More Flowers From Ferry Hill

Here are a few more photos of flowers seen in early April along the Potomac River near Sharpsburg, Maryland.



two-leaved miterwort, Mitella diphylla (Saxifragaceae) [right and below]









downy yellow violet, Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula  (Violaceae)




blue cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides  (Berberidaceae)





rue anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides (Ranunculaceae) [with a side of early saxifrage, Micranthes virginiensis]



star chickweed, Stellaria pubera (Caryophyllaceae)





toadshade, Trillium sessile (Melanthiaceae)





squirrel corn, Dicentra canadensis (Papaveraceae)




wild blue phlox, Phlox divaricata (Polemoniaceae)




spreading rockcress, Arabis patens (Brassicaceae); G3 (globally rare/local), S3 in Maryland





spring beauty, Claytonia virginica (Montiaceae)


The third target of my Washington County foray with B was Trillium erectum (red trillium, wake robin; Melanthiaceae).

There are 38 species of Trillium native to North America; eight of these are native to Maryland. T. erectum is found throughout New England, extending south mostly in the Appalachian Mountains as far south as northern Georgia, and there are a few populations in parts of the upper Midwest. In Maryland it’s found in scattered locations (have a look at the quad data from Maryland Biodiversity Project for details).

Here you can see (from the innermost parts outward) the three stigmas, six stamens, three petals, three sepals, and three bracts. Not leaves? That’s right: technically there are no above-ground leaves on trilliums. The three large structures are bracts (like the colorful parts of flowering dogwood and poinsettias). A bract is a modified leaf, found at the base of an inflorescence.  However, the bracts of trilliums do engage in photosynthesis. I’m not clear, then, on why they aren’t considered leaves, but there it is. Botany is weird.

The taxonomy of the trilliums is a bit unsettled. At first, Trillium was in the Liliaceae; later it was placed in its own family, Trilliaceae; then it was moved to Melanthiaceae (bunchflower family). Now some taxonomists are putting it back into Trilliaceae.


I found 37 different common names for this species, among them bathflower, bloody nose, bumblebee-root, daffy-down-lily, herb-true-love, red-benjamin, rule-of-three, true love, wild-piny, and wood-lily.  Makes me appreciate the work of Carl Linnaeus.

On Ferry Hill

When B and I went hunting two weeks ago, one of our targets was Primula meadia (eastern shootingstar; Primulaceae), currently on the Maryland DNR watchlist (S3). Shootingstar likes to grow on the rocky outcroppings along the Potomac River, like on  inaccessibly high rocks above the larkspur-filled ravine (see my previous post).  We found plenty of plants nearby, though.

In general, this species likes moist to dry soils in open, rocky woodlands.  When flowering, the plants are about a foot and a half tall; when not flowering, there is only a basal rosette of rather large leaves.


Shootingstar’s range appears to be from south central Texas north to Minnesota and Wisconsin, then eastward to Florida and New York. Here’s the map from BONAP:

The taxonomy of this species seems to be unsettled. Regional authorities Alan Weakley, Wesley Knapp, and Robert Naczi are calling it Primula meadia, but I see it online and even in recently published guidebooks as Dodecatheon meadia. You’ll find the latter name in all the classic guides.



This species has many common names, including American cowslip, Virginia cowslip, gentlemen-and-ladies, pride of Ohio, Indian-chief, lamb’s-noses, rooster heads, snake-heads, mosquito-bells, and prairie pointers.

First Ravine on the Left

Earlier this month B and I made a trip to Washington County to look for some wildflowers that aren’t found in the Potomac Gorge. Directions from fellow botanerds and a bit of poking around rewarded us with three new-to-me species.

This one is dwarf larkspur, Delphinium tricorne (Ranunculaceae).  There are 65 species of Delphinium native to North America, but only four of those are found east of the Mississippi, and only two in the mid-Atlantic.

Dwarf larkspur’s range includes the easternmost parts of the prairie states, the Midwest, parts of the South (especially the Appalachians), and the southernmost part of the mid-Atlantic.

It’s a plant of open, rocky woodlands with moist soils.  Look for it on bluffs and ravines along the Potomac River in Washington County.  Apparently there are records for it in the Potomac Gorge, but the most recent sighting there was in 1935; it’s not likely to be found there again.


The dark blue-purple color is typical, but dwarf larkspur can also be white and, apparently, bi-colored.