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! For the schedule see Local Events, or for more information contact Jim at jnpoling@icloud.com.


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
Photo 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
Photo 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
Photo 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, 2016
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.