Continuing with pretty pictures during this cold season. It’s a thin line between blue and purple. Color is a continuum. Color is in the eye of the beholder. If some of these look more blue or pink than purple, well, c’est la vie.

Triodanis perfoliata (Venus’ looking glass; Campanulaceae)

Look for this annual forb growing in rocky places where there isn’t much competition from other plants. It generally blooms from about mid May into early June here in the Maryland piedmont.

Clinopodium vulgare (wild basil; Lamiaceae)

A perennial forb with circumboreal distribution. Look for the flowers in the height of summer.



Cunila origanoides (common dittany; Lamiaceae)

A perennial native to North America, and found mostly in the mid West and mid Atlantic. It blooms in late summer.


Elephantopus caroliniana (Carolina elephant’s foot; Asteraceae)

A rather weedy-looking plant with a fascinating inflorescence. Click on the picture and look closely; you’ll see that this is actually four disk flowers, each with a five-lobed corolla. The species is native to the southeastern US (Maryland is almost as far north as it goes). It blooms in late summer.


Eutrochium purpureum (sweet joe-pye weed; Asteraceae).

The joe-pye weeds (formerly Eupatorium species) are perennials that love wet places, but this particular species tolerates drier soils and is a great native for the home garden, with dramatic heads of colorful flowers towering above most other forbs. And it attracts butterflies. Blooms in late summer.

Mentha arvensis (field mint; Lamiaceae)

Another mint-family plant with circumboreal distribution. Another late-summer bloomer.



Mimulus alatus (winged monkeyflower; Phrymaceae)

Watch for this wetland plant and its almost identical cousin M. ringens var. ringens (Allegheny monkeyflower) blooming in early to mid summer.


Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot; Lamiaceae)

The mint family sure is represented well here. Look for it in mid summer, possibly covered in bees and butterflies.


Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox, wild blue phlox; Polemoniaceae)

As you can see this flower ranges from almost white through lighter and stronger shades of blue and purple. They bloom at about the same time as Virginia bluebells. Bluebells grow in the floodplain while this phlox grows just upland of the floodplain, in still moist (but not wet) woodland soils.

Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant; Lamiaceae)

Yet another mint family mid summer bloomer. Watch for it on rocky outcrops and gravel bars in the Potomac.





Ruellia caroliniensis (hairy wild petunia; Acanthaceae)

In Maryland this species is found mostly in the Coastal Plain; in the piedmont it’s restricted to a few sites near the Potomac River (as far as I know – please leave a comment if you know otherwise). Watch for it in late spring and early summer.

Trichostema dichotomum (forked bluecurls; Lamiaceae)

Blue or purple, or splitting the difference? Whatever. This is a most striking plant, one of those OMG finds. Well it was for me, anyway. What a lurid color. Late summer, dry soils, open areas. Yow.

Verbena hastata (blue vervain, swamp verbena, Verbenaceae)

As one of the common names suggests, you’ll find this in wetlands, blooming anywhere from late June to mid August. This is an extreme closeup; the plants are rather tall but the inflorescences rather small.



Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed; Asteraceae)

All ray flowers with strongly exserted stigmas, no disk flowers. Very tall plant, wispy appearance. Likes wet soils. Blooms in mid to late summer.


Viola palmata (early blue violet, three-loved violet; Violaceae)

Violet taxonomy is in flux, and violet species can be difficult to differentiate. This one is relatively easy because of the unusual leaf shape, although even that can be highly variable. Look for it in mid spring in drier woodlands.

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.


Small But Showy


lesser mohavea, aka golden desert snapdragon
Mohavea breviflora


And back to Death Valley…

Like so many other flowers I saw in Death Valley, lesser mohavea is found in the Mojave Desert of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. It’s an annual, growing to about eight inches tall.

Of course the common name makes me wonder, is there a greater mohavea? Apparently not. There’s only one other species in the genus (M. confertiflora), and its common name is ghostflower.



Bigelow monkeyflower
Mimulus bigelovii


While there are only two Mohavea species, there are 70 some Mimulus species, all but four of which are found in the western US. (I wrote last July about Allegheny monkeyflower and winged monkeyflower.) M. bigelovii has about the same range as lesser mohavea, stands at about the same height (though it can flower when much smaller), and is also an annual.


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