More Faroese Wildflowers

Here are a few of the showier, prettier, and more interesting wildflowers I saw in the Faroe Islands. Many of these have a worldwide distribution pattern known as arctic-alpine, which means exactly what you would expect: they are found at high latitudes, and at high elevation at lower latitudes.

Armeria maritima (sea thrift, Plumbaginaceae)
a circumpolar species that likes poor, salty soils; thrives on rocky coasts




Dactylorhiza maculata (heath spotted orchid, Orchidaceae)
common in mountainous areas in Europe; can vary greatly in color from dark pink-purple to almost white



Dactylorhiza purpurella (northern marsh orchid; Orchidaceae)
these two Dactylorhiza species are difficult to distinguish and it’s quite possible that I’ve mis-identified them; also Dactylorhiza is one of those “problem” genera; found in the UK and Scandanavia

Geranium sylvaticum (wood cranesbill; Geraniaceae)
found in temperate regions throughout Europe; introduced in Quebec and Greenland



Pinguicula vulgaris (butterwort; Lentibulariaceae)
found in boggy areas in the upper Mid-West, New England, Canada, and northern Europe; the plant’s leaves produce both a sticky substance and enzymes which together trap and digest insects


Polygala serpyllifolia (heath milkwort; Polygalaceae)
I can’t find much on where this species is found, other than the British Isles (and of course the Faroes)



Polygala vulgaris (common milkwort; Polygalaceae) this species has a widespread distribution in Europe and Asia; it’s introduced in Michigan and Oregon



Salix herbacea (dwarf willow, snowbed willow; Salicaceae)
a subshrub growing to only 2 inches tall, with arctic-alpine distribution in North America and Europe



Micranthes stellaris (formerly Saxifraga stellaris; starry saxifrage; Saxifragaceae)
this little charmer is found in arctic-alpine areas of Europe, and in Quebec, Labrador and Greenland in North America


Silene acaulis (moss campion; Caryophyllaceae)
arctic-alpine distribution, including the Rocky Mountains in the United States

Geraniums, Native and Alien

It seems like after a slow start, everything is blooming all at once. It’s hard to keep up with it all. Last Tuesday, for example, I saw thirty species of plants flowering in a few locations from Old Anglers Inn to Lock 10. Among them were two geraniums, one native and one alien.

Geranium maculatum (wild geranium, Geraniaceae) is a clump-forming perennial forb that grows up to two and a half feet tall in moist soils. You can find it in open woodlands, meadows, and woodland edges. There’s a good amount of it growing off the Billy Goat B trail, along a footpath that leads up to the canal from about the trail midpoint, where it crosses a small stream.

Wild geranium is found in a few parts of the easternmost Great Plains and the South, but mostly in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, and eastern Canada. In Maryland look for it everywhere except the southern parts of the coastal plain. It’s a great plant for the garden: it spreads, but not aggressively, is pest-free, and rabbit-proof (my new gold standard for native forbs).

The other geranium native to the Maryland Piedmont, G. carolinianum (Carolina cranesbill) can also be found in the Carderock-Marsden Tract area, but I haven’t seen it yet this year. It usually starts blooming a few weeks after wild geranium. Note that the flowers are smaller and the foliage more finely cut.

The Maryland Biodiversity Project shows 11 species of geraniums in the state, probably seven of which can be found in the Piedmont. Five of them are aliens. This one is G. molle, which I found growing next to the parking lot at C&O Canal Lock 10. As is often the case, I was looking for something else when I found it (more on that in a future post). In a frequently-mown area this plant is quite short and branched, as you’d expect, but left to grow it still doesn’t get as tall as G. maculatum. The flowers are smaller, too, and a more lurid shade of pink, and the leaves more intricately cut.

Hey, This Looks Like a Geranium


Geranium sylvaticum
wood (or woodland) geranium
(or cranesbill)
Icelandic: blágresi


As we hiked up the lower slopes of Mount Esja in western Iceland, the vast sweeps of Nootka lupine and cow parsley started giving way to other plants. I did a double-take when we spotted this one: could it be Geranium maculatum?


The North American native G. maculatum, also sometimes called wood geranium, flowering in the Maryland Piedmont

No, but it’s close. It’s Geranium sylvaticum, a species native to northern Europe (including Iceland). It’s been introduced to North America and can be found in Quebec and Greenland, so no overlap with G. maculatum, which can be found through most of the eastern and mid-western US (with scattered occurrences in the Great Plains).


G. sylvaticum stands about 12-20″ tall (about the same size as G. maculatum), and blooms in June. It has a fairly widespread distribution in Iceland, though I never saw much of it in any one place. Look for it at lower elevations in shady or sheltered areas, especially near stands of trees and in birch scrublands. It’s showy and therefore hard to miss.

In addition to Mount Esja, I saw it blooming on the Snæfellsnes penninsula, and in a wooded vale near Ísafjörðer in the Westfjords region.

This wasn’t the only look-alike we spotted in Iceland. More on those in upcoming posts.

Two Geraniums


wild, wood, or spotted
geranium; cranesbill—>
Geranium maculatum


Carolina cranesbill
Geranium carolinianum var. carolinianum
Geraniaceae [below]

These are the only two native geraniums easily found in the Maryland piedmont. There’s a third species (G. bicknellii) that might be present, and a fourth (G. robertianum) that is listed S1, so spotting it is unlikely. There are also half a dozen or so alien geraniums present in the state.


Carolina cranesbill is found in all US states except Colorado, and most of Canada except the far north and the maritime provinces. It is listed as weedy by some authorities. It grows best in poor soils, which may explain why I first found it growing from cracks in the concrete curb in the Carderock parking lot.  [right] The other place I’ve spotted it is on the rocky promontories that jut into the Potomac downstream of Carderock.


Wild geranium is found in the the eastern US, most of the south and midwest, and somewhat into the great plains states. It prefers moister, richer soils than Carolina cranesbill; watch for it in open woodlands in the piedmont. Wild geranium is lovely in the home garden, and so far in my garden it’s been rabbit-resistant. There are native plant sellers around who carry it. The one I planted last spring has about tripled in size and is blooming profusely.

Found in New York

As I wrote a few days ago, Steve and I spent last weekend in New York State, hiking and eating and generally hanging out.  In addition to dozens of pointed-leaf tick trefoil, we saw…


herb-robert (Geranium robertianum; Geraniaceae); endangered in Maryland, threatened in Indiana, of special concern in Rhode Island, and class B noxious weed in Washington, where it is known as Stinky Bob.



orange hawkweed  (Hieracium aurantiacum; Asteraceae), aka devil’s weed, king-devil, devil’s-paintbrush, missionary weed, fox-and-cubs, and a few others; “A” list noxious weed in Colorado, noxious weed in Idaho, Category 2 noxious weed in Montana, “A” designated weed (and Quarantine) in Oregon, and class C noxious weed in Washington.  We only saw one plant.





helleborine (Epipactis helleborine; Orchidaceae); imagine my joy on finding an orchid in the wild, then imagine my dismay when I identified it and learned that it’s an alien invasive.

Next time, some less noxious plants.

photographed at Hi Tor Fish and Wildlife Management Area and Finger Lakes National Forest