Waking Up

Monday, March 5 – took a quick walk on the Cabin John Trail. Most of the green forbs were aliens, though the new foliage of a few ephemerals was coming up.

There was one small clump of round-lobe hepatica (Anemone americana; Ranunculaceae) with a few buds opening. It’s early, but not too early, for this species to be flowering.

And a few clumps of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica; Boraginaceae), one of which was starting to bloom. This is quite early, but with the ephemerals I often see one or two blooming on either end of the bell curve. Peak bloom for bluebells is probably at least three weeks away.


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.

I Never Learn

I was getting into my car at Lock 10 a few weeks ago when I decided to take a quick picture of the weedy lawn area nearby. I was in a hurry, you see. I figured I’d come back a few days later if I saw anything interesting in the picture. And then I didn’t get around to looking at the photo for a few days. And there was something interesting – two things, really: the pansies weren’t the ones I thought they were, and hiding among them were lots of tiny bright blue flowers.

Of course when I did get back there, eight days later, all the pansies were gone: done blooming. But the other blue flowers were still there.

Rule number one: take the time to get the shot. Will I ever learn?

Anyway, this is not a very clear picture, but the two flowering plants in it are Viola bicolor (field pansy, Violaceae), and Myosotis stricta (strict or small flowered forget-me-not, Boraginaceae). The former is a native, but the latter is an alien.

Field pansy is a low-growing annual forb that prefers drier soils in open and disturbed areas, like parking-lot lawns. Viola species can be tricky to key out, as there can be a lot of morphological variation within species, and cross-species hybridizing is common. The plants that we now call Viola bicolor were once considered a European species, and you’ll still find references to them as Viola kitaibeliana and Viola rafinesquii. It’s widespread in North America, though not in a few northern and western states. It’s also widespread in Maryland, missing only from Garret, Harford, and Somerset counties.

Strict forget-me-not is one of four alien Myosotis species found in Maryland (there are three natives, too). The plants stand only a few inches tall, and the flowers are minute; I didn’t even see them there when I took the picture of the pansies. The species can be found in much of the US, minus a few northern and southern states.

It’s been a boraginaceous year.

Yet Another Phacelia. Last One For Awhile. Really.

It was an overcast day, and I was working at my volunteer job downtown when I realized that rain was likely soon, and could continue for the next several days, and if I waited too long I’d miss seeing small flower phacelia blooming. Quel horreur! since this was a “new to me” species.

So I packed up, drove out to Old Anglers Inn, and hiked quickly through occasional light drizzle to the place where fellow muddy-kneed photographer and wildflower enthusiast LW directed me. (See comments in One More Phacelia for location.)


Phacelia dubia (smallflower phacelia, small-flower scorpionweed, Appalachian phacelia) is a short-growing annual forb in the Boraginaceae (currently). It’s found in parts of the Deep South but more frequently in the Mid-Atlantic states (Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and one part of New York). It’s presumed extirpated in Ohio.

Like P. purshii, P. dubia is listed as S3/watchlist in Maryland. The two species are much alike, about the same height, flowers about the same size. Based on a one-time only observation in this large patch of plants, I’d say the cauline leaves of P. dubia are a little smaller, with fewer lobes, and mostly sessile rather than almost clasping as in P. purshii; also there seem to be fewer of them.

Most of the flowers in this patch were white, though some of them had a blue-ish cast and a few were an outright light lavender. But color is seldom diagnostic. The obvious difference between small-flower and fringed phacelia is the fringed petals on the latter species. In small-flower phacelia, the petal margins are entire.

Thanks for the tip, LW!

One More Phacelia

Three of the approximately 170 North American Phacelia species can be found in Maryland: Coville’s phacelia, small-flowered phacelia (P. dubia), and Miami mist, aka fringed phacelia or purple scorpion-weed (P. purshii). The second and third of these are both classified S3/watchlist:

Vulnerable/Watchlist—At moderate risk of extinction or extirpation due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors. Typically occurring in 21-80 populations.*

P. purshii is found in Prince Geroge’s, Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, and Garret counties. P dubia has a simliar but smaller range. I haven’t seen this species myself yet, but am always watching for it at this time of year.

P. purshii, though, I see every year, along the Billy Goat B and C trails. There are a few populations in other areas east of the Appalachians, but for the most part this species is found in the Ohio River basin.

Like Coville’s phacelia, Miami mist is an annual, though it gets a little taller (maybe as tall as a foot and a half). The flowers are fairly small, but markedly larger than those of Coville’s phacelia. It has typical Phacelia traits: hairy leaves, hairy stem, hairy calyces. The five-lobed flowers are borne in a helicoid cyme, though the shape isn’t as pronounced as in some of the western Hydrophylloideae species (pictured here).

*Maryland DNR

A Special Phacelia

Last Sunday morning Steve and I headed out for a walk, and in less then an hour found Coville’s phacelia. Lots of it. So Monday I went back without Steve but with camera, tripod, and macro lens, and spent some quality time photographing this rare species.


Also known as buttercup scorpionweed, this phacelia is of course related to the phacelias in Anza-Borrego. You can see the similarities in these photos: hairy stems, hairy leaves, hairy calyces with five sepals, and corolla of five petals fused into a single, five-lobed tube.


The plants are annual forbs, growing more or less upright in a rather weak fashion. Literature describes them as up to a foot tall, but I’ve rarely seen them over six inches.



Coville’s phacelia has an odd distribution, with several disjunct populations located in Washington, DC, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, Fairfax County in Virginia, five counties in central North Carolina, and one county in southwestern Indiana.

However, according to natureserve.org:

In addition to the Potomac River (in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) and drainages of the Cape Fear and Tar Rivers in North Carolina, the species has recently been identified from the Ohio River drainage (in Ohio and West Virginia), the Wabash River drainage (in Indiana and Illinois), and Texas County, Missouri.

Except possibly it hasn’t: apparently authorities in several midwestern states do not differentiate between P. covillei and the very similar P. ranunculacea (oceanblue phacelia).



The Virginia Plant Atlas also shows it present in Halifax County (far southern Virginia). With respect to the taxonomic uncertainty, VPA comments:

This species has often been considered an eastern cytotype of Phacelia ranunculacea (Nutt.) Constance, which occupies similar habitats of the sc. U.S. in the lower Ohio and Mississippi River drainages. Sewell and Vincent (2006, Castanea 71: 192-209) found that the two taxa differ in chromosome number, subtle but consistent morphological characters, and overall distribution. However, morphological differences are fairly minor and the geographic split isn’t as clean as one might hope, as there are populations of P. covillei in the Ohio River drainage, as well as the Atlantic Piedmont. Nevertheless, Sewell and Vincent present a reasonable case for two species, especially since the different ploidy levels would prevent interbreeding.

Coville’s phacelia has the global conservation rank G3, defined as:

Either very rare and local throughout its range or distributed locally (even abundantly at some of its locations) in a restricted range (e.g., a single western state, a physiographic region in the East) or because of other factors making it vulnerable to extinction throughout its range; typically with 21 to 100 estimated occurrences.*

Its state rank in Maryland is S2:

State rare. Imperiled in Maryland because of rarity (typically 6 to 20 estimated occurrences or few remaining individuals or acres in the State) or because of some factor(s) making it vulnerable to becoming extirpated. Species with this rank are actively tracked by the Natural Heritage Program.*

And its state status is E:

Endangered; a species whose continued existence as a viable component of the State’s flora or fauna is determined to be in jeopardy.*


Over the past few years I’ve observed that Coville’s phacelia has a bloom period of three weeks, more or less, so it should still be around. Look for it along the Billy Goat B and C trails. It is indeed locally abundant.

*definitions from “Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants of Maryland” (August 2016), available as a .pdf at the Maryland DNR website