Bouncing Back

large-flowered leafcup

Interrupting my series on astery things and butterflies for a quick update on the Potomac Gorge, where I went this past Tuesday. After all the flooding, many plants are coming back. They aren’t as tall as they normally would be at this time of year, and some of them are just starting to bloom or bud up, a month or two late.

On the riverbanks, large-flowered leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalia) and cut-leaved coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) are blooming. A few New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) are also growing, looking short but with lots of buds.

cut-leaved coneflower

Right by the water’s edge, a few halberd-leaved rosemallow (Hibiscus laevis) are up, at about one-third of their mature height. I found one just starting to form buds; in other years, these plants started blooming in mid July.


In one place I saw an exceptionally short and shrubby-looking buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) with a few flower heads just formed, one with buds that will open any day now. In this area they usually start blooming in late June or early July.

woodland sunflower

Inland where there wasn’t any flooding, some of the typical mid-to-late summer bloomers are starting: two species of thoroughworts (Eupatorium) and goldenrods (Solidago) with buds just about to burst.

Starry campion (Silene stellata) and woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) are in full bloom. There were just a few blooms left on a stand of St. Andrew’s cross (Hypericum hypericoides).

cranefly orchid

And much to my delight, cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor) is out.

Variations on a Theme: Leafcups


large-flowered leafcup
formerly Polymnia uvedalia, now Smallanthus uvedalia





white-flowered leafcup
Polymnia canadensis




What is that tiny white thing in the second photo?  There’s a story.  I’ve been keeping an eye on this plant for a few years, and this is the best shot of a flower I’ve been able to get. There are two stands of it in the general area of Billy Goat B.  One of them is regularly browsed upon by something (I’m assuming it’s deer, they’re responsible for a lot of damage); I’ve never seen the plants in flower.  The other stand is mostly atop an eight foot tall rock outcrop that I can’t get to.  In deep, deep shade.  I can see the plants just fine from below, and sometimes one of the plants near ground level hangs on long enough for me to get a good shot of a leaf


but the flowers have always been out of camera shot.

White-flowered leafcup, also known as small-flowered leafcup, grows two to six feet tall, with tiny little flower heads – less than an inch across – while the leaves can be more than a foot long.  It’s found in most of the eastern US except the far north and a few southern states, and is endangered in Connecticut and Vermont.


Large flowered leafcup is quite a showstopper.  This plant grows three to ten feet tall, with flowers up to three inches across.  You can find huge stands of it on the eastern end of Billy Boat C.  Check out just how big this leaf can be:


This leafcup is found more extensively through the southeast and west into Texas.  It’s threatened in Michigan and endangered in New Jersey and New York.


Flower of the Day: Large-Flowered Leafcup

Polymnia uvedalia (also known as Smallanthus uvedalius); Asteraceae (aster family)


Yet another sunflower-type tall plant blooming along the river.  I find it interesting for the size and shape of the leaf, which can get to 12 inches long.  The plant itself can grow to ten feet, but the flower doesn’t exceed three inches.






Large-flowered leafcup is found from New York (where it’s endangered) and Michigan (where it’s threatened) south through Florida and Texas.20140811-DSC_0152


Flower of the Day: Tall Coneflower

aka cut-leaf coneflower; Rudbeckia laciniata; Asteraceae (aster family)


In August the Potomac downstream of Carderock is lined with tall flowering plants by the thousands.  Halberd-leaved rose mallow (fotd 8/7) is still going strong, though starting to wane, while thin-leaf sunflower (fotd 8/19), tall coneflower, and large-flowered leafcup (come back tomorrow to read about that one) are dominating the view.  And I do mean dominating, as these plants can grow to eight feet in height, and tend to form large colonies through rooting.

Flowers in the aster family (formerly known as the composite family, Compositae) are fascinating.   What appear to be petals are actually individual flowers, known as rays; the central portion of the head is comprised of individual disc flowers.  In some composite family flowers, like the Eupatorium species I wrote about last week, only disc flowers are present.  In others, like rattlesnake weed (fotd 5/31) and hairy hawkweed (come back the day after tomorrow), there are only ray flowers.

The coneflowers (Rudbeckia and Echinacea species) are easily distinguished from the sunflowers (Helianthus species, and many others) by the reflexed ray flowers and the more-or-less spherical shape of the disc.

There are 22 species of Rudbeckia in the US, four of which are found in this area, including Maryland’s state flower, the black-eyed Susan (R. hirta).  Tall coneflower is threatened in Rhode Island.