When One Color Isn’t Enough (part 2)

Thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit and solid rain makes for a dreary day outside, but it’s hygge in my parlor, with a fire in the wood stove and chili on the kitchen stove, and lots of wildflower pictures on my computer. Here are some of the summer-blooming ones.

Phryma leptostachya (lopseed; Phrymaceae)

This is a very small flower – you need good eyesight or a hand lens to make out the colored structures on the upper petal – but the plants are fairly large, about two feel tall with large leaves and a long terminal flower spike (sometimes there are a few axillary spikes as well). The flowers open for a short period of time in mid July.

Polygala sanguinea (field milkwort, purple milkwort; Polygalaceae)

Most of the Maryland Biodiversity Project records for this annual species are in the piedmont and northern coastal plain. The plants seem to like dry, sunny conditions, and bloom in mid summer.

Justicia americana (water-willow; Acanthaceae)

This aquatic plant grows in large masses in shallow waters. When the river level drops in mid summer you can get close enough to see the flowers in detail. Individual flowers last only a few days, but overall a colony will flower for several months.

Lindernia dubia (false pimpernel; Linderniaceae, formerly Scrophulariaceae)

A tiny little flower on low-growing, weedy-looking plants that are mudflat ephemerals, emerging from river banks when the water level gets low at the height of summer. You have to be a real botanerd to appreciate these.

Liparis liliifolia (purple twayblade; Orchidaceae)
<—cleeck-ay moi!

Ah, orchids. Infinitely fascinating. This one blooms in late spring, in undisturbed forest areas. It’s listed S2S3 (state rare) in Maryland. If you find a stand be sure to report it to the Maryland Biodiversity Project!


Phyla lanceolata (fogfruit; Verbenaceae)

This sprawling perennial forms large stands in the very wet soils next to streams and ponds. As with everything else on this page, you have to get up-close to really see and appreciate how complex the colors are. Colonies will have a few flowers (or a lot of flowers) open for most of early to mid summer.

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (narrow-leaved mountain mint; Lamiaceae)

The one area where I find these tall, slender plants growing is rocky and sunny and close to the Potomac, so it seems that there is always a tiny breeze moving the plants around. One year the stand was mowed down, presumably by people clearing the trail. Another year it was flooded out. One of these years I will finally get a crystal-clear closeup of the tiny flowers.

I Blame the Ants


Wednesday morning I went to check on the downy rattlesnake plantain. The buds weren’t open yet. But I did find a lovely stand of lopseed (Phryma leptostachya), so I took out all the gear and had a lot of fun trying to get extreme closeups.


It was already 80ºF by 9am, humid and dead still, no breeze at all. But the plants were still shaking around. Eventually I saw ants on them. So every few pictures I would move camera and tripod over to a different plant and shoot those flowers, until the ants came back. If any of these pictures are less then perfectly clear, it’s the ants’ fault.



Macro work really requires stillness. It’s hard to do in the field.


Each flower measures about 3/8″ long.


At any rate, I wrote a very detailed post about lopseed last summer; you can read all about it there. This post is just about the pictures. Please click on them to enlarge and see the fine details.


All About Lopseed


Phryma leptostachya




Here’s another of those summertime woodland plants that has tiny flowers (like vervain, enchanter’s nightshade, honewort).  The plant itself can grow to three feet tall, with leaves about five inches long and an inflorescence about one foot long, but the individual flowers are only about a quarter inch long.

From a distance the flowers appear pinkish; once you get up close, you can see that the three lower lobes are white, with a pinkish upper lobe and three pink-purple teeth on the top part of the calyx.



closeup of flower; it looks very Art Deco to me







the distinctive toothed calyx





the new flower spike; note that the flower buds are lying upright along the stem






the flowers, arranged on the stem in opposing pairs, stand out at a 90 degree angle



When the flowers are finished and starting to form their single seed each, they lie flat along the stem – hence the name “lopseed”.




spent flowers flopping down along the stem





The specific epithet is derived from the Latin “lepto”, meaning thin, fine, slight, and “stachys”, meaning ear of grain.

Once by itself in its own family, lopseed was later placed into the verbena family (Verbenaceae).  Recent molecular phylogenetic* studies have placed it back in Phrymaceae, with about 209 other species to keep it company.

While researching, I found this description from a text published in 1847:

“I. PHEYM A Zfnn. aman. 3 p. 19et gen. n. 738 . Garin, defrucl. 1 p. 3 6 3 I. 7fl. Lam. illuslr. t. 516 , non Forsh. — Leptostachy a Milch. gen. 11 . Calyx tubulosus, 5-nervis, bilabiatus, labiis post anthesin ronniventibus , superiore tripartito laciniis subulatis apice reduncis, inferiore brevissimo bifido. Corollas tubo labium calycis superius acquante, limbo bilabiato, labio superiore emarginato, inferiore majore trilobo , fauce nuda. Stamina inclusa. Ovarium oblongum. Stylus filiformis; stigma brevi ter bifidum , cruribus anguste lamellaribus. Caryopsis calyce inclusa; pericarpio membranaceo , 5-nervi, stylo persistente terminato, semini adnato. Semen cavitatemi pericarpii omnino implens. Reliqua ut in charactere ordinis. — Genus slructurà et patria perinsigne , a nonnullis cum Priva, maxime alieno, confusimi, fructu jam a Gasrlnero eximie explorato.”  [Digital Library]

Sadly, I don’t read Latin, though I’m good enough with cognates to get parts of it.

Lopseed is found from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic, in the United States and Canada, and also in California.  It is considered possibly extirpated in Maine.


*phylogeny is the evolutionary history of an organism
in molecular phylogeny DNA sequences are analyzed to determine evolutionary relationships among organisms