When One Color Isn’t Enough (part one)

More pictures to keep us dreaming of warmer weather. This time, spring-blooming multi-colored flowers.

Erigenia bulbosa (harbinger-of-spring; Apiaceae)

This is one of our earliest blooming native plants (the only one I can think of that blooms earlier is skunk cabbage). These anthers turn quickly from dark red to black, giving rise to another common name, pepper-and-salt.

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)

That’s right, bluebells again, because here they are in several different colors all in one clump. I can’t wait to see them again.

Galearis spectabilis (showy orchis; Orchidaceae)

This surprisingly common terrestrial orchid grows in all the physiographic provinces in Maryland, but we have the most records for it in the piedmont and coastal plain. Look for it blooming in April and May in rich, moist soils in wooded areas.

Viola sororia (common blue violet, white form ; Violaceae)

Common blue violets are, well, pretty common around here. They seem quite fond of edge areas and open woodlands, always in moist soils. They can be found all over Maryland, blooming from late March into early May.

Cypripedium acaule (pink lady’s slipper; Orchidaceae)

Like most orchids, pink lady’s slipper has specific growing requirements, which means you won’t find it just anywhere. But it does grow pretty much all over the state. Look for it flowering in early May, in rich, undisturbed woodland soils.

Penstemon hirsutus (hairy beardtongue; Plantaginaceae)

This bizarre-looking flower is found mostly in the northern part of Maryland, but there’s a reliable stand on the Billy Goat B trail. Look for it in lean soils (rocky areas) in full sun light, blooming from early to late May.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry; Rubiaceae) [click on this one!]

What can I write about partridgeberry that I haven’t written before? This is one of my very favorites; I go looking for it every year at the end of May. The plants grow very long but stay very low, creeping along rocks. We have records for it in every Maryland county.

Thalictrum coriaceum (maid-of-the-mist; Ranunculaceae)

Although it isn’t on the Maryland RTE list, we only have records for it in three quads in Montgomery County. I think that’s rather odd, and suspect it’s due to misidentification (see The Botanerd’s Handy Guide to Thalictrum Species). That bright pink on the sepals and filaments turns quickly to brown.

Not Quite Yet

A quick stroll around the Carderock area and Billy Goat B up to the Marsden Tract on March 9 showed that the flowers are only just starting. I saw a fair number of spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), a few cut-leaved toothworts (Cardamine concatenata), and one clump of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in bloom.

Harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa) looks like it’s at its peak, though. There are a few really solid stands of it near the river, but they are hard to find if you aren’t looking closely, since an entire plant is about the width of a nickel.


I was a bit surprised to find lyre-leaved rock cress (Arabidopsis lyrata) open already, though most plants had more buds than blossoms. Look for it growing right out of rocks near Carderock.

Back in the Potomac Gorge



aka pepper-and-salt
Erigenia bulbosa



Yesterday I finally got back out to Carderock after a two-week absence, and was delighted to find that rumors of harbinger-of-spring in bloom were true. And there were spring beauties, of course, though not many yet.  20160316-_DSC0053

dime shot for scale





Other plants seen:

  • a single, precocious star chickweed flower
  • a single, precocious early saxifrage flower
  • spicebush in bloom
  • new growth of Virginia bluebells, one mound with buds just visible
  • two cutleaf toothworts in bud
  • trout lily foliage
  • long-tube valerian foliage
  • early meadow rue foliage
  • Dutchman’s breeches and squirrel corn foliage




Lindera benzoin

Flower of the Day: Harbinger-of-Spring


Erigenia bulbosa

I started this blog on April Fools’ Day, 2014, noting that I couldn’t remember a colder winter.  Well, guess what?  2015’s been pretty damn cold, too.  The plants are off to an even slower start this year.


But I did find harbinger-of-spring yesterday (it was my first Flower of the Day feature last year). Not a bad way to start the season. This tiny plant in the carrot family can be very difficult to spot amongst the leaf litter, as it stands only a few inches tall; each cluster of flowers measures only a quarter inch across.



To put that into perspective, note the medium-sized maple leaf lying next to the plant.




Next up, a really strange plant that is, as far as I can tell, the earliest blooming one in the area.