Persistence Pays Off, Part One


puttyroot; Adam and Eve
Aplectrum hyemale

In May of 2014 I saw puttyroot for the first time, two plants and one spike of flowers. After that I saw the seedheads on the spike. Every time I was in the area I’d go by the patch, and (except in summer) I’d see the plants. But in 2015 for some reason they didn’t bloom. I learned later that this is often the case with some species of orchid: if conditions aren’t just right, they won’t bloom.

A puttyroot plant has a single ground-level leaf that comes up in autumn, persists through the winter, and dies back before the plant sends up the flower spike in late spring.


A few weeks ago I saw a new spike coming up. I went back again and again, despite the miserable rainy weather we’ve been having, until finally I saw the flowers.


Puttyroot ranges from Quebec south to North Carolina, with scattered occurrences a little further south than that, and west as far as Oklahoma, Kansas, and Minnesota. It’s endangered in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, threatened in Vermont, rare in Pennsylvania, and special concern in Connecticut. In the Maryland Piedmont I’ve seen the plants in the Potomac gorge, Patapsco Valley State Park, and on Sugarloaf Mountain.

Belmont and Patapsco Valley

domestic apple (Malus sylvestris), – an alien, but not invasive




I’m conducting a survey of wildflowers at Belmont Manor and Historic Park and nearby parts of Patapsco Valley State Park for my Maryland Master Naturalist certification.  For the first few weeks, it was a little disappointing.  I’d found plenty of invasives, but the trails are heavily used, and the woods seem impoverished.

Nonetheless I went out there again last Friday and realized things were not so bleak. For one thing, that area is about one week behind the Potomac Gorge (it’s about 30 miles northeast).  For another thing, I didn’t have to go far at all before finding some really lovely plants.  And, I’m pleased that I recognized so many plants when they’re still weeks away from flowering.

The (natives) list so far:

avens, white
bellwort, perfoliate
bellwort, sessile
buttercup, kidney-leaved
cherry, unknown species, could be alien
chickweed, star
cranefly orchid
dogwood, flowering
hepatica, round-lobed

20150424-20150424-_DSC0013 jack-in-the-pulpit

miterwort, twoleaf
mountain laurel







skunk cabbage
Solomon’s seal, false
Solomon’s seal, smooth
spring beauty
toothwort, cut-leaved
toothwort, slender
trout lily
violet, common blue
violet, smooth yellow
waterleaf, Virginia