Catoctin Mountain Park


Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense, Asparagaceae)

Catoctin Mountain Park consists of more than 5,000 acres along Catoctin Mountain, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are the front range of the Appalachians. It’s in the Blue Ridge physiographic province (not the Piedmont where I usually hunt), so unsurprisingly I saw some different wildflowers when I went hiking in the Owen’s Creek area this past weekend. In general, plants were blooming about two weeks later than in the Piedmont. We saw:

  • golden alexanders
  • perfoliate bellwort
  • wood betony*
  • sweet cicely
  • hooked crowfoot
  • Indian cucumber root
  • flowering dogwood
  • common fleabane
  • wild geranium
  • wild ginger
  • false hellebore* (in bud)
  • jack-in-the-pulpit
  • mayapple
  • Canada mayflower*
  • miterwort
  • one-flower cancer root*
  • long-bracted orchid* (in bud)
  • showy orchis, including all-white form
  • golden ragwort
  • rue anemone
  • golden saxifrage*
  • clustered snakeroot
  • squaw root
  • nodding trillium*
  • several species of violet

the unmistakeable trunk of shagbark hickory (Carya ovata, Juglandaceae)

And there was a nice selection of non-flowering plants:

  • broad beech fern
  • christmas fern
  • cinnamon fern
  • hay-scented fern
  • horsetail
  • northern maidenhair fern
  • New York fern
  • rattlesnake fern
  • sensitive fern
  • silvery glade fern
  • intermediate wood fern
  • spinulose wood fern

northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum, Pteridaceae)

The ones marked with an asterisk were new to me, so it was a good day. Since I was with a group, though, I couldn’t concentrate on photography, so I just took snapshots, and none of them are any good. If it stops raining I might go back and try to get good pictures, and then I’ll post about these plants.



an all-white flowering showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis)

ps: A pedantic note: all the binomial (eg, Latin) names in this post should be italicized, but wordpress won’t let me do that with captions. I might have to stop doing captions for that reason.

Showy Orchis


aka purple-hooded orchid
Galearis spectabilis


The morning before I left to go to Rachel Carson Conservation Park a second time, someone posted a picture of showy orchis on the Maryland Native Plant Society facebook page. So I went with two goals: to shoot the pinxters, and to find some orchids. It didn’t take too long to find them, but my planned two hour outing became three, then four, then five as I found more and more beautiful and interesting plants to shoot.

Showy orchis is low-growing, with a pair of large basal leaves and a single stem that may hold up to a dozen flowers. It ranges through most of the US and Canada east of the Mississippi River, and somewhat into the Great Plains states, growing in calcareous soils in rich, moist woodlands where there isn’t too much competition from other plants. As with other orchid species, showy orchis has very specific growing requirements (including the presence of certain fungi in the soil), which makes it a difficult plant to grow in the home garden. Attempts to transplant them from the wild are doomed to fail.


Showy orchis is endangered in Maine and Rhode Island, threatened in Michigan and New Hampshire, exploitably vulnerable in New York. There’s one other species in the genus Galearis (G. rotundifolia), but it grows much further to the north.

“Orchis”, by the way, is not a typo. It’s a genus in the orchid family, consisting mostly of temperate Eurasian species. Galearis spectabilis was previously placed in that genus, so the common name is just a translation of the plant’s old Latin name, Orchis spectabilis.