Wildflower of the Week

Wildflower of the Week is written by Club member Jim Poling and features seasonal flowers. Jim is the coordinator of “Wildflower Walks in Black Mountain”, usually held the second Thursday of each month. Most of the walks are local—Montreat, BMT Recreation Park, Warren Wilson College. There may be one or two trips to the Parkway. Meet at Lake Tomahawk Parking Lot on Rhododendron Ave. Black Mountain, NC to carpool to another location where there are wildflowers! The Black Mountain Wildflower Walks are over for the year. See you in 2018! For the schedule see Local Events, or for more information contact Jim at jnpoling@icloud.com.

Click on images to zoom.


September 23, 2017

Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana) is one sure sign of fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In spring, it produces interesting white flowers and then, in fall, bright red berries which are loved by some birds such as the Gray Catbird below. In addition to the many colors of the changing leaves, the green leaves and red berries add a richness to the palette of beauty. Keep your eyes open at Craggy Gardens and Mt. Pisgah for Sorbus americana.

American Mountain-Ash (Sorbus americana)
Rose Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 15-20’ tall, occasionally 30’
General: American mountain-ash is a small, ornamental tree
Leaves: Pinnately-compound, deciduous leaves occur on bright-red leaf stalks and turn golden-orange in the fall
Flowers and Fruits: The small white, flowers are held in flat-topped clusters and are followed by broad clusters of bright, coral-red berries.
Where Found: Cool, moist, open areas; granitic outcrops, higher elevations from Newfoundland to GA.
Notes: Berries attract birds. The fruits (fresh or dried) contain iron and vitamin C. They are also acidic and rich in tannins, however, and should be eaten in moderation (Kershaw). Warning: The seeds of this plant are reported to be poisonous, and those of its close relative Mescal bean (Sophora secundiflora) can be deadly. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility.

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, U of Texas at Austin


September 16, 2017

Late summer and fall Aster species are difficult to identify because there are so many of them and they often look similar. Even experienced Botanists are reluctant to give a positive ID on plants such as Goldenrod (Solidago), Sunflowers (Helianthus), and many others. One wildflower that is easy even for beginners is Wingstem. Standing 3-9 feet with yellow flowers at the top, Wingstem is unique because of the “Winged petioles” or flaps along the main stem. By feeling the stem, you can be confident that you have identified a Wingstem. It is common; look for it along ditches and in fields where there is sufficient light. One place to see a good stand is at Craven Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Until frost, there will be lots of Aster colors for us to enjoy.

Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia)
Aster Family
Photo by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 3-9 ft. tall.
General: Coarse perennial herb, stem leafy.
Leaves: Alternate, narrowly lanceolate, 4-10 in. long, margins serrate to entire; petioles with wings that extend down the stem.
Flowers: Ray flowers yellow, 2-10, irregularly spaced, reflexed, 0.4-1.2 in. long, disk flowers yellow, loosely arranged, forming a sphere 0.4-0.6 in. wide; involucral bracts narrow, smooth, reflexed, heads radiate, numerous, in an open, branched inflorescence. Aug-Sep.
Fruit: Achenes, 0.25 in. long, 0.15 in. wide, with broad wings, usually 0.1 in. wide, pappus of 2 short awns.
Where Found: Moist thickets and edges of woods through most of eastern U.S.

Notes: Wingstem is named for the winged petioles, which continue down the stem in a wing-like fashion. Wingstems are used as host plants and for nectar by Silvery Checkerspot butterflies.

 

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 384.


September 9, 2017

I am probably not the only one who is confused by the late summer wildflowers, especially the members of the Aster or Composite family with multiple, tiny flowers on a tall stem. Several species that can appear similar to beginning wildflower watchers are Joe-Pye Weed, White Snakeroot, and Boneset. All of these flowers are 3-6 feet tall with multiple stem leaves and almost indistinguishable tiny flowers at the top. To the experienced botanist, the differences are obvious, but for the beginner, it takes time to notice these differences. For example, Boneset has white flowers as distinguished from Joe-Pye Weed’s pink or purplish flowers. Boneset has perfoliate (wrapped around the stem) opposite leaves that are hairy and rough-looking as distinguished from White Snakeroot which has toothed leaves with long petioles (stems). Since I learned these differences I have noticed Boneset often this year. In addition, there are multiple species of all these plants which I will save for after I gain more experience.

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Aster Family
Photo by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 2-4 ft. tall.
General: Erect perennial, stems shaggy-hairy.
Leaves: Opposite, bases united around the stem (connate-perfoliate), lanceolate, 3-8 in. long, 0.6-1.8 in. wide, resin-dotted, pinnately veined, sparsely hairy on the upper surface, densely hairy beneath, tips acuminate, margins crenate-serrate.
Flowers: Ray flowers absent; disk flowers white, usually 9-23, involucral bracts acute to acuminate, hairy, glandular, often white-margined; Aug-Oct.
Fruits: Resinous-glandular achenes; pappus a tuft of white bristles.
Where Found: Moist to dry woods, fields, and waste places throughout the central and eastern U.S.
Notes: This plant was given the name Boneset, because it relieved “the deep-seated pain in the limbs” caused by influenza. The leaves and flowers were widely used by Native Americans and European settlers to induce nausea and vomiting, as well as for treating fevers, epilepsy, arthritis, malaria, and other ailments.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 344.


September 1, 2017

Since I first discovered Grass-of-Parnassus in 2014, it has been one of my favorite late summer wildflowers. The flower is about an inch or so across with distinctive greenish veins on a white background. The plant grows in wet areas and rocky slopes. These pictures were taken at Wolf Mountain Overlook, MM 424, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Asheville, NC, a favorite spot for botanists because of its beautiful and rare plants. When you drive the Parkway this fall, stop at Wolf Mountain overlook and walk across the road to the rocky face and enjoy this beautiful wildflower among others.

Kidneyleaf Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia asarifolia)
Saxifrage Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: 8-16 in. tall
General: Smooth, perennial herb.
Leaves: Kidney-shaped basal leaves, 1-2” wide, almost as long, entire, on long stalks; each flowering stem has 1 sessile leaf, similar but smaller, near the middle of the stem.
Flowers: Solitary flower on each stem, 5 white petals, about 0.5” long, prominently grayish-veined, narrow-stalked; 5 stamens with anthers are separated by 5 shorter, sterile ones, Sep-Oct.
Fruits: Capsules with 4 valves, numerous seeds.
Where Found: Swamps and seepage slopes. From AR and eastern TX, east to VA and GA.
Notes: Though these plans do not resemble grass, the Parnassia genus was named by Dioscorides, a botanist of ancient Greece, after a grass-like plant that grew on the side of Mount Parnassus in Greece. This oddity comers from centuries of confusion over the translation of the word for “green plant.” The species name asarifolia means “leaves resembling Asarum or Wild Ginger,” and fortunately, this part of the name is appropriate. The distinctive lines on the petals act as a guide to attract pollinators.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 142.
Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Little, Brown, and Co, 1977, p 142.


August 26, 2017

Mid- to Late-August sees the appearance of the Gentian family. We have four species of Gentian flowers in western NC. Some species are limited to the high mountains at Mt. Pisgah and the south Parkway and Mt. Mitchell. I am featuring the Bottle Gentian (Gentiana clausa) in this Wildflower of the Week. But we also have Stiff Gentian (Gentianella quinquefolia), Striped Gentian (Gentiana villosa), and Balsam Mountain Gentian (Gentiana latidens) in the region. I have seen three of these species this week; their pictures are below. The flowers are unique because they are beautifully blue, they stand upright and are never quite completely open. Some appear to be closed like the Bottle Gentian. Pollinators have to force their way inside in a similar way to how bumblebees enter into Turtleheads.  I hope you get to see and enjoy these interesting flowers this summer.

Bottle Gentian (Gentiana clausa)
Gentian Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: Up to 20 in. tall.
General: Perennial herb with erect, smooth stems.
Leaves: Opposite, sessile, slender pointed leaves.
Flowers: Tubular corolla, Dark blue flowers, 1-2 in. long; 5 corolla lobes typically do not open. Sep.-Oct
Where Found: Most meadows, woods, a NE species extending south in the mountains to TN and NC.
Fruits: Elongated capsules to 1 in. long
Notes: The Gentian species is named for the 6th C. king of Illyria, Gentius, who discovered that the roots of the Yellow Gentian (G. lutea) had a healing effect on his malaria-stricken troops.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 221.


August 18, 2017

Silene ovata (Fringed Campion), is a very rare wildflower in the Pink family, related to Silene stellata (Starry Campion). These wildflowers were found along the Mountain-to-Sea trail north of Craven Gap. I have found these beautiful wildflowers in only one or two locations in western NC. It is exciting to walk along the trail and discover these rare flowers in bloom. Thanks to the Botanical Club for showing me how to find them in late August.

Fringed Campion (Silene ovata)
Pink Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 4-16” tall, 1-2 inches across.
General: Perennial herb, rooting at nodes and tips of runners, and forming mats.
Leaves: 3⁄4 – 31⁄2” long and 3⁄8 – 1” wide, widest above the middle, opposite, upper surface with raised veins, smooth except for short hairs on the margins and long hairs on the leaf stalks.
Flowers: 1 – 2” wide, pink or white with 5 deeply fringed petals.
Fruits: An oval capsule about 3⁄8” long, with a toothed opening at the tip.
Where Found: Mature hardwood forests with low-acid soils on moist, mid- to lower slopes and small stream terraces.
Notes: Endangered. About 30 populations are known, with only a few sites protected.

Georgia Wildlife


August 11, 2017

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is one of the most beautiful August wildflowers. I have about ten plants in my yard that are blooming and I love them. The bright red of the flower is about 3-4 feet high with its delicate irregular petals. When hummingbirds and Swallow-tailed Butterflies stick their long snouts into the tube, the stamen deposits pollen on their body. These flowers are common and are found in many habitats, especially near streams and wet areas. Keep your eyes out for this colorful plant as you walk in the woods or drive down country roads.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Bellflower Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 24-48 in. tall.
General: Erect, typically unbranched perennial herb.
Leaves: Alternate, lanceolate, 2-6 in. long, toothed margins.
Flowers: Intensely red or scarlet, 0.75-1.5 in. long, 2 lipped corolla, lower lip smooth within, borne in a showy raceme; Jul-Sep.
Fruits: Ovoid or spherical capsules with brown seeds.
Where Found: Wet soil, stream banks and roadside ditches through eastern and southwestern U.S. and southeastern Canada.
Notes: This plant’s common name comes from the scarlet flowers, which are the color of the robes worn by cardinals of the RC Church. A favorite of hummingbirds, the flowers are also visited by long-tongued butterflies such as the Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and Cloudless Sulphur. Native Americans used the roots to treat a variety of illnesses, but especially to rid the body of worms. Although this plant has been used as medicine, it is also very poisonous, and extracts of the leaves and fruit can produce vomiting, sweating, pain, and eventually death.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 300.


August 5, 2017

Some friends showed me the place to find the uncommon Three Bird Orchid near Brevard, NC. I went there on Monday and found the flowers limp and unopened. But I went back a second day and found them open and beautiful. I would never have found them by myself because they are so small and fragile, I would likely have overlooked their presence, as I am sure many people have done before. I had to lie flat on the ground to get pictures of these flowers that are only about 6” off the ground and only 1/2” wide. But it was worth it to see the three sepals that someone thought looked like three birds and the lips that must look inviting for the pollinator this flower is hoping to attract. The forests are full of surprising and beautiful things during July (and August) and I hope you find time to enjoy them.

Three Birds Orchid (Triphora Trianthophora)
Orchid Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 3-10” tall
General: Small perennial herb appearing delicate and fragile, flowering stems purplish green.
Leaves: Alternate, oval, clasping, bract-like, to 0.5” long.
Flowers: Pinkish white, 3 sepals and 2 lateral petals similar, oblonceolate, lip petal white, about 0.5” long, 3 lobed and 3 parallel green ridges in the center. Aug-Sep.
Fruits: Ellipsoid capsules, 0.3-0.4” long
Where Found: Rich, damp woodland humus, throughout the eastern U.S. Thinly distributed.
Notes: Sometimes the pedicels are not rigid enough to support the flowers firmly, resulting in a nodding effect. Individual flowers last only about 1 day, but many plants in a colony (even many colonies within a sizable area) may have 1 or more flowers open simultaneously, apparently triggered synchronously by the drop in normal nighttime temperature or other factors.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 468.


July 29, 2017

I saw a new (for me) native orchid near the Black Balsam Road parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday: Green Adder’s Mouth. This one is small—8 inches tall with tiny flowers about 0.1” wide. How they found the adder’s mouth I will never know. This has been the summer of orchids for me and I love the challenge. So far I have seen 19 out of 42 orchids in North Carolina. There are still several in our area that I would like to see someday. For others, I have to travel to the coast to find them. 42 may seem like a lot of orchids, but there are 20,000 species of orchids in the world, most of them in the tropics where they can often be found as “air plants” growing in trees. Just like we love the Lady Slippers, we can also enjoy the other native orchids blooming this summer in western NC.

Green Adder’s Mouth (Malaxis unifolia)
Orchid Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 3-10 inches tall
General: Small, smooth perennial herb, completely green
Leaves: Solitary, smooth, oval to elliptic, 1.5-3.0” long, attached about halfway up the stem and wrapped fully around it.
Flowers: numerous, 0.12” wide or less, pale green, inflorescence a terminal raceme, curiously forming a flat-topped cluster of buds above the open flowers until all the flowers on the raceme are mature. May-August.
Fruits: Obliquely ovoid capsules, 0.25” long, 0.1”wide
Where Found: damp woods and bogs from S. Canada and eastern U.S. to Florida and Texas.
Notes: The genus name Malixis is Greek for “soft,” referring to the texture of the leaves. The species name uniflora is Latin for “one leaf.” The small size of this plant makes it easy to overlook in the field. However, once found, it is easy to identify by its unique, completely green appearance.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 457.


July 22, 2017

I first discovered Listera smallii, Appalachian Twayblade, with help from friends in June, 2016 at Craggy Pinnacle on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was not blooming, but seemed to have buds. So I returned every week for six weeks until it finally flowered in late July. My friends labeled me “The Twayblade Guy.” This year I waited until July to look for this flower and a friend (Susan Jumper) showed me a picture in early July. I went the next week to Craggy Pinnacle and found them blooming in at least ten locations and also on the trail from the picnic area to Craggy Flats. The plant is only 2-4 inches tall and the flower must be less than 1/4 inch. But knowing where it is and when it is blooming is part of the excitement of finding native plants in the Southern Appalachians. Look under the Rhododendron bushes. The pictures below are from this week. Also ready to bloom is the Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor). It has a distinctive green and purple leaf in winter which withers in spring and then the bulb sends up a naked stem with small flowers on top. The blooming stem may be 6-8 inches tall and the flowers are about 1/2 inch long. I have included a picture from Elizabeth’s Trail in Montreat which is a reliable place to find the Cranefly Orchid.

Appalachian Twayblade (Listera smallii)
Orchid Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 2-4 inches tall
General: Perennial herb
Leaves: Opposite, 2 about midway on the slender stem, dark green, kidney-shaped
Flowers: 1/4” flowers with a wide lip divided into two divergent lobes, their hues a range of greenish brown pastels.
Fruits:
Where Found: moist mountain woods, frequently under hemlock or rhododendron. Found at Craggy Gardens and other high elevation ridges.
Notes: The Listera genus is named for Martin Lister (1638-1711), an English naturalist.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 457

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July 15, 2017

I remember the first time I found Silene stellata or Starry Campion on the trail and thinking “what a beautiful flower.” After I discovered it, it became a marker wildflower for me indicating we are in the middle of summer. With its distinctive shaped and fringed white petals and the four leaves in whorls on the stem, it stands out among the leafy underbrush along the trail. It has a first cousin called Silene ovata or Fringed Campion that blooms around August 1 and is quite infrequent. I saw it for the first time last summer and hope to find it again. I will include one picture of the Fringed Campion for comparison, although it may become the Wildflower of the Week if I can find one later in the summer. The first two pictures are Starry Campion and the third is Fringed Campion. Starry and Fringed Campion are the same genus as Silene virginica or Fire Pink which is also blooming now along the mountain ridges. Keep your eyes open as you hike the mountain this summer. There are many surprises.

Starry Campion (Silene stellata)
Pink Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: up to 4’ tall
General: Perennial with sparsely hairy stems.
Leaves: Lanceolate to ovate stem leaves, 2-4” long in whorls of 4.
Flowers: Star-shaped, white, about 0.75” wide; 5 fringed petals are wooly at the base, petal blades have 8-12 segments; inflated, bell shaped calyx, formed in loosely branched terminal clusters. Jul-Sep.
Fruits: Capsules splitting into 6 teeth.
Where Found: Dry woods and clearings throughout eastern U.S.
Notes: The species name, stiletto is derived from the Greek word, stella, meaning “starry,” and refers to the shape of the flower. Other common names are Widow’s Frill, King’s cure-all, and Thurman’s Snakeroot. Asa Gray (1810-88), a preeminent botanist, wrote that he was told the plant was an antidote to the bite of the rattlesnake and copperhead. The story goes that its use was indicated by markings on the root beneath the bark, where the likeness to the skin of the rattlesnake was seen.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 80

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July 7, 2017

I am always thrilled when I find the first blooming Black Cohosh in the wild. This week I found several blooming plants at Craven Gap: some just across the road from the parking lot and some along the MTS trail north about 1/4 mile. This showy wildflower is taller than I am when it is blooming with a stalk of flowers with bright, white stamens. The leaves are similar to several other plants and not easy for beginners to pick out except when in flower when it is unmistakable. Look for Black Cohosh on your hikes in the next few weeks and enjoy the show these flower put on every summer. Pictures below were taken yesterday.

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Buttercup Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: Flower stems up to 8 ft. tall.
General: Perennial herb.
Leaves: Both basal and alternate on the stem, 2-3 ternately compound, with broad, sharp-pointed, coarsely toothed leaflets, 2-4 in. long, the terminal leaflet generally 3-lobed.
Flowers: About 0.5 in. wide, petals absent, numerous showy, white stamens; flowers have an unpleasant odor, borne in crowded racemes to 12 in. long, on vertical stalks; each flower has 1 ovary (rarely 2), about 0.25 in. long, not on a distinct stalk. May-Jul.
Fruits: Many-seeded, ellipsoid follicles.
Where Found: Rich woods. A NE species extending south into NC.
Notes: The genus name, Cimicifuga means “bugbane” (cimex means “bug” and fugue means “flight”), in reference to these plants’ insect repellent qualities. Black Cohosh is also known as Black Snakeroot and Rattlesnakeroot for its use in treating snakebites. Black Cohosh, a popular herb in Europe and the U.S., in commonly used to alleviate menopausal symptoms and pains during labor and after childbirth. Traditionally it has also been used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, asthma, and hysteria, and as a gargle for sore throats. Bumblebees release the pollen by sonic vibrations.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 56.


July 1, 2017

Since we live surrounded by Rhododendron all year, we tend to take it for granted when we have a big year of blossoms. 2017 seems to be one of those years. Drive Montreat Road into Montreat and you will see the white Rosebay Rhododendron flowers everywhere. Look at them closely and notice the white and pink colors with yellow and green spots on the upper petal. Last week was the Catawba Rhododendron festival at Roan Mountain with its bright pink-purple flowers that grow only in higher elevations. People come for miles to see these displays of color. Meanwhile we live in a late spring paradise of white flowers and sometimes don’t even notice it. Take time to enjoy the Rhododendron shrubs while they are having a good year.

Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)
Heath Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: 5-20 feet tall.
General: A multi-trunked small tree or large shrub.
Leaves: Alternate, entire, pale, green, 3-9 lobed, round, may become 8 inches wide
Flowers: 5 regular parts. Rosebay Rhododendron blooms in early summer, about a month later than Catawba. Flower color ranges from light pink to white, though white is most common. June-July.
Where Found: Very common in the understory forests of slopes in the Mountain and upper Piedmont regions of North Carolina.
Notes: the nectar of many members of the Heath family, including rhododendrons, contains poisonous andromedotoxin. Beekeepers must be very careful when deciding the location of their hives in spring. At various times, people have gotten sick from eating toxic honey.

Carolina Nature www.carolinanature.com/trees/rhma.html
Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 131.


June 24, 2017

Gray’s Lily is an rare wildflower reliably seen only at Roan’s Mountain on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. I have traveled there in previous years just to see this beautiful red lily growing in the meadow near Carver’s Gap. Several friends made the trip this week and sent me pictures. It blooms just after the Catawba Rhododendron Festival around June 15-16. Several of us were lucky to find one Gray’s Lily plant just north of Craggy Gardens this week. It is rare in the Black Mountains so the sighting was exciting. The Gray’s Lily we found is 3-4 feet high with multiple blossoms. In two weeks, the mountains will be full of Turk’s-cap Lilies and they will seem to be everywhere for a few weeks. For this week, we can enjoy the one Gray’s Lily we found and hope it survives and returns next year.

Gray’s Lily (Lilium grayi)
Lily Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: 2-4’ tall.
General: Perennial herb with a stout, smooth stem.
Leaves: In whorls of 4-8 at 3-8 stem nodes, narrowly elliptic, acute- or blunt-tipped, 2-4” long, 0.3-1.0” wide, margins coarse or roughened
Flowers: Bell-shaped, 6 sepals, red with dark spots nearly to the tip, flared, not recurved or widely spreading, 1.5-2.5” long; anthers not usually extending beyond the tepals; flowers 1-9, head nearly horizontal. June-July.
Fruits: Capsules, 1.5-2.0” long.
Where Found: Balds and openings at high elevation. Endemic to the high mountains of VA, NC and TN. Rare
Notes: This species if also known as Bell Lily, Roan Lily, and Roan Mountain Lily. The common name and the species name “grayi” honor Asa Gray (1810-1888), one of the America’s leading 19th C. botanists.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 416.


June 17, 2017

Purple-fringed Orchids are in bloom this week. The Small Purple-fringed Orchid is blooming along the road from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Mitchell State Park at MM355. I recently become aware of the Large Purple-fringed Orchid and it is blooming along the Mountain to Sea Trail north of the Graybeard Mountain Overlook at MM363. I have a particular fondness for native NC orchids and I love compiling a list with pictures. Today’s pictures add to my collection. If you like native Orchids, now is a good time to find some and enjoy them. The pictures below are from today featuring the Large Purple-fringed Orchid (Platanthera grandiflora).

Small Purple-fringed Orchid (Platanthera psycodes)
Orchid Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: 8-48 in. tall.
General: Showy, erect, perennial herb with a fluted, leafy stem.
Leaves: Alternate, entire, 2-5 dark green lanceolate, keeled, up to 8 in. long, sheathing the lower stem, reduced to bracts above.
Flowers: Rose purple, often pleasant fragrance; 3 petal-like, spreading, oval sepals, 2 lateral sepals swept back at an angle, 2 lateral petals finely toothed, curved upward, lip petal, to 0.5 in. wide and 0.6 in. long, deeply divided into 3 distinctive, flared, lobed, fringed less than 1/3 the length of the lobe, base of the lip has a dumbbell or bowtie-shaped (never squarish or roundish) opening to the spur and nectary, inflorescence a rounded cylindrical raceme. June-July.
Fruits: Ellipsoid capsules, about 0.6 in. long.
Where Found: Moist, thin, or open woods, along streams, or in wet roadside ditches of upper elevations. Most of SE Canada, the NE U.S., and south in the mountains to GA.
Notes: This is an exquisite and showy orchid. The species psycodes means “butterfly-like,” presumably referring to the flower shape.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 463.

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June 3, 2017

If you have a chance to hike along the Mountain-to-Sea Trail that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway, look for the Yellow Clinton’s or Bluebead Lily. It is in full bloom this week and magnificent. I found it along the trail I was walking yesterday with friends. With its broad basal leaves, long stem, and multiple yellow flowers, it clearly dominates the mountainside where it grows. Later in the summer, it will develop a dark blue berry from which it gets one of its names—Bluebead. It is one of many native lilies we find including the Turk’s-cap Lily and Bunchflower. These dramatic wildflowers enrich our summers here in western NC.

Yellow Clintonia (Clintonia borealis)
Lily Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: 6-15 inches tall.
General: Erect perennial herb.
Leaves: Basal, entire leaves, 4-16 in. long, oblong to elliptic, margins fringed with a few hairs.
Flowers: Greenish-yellow, 6 regular parts, nodding, similar petals and sepals, 0.6-0.7 in. long, leafless inflorescence a short, terminal raceme of 3-8 flowers, May-June.
Fruits: Ellipsoid, bright blue berries, 0.3-0.4 in. long.
Where Found: A northeastern U.S. species extending south only at higher elevations, Infrequent.
Notes: Also called Bluebead Lily for its dark blue fruit. The genus Clinton is named for DeWitt Clinton (1769—1828), the 3-term governor of NY. He was responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal and was well known for writing books on natural history.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 411.

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May 27, 2017

Galax is one of the iconic wildflowers of western North Carolina. It is so common that we often take it for granted. We have some in our yard that we check infrequently. But it is in full bloom right now with its tall raceme of small white flowers. Since it is taken for granted by many, its endangerment is often not noticed. The North Fork Water Valley is patrolled throughout the year because of poachers that are dropped off on the Blue Ridge Parkway and return with garbage bags full of Galax leaves. The leaves are in high demand by nurseries because they keep their green and reddish colors long after they are picked. They are favorites as background green leaves for flower arrangements. Other plants are also endangered by poachers, especially Ginseng, Black Cohosh, Venus Flytraps, and a few others. Those of us who love native plants need to be alert to the dangers and we need to appreciate these plants when we find them, even the common ones like Galax.

Galax (Galax urceolata)
Primrose Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: 18-24 inches tall.
General: Rhizomatous
Leaves: Basal, toothed, 2-6 in. wide, circular to ovate, heart-shaped at the base, long petioles.
Flowers: 5 white petals to 0.25 in long, separate, numerous flower in a tall raceme or spike, May-July.
Fruits: Tan capsules about 0.4 in. long.
Where Found: Moist or dry woodlands, frequently forming ground cover on acidic soils common in southeastern US.
Notes: The name, Galax comes from the Greek word, gala, meaning “milk.” urceolata means urn-shaped,” referring to the shape of the flower buds. It was used in a poultice to heal cuts and wounds. The leaves are important for greenery used in Christmas floral arrangements.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 132

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May 20, 2017

I love wild Orchids. So far I have seen about twelve different wild Orchids in western NC and SC. I am featuring one of the earliest orchids to bloom in the spring—Puttyroot or Adam and Eve. It has a green and white striped leaf that engages in photosynthesis during the winter and early spring. Then the leaf dies and it is replaced by a 10 inch “scape” of small flowers as seen below. It is blooming now and can be seen along the Mountain to Sea Trail near Craven Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Later in the summer, other orchids will bloom. They are the most specialized wildflowers and the largest number (20,000) of species among the angiosperms. Keep your eyes open and enjoy these interesting wildflowers this year.

Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale)
Orchid Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 10-12 inches tall.
General: Perennial herb from underground bulbs, flower stalks sheathed at the base.
Leaves: Solitary, wintergreen, pleated, bluish green, oval, 4-8 in. long with silvery lengthwise veins, emerging in autumn and withering by early May before flowers develop.
Flowers: Irregular, various shades of green, yellow, and brown, 2 arching petals, 3 spreading sepals, whitish lip has pale magenta markings and lengthwise crests, flowers in a loose cluster at the top of the scape. flowers often open only slightly. May-June.
Fruits: Hanging, ellipsoid capsules, 0.6-0.9 in. long.
Where Found: Rich, moist soils of alluvial floodplains and deep humus pockets of mature woodlands, from northern AL and AR to the Great Lakes in most of the eastern U.S. Frequent.
Notes: This plant gets its common name, Puttyroot, from a sticky paste made by crushing the bulbs and roots, that was used to mend broken pottery. The other name, Adam and Eve, refers to the underground bulbs or corms, which almost always occur in pairs. Technically, the Orchid Family is defined by the fusion of pistil and stamens into a solitary column. The family name comes from orchis, Greek for “testicle,” the name given to the European Green-Winged Orchid (Orchis morio) for the shape of its paired tubers. Based on the Doctrine of Signatures (the belief that whatever a plant looked like, it could cure), orchids were widely esteemed as aphrodisiacs.

Horn, Cathcart, and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 448.


May 14, 2017

Southern Nodding Trillium (Trillium rugelii) is blooming now on the Mountain-to-Sea Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Look for a 3-leaved plant with a white flower hanging below the leaves. There are nice examples along the MST trail going south from Craven Gap and many other places along the Parkway. I saw some from my car today when we drove to Max Patch near Clyde, NC. Trilliums are among my favorite wildflowers because they are showy and last only a short time during April and May. Starting from seeds distributed by ants, it takes 7-8 years to reach maturity and produce its first flower. Given its relatively long life and tendency to bloom early before the leaves come out on the trees, it deserves respect from from all of us. I hope you get to see it this spring.

Southern Nodding Trillium (Trillium rugelii)
Trillium Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 6-20” tall.
General: Erect perennial herb.
Leaves: In a whorl of 3, solid green, rhombic-ovate, 3-6” long and wide.
Flowers: White, rarely pink or maroon; 3 petals, ovate, recurved, 1-2” long; stamens often bicolored with white filaments and vivid purple anthers; ovary usually white with purplish splotches; flowers solitary, stalked, nodding below the leaves, April-May.
Fruits: Maroon, fleshy, 6-ridged berries, to 0.8” across, with numerous seeds.
Where Found: Rich hardwood forests, from TN and NC south in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont, and in AL, GA, and SC in the Coastal plain.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 430.


May 6, 2017

Last week I was surprised to find a hillside of Spotted Mandarin (Prosartes maculata) on the Mountain to Sea Trail at MM 379. A small group of us made a special hike to see the Yellow Lady Slippers (Cypripedium calceolus). They were gorgeous as usual, but I did not expect to see so many Spotted Mandarin flowers there along with Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) and Wild Sasparilla (Aralia nudicaulis). Spotted Mandarin is not uncommon, but is often overlooked because it is less showy than some other wildflowers. You have to look closely to find the flowers and then look for the purple spots. Wildflowers are peaking along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Keep your eyes open whenever you hike along our ridges and coves.

Spotted or Nodding Mandarin (Prosartes maculata)
Lily Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 8-30 inches tall, 1-2 inches across.
General: Erect, perennial herb, upper stem forked.
Leaves: Alternative, sessile, thin, elliptic or oval, 1.5-4.0” long, acuminate tips, prominent parallel veins
Flowers: Cream to white, peppered with purplish spots; similar petals and sepals (3 each), 0.6-1.0” long; flowers, 1-3, hang like bells from the uppermost leaf axil. April-May.
Fruits: Hairy, 3-lobed, knobby, white berries, turning yellowish, about 0.5” long
Where Found: Rich woods over neutral or calcareous soils, from; Michigan to GA.
Notes: Also known as Nodding Mandarin, similar to Yellow Mandarin. Its favored habitats are steep wooded hillsides and rich ravines.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 413.


April 29, 2017

Pink Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium acaule) are blooming in Black Mountain on private property. They are one of the fairly common and most beautiful of our native orchids. They depend on partnership with particular fungi and with particular pollinators. Orchids are the most specialized and abundant angiosperms (flowering plants) with 20,000 native species in the world, most of them in tropical climates. Two years ago we visited an Orchid Botanical Garden in Costa Rica and they hosted thousands of plants. The first picture is a fully-blooming plant; the second is a plant just about to open up to the world. Keep your eyes open during the next 2-3 weeks. Pink Lady Slippers could be greeting you just around the next turn in the trail.

Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
Orchid Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 6-18 in. tall.
General: Perennial herb with scapes (leafless flowering stalks).
Leaves: 2 alternate, entire leaves, basal, elliptic, 4-10 in. long, dark green, densely hairy, deeply pleated.
Flowers: Irregular, solitary, 3 sepals (lower 2 fused into 1) and 2 lateral petals, yellowish green to purplish brown; lower petal (lip) a showy pouch, pink, 1.5-2.5 in. with rose veins, lip opening a vertical front divisions with edges folded inward, April-May.
Fruits: Ellipsoid capsules, 1.0-1.75 in long.
Where Found: A variety of habitats but mainly in acidic, mixed coniferous and hardwood forests and woodlands recovering from fire or logging from northern AL to southern MN.
Notes: The genus name Cypripedium is derived from the Greek Kypris, “Venus,” and pedilon, “a door” or “little foot,” in reference to the shape of the flower. This species is also called American Valerian because, like European Valerian (Valerian officialis), it was used as a sedative to treat nervous conditions and depression.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 450.


April 22, 2017

Blooming orchids are a sure sign that spring is in full swing. Yesterday, we found Showy Orchis blooming near the Tennessee line in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (Big Creek). It is a beautiful pink and white orchid and the earliest of the season to my knowledge. We should start seeing them locally and along the Blue Ridge Parkway trails in the next week or two. They will be followed by Pink and Yellow Lady Slippers, some of the most beautiful wildflowers. Orchids are the largest family of wildflowers (20,000 species) in the world. They are also the most specialized, having developed specific strategies for particular pollinators. The wild species in our mountains are almost impossible to transplant because of their dependence deep in the soil with particular fungi. Let me know if you find a patch of these beautiful wild orchids. Later in the summer we will look for the delicate flowers of Cranefly Orchid, Puttyroot, and Rattlesnake Plantain. Nature is amazing.

Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis)
Orchid Family
Photo by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 3-10 inches tall, 1 inch long.
General: Showy, smooth perennial herb from a short, fleshy root; flowering stalks thick, relatively short, sharply ridged.
Leaves: Basal, 2, nearly opposite, thick, glossy, dark green widely elliptic, 4-8” long.
Flowers: 2 lateral petals and 3 sepals pink to lavender, covering to form a hood; lip usually white; borne in a raceme, April-May.
Fruits: Ellipsoid capsules, 0.7-1.0” long
Where Found: Rich, hardwood forests, esp. near streams or at the base of slopes, SE Canada and most of eastern US.
Notes: Orchids are experts at tricking insects into their corrollas, which lack nectar. Instead, they have packets of pollen, called pollinia, that cannot be used as food by insects. Orchids attract their pollinators with elaborate deceptions, including distended hairs and papillae on the lips and complicated fragrance lures. In search of food, an insect is tricked into visiting flower after flower, depositing and receiving pollen as it goes.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 453.


April 15, 2017

Last night in my dreams, I was working on my Latin pronunciation of wildflowers as I repeated over and over—Thalictrum thalictroides. That is my latest memory exercise for an aging brain that needs to be stretched by learning new things. On Monday and again on Thursday, I felt privileged to find this flower with its showy white blossoms, reddish stamens, and unique leaves. Some experts say this wildflower is common, but it was new to me. Now I hope to find it in other places where I can be surprised. Every day in the mountains, there are surprises waiting for us if we look carefully and take the patience to understand what we are seeing. God’s natural beauty is on display for all of us during this Easter week, and we should be comforted in the midst of discouraging news about the world.

Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)
Buttercup Family
Photo by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: Perennial Herb under 10” tall with tuberous roots
Leaves: Basal leaves divided into 9 toothed, rounded leaflets, upper leaves in a whorl, each divided into 3 leaflets with 3 shallow lobes each.
Flowers: Usually 0.5-1.0” across, petals absent, 5-10 showy, white to pinkish petal-like sepals, born on stalks originating from a single point. March-May
Fruits: Achenes, each tipped by a persistent stigma
Where Found: Woods, common
Notes: The tuberous roots of Rue Anemone are considered edible, although they may also contain toxic substances. Native Americans are reputed to have used this plant to treat diarrhea and vomiting.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 64


April 7, 2017

Last week I hiked near Saluda, NC and we came across a hillside filled with Trout Lilies. This is a true spring ephemeral because the leaves and flowers come in early spring before the canopy of leaves hides the sun. Then the plant disappears until next spring when it will leaf out and bloom again. So it is a treat to run across this flower on a hike. The leaves are dark green with purple-brown spots and the flower is a nodding yellow flower about one inch across. It is great to discover just one, but a real treat to find a whole hillside. It is often found with Trillium, Bloodroot, early May Apples, Jack-in-the- Pulpit, Spring Beauty, and Golden Ragwort. The pictures below were taken last Saturday.

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
Lily Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC
Size: 6-9 inches tall, flower is 0.8-1.6 inches long.
General: Early Spring Flower.
Leaves: Opposite, 2 green mottled purple-brown, elliptical, 4-6 inches long, near the base of the stem.
Flowers: 6 regular parts, entire, yellow, often spotted inside, strongly recurved, conspicuous anthers, flowers solitary, nodding, March-May.
Fruits: Capsules, flat, rounded, or pointed at tip when mature.
Where Found: Rich woods in eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, common.
Notes: Plants in the Erythronium genus are often called dogtooth violets because their hard, white, bulblike corms resemble canine teeth. They have been called “phosphorus sinks,” because their roots retrieve phosphorus from the soil and transfer it to the leaves, making it available to herbivores such as deer. Leaves and roots are edible and have medicinal value, but some humans may have an allergic reaction.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 414


March 30, 2017
Spring is here. Our Black Mountain Wildflower Walk went to Old Fort to hike the Catawba Falls trail. Wildflowers are further along in the Piedmont areas because of warmer temperatures and lower elevations. Among the showy wildflowers we saw was the Sharp-lobed Hepatica with its 1-inch white flowers. Sometimes we were fooled because there were no leaves showing. Many of the leaves are older, having lasted through the winter and they have a rusty color. New green leaves are emerging. Historically, people thought the leaves looked like the human liver; therefore it must be good for liver ailments. The Greeks also thought it could help with “cowardice, freckles, and indigestion” because they were caused by liver ailments. (Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 60.)

Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Anemone acutiloba, Formerly Hepatica acutiloba)
Buttercup Family
Photo by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: 6 inches tall, 1 inch across.
General: Stemless Perennial Herb
Leaves: Basal only, on hairy stalks; leaves 1-3 in. wide, 3-lobed with pointed tips.
Flowes: 1 in. wide, petals absent, 5-12 petal-like sepals may be white, pink, lavender, purple or blue; numerous stamens and ovaries. February-April
Fruits: Single-seeded achenes.
Where Found: Rich upland woods commonly on basic soils.
Notes: The genus name Hepatica means “of the liver” and acutiloba means “sharp tips,” referring to the leaf shape. Also known as Liverwort and Liverleaf. Traditionally used for the treatment of liver ailments.

Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 60.

Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Anemone acutiloba, Formerly Hepatica acutiloba)

 


March 26, 2017
I have been in Southeast Arizona for almost three weeks and I have not been out watching for wildflowers. I know there was snow and cold weather here during my absence that may have affected the timing of spring wildflowers. One of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in our area is Yellowroot. I heard from some of my Botany friends about the wildflowers they found on Friday. This included Yellowroot, a shrub with very small flowers that should be blooming right now. Last year, we found Yellowroot along Elizabeth’s Trail in Montreat along with Trillium and Occonee Bell. I will check it out before Thursday and see if this is a good place for our first walk of the 2017.

Shrub Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima)
Buttercup Family
Photos by James Poling, Black Mountain, NC

Size: Up to 24 inches tall, tiny flowers.
General: Low shrub grows in colonies; roots and inside of the stems are yellow.
Leaves: Alternate, pinnately compound with sharply toothed leaflets, the leaves clustered toward the top of the stem.
Flowers: Petals absent; tiny flowers have 5 maroon to yellowish green sepals, borne in several narrow, drooping racemes to 5” long, April-June
Fruits: Follicles with 1-2 seeds.
Where Found: Shaded stream banks in most of the SE US.
Notes: The genus name, Xamatjprjoza means “yellow root”; simplicissima indicates that the plant is unbranched. Traditionally, the roots of Shrub Yellowroot were used to make tea to treat a variety of ailments. It is now known that the plants contains berbine, which has many physiological effects on humans.
Horn, Cathcart, Hemmerly and Duhl, Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. 2005, p 68


February 28, 2017
Old Fort is closer to Black Mountain than Asheville, and it is down the eastern escarpment at 1,500 feet. I went looking today on the Catawba Falls Trail and found first of the year early spring wildflowers:  Anemone acutiloba (Sharp-lobed Hepatica), Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot), Viola sororia var. sororia (Confederate Violet), and Stellaria pubera (Star Chickweed). Keep your eyes open—Spring is here.


January 31, 2017
During the Winter, we can look for several wildflowers that send out winter leaves for photosynthesis and then the leaves disappear in the summer in preference for a blooming raceme of flowers. I am thinking of Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale) and Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor). In the winter absence of wildflowers, it is fun to find these orchid leaves along trails at Black Mountain Recreation Park, or maybe in your yard. I have a Puttyroot in my front yard that I enjoy. Here are some pictures to aid your finding these remarkable plants.

Derivation of the botanical names:
Aplectrum comes from the Greek and signifies the flowers are spurless. Hyemale comes from the Latin word hiemalis and means of winter, referring to the observation that the leaves appear only in winter.

Tipularia alludes to the form of the Cranefly orchid flower. Tipula is a  large insect genus in the fly family Tipulidae, commonly known as crane flies or daddy longlegs. Discolor, of two or of different colors, refers to the two-colored leaf; green on top and purple on the bottom, as seen in the photograph on the right.


 

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