“It Sounds Seussian”

My friend P wrote that when I posted a picture of purple-headed sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum) on social media. I included a few pictures in my August 7 post here, but want to share a few more. It’s such a photogenic flower!  That’s a pearl crescent (Phyciodes tharos) sitting on the flower head.

Here are a few more pictures from my August ramblings on the banks of the Potomac.



fogfruit, aka frogfruit (Phyla lanceolata; Verbenaceae)





blue vervain (Verbena hastata; Verbenaceae)








riverbank goldenrod (Solidago racemosa; Asteraceae)




tall meadow rue (staminate flowers; Thalictrum pubescens; Ranunculaceae)



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.


It tickles me that a bedrock terrace can maintain a pond, providing habitat for so many wetland plants. Only a few dozen feet away from that pond grow plants like big bluestem grass, that prefer much drier habitats.

And in between, there are low-growing swaths of fogfruit.

I’m not sure if technically fogfruit is a mudflat ephemeral, but the plants don’t seem to appear until river level drops, and then they pop up from the muddy shores, the rhizomes forming large mats of vegetation that stand about 12 to 18 inches tall.

Phyla lanceolata (formerly Lippia lanceolata) is in the Verbenaceae, a family of about 1,000 species in about 30 genera. Plants in this family can be found worldwide, but most of the species are tropical; P. lanceolata is one of the more northerly occurring ones. There are about a dozen species of Phyla, maybe half of which are native to North America. This one is found in much of the US, excepting New England, the northern Great Plains, and the Pacific Northwest. Populations seem to be concentrated in the Mid-West and along the Mississippi River corridor. It’s endangered in New Jersey and rare in Pennsylvania, and the only species of Phyla found in Maryland.

The inflorescence of fogfruit is fairly typical of plants in the Verbenaceae, the individual flowers clustered together in a tight spike. (It looks to me a lot like lantana, a common garden plant.) The individual flowers have five petals, fused together into a tube with irregularly spreading lobes. Many but not all of the flower clusters I’ve seen have this wonderful arrangement: yellow-throated flowers alternating with mauve-throated flowers.

About that common name… to some it’s “fogfruit”, to others it’s “frogfruit”. Wondering if the latter was a mispronunciation of the former, I was all set to do some real book research, but looked first on the internet, where I found, unsurprisingly, that it’s already been done:

In the end though, frogfruit with its alliterative cadence may simply be easier to say than fogfruit…

Either way, it’s a charming little thing.