terminate in individual umbels, with pedicels and flowers arising from these.


Few plant families have such easily identifiable inflorescences, but be careful: getting the details right can mean the difference between life and death. Literally. More in the next few posts.

(1) Wikipedia
(2) Stevens, P. F. (2001 onwards). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 12, July 2012 [and more or less continuously updated since] (Missouri Botanical Garden)

More Tiny Flowers

Back to the Potomac Gorge and my continuing fascination with little bitty things…


Lewiston cornsalad, mâche,
and a host of others
Valerianella locusta

These pretty little flowers belong to one of my favorite salad greens… I think. Thing is, this species is almost impossible to tell apart from the S1 listed (eg, endangered) V. chenopodifolia (goosefoot cornsalad), without a close examination of the seeds. And by close examination, I mean a hand lens might do it.  A microscope would make it easier.


I’ve seen this same patch of plants in the same place on the Billy Goat C trail every year, but have never managed to catch it in seed. Although V. locusta is an invasive alien, this patch seems pretty well behaved. So I sent these pictures to some experts and asked for their opinion. They believe it to be V. locusta, which if nothing else is supported by the odds.


Oh well, I would love to have found an S1 species.  But hey, if I did, it would look just like this one.



southern chervil, hairyfruit chervil
Chaerophyllum tainturieri

The feathery foliage of this species can form large carpets on the floors of moist woodlands, but you really have to be looking close to see the flowers.


Although it’s in the same family as the culinary chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) you may be familiar with, it’s in a different genus. I’d love to know if it’s edible; the internet hasn’t coughed up an answer yet, and I will not trust a source that doesn’t identify a wild plant with a proper botanical name. I certainly am not about to sample it to find out. There are many delicious plants in the Apiaceae, like carraway, carrot, celery, cilantro, cumin, dill, lovage, parsley…. There are also poisonous ones, like giant hogweed, poison hemlock, water hemlock, and something called “deadly carrots” (Thapsia species).

This chervil can be found from Maryland south to Florida, into the midwest and parts of the Great Plains, and even as far southwest as Arizona.


Who’s Eating My Dill Weed?

I’m out hunting for wildflowers so often my poor garden is neglected.  This year I let about a dozen or more volunteer dill plants grow wherever they came up. They’re a mess now, some still flowering, most gone to seed and looking weedy. I was pulling them out and cutting them back and generally tidying up when I saw this caterpillar…


…and immediately put down the pruners and went inside to fetch the camera. (That’s a serrano pepper behind the dill, by the way.)

There were several, actually, so I stopped pulling the plants and left the insects where they were – there’s plenty of dill to spare, and these caterpillars will soon pupate to later emerge as black swallowtail butterflies.

Black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillars feed on plants in the Apiaceae, mostly on garden plants brought by European colonists: dill, parsley, wild carrots, and fennel.



a late flowering dill plant in my garden, August 31


Learning that, I immediately wondered what they ate before the invasion.  I wasn’t the only one asking that question, for the answers were right there on the internet.  Among other things they love golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea).



golden Alexanders on Billy Goat B trail, April 29


I love golden Alexanders, too, and bought one from a native plant nursery last spring. Darned expensive little thing. It’s coming along quite nicely, but there isn’t enough green to spare to feed a voracious late instar caterpillar.  I don’t know what I’ll do if I find one on the plant. Probably pick it off and move it over to the dill.  Hopefully that wouldn’t cause the osmeterium to come out.

Bon appetite, mes beautés!