Newfoundland: A Few More Wildflowers

And, back to Newfoundland, with a few more wildflowers I found in various locations,

Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea; Asteraceae) is found in Canada, New England, the northern Mid-Atlantic, the upper Mid-West, and the mountainous West; in Maryland it’s only in a few scattered locations.


Oyster plant (Mertensia maritima; Boraginaceae) is found on beaches in northern North America and parts of Europe. I found it in Iceland last summer and specifically went looking for it when driving past Birchy Cove. It’s closely related to our showy native Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

Roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia; Droseraceae) is a carnivorous plant with circumboreal distribution; in the US it’s found in New England, the Appalachians, the upper Mid-West, scattered locations in the West, Canada and Greenland. In Maryland it’s found in Garret County and parts of the Coastal Plain. Look for it in sunny wetlands (bogs, fens, and so on).

Gall-of-the-earth (Prenanthes trifoliata, formerly Nabalus trifoliatus or N. trifoliolatus; Asteraceae) is found in a variety of dry habitats in eastern Canada, New England, and south through the Appalachians. It’s endangered in Ohio, and though not on the RTE list in Maryland, is only known in Talbot County. Apparently it (and/or other Prenanthes species) was used in folk medicine, and has an exceedingly bitter taste, hence the common name.

Scots lovage (Ligusticum scoticum; Apiaceae) grows in rocky areas along the coasts of northern North America and Europe. It’s endangered in Connecticut and New York and special concern in Rhode Island. Supposdely it’s edible, tasting like lovage, which is to say like really strong celery.

Striped or creeping toadflax (Linaria repens; Plantaginaceae) is an alien found in only a few spots in North America. It’s native to Europe, and closely related to the more commonly occurring alien weed known as butter-and-eggs (L. vulgaris).


I spotted this Myosotis species (Boraginaceae) and photographed it from a great distance; there was no way to get close enough for a better picture or identification. The forget-me-nots are notoriously difficult to identify, as are their close relatives the phacelias, about which I’ve complained many times in this blog. But that borage blue is a beacon.

Yellow pond lily (Nuphar variegata, sometimes N. lutea ssp. variegata; Nymphaeaceae) is widespread in ponds across the northern US and Canada; it’s endangered in Ohio. The USDA PLANTS Database shows it present in Maryland but the Maryland Biodiversity Project has no records for it. The closely related spatterdock (N. advena) is found all over Maryland, though, including water pockets in cliffs in the Potomac Gorge.

In the same family is fragrant water lily, Nymphaea odorata. As you can see from the picture, I found both species growing together in one of the inunmerable ponds in the center of the Bonavista peninsula. Frgrant water lily can be found in almost every state and province of the US and Canada.

American burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis; Rosaceae) is native to the eastern US and Canada as well as the Pacific Northwest; sadly, it’s threatened or endangered in nine states, including Maryland. It’s an eye-catching plant with its tall, fluffy spikes of flowers. Look for it growing in bogs and other wet areas (including roadsides).

Roseroot (Rhodioloa rosea, formerly Sedum rosea; Crassulaceae) is a subarctic plant found in a few parts of northern North America as well as in Iceland and Europe. I saw this one specimen flowering near Spillar’s Cove and am really kicking myself for not taking the time to get better pictures.

A Mystery Shrub Identified

On April 19 I finally made it out to Rachel Carson Conservation Park for the first time this year. I had three goals, one of which was to see the stunning pinxter azaleas in bloom. I was a bit early for that.

I was almost too early for the second goal, which was to solve a mystery from the spring of 2016. One of the places where the pinxters bloom is a little hilltop of exposed rock. It must be acidic soil, because there’s a profusion of other ericaceous species: mountain laurel, blueberry, spotted wintergreen. And a spindly shrub that was in bud, but I never saw it in flower.

Until this year. Just a few buds were open on the 19th. I knew it right away for something in the rose family, and from there it was quick work to determine that it’s chokeberry (Aronia species). But I wasn’t able to determine which chokeberry until I went back on the 27th, when the pinxters were in their glory; the mystery plant was blooming, too.

This is Aronia melanocarpa, black chokeberry, a small shrub (about six feet tall) that ranges from New England and the mid-Atlantic south in the Appalachians and into parts of the Midwest. In Maryland it grows in the piedmont and areas to the west. Like the other plants I found nearby, black chokeberry prefers well-drained, moist to dry acidic soils in the woodland understory.

There are only two other chokeberry species in Maryland, A. arbutifolia (red chokeberry) and A. prunifolia (purple chokeberry). Some authorities consider the latter a hybrid of the other two species; in their texts you’ll see it written as Aronia x prunifolia. As with other members of the Rosaceae, the taxonomy of this genus is unsettled: some authors place the species in the genus Photinia, and in the past authors have placed them in Pyrus (pear) or Sorbus (mountain ash).

Whether or not you call them Aronias, the genus is easily distinguished from other similar rosaceous shrubs (like Amelanchier species). The clue is the presence of dark spots (called trichomes) found on the top surface of the leaves, along the lower part of the midrib. No other rosaceous shrubs have these. The best way to determine the species is to examine the fruit, which are colored as the common names suggest. In the absence of fruit, look at the undersides of the leaves. A. melanocarpa is glabrous (smooth), A. prunifolia is slightly pubescent (short hairy), and A. arbutifolia is densely pubescent.

As luck would have it, I have one of the latter in my yard, so here’s a look at a densely pubescent leaf.

The third goal I referred to was to make sense of a particularly vexing violet I had found the previous spring. More on that in an upcoming post.


Rosaceous Wildflowers – the Rosaceae, part three

When you learn about plant families, you start to see all the similarities between species. All the flowers pictured below, except the burnet, are just so clearly rosaceous. Click on the goatsbeard picture and zoom in; you’ll see it there, too.


one leaf of A. parviflora


inflorescence of A. parviflora

Agrimonia parviflora
southern agrimony, small-flowered agrimony, swamp agrimony, harvestlice
Five species of agrimony are found in the Maryland piedmont. I love this one particularly for the fantastically complicated leaves (click on the image for a larger view). I’ve only ever found one of these plants, but I visit it every season. It’s on the Cabin John Trail, and grows to about three feet tall amid a stand of Japanese knotweed.


Aruncus dioicus
goatsbeard, bride’s feathers
This is an impressively large perennial, growing as tall as six feet in wet soils when it has enough sun. You really have to zoom in to see the characteristic rose family structure of the flowers.

Fragaria vesca
woodland strawberry
In Maryland this species is only found in Garret and Baltimore counties; this photograph was taken in Iceland. If you zoom in you can see some of the typical rose family leaves, but most of the green in this picture comes from horsetails through which the strawberry is flowering.

20140715-DSC_0189Geum canadense
white avens
Some people consider this a weedy plant; it certainly can grow aggressively. It can be found in almost every Maryland county, and indeed over most of the eastern US.



Geum rivale
purple avens, mountain avens, water avens
Only a few sources show this species occurring in Maryland, but there’s no county data. Based on county data from nearby states, I’ll guess that if it does grow here, it will be in Allegany and Garret counties. It’s a lovely low-growing herb with multi-colored flowers. These plants were photographed in Iceland.


Geum vernum
spring avens
This is one of the least eye-catching flowers I’ve ever spotted, but it is in the rose family. Those flowers are about one-eighth of an inch across.




Potentilla canadensis
dwarf cinquefoil
This very low-growing, vining plant seems to like dry, rocky soils. It’s easily found near Carderock; look for it blooming from late April to late May.



Potentilla simplex
common cinquefoil
Very similar looking to dwarf cinquefoil, but the plants seem to be more aggressively vining. The specimen shown here was part of a large mass twining through other plants.

Rosa carolina
pasture rose
This small shrub bears its flowers singly and can be found throughout the Maryland piedmont. I planted a small one in my garden last year and the rabbits got it, damn them. Will try again this spring, with rabbit repellent on hand. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an informal hedge comprising native roses?


Rubus odoratus
purple-flowering raspberry
The fragrant flowers are borne on panicles, and although the fruits are edible they aren’t very palatable. It’s a suckering shrub, like other Rubus species. Look for it growing wild in Maryland in Montgomery County and all the counties to the west.

swamp dewberry

Rubus species (maybe R. flagellaris or R. hispidus)
I didn’t have clear enough pictures to say for sure which species this is, but this is a typical dewberry flower and habit (the canes tend to trail along the ground rather than arching like blackberries and raspberries do).


upper half of flower spike, S. canadensis

Sanguisorba canadensis
Canada burnet, American burnet
Carrol County is the only Maryland piedmont location for this species, listed as S2/threatened. It’s threatened or endangered in eight other states, too. This specimen was photographed in Nova Scotia. The flowers are borne on a spike and have no petals, just a four-lobed light green calyx and many long stamens.


a single leaf of S. canadensis


Spiraea alba
This short shrub, with flowers borne in panicles, can be found in most of the Maryland piedmont (but I took the picture in Nova Scotia). It’s range includes the upper Midwest and New England, Canada, and along the Appalachians into the South. It’s endangered in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Ornamentals and Edibles: the Rosaceae, part two


apple blossom (Malus domestica), unknown cultivar growing wild

Gardeners grow many rose family plants beyond roses themselves. Herbaceous ornamentals and shrubs include lady’s mantle (Alchemilla), goat’s beard (Aruncus), meadowsweet (Filipendula), avens (Geum), burnet (Sanguisorba), false spiraea (Sorbaria), cinquefoil (Potentilla), kerria, spiraea, flowering quince (Chaenomeles), pyracantha, and cotoneaster. Trees include hawthorn (Crataegus), mountain ash (Sorbus), ninebark (Physocarpus), and of course the flowering plums and cherries.

Unfortunately a few of these species are considered invasive: multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) are two especially bad ones in the mid-Atlantic. And then there’s the horribly prolific Bradford pear, a cultivar of Pyrus calleryana that was selected at the USDA Plant Introduction Station in Glenn Dale, Maryland, at one time a very popular street and landscaping tree. You can find them all over the place now, in quasi-wild situations like in the median of Interstate 95 north of the Washington Beltway. Ever notice all the beautiful white blooming trees there in early spring? Bradford pear.

Despite the prevalence of rosaceous plants in the nursery industry, the major economic importance of the family is from foodstuffs. Here’s a partial list of edibles in the Rosaceae:

  • Amelanchier species   serviceberry
  • Cydonia oblonga   quince
  • Eriobotrya japonica   loquat
  • Fragaria species (at least 20, plus hybrids)   strawberry
  • Malus domestica   apple
  • Mespilus germanica   medlar
  • Prunus armeniaca   apricot
  • Prunus dulcis   almond
  • Prunus persica   nectarine, peach
  • Prunus species (several)   cherry
  • Prunus species (several)  plum
  • Pyrus communis   pear
  • Rubus caesius (and about a dozen others)   dewberry
  • Rubus chamaemorus   cloudberry
  • Rubus idaeus, R. strigosus, and others   red raspberry
  • Rubus x loganobaccus*   loganberry
  • Rubus occidentalis   black raspberry
  • Rubus ursinus (and others) blackberry

Boysenberry was developed from R. idaeus, R. fruticosus, R. aboriginum, and R. x loganobaccus.*


Pyrus species (I think)

The above list gives an idea of how complicated the taxonomy of this family must be. Malus domestica is actually a catch-all name, since the genetic history of domesticated apples is incredibly complex. It’s believed that the progenitor of our more than seven thousand known cultivars of apple is M. sieversii, native to western Asia.

Rose family plants form several different types of fruits. The various Prunus species bear drupes (colloquially, stone fruits), which consist of a skin enclosing a fleshy layer of tissue, which surrounds a hard pit or stone, which encloses the seed. Although we call them berries, the fruits of the Rubus species are also drupes, or more specifically they are aggregates of drupelets (a drupelet being nothing more than a small drupe).

Apple, pear, serviceberry, loquat, quince, and medlar produce pomes, a type of fruit in which a skin and fleshy layer enclose a layer of cartilage, which encloses several seeds.

And then there’s accessory fruits, in which tissue not derived from an ovary supports the actual fruits. In the case of Fragaria species the fruits are achenes (dry, hard fruits that don’t split open at maturity). So those annoying “seeds” of strawberries are the real fruits. The fleshy part forms from the enlarged area at the top of the flower stalk.

None of the fruits of rosaceous plants are true berries. In the botanical sense, a berry is an indehiscent fruit (meaning it doesn’t split open at maturity) that consists of a fleshy layer surrounding several or many seeds, and the seeds are not surrounded by a hard shell. So if the rosaceous “berries” are not actually berries, what are? Tomatoes. Grapes. Passionfruit. Bananas. Blueberries.

prunus persica?

Prunus species, possibly P. persica

A few of the rosaceous fruits listed above are native to North America: some of the Amelanchier, Rubus, and Fragaria species. Most of the cultivated Prunus species are Eurasian in origin, though there are some edible plums native to the new world.

next time: the wildflowers

*the lowercase “x” in a botanical name denotes an interspecific (between species) cross

Plants Be Complicated: the Rosaceae, part one


serviceberry (Amelanchier species)

When writing about plant families, I like to quote a few statistics, but that isn’t so easy with the Rosaceae. A web search of “number of species in Rosaceae” yields the following:




  • “…4,828 known species in 91 genera” (Wikipedia)
  • “…9,404 scientific plant names of species rank for the family Rosaceae. Of these 1,966 are accepted species names….[there are] a further 2,836 scientific plant names of infraspecific rank…” (The Plant List)
  • “…some 2,500 species in more than 90 genera.” (
  • “Worldwide, there are about 100 genera and 3,000 species.” (Wildflowers and Weeds)
  • “The Rosaceae comprises approximately 3,400 species…” (USU Herbarium)
  • “…comprising about 100 genera and 3,000 species.” (University of Hawaii)

You get the idea. But why is it so hard to pin down? For one thing, people are still discovering previously undocumented plants. More significantly, studies of genetics and evolutionary history change our understanding of how organisms are related to one another, leading to changes in how they’re classified. Sometimes several species are lumped into one; other times, one species is split into several, leading to the creation of new species.*

When it comes to the Rosaceae, there’s another factor: apomixis. Simply put, this is the ability of a flowering plant to reproduce via seed that has formed asexually. Which sounds wrong, because we all know that seeds are formed when ovules are fertilized by pollen…right?

But then, as a botanist friend put it, “plants be complicated.”

There are several mechanisms by which apomixis occur, and a summary is beyond the scope of this blog (that is, I don’t fully understand it yet myself), but the upshot here is that apomixis kinda-sorta might result in the formation of new species; at the least, it muddies our ability to trace genetic relationships:

Apomixis also frequently leads to the formation and maintenance of numerous morphologically distinct, yet interfertile, varieties growing true to type from seed. The taxonomy of such agamic complexes can be a difficult and contentious task…   –Understanding Apomixis: Recent Advances and Remaining Conundrums
Ross A. Bicknella and Anna M. Koltunowb
(full article)

According to the Wikipedia entry, the genus Cotoneaster contains between 70 and 300 species, Crataegus between 200 and 1,000, and Rubus may have thousands.

It seems futile, then, to say how many species are in the Rosaceae, but I’ll continue with a few more statistics. According to BONAP, the Rosaceae is the fifth largest family in North America (counting natives only), with 664 species. The Maryland Biodiversity Project has records for 142 species, about half of which can be found in the piedmont. About 40 of the Maryland species are aliens, eight are listed S1, three are S2, and five are S3.

Species in the Roscaeae occur worldwide except the arctic and antarctic, with the greatest diversity found in the northern hemisphere. The flowers almost always consist of five sepals, 5 petals, and many stamens (ten or more), all fused together at their base into a cup-shaped structure termed a hypanthium. The flowers are borne in racemes, spikes, or heads, or sometimes singly. Leaves are usually arranged alternately on the stem, can be simple or pinnately compound, usually have stipules, and often have toothed margins. Herbaceous plants are usually perennials, and woody plants are usually deciduous.

This is a family of major economic importance, and not just for cut roses in the flower industry. More on that next time.

*interesting article: Whence Lumpers and Splitters? (National Center for Science Education)