Just Couldn’t Help Myself

Monday dawned sunny and cool, beautiful weather for wildflower hunting. Despite my resolution to stay put during this health crisis, I decided it might be worth trying Rachel Carson Conservation Park. It was a good call – for most of the time I was there, I had the place to myself.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that it’s too early in the season for some of the flowers I wanted to see. But there were other things blooming, like round-lobed hepatica (Anemone americana; Ranunculaceae).The flower colors can vary from white through pale blue to a deep, almost purple blue, and sometimes even pink.

The white-flowering hepatica [right] looks a lot like another member of the same family, Thalictrum thalictroides, or rue anemone [below]. The leaves are entirely different, though. Rue anemone flowers are almost always pure white, but sometimes they can be a little pink, with reddish leaves.

What’s Up? White Flowers

White flowers recently seen in the greater Carderock area.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica; Boraginaceae) are of course normally blue, but every once in awhile you’ll see a stand of white ones. Look for them in floodplains and adjacent moist slopes.

 

 

Look for twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla; Berberidaceae) on rocky slopes along Billy Goat B; it will likely be done blooming by tomorrow.

 

 

Moss phlox (Phlox subulata; Polemoniaceae) should be blooming for at least another month. As you can see from the photo, it doesn’t need much soil. Look for in on large rock formations along the Potomac River.

 

 

Lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata; Brassicaceae) is another rock-loving species. They’re so wispy they can be hard to see, but should be blooming for at least another month.

 

 

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis; Papaveraceae) is almost done blooming. You can find it in rich woodlands, usually in colonies.

 

 

 

Early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis; Saxifragaceae) grows in thin soils in rocky woodlands. It’s one of the earliest bloomers but lasts for a fairly long time.

 

 

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides; Ranunculaceae) is just starting to bloom. It’s common in the Maryland piedmont but for some reason there isn’t much of it in the Potomac gorge. Look for it in the very open wooded areas near the Marsden Tract. It should bloom for another month.

Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) and the closely-related squirrel corn (D. canadensis; Papaveraceae) are both blooming in moist woodlands. In past years I’ve observed that the latter starts blooming a week or so after the former, so if you want to see both, go hunting soon. Neither lasts for long.

Compressed (part 3)

And here are a few more early spring bloomers to watch for in the Potomac Gorge.

Not as common as some of the flowers in yesterday’s post, but still easily found in rocky areas, are early saxifrage (Micranthes virginiensis, formerly Saxifraga virginiensis), which are the white flowers on the right in this photo, and smooth rockcress (Boechera laevigata, formerly Arabis laevigata), which is the plant in bud on the left.

Growing right on top of boulders, the incomparably wispy and delicate lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabidopsis lyrata, formerly Arabis lyrata) are in full bloom already, but they have a long bloom period.
Also growing right on rocks, though in more open, sunny areas, is moss phlox (Phlox subulata). It, too, has a long bloom period.

Its cousin wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) is just starting to open in the dappled shade of the woods.

In a few upland areas, rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) are just starting.

 

 

Don’t forget to look up! Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is in full bloom.

 

 

 

 

Another yellow-flowering woody plant is leatherwood (Dirca palustris), but it’s uncommon. If you find a stand please post a comment!

 

 

And in deep shade on the forest floor, there are toadshades (Trillium sessile), delightful even before they flower.

 

 

More Teasers

Odd weather we’ve had this winter. Unusually cold on average, but with unusually warm days. Plants are emerging and budding up and some are blooming already, as I reported in the last post. Anyway, here’s more of what we can look forward to in the next month or so.

Jeffersonia diphylla (twinleaf; Berberidaceae)

I usually see these plants in large stands, and all the plants in a stand seem to flower at the same time, but the flowers only last a few days. I’m going to start watching for them in mid-March this year.

Packera aurea (golden ragwort; Asteraceae)

This is the same species I posted a picture of on Wednesday, with the purple buds. Such a perky thing. The first species in the Asteraceae to bloom ’round here.

 

Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot; Papaveraceae)

Since bloodroot grows from rhizomes, when there’s more than one plant they’re often in a line.

 

 

Erythronium americanum (trout lily; Liliaceae)

 

 

 

Erythronium albidum (white trout lily; Liliaceae)

 

 

 

 

Trillium sessile (toadshade; Liliaceae)

Honestly my love for this plant comes from that common name. This is peak bloom; the flower petals don’t spread open. Yellow flowering forms can be found near Carderock.

 

Stellaria pubera (star chickweed; Caryophyllaceae)

It’s all about those stamens. And fun fact: each flower has five petals. The petals are so deeply cleft that a single petal appears to be two petals.

 

Thalictrum thalictroides (rue anemone; Ranunculaceae)

In botanical Latin the suffix                “-oides” means “resembling”. So this species is “Thalictrum that looks like Thalictrum”. Thalictrum is “from thaliktron, a name used to describe a plant with divided leaves”.*

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)

These will be carpeting floodplains and other very moist-soil areas in less than a month.

 

 

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox; Polemoniaceae)

Wild blue phlox starts blooming at about the same time as Virginia bluebells, but they last longer. It’s a glorious sight when these two and golden ragwort fill the woods.

 

*California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations
A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology
Compiled by Michael L. Charters

When One Color Isn’t Enough (part one)

More pictures to keep us dreaming of warmer weather. This time, spring-blooming multi-colored flowers.

Erigenia bulbosa (harbinger-of-spring; Apiaceae)

This is one of our earliest blooming native plants (the only one I can think of that blooms earlier is skunk cabbage). These anthers turn quickly from dark red to black, giving rise to another common name, pepper-and-salt.

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells; Boraginaceae)

That’s right, bluebells again, because here they are in several different colors all in one clump. I can’t wait to see them again.

Galearis spectabilis (showy orchis; Orchidaceae)

This surprisingly common terrestrial orchid grows in all the physiographic provinces in Maryland, but we have the most records for it in the piedmont and coastal plain. Look for it blooming in April and May in rich, moist soils in wooded areas.

Viola sororia (common blue violet, white form ; Violaceae)

Common blue violets are, well, pretty common around here. They seem quite fond of edge areas and open woodlands, always in moist soils. They can be found all over Maryland, blooming from late March into early May.

Cypripedium acaule (pink lady’s slipper; Orchidaceae)

Like most orchids, pink lady’s slipper has specific growing requirements, which means you won’t find it just anywhere. But it does grow pretty much all over the state. Look for it flowering in early May, in rich, undisturbed woodland soils.

Penstemon hirsutus (hairy beardtongue; Plantaginaceae)

This bizarre-looking flower is found mostly in the northern part of Maryland, but there’s a reliable stand on the Billy Goat B trail. Look for it in lean soils (rocky areas) in full sun light, blooming from early to late May.

Mitchella repens (partridgeberry; Rubiaceae) [click on this one!]

What can I write about partridgeberry that I haven’t written before? This is one of my very favorites; I go looking for it every year at the end of May. The plants grow very long but stay very low, creeping along rocks. We have records for it in every Maryland county.

Thalictrum coriaceum (maid-of-the-mist; Ranunculaceae)

Although it isn’t on the Maryland RTE list, we only have records for it in three quads in Montgomery County. I think that’s rather odd, and suspect it’s due to misidentification (see The Botanerd’s Handy Guide to Thalictrum Species). That bright pink on the sepals and filaments turns quickly to brown.