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)

Summer Heat

Astronomically speaking, it’s still spring, but for some people summer starts with the arrival of truly hot weather, or with Memorial Day. For me, summer starts with the first sighting of the hot orange-red flowers of trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans, Bignoniaceae). Look at this magnificent specimen dominating a snag by the Potomac (click on the photo).  —>

This species grows impressively long vines (40 feet, by some account), 
with impressively large flowers (up to four inches long).

And with that, I’m off to check on the irises, and see what else is happening along the river this week.


Radiant Trumpets

Nothing says summer quite like the hot orange-red blossoms of trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans). Although the shape is similar to flowers in the Convolvulaceae (see yesterday’s post), this plant is in a different family, the Bignoniaceae.


It’s a vigorous grower, reaching thirty feet long or more, and will grow up or along anything that its aerial rootlets can attach to: trees, boulders, cliff faces. It’s all over the rock walls along the Clara Barton Parkway in DC.

Trumpet creeper can be found in most of the eastern US except for northern New England, and in a few scattered locations in the West. It’s considered weedy by some authorities.

There’s only one other species in this genus, C. grandiflora, which is native to east Asia.

I spent some time looking on the internet for any interesting trivia. The only thing I could find is that another common name is cow-itch, a name that is applied to other species as well. Why cow-itch? No idea. Apparently some people have a mild reaction when it touches their skin, but cow-itch? Beats me.