More Tiny Flowers

Back to the Potomac Gorge and my continuing fascination with little bitty things…


Lewiston cornsalad, mâche,
and a host of others
Valerianella locusta

These pretty little flowers belong to one of my favorite salad greens… I think. Thing is, this species is almost impossible to tell apart from the S1 listed (eg, endangered) V. chenopodifolia (goosefoot cornsalad), without a close examination of the seeds. And by close examination, I mean a hand lens might do it.  A microscope would make it easier.


I’ve seen this same patch of plants in the same place on the Billy Goat C trail every year, but have never managed to catch it in seed. Although V. locusta is an invasive alien, this patch seems pretty well behaved. So I sent these pictures to some experts and asked for their opinion. They believe it to be V. locusta, which if nothing else is supported by the odds.


Oh well, I would love to have found an S1 species.  But hey, if I did, it would look just like this one.



southern chervil, hairyfruit chervil
Chaerophyllum tainturieri

The feathery foliage of this species can form large carpets on the floors of moist woodlands, but you really have to be looking close to see the flowers.


Although it’s in the same family as the culinary chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) you may be familiar with, it’s in a different genus. I’d love to know if it’s edible; the internet hasn’t coughed up an answer yet, and I will not trust a source that doesn’t identify a wild plant with a proper botanical name. I certainly am not about to sample it to find out. There are many delicious plants in the Apiaceae, like carraway, carrot, celery, cilantro, cumin, dill, lovage, parsley…. There are also poisonous ones, like giant hogweed, poison hemlock, water hemlock, and something called “deadly carrots” (Thapsia species).

This chervil can be found from Maryland south to Florida, into the midwest and parts of the Great Plains, and even as far southwest as Arizona.


Flower of the Day: Long-Tube Valerian


aka few-flowered valerian
(from the specific epithet)
and large-flowered valerian
Valeriana pauciflora
(sometimes Caprifoliaceae)


From Florida to Alaska, there’s a valerian for almost every state (except for a few Great Plains and Midwestern ones). Fifteen native species occur across the US and Canada, plus one alien: Valeriana officinalis, the European plant used in alternative medicine.  Of the natives, only V. pauciflora is found in Maryland, and this species has a narrow range, from Pennsylvania to Illinois and south to Tennessee (with a few occurrences in northern Alabama).

The USDA site shows it in Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland; the Maryland Biodiversity Project shows it in Montgomery and Harford.  Either way, it’s endangered in the state.

20150514-20150514-_DSC0140That makes it even more special to stumble upon.  I’ve found five discreet stands in the Potomac Gorge; there must be more.  One of these stands comprised at least one hundred individual plants. Absolutely glorious in full bloom.

Each of these stands is located in deep woods, in low areas that are consistently moist but not wet. Not in the Potomac floodplain proper, but often along the banks of deep-cut rills just above it.

(<—– isn’t that elegant?)


20150507-20150507-_DSC0075Whenever I see a deep tube on a flower, I wonder who pollinates it.  Internet research got me almost no information, except this from the excellent Illinois Wildflowers site of Dr. John Hilty: “The long slender corollas suggests that the flowers are pollinated by bumblebees, butterflies, Sphinx moths, and possibly hummingbirds. The nectar of the flowers is inaccessible to most insects with short mouthparts.”

I’m not the most patient hunter.  Maybe next year, I’ll sit quietly in that hundred-plant area and see who comes visiting.




emerging foliage, April 6




budding up, May 1