Virtual Wildflower Tour (updated May 30)

While we’re all staying home and not doing group outings, Annette Seidenglanz will be taking us on a virtual wildflower tour. Check back daily for updates!

There are a number of great resources to do research on native plants. Here are just a few:

For more information about taxonomy and plant families, including recent advances with DNA identification, here’s a good link:

May 30: Sheep’s Sorrel or Rumex acetosella is out right now giving a reddish haze to the hay fields. It’s a member of the Buckwheat Family. The female flowers give this plant its red color, thought the stem is red as well. The male flower is yellow-green. The fruit is also red.

It is the main food for the American Copper butterfly and ground feeding songbirds enjoy its seed. Rabbits and deer browse the greens. It may be used as a salad green with a tangy taste and also a curdling agent for cheese! But it can be a problem for farmers with grazing animals if they eat too much of it and it is a noxious weed for blueberry growers.

It is a transplanted perennial from Eurasia and it grows wild in the British Isles.

Caveat: don’t eat anything foraged unless you are fully acquainted with the conditions under which it has grown.

May 29: Black Medick, Nonesuch, Hop Clover or Medicago lupulina. Medick looks like a clover with three leaves and a round, yellow flower that colonizes wide areas in open fields. It is a naturalized plant from Eurasia.

The Latin name is broken down to Medick derived from the Ancient Greek word for Media, a place in Iran where it was believed to have originated. Lupulina from “wolf-like” from the likeness to Hop Clover or Willow-Wolf. The compact bloom does resemble the Hop cone – used in the brewing of beer.

The bloom is a dense round collection of up to 50 stalkless flowers.

Black Medick puffs up as it grows along the ground to become more shrubby in appearance. It is primarily an annual that grows from spreading root buds. If it manages to survive the winter it can develop a permanent root.
One of the benefits of this plant is that it hosts nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This plant helps to develop nitrogen in the soil, improving it. And Medick is a good source for honey.

May 28: Golden Alexanders or Zizia aurea is a native perennial common to Canada and the east and central United States. It is a member of the carrot family or Apiaceae.

The leaves are compound meaning that they are each made up of multiple leaflets of three to five. The leaflets have a fine-toothed edge.

Golden Alexanders bloom in late Spring with greenish-yellow flowers in small bunches making up an umbel or umbrella at the top of the main stem which is about two inches across. The flowers are scentless. It is a very beneficial plant since it is popular with just about every kind of pollinator! Though the plant can self-pollinate and the seed is very successful in propagation of the plant.

It prefers a moist habitat, though this one was growing in a sunny hillside, protected from the wind.

May 27: Solomon’s Seal or Polygonatum biflorum is a plant common to North America. It is native to Europe and Asia.

Solomon’s Seal grows in a single plume of alternating smooth leaves. Flowers appear dangling underneath the arc of the plume in a row along the stem at the juncture of each leaf. These become fruit as blue-green pea-like berries. Not to be confused with False Solomon’s Seal, a species which also grows in an arc but flowers in a raceme at the end of the plume.

The root rhizome is starchy and has been used as a food by First Nations people. Ginger root is a rhizome. The rhizome provides the energy – stored through the winter – for a plant to begin another plant in the Spring. The source of the name “solomon’s seal” is the shape of the scars on the rhizome. The seal is shaped like a six-pointed star in a circle.

The plant grows in the shade and it is a colonizing perennial. It is not invasive and spreads slowly making it an excellent garden planting. It may have a light fragrance.

May 26: Orange Hawkweed or Pilosella aurantiaca or … fox-and-cubs (due to the color), devil’s paintbrush, grim-the-collier! This is a plant in the Aster/Daisy Family native to alpine areas in Europe. In some areas it is considered an invasive.

The orange flowers grow atop bare stems from a rosette of leaves and may be up to two feet high. Hawkweed blooms in the Summer and is a benefit to all pollinators. Bees cannot see orange but the ultraviolet qualities of the plant make it apparent to them. It is a popular plant with bees, butterflies and flies. Seeds are windborne propagators and Hawkweed plants travel the seeds on parachutes like the Dandelion.

The naming of plants continues to fascinate. Grim-the-Collier of Croydon is the name of a 17th century Elizabethan play. However, there is also a folk melody called Tom the Collier which links him to the devil after he “sold his coals.” How all this became the name of a plant? Perhaps the color of the flower looks like a hot coal. And what else would a devil use for a paintbrush than a hot coal…

May 25: Herb Robert is another Geranium and not a native of North America. It has many unusual names: Red Robin, Death Come Quickly, Stork’s Bill, Fox Geranium, Squinter-pip, Stinking Bob, and Crow’s Foot.

It has distinctive, multi-part, triangular leaves with many lobes along the edges. Leaves may smell acrid when crushed due to the tannins in the plant – hence the name Stinking Bob. Stems can be reddish and the leaves turn red in the Fall. Flowers are tiny, five-petaled and pink with deeper pink pollen guides. They may also be white. It will flower from Springtime to late Summer.

The plant has had many uses in folk medicine and with First Nations people. The name Robert became associated with the plant from the 11th century herbalist Abbot Robert of Molesme, in the Champagne Region of France. The abbot was a founder of the Cisterian Order and is considered a saint to Roman Catholics.

Herb Robert is another Geranium and not a native of North America. It has many unusual names: Red Robin, Death Come Quickly, Stork’s Bill, Fox Geranium, Squinter-pip, Stinking Bob, and Crow’s Foot.

It has distinctive, multi-part, triangular leaves with many lobes along the edges. Leaves may smell acrid when crushed due to the tannins in the plant – hence the name Stinking Bob. Stems can be reddish and the leaves turn red in the Fall. Flowers are tiny, five-petaled and pink with deeper pink pollen guides. They may also be white. It will flower from Springtime to late Summer.

The plant has had many uses in folk medicine and with First Nations people. The name Robert became associated with the plant from the 11th century herbalist Abbot Robert of Molesme, in the Champagne Region of France. The abbot was a founder of the Cisterian Order and is considered a saint to Roman Catholics.

May 24: Ribes americanum or American Black Current is a native, deciduous shrub that can grow into thickets like other berries. It has several comfortable areas in which it thrives. It can grow up to six feet tall. This tiny plant was growing with a few others in a shaded grove near water. It has no spines.

The flower looks like a peeled banana with five pale green sepals (the peel) and the petals forming a small cylinder containing the reproductive parts. This low-growing shrub creates a raceme or flower group of up to 15 blooms. These will turn into round, black berries with seed. Black currents are edible and can be used dried or fresh in baking and fruit preserving…high in vitamins and anti-oxidants.

The berries are a favorite food for birds and small animals who spread the seed. And deer browse the leaves. Several types of bees collect nectar and pollen from the flowers.

The plant family is Grossulariaceae or Gooseberry and is recognized by its lobed, palmate leaves. Grossularia indicates “many” in number.

May 23: Wild Geranium or Geranium maculatum is a perennial native to our Northeastern woodlands but it’s also known as Old Maid’s Nightcap and Alum Bloom or Alum Root due to its astringent properties.

This is another spring plant with five floppy petals and ten stamens which are visible in the photograph. In the center is the yellow-green pistil which will develop into fruit with seeds. The leaves at the base of the stems are opposite and deeply cleft creating 5 lobes and the upper ones are smaller with 3 lobes.

These were growing in dappled light in a shaded woodland in a small colony. It is a favorite of all types of bees, butterflies, bugs and moths. Chipmunks like the seeds.

Like many native plants there are traditional medicines made from this plant that were used by tribes in the area where it was commonly found.

The name Geranium is from the Greek word for “crane” or geranos which refers to the shape of the seed capsule which resembles the neck of a crane when fully grown.

May 22: Canada Violet or Viola canadensis is one of the tall Violet species. Violets generally grow in two major types: the tall stemmed types and the ones that grow in bunches on the ground like the Common Blue Violets in the photo.

The Canada Violet has flowers that are multi-colored. They are pale purple on back and white in the front with a yellow center. The radiating purple stripes provide nectar guides for pollinators. Petals are irregularly-shaped, with “bearded” petals on either side. The leaves are cordate or heart-shaped with a rough, irregular edge and a long “tail.”

This species is listed in some states as endangered – such as Maine. These were found in a couple of small colonies trailside here in Vermont in a wooded area which was well-drained and sunny but with plenty of leaves creating rich soil.

One of the marvels of this species of violet is that it has a secondary reproductive scheme. It produces a low lying flower that never opens but contains all the genetic material necessary to produce offspring – in case pollination is unsuccessful.

May 21: White Trillium Grandiflorum really do turn pink! (see the April 3 post for more on trillium).

May 20: Flowering Rush or Grass Rush is a unique member of the genus Butomus in the Butomaceae Family called Butomus umbellatus. It is an invasive species.

Flowering Rush is a reed-like plant thriving in wetlands. It can grow up to four feet in shallow water and also can live in deeper water – though it produces no flowers. Leaves are long and narrow like grasses. These plants were found in a wetland near Lake Champlain.

Called “Umbellatus” due to the umbel or umbrella form of the flower array at the top of the narrow, tube-like stem called a scape. Flowers are pink with three petals and three sepals. Flower buds can drop from the umbel and create new plants. Also, the roots can detach small bulbs and float to a new location and grow. In our area, they can also reproduce with seed.

This plant is a species from the Old World Palearctic Realm. This zone is one of the eight biogeographic realms of the Earth described in the 1800s by the zoologist Philip Schlater and it is the largest which includes all Eurasia north of the Himalayas and North Africa.

For more on this subject:

May 19: Garlic Mustard is now fully-grown like its cousin, Bitter Wintercress – also in the Mustard Family. Its Latin name Alliaria petiolata breaks down to “allium” or garlic and petiolata meaning having a long leaf stalk. It is not a native and has been considered an invasive species.

In the first year, this biennial produces round leaves in a rosette that smell like garlic when crushed. The rosette may overwinter through the cold months. The following year the plants flower with bunches of tiny, cross-shaped, white blossoms that bloom on the top of the stem and leaves are more triangular and toothed with deep veins.

This plant is very adaptable and produces many seeds. Originally from Eurasia, it has spread to Australian, North Africa and also to North America and Argentina. It first appeared in North America in the 1860s in New York. Because of its value as a food and medicine, it was probably imported by colonists. It has been found in gourmet recipes such as pesto and as a salad herb. All parts of the plant are edible and nutritious, including the seeds. It has been used in folk medicines, as well.

Caveat: It is important to recognize that to forage edible plants without knowing the history of the environment where they are growing, can be dangerous. Instead, watch for it in local produce markets with other “wild edible” greens like dandelion leaves.

May 18: Broad-leafed Helleborine is a type of orchid that grows on the ground in shady woods. It is not a native but naturalized here and it is commonly referred to as a “weed orchid.” This one was growing in the shade close to the path near the Sunset Ridge Trail in late Summer.

The pink/purple flowers grow on a spike. It is possible this is a variety called “purpurea” which is a less common plant. The leaves are lance-shaped and curl around where they join the stem.

Helleborine is often found near to human habitation, car parks and even large urban areas. It has been suggested that truffles may be found where it grows. It does have a symbiotic relationship with some types of root fungus which are needed for it to grow. This enables the plant to have less chlorophyll. It is pollinated by wasps.

Terrestrial orchids have about 70 species in their genus, Epipactus.

May 17: Still finding early Spring plants like this Wood Anemone! It is native to North America though it is a sub-species of the European species. It is a member of the Buttercup Family.

The leaves grow in groups of three, though there is a deep cleft in the outer two, which may be mistaken for additional leaves. Stem and leaves are hairy. The plant produces a single flower which may be white or pink. It may take years for the plant to produce a flower so many leaves may be present without them.

These plants were spread out in a well-defined colony. They grow from rhizomes or interconnecting tubers which is why you will find them in groups on the forest floor. The seeds are not usually viable.

May 16: Smooth or White Turtlehead is one of our Northeastern natives. It likes wetlands and swamps. This one was discovered growing beside a stream in Underhill State Park late, last Summer.

Chelone glabra: Chelone is Greek for “turtle” and glabra, the species name from Latin, means smooth or hairless.

Turtlehead is a plant with an interesting naming or taxonomic history. It was assigned to several families before DNA testing placed it in its current one: the Plantago or Plantain Family. DNA testing has shaken up many plant families and re-assigned plants that were previously identified by traditional means.

The flowers grow at the end of a tall stem and are white but often tipped with a light pink color. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds – and deer. Leaves are opposite and blade-shaped with small teeth along their edges.

May 15: The Spring ephemerals are still opening every day despite the recent snowy weather. Largeflower Bellwort is now blooming abundantly in open moist areas. This Uvularia grandiflora is another native plant to the Northeast woodlands.

The drooping flower heads and limp-looking, curled leaves are a characteristic of this perennial even when it is completely healthy. The mostly-bare stem appears to grow through the leaves, dividing into a “V” before the flowering stems appear. The pale yellow petals and sepals are long and twisted. Several types of bees are the pollinators of this plant and deer browse them, as well. Ants disperse the seeds.

Colchicaceae Family to which it belongs indicates the presence of colchicine which is used as a treatment for various medical ailments. It is also known as the Meadow Saffron Family. It was originally classified as a Lily.

May 14: This Common Selfheal or Prunella vulgaris plant was found trailside at Trapp Lodge. Also known as Heart of the Earth, Woundwort, Carpenter’s Herb, Hock-heal and Heal-All. As the names suggests, it has been much valued in folk medicine – especially Chinese herbal cures. Its Chinese name is: Hsia-ku-ts’ao.

It grows in a tall spike – up to 3 feet high. It has a square stem with long, oval-shaped, opposing leaf pairs. The two-petaled flowers appear from a supporting structure with “windows.” The bud is a deep purple. The flower’s top petal is pale purple and the bottom is white. It has no scent but has been used as a dye.

It is a member of the Mint Family and you will find it blooming in the middle of Summer.

May 13: False Solomon’s Seal is just opening up with the last of the ephemerals in the forest. It’s interesting to watch the plant open its leaves – which takes several days. The blade-shaped leaves are tightly wrapped together and unpeel, opening one after the other to create an arc of leaves on the stem like a plume. The process is revealed in the photographs.

Maianthemum racemosum is a plant native to all of North America. It is a member of the Asparagus Family and it is a perennial. The leaves appear in alternating places on the stem rather than opposite and the stem itself zig-zags at each leaf attachment. The flowers appears at the end of the leafed stem in a raceme or a bloom that has flowers on short stalks on the central stem.

Fruit appears where flowers were and are bright red when mature turning gold. And the plant’s leaves take on a rusty look in the late summer.

These plants were from a number of locations in Northern Vermont.

May 12: Bitter Wintercress is making an appearance in wild fields here in Vermont!

These plants grow phenomenally fast in the Spring and appear fully-grown before most plants have even gotten started. Wintercress only grows from seed and the plants usually are annuals but may also be biennial.

The general shape of the plant is like a cone with the larger leaves at the bottom in a rosette. The leaves are shiny, blue-green and lobed with a large lobe at the tip of the leaf and smaller less-lobed leaves near the top of the plant. Four-petaled flowers are in a clump at the top of the many thick stems and are bright yellow.

Barbarea vulgaris is from the genus Barbarea and the species “vulgaris” or common. Barbarea from St. Barbara who watched over those whose lives were risked in fiery explosions, like artillerymen and miners. The plant has been used as “mustard plaster” for wounds.

It has been useful due to its special resistance to insects in agriculture.

May 11: Purple Coneflower or Echinacea purpurea is a Northeastern native in the Sunflower/Aster Family. It is also herbaceous – meaning it has a stalk not a woody stem – and it is a perennial.

A Coneflower is a collective cluster of flowers. The dome or cone in the center contains tiny, yellow florets. The pink-purple petals and the orange, spiky parts of the cone are ALSO individual flowers – with a single petal. Blooms in the Aster Family appear to be a single large flower but we are actually seeing a flower head composed of many “ray florets” and miniature flowers!

These flower heads are pollinated with the help of butterflies and bees. And Coneflower provides food for birds!

The name Echinacea is used to describe a group or genus of flowering plants. Echinacea is from the Greek word for “sea urchin” which is ekhinos, perhaps due to the spiky cone. Purpurea is Latin for purple.

May 10: The Common Dandelion or Taraxacum officinale is so commonplace that we hardly see it anymore and yet it does an exceptional service to our bee, insect and and butterfly population. It is a member of the Aster Family. It’s everywhere there is dirt, and it flowers relentlessly in the springtime and throughout the summer.

Leaves grow from the base with deep lobes and are often sharply edged. The flowers emerge from the base on a single stalk – sometimes multiples.

Dandelion is valued in traditional medicine as a tea and food loaded with vitamins and minerals. The leaves are cultivated for salad and often available in produce markets. Packaged dried parts of the plant are available in health food stores. In fact, Dandelion was imported to North America from Europe as a food crop and naturalized.

The silver haired fruit disperses seed from a ball known as a “clock” in the fall. The clock provides a good lesson to children about the way plants work to disperse themselves.

We still embrace the folklore that the flying seed parachutes carry our wishes into the wind.

May 9: Virginia marsh St. Johnswort likes boggy, wet areas like this one along the Nebraska Notch trail. Along with Joe-Pye Weed, this sunny location favored many varieties of wetland plants. Marsh St. Johnswort is native to Central and Eastern United States and Canada.

Its leaves are opposite and sessile – meaning they haven’t any stem attachment to the plant stalk. And they have no teeth or lobes. The flowers of most St. John’s Wort are yellow (Hypericum) and this one is pink with a red interior halo (Triadenum). In the photo, the petals have already fallen as it is late in the season but the red, conical, clustered fruit is visible.

Its Latin name is Triadenum virginicum.

May 8: Jack-in-the-pulpit or Arisaema triphyllum has arrived! The plant unfolds three leaves and then flowers with a “spathe” or pulpit with a covering flap. The spathe has an intensely colorful, striped, purple and green interior. The black “Jack” within is called a “spadix” and is covered with tiny male and female flowers.

Jack-in-the-pulpit is a native to Eastern North America but can be found growing in parts of Texas. Like some flesh eating plants, it captures its pollinators which are small flies. The plant, though hermaphroditic, must be pollinated by another plant to survive and remain genetically healthy so the abundance of these gnats serves well in the procreation of the plant. Dark berries ripen in the fall and seed.

It is interesting to note that this species is actually composed of at least three separate plant types or subspecies: triphyllum, stewardsonii and pusillum. Our photograph is describing the most characteristic and common type.

May 7: The Marsh Marigolds are blooming stream side. This plant is also known as King Cup and it is a member of the Buttercup Family. It is an overwintering herbaceous succulent that keeps its buds in moist soil through the cold seasons before emerging in the Spring.

This plant has five “sepals” instead of flower petals. Instead, many pollenating stamen surround the carpels and seedbuds. From this, it develops the fruit containing small, black seeds. The sepals are yellow but also read an ultraviolet “bee’s purple” to attract pollinators. Leaves are heart-shaped and shiny like the flowers.

As usual, the names of this plant are many, amusing and sometimes ridiculous. Mari-gold evolved from Medieval European religious veneration of Mary celebrated with these flowers…so called Mary-gold. Caltha palustris is a composite of Greek and Latin: “caltha” or “kálathos” in Greek, meaning “goblet” and Latin “palustris” or “of the marsh.” And then there’s Brave Bassinets and Soldiers’ Buttons and Water Dragon.

May 6: Viper’s Bugloss, Blueweed or Echium vulgare is a species introduced to Northeastern America. It is “monocarpic” which means that it will flower, drop seed and then die.

The flowers begin as pink in color and over time shift to blue-ish purple. The photo shows the flowers in the process of change. Pollen is blue!

This plant is listed as a major source of nectar for honeybees. Viper’s Bugloss has several unique features. It protects the nectar inside the plant against heat and rain. It also continuously produces nectar whereas most plants produce it intermittently during the day. The season for nectar production lasts late into the year and so continues to be a source for bees into the fall. The amber-colored honey from this plant has a fragrant flavor.

Bugloss is from the Greek word “boúglōsson” meaning “ox-tongue.” Echium is a Latin word from “ekhis” meaning viper. There are several possible reasons for this name designation – none conclusive. Favorite: the extra long anthers look like a forked snake tongue!

May 5: Early Goldenrod or Solidago juncea is an early blooming, native, perennial herb and a member of the Aster Family. It can grow up to ten feet tall and can have as many as 400 tiny flowerets.

This one, photographed on the Burlington Bike Causeway last year, was growing in full sun on a rocky, sandy roadside in mid-Summer. The plant’s blooms are a dense, rich yellow. They appear on a single, leafed stem that ends in a plume of flowers. Goldenrod has large leaves at the base of the plant which get smaller up the stem.

Not to be confused with Ragweed which is often the cause of allergies in the Fall. The tiny flowers may have a slight fragrance.

You will often find it visited by butterflies, bees and moths. The seeds are favored by the Eastern Goldfinch and several types of Sparrows.

May 4: Did you know this is Wildflower Week? Every year on the first full week in May we can celebrate our spring ephemerals and anticipate the summer flowers soon to be on display.

It seemed appropriate to give a little time to our Vermont State Flower, Red Clover! It was designated our state flower in February, 1895.

Standing in a field of red clover on a sunny day can be a delightful experience when a breeze picks up the scent of the blooms and the faint buzzing of bumblebees are in the air.

Red clover or Trifolium pratense is a naturalized species that is originally from Europe. It is very important for the benefit of pollinators all over the world and can be used as a cover crop and food for grazing animals. The flowers can be harvested to be made into jelly and an herbal tea. The essential oil can be used in products for its sweet smell.

May 3: Sessileleaf Bellwort is a perennial native to eastern and central North America in the Lily Family. It is a woodland plant and its other names are: Straw Lily, Little Merrybells and Wild Oats.

Before blooming, the plant looks like sprouting grass – often seen growing among Trout Lily on the forest floor in the Spring. Bellwort is called sessile because the leaf is long and wraps around the stalk instead of hanging from it on a stem.

The drooping flowers are small, bell-like and cream-colored with a greenish tinge. Not all plants bloom since the species procreates underground with stolons or small bulbs – like other Lily Family plants – so it doesn’t need to seed to survive.

It has been used by the Ojibwa, Iroquois, and Cherokee people as a food and a medicine.

May 2: This pretty plant has quite a few names: Hoary Alyssum, False Hoary Madwort, Hoary Berteroa, Hoary Alison and the Latin names, Berteroa incana or Alyssum incanum.

  • “Hoary” gray or white.
  • “Madwort” a plant believed to cure canine madness.
  • “Alison” may be a common name derived from Alyssum.

This plant has two Latin names. Alyssum incanum is the basionym for Berteroa incana, meaning that it is the previous Latin name given to the plant and it provides a useful description of the plant.

  • “Berteroa” is a genus in the Brassicaceae (Mustard) family and it is named after the Italian botanist Carlo Bertero, b.1789.
  • “incana” is the species and refers to the downy, gray/white hairs that cover the plant which help it to retain water in the environment where it originated: the dry Russian steppes.
  • “Alyssum” is a genus in the Brassicaceae (Mustard) family identified by the clump of flowers that appear at the end of a leafed stem.
  • “incanum” is the species and defined like incana

Berteroa incana is an invasive species in North America and it was brought from eastern Eurasia via Finland. This particular plant was discovered last summer on the bike path in the New North End.

May 1: This is a Wild Cucumber vine that was discovered growing on a fence along the bike path last summer in a very sunny location. It is a North American native plant and has been known to First Nations people for a variety of uses, including as a headache remedy and a bitter tonic for stomach problems.

Echinocystis lobata is a member of the Gourd Family and is quite special: a “monotypic genus” which means that it is the only species in the genus. It gets its name from the round, green, prickly fruit which are about 1 1/2 inches long. Echino is Greek for “hedgehog” and kystis meaning “bladder” are both referring to the shape of the fruit. The fruit is inedible. It looks like a small striped watermelon with spines. The hull, after the four seeds have been dispersed is a pale, papery shell.

Male and female flowers are on the same plant. The male flowers are at the top of the stem and the few female flowers are below on a short stem – with the tiny seed case forming below.

The plant grows from an underground tuber that can weigh up to 100 pounds and the largest leaves on the vine are similar to Maple leaves.

April 30: These Woodland Sunflowers were spotted growing along the bike trail in Burlington. They are a North American native perennial!

This species a summertime plant with opposite, lance-shaped leaves growing on a central stem, they grow in half rotation, crosswise up the stem. Each stem branches at the top with flowers. The plant can be between two to six feet tall.

Woodland sunflowers grow in colonies, like those shown here in the photographs. Bees are particularly pollinators of this plant and the seeds are favored by small mammals. The plant is sometimes browsed by deer and rabbits.

It’s easier to identify this plant by its leaves as the flowers are less distinctive and variable. This wild sunflower species is happy in sun and shade, uplands and sandy lowland locations.

April 29: The Trout Lilys are out and more are on the way!

Also known as Yellow Dogtooth Violet and Erythronium americanum, this plant is a native Northern American sub-species and a perennial.

The Trout Lily is a spring ephemeral meaning that it has a short life cycle like Spring Beauties and Trilliums. It appears above ground in the early springtime, flowers and reproduces and then disappears leaving only the seeds and a deeply-buried underground bulb for the rest of the year. This strategy allows the plant to take advantage of open access to sunlight in the spring before the leaf canopy appears and blocks it out.

The plant takes many years to flower and the flowering plant will have two leaves growing at the base of the flower stalk. Non-flowering plants have only one. So you may see many more leaves than flowers in a leafy woodland. Also, a Trout Lily will close its flower at night.

Trout Lily produces colonies of plants. Some flower and some don’t. It is not a very successful seed producer. But it will reproduce asexually by making a small stem containing a bulb that nods down to the ground and plants it. This “stolon” production occurs from the non-flowering plants. Something to look for this spring.

If you’re really enthusiastic, you can look for the ones with reddish brown anthers which have been named forma “castaneum.”

April 28: Common St. John’s Wort is a traditional medicine herb with many interesting qualities. It is a native to Europe and Asia and was transplanted to North America. It is considered an invasive plant because of its ability to root and grow extensively discouraging other native species and because its seeds last for decades. It is especially toxic for grazing animals.

This plant, Hypericum perforatum, is named “perforated” as the leaves look look like they have little translucent holes in them.

The flowers appear in late spring and bloom abundantly throughout the summer. The budding pattern is an interesting one with one growing from another in a branching pattern, instead of directly on one stem or in a bunch like a raceme. This plant was found at wood’s edge near an open field, like many opportunistic plants.

The affiliation of this plant with St. John is because it flowers around St. John the Baptist’s birthday on June 24. The day also coincides with Summer Solstice and White Night Festivals. St. John’s Wort was hung over the entry door to protect a household as a kind of folk magic on that day. All over Medieval Europe the eve of this day was a time for gathering special herbs by traditional healers.

An extract from the plant, St. John’s Oil has been used for hundreds of years as an antibiotic on wounds. However, ingesting it can cause complex counterindications and create life-threatening problems and it has not been proven effective for any use by the FDA.

April 27: Here’s Vicia cracca or Tufted Vetch, another charming field flower with brilliant color. It’s also a non-native perennial from Europe and Asia and grows serendipitously in forgotten environments.

Multiple flowers grow on one side of the stem forming a RACEME. To picture a raceme, think of a Hyacinth – a single stem bearing many flowers. Flowers are nectar-bearing and encourage pollinators: bees and flies. The seeds which are in a pod may be eaten by birds.

Tufted Vetch is a benefit to fields as it is a nitrogen-fixing plant and it has been used for grazing and erosion control. As you can see in the photo, the plant has curly, t-shaped tendrils that enables it to grab onto other plants – it is a vine like a pea plant – and this can make it a nuisance.

The leaves can be used for tea. It has a reputation for increasing milk production and — as a special treat for parakeets and other domesticated birds…really!

April 25: Wild Parsnip or Giant Hogweed is a very nasty relative of the carrot family. At its growth peak, it has an attractive floral umbel like Queen Anne’s Lace – the tiny flowers are white but with a greenish cast and the bloom is less compact. Leaves are large, elephant-ear sized, and can be up to 4 feet long. The plant is not native and was brought from the Eurasian Caucuses to the West as a garden ornamental, popular as a “curiosity” in formal gardens. It took many years for folks to understand its properties and stop planting it. It is now considered a “noxious weed.”

Wild Parsnip can grow very tall in contrast to Queen Anne’s Lace and other look-alikes: up to 16 feet. The stems are green, substantial and woody with purple-red blotches and white prickly hairs. It produces several branching stems ending with a large flower umbel.

This plant should always be avoided as its sap contains furanocoumarin the cause of phytophotodermatitis. After contact with the plant and exposed to the sun, skin will blister. The furanocoumarin acts on the skin cells leaving them vulnerable to the sun and causing the blisters. The area may scar and be sensitive for a long while. If you come in contact with the plant, wash with soap and cold!water and stay out of the sun for two days.

The growing cycle of this perennial is long and it may take anywhere from 4 to 10 years for the plant to flower. When the plant finally seeds, the whole plant dies, though the seed may stay viable for many years.

Heracleum mantegazzianum is prohibited as a noxious weed in the United States (USDA-NRCS, 2002)

April 24: Queen Anne’s Lace or Wild Carrot plant is another species native to Europe and Southwest Asia which was naturalized to North America. The farmed carrot that we eat is a cultivated version of a subspecies of this plant!

The flower is actually a cluster of small flowers on short stalks called an umbel – same root as umbrella. The root of this plant smells like a carrot and often there is a small red flower in the center of the umbel. When it goes to seed the umbel changes shape from mounded to concave as the outer part curls inward.

Like many naturalized plants, it can be beneficial in some environments but can be an invasive in others. It has a very large taproot (like a carrot, surprise!) which makes it hard to remove from a place where it isn’t wanted.

The plant has uses as a dye, turning woven goods and yarn to a warm yellow color. It can cause mild irritation to the skin.

It is a sun loving plant that brings butterflies and bees to the garden.

European folklore describes this plant as a botanical representation of a bit of lace being made by Queen Anne of England. The small red flower that appears in the center of the floral cluster represents a drop of blood – as she pricked her finger with the lace needle.

April 23: When is a Lily not a Lily? When it’s an Orange Daylily! The genus of this flower is not Lilium but Hemerocallis, meaning “day” “beautiful.” A true lily grows from a bulb, not a root/rhizome system like the Daylily.

Also, this plant is not a native species. It originated in Eastern Asia: Russia, China, Korea and Japan. It was brought here as a garden plant, only to escape and become a common sight on road sides and the edges of woods.

The Daylily produces up to 20 flowers throughout the summer, each blooming and then disappearing – to be replaced with another. It’s called a “day” lily because the blooms last only one day!

Buds, flowers and leaves of the Orange Daylily are edible and are used in some Chinese stir fried dishes.

April 22: Another of our early blooming native New England species that everyone enjoys is Bloodroot or Sanguinaria canadensis. It’s a perennial with roots (rhizomes) that overwinter.

Bloodroot is the only species in the genus Sanguinaria and in the Poppy family. It has some other names: bloodwort, puccoon, redroot.

Flowers are enrobed by a single leaf when they emerge from the ground, then opens fully after the flower blooms in the sunlight. This is another plant that has pollen but no nectar. It is pollinated by bees and small flies and the petals fall off the flower as soon as it is pollinated. The leafy part of the plant will remain into the summer. The seeds are then dispersed by ants.

The sap of the plant is reddish, hence the name, and it is poisonous like the leaves and roots. It has been at the center of a lot of medical quackery, including being advanced as a cancer cure. Native people have used the sap as a dye – especially for basketmakers. For example, the plant name puccoon is an Anglicized version of the Powhatan word “poughkone” meaning red dye.

The plant likes moist woodlands and shorelines. These particular plants were blooming profusely by the shore of the lake called The Pogue in the Mt. Tom area in Woodstock.

April 21: Azure Bluets or Quaker Ladies is a perennial, native to our Northeastern North America. One tiny four-petaled flower blooms on a single stalk and has a base of leaves in a rosette. They are a spring flower though they may continue to bloom throughout the summer.

These were discovered in a field on Mt. Tom in Woodstock. They gave the field a haze of pale blue among the grasses. Magical.

April 20: Purple Crownvetch is a vine well-suited to creating a colorful flower field. It does not yield to weeds and provides excellent soil recovery and helps prevent erosion. It is a perennial with a substantial root system.

It is not a native plant. It was brought to the United States in the late 1800s to be used as a groundcover and likes many different environments including ones with poor soil, though getting it to establish itself requires some soil preparation.

This plant was discovered in a flower field at Shelburne Farms which was probably intentionally planted for color and durability. Other plants here are purple clover, bird’s-foot deervetch and hedge bedstraw. The combination of plants made a beautiful array of color and texture.

April 19: A pretty plant with excellent qualities to seek out along the Burlington bikeway is Yellow Sweetclover! Melilotus officinalis or Yellow Melilot was brought to North America from Eurasia, and has been found as far east as Khamchatka and Sakhalin Island but is very common across the European continent.

It is a legume and has an attractive sweet smell like fresh cut grass. It likes full sun and blooms in the spring. Honeybees love this plant and produce an exceptionally fine honey from it! Etymology “meli” sweet and “lotos” honey or lotus.

Yellow Sweetclover is a biennial – like Great Mullein – meaning it may take two years to mature and also an annual. The seed may last for many years. It will crowd out other species, especially in open fields but it has also been used successfully as forage and as a natural way to correct nitrogen loss and erosion.

Phyto-remediation is the use of plants to clean contaminated areas to “restore the balance” by using plants. Sweetclover has been used to detoxify areas that contain dioxin, a product of burning.

For more information on phytoremediation:…/fi…/2015-04/documents/phytoresgude.pdf

April 18: Along the bike path in Burlington is a good place to see these Great Mullein. They are unique and plentiful. It is highly adaptive preferring sun and poor soils. Over forty other common names speak for how familiar it is to all parts of the United States. It is a non-native and was brought here from Europe in the 18th century.

Mullein completes its growth cycle over two years: first creating the base rosette and then in the second year, it grows a stalk. Leaves appear on the stalk from large to small as they alternate up the stem.

Mullein has some interesting unique qualities. The stem blooms with very tightly packed, yellow flowers. Flowers bloom for a single day! Seeds may last for decades though the plant will die after its two year cycle.

April 17: Another urban wild dweller, Yellow Woodsorrel or Oxalis stricta can be found growing in small bunches around Burlington in forgotten spots, along the bikeway, public parks and the small lawns in front of apartment houses. It’s also called Lemon Clover and Oxalis, which is also its genus.

On first glance, Woodsorrel looks a bit like clover with three cordate leaflets. It’s interesting that they close up under stress! The seed pods look like upright pea pods and when ready they explode to disperse. Oxalis “stricta” refers to the upright posture of the pods.

The whole plant is edible and has many uses. Oxalic acid creates the tangy flavor in the plant and contains Vitamin C. However, it can also inhibit Calcium absorption in quantity. Like other city weeds, it grows in unsavory locations and so should be left alone to be admired but not eaten.

It is a perennial and an annual plant which means that it survives with seed and also overwintering roots. It’s native to North America but may be found in East Asia.

April 16: Pineapple-weed is a hearty survivor annual and can be found in an urban environment as well as the edges of fields and wildways. When crushed the leaves smell like pineapple and can be eaten or made into a tea, though it often is seen growing in places which are not healthy like sidewalks and curbsides. It has also been used in herbal medicine.

Matricaria discoidea is in the Daisy, Asteraceae or Compositae family and Matricaria is the genus of plants in the Chamomile tribe. It may also smell like Chamomile.

The flower is rounded and greenish-yellow and egg shaped without petals, the stem thick and the leaves are spiked and short, though soft to the touch.

The plant can be found native in Northwest states and Northeastern Asia. The seeds of the plant are abundant and easily spread and the plant is so durable that it can take all the challenges of a heavily trafficked urban sidewalk.

April 15: Tussilago farfara or Colt’s Foot is an interesting plant. It is in the Aster family “Asteraceae” and the only plant in the genus Tussilago.

Colt’s Foot is an early bloomer in the spring, brightening the landscape with its intensely yellow flowers. Small leaves appear first along the stem with the appearance of the flower. After the flowers have disappeared and the seed dispersed, more leaves appear in their characteristic shape. If you’ve ever “picked” a horses hoof, turning it upside-down to clean it, you will recognize the shape of the leaf of this plant! The leaves in the photograph were from late summer last year and the yellow flowers have just come out!

This plant also has herbal properties that have been used in herbal medicine to soothe cough. Cough or “tussi” has the same root as words like pertussis (whooping cough) and “ago” meaning to act on. In Europe, researchers have cultivated a version of this plant that can be used for the good properties without the toxic alkaloids that cause harm.

This plant is native to Europe and grows indiscriminately like a weed in poor soil. They are perennials. Colt’s Foot grows wild in North America in the northeast and northwestern states. The plant may have been brought by colonists to this country for its reputation as a cure for cough.

April 14: Bottlebrush or Small-flowered Buckeye was found growing along the Champlain Bikeway last summer. Aesculus parviflora!

This plant is also known as Dwarf Horsechestnut which is a relative. It is native to Southeastern states like Georgia and Alabama where it grows into a massive bush. It has adapted and settled in Northern states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. It can also be found in Ontario, Canada.

It’s tall, up to 5 meters. And it’s flowers attract butterflies.

It is interesting that this plant was discovered in the United States and was brought to England where it received an award from the Royal Horticultural Society.

April 13: Down the rabbit hole with all the names associated with Eastern Enchanter’s Nightshade! Unpacking this, we can discover all sorts of interesting attributions to this plant … hinting at dark magic.

Order: Myrtales
Family: Onagraceae
Common name: Eastern Enchanter’s Nightshade
Genus: Circaeae
Species: Circaea lutetiana ssp. canadensis

Genus: Circaeae is referring to the Greek myth of Circe who has abundant knowledge of herbs and magic. She is known as a powerful female and a “polypharmakos” meaning that she has skill and knowledge in the area of potions.

Species: Lutetiana refers to the Roman city, Lutetia, which was to become Paris. A much repeated remark in research calls Paris the “witch city”. Possibly a reference to L’affaire des Poisons during the reign of Louis XIV.

The plant common to our geographic area is ssp. canadensis. The designation of canadensis refers to a plant native to Canada and ssp clarifies that it is a subspecies. The close relative, also a subspecies, is Circaea lutetiana ssp. quadrisulcata common to Asia.

Common name: Nightshade are poisonous plants but also tomato, potato and eggplant. Solanine is the poison contained in some plants like Deadly Nightshade or Belladonna. Belladonna, being Italian for beautiful woman, refers to the practice of applying the juice from the berry to the eyes of women to enlarge their pupils during the Renaissance. Not to be confused with the Order Solanales in which the Nightshades are included!

Despite all of these hints of sorcery and enchantment, the plant is benign. It is mostly known to contain a lot of tannins, the quality giving red wines an astringent taste. As mentioned, it is not related to the Deadly Nightshade family, at all. There is a lot of folklore involved in the reputation of this plant.

Leaves are opposite and form a rosette at the base of the plant. The flower stems are fuzzy and rise up from the rosette. White flowers appear in summer growing directly from the stems. Look for a flower with two petals: white or pink. Hooked bristles on tiny fruit catch on animals to be transported like burrs to other locations for propagation. This plant is a perennial and dies back in the fall. The root stays to overwinter. It’s easier to identify these plants when the seeds appear looking like strings of holiday lights atop the foliage.

This plant was discovered in a copse at Shelburne Farms where it was growing in shade by the path.

April 12: New England Aster or Michaelmas-daisy is a native flowering perennial. Unlike many natives we have been observing, it flowers in the fall and the name Michaelmas-daisy refers to the Feast of St. Michael occurring on September 29. This plant may be observed flowering into late October, providing nectar and seed food for many species late in the season, including birds.

The Aster is common to the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and some of Canada but can be found all over North America, except in especially dry regions. It likes open, moist, sunny locations and also may be found on roadsides. This one was found flowering on Mt. Philo in Charlotte by the paved road. It blooms in profusion on each plant on tall stems with lance-shaped leaves. It is enjoyed in gardens and a popular plant due to its late flowering season.

First Nations people had many uses for the New England Aster, including using the smoke from the burning plant for various ailments.

April 11: Giant Blue Cohosh in the wild! The colors of the elements of this native plant really make it stand out visually, a kind of dark, “Victorian” coloration unlike many other Northern forest plants.

The Giant Blue Cohosh plant produces a single or double smooth, purple stem. The compound leaves appear in threes and the leaflets have an almost olive or blue/green color. Six petal-sepals or tepals, are a combined form of the flower and the “leaf” at the base of the flower, which is also purple. Next, the nectar-bearing lobes of the flower attracting pollinators are edged with green. At the center of the flower, it’s easy to see six bright, yellow stamens that are not yet split open and a single flame-shaped, light green ovary in the center.

There are also several blue, berry-like fruits visible behind the flower. The berry contains two seeds that fall to ground in at the end of summer.

Caulophyllum giganteum is a native, perennial herb that continues to bloom from springtime into the whole summer. It likes “rich forest” with plenty of leaf humus and moisture from nearby streams. Found especially in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, this is a special native plant for us.

April 10: This Twoleaf Miterwort or Bishop’s Cap is eye-catching as it has several unique features.

Miterwort grows in a clump with several straight stems topped by tiny, bell-like flowers with a fringed edge. These delicate flowers are shaped like a bishop’s miter. The stem seems to grow through a single, broad leaf. But this leaf is actually two, fused directly to the stem.

This plant produces pollen and nectar and its tiny seeds are distributed locally by popping its seeds from a pod. It is a shade plant and a perennial and a spring bloomer. This one has grown out of a fallen log in a shady vale.

This plant is a native to the Eastern half of the United states and Canada and it is a member of the Saxifrage family

Interesting aside: the flower’s shape is more like that of an Eastern Orthodox Bishop’s miter which is round, rather than split and pointed like the Roman Catholic one. Check it out!

April 9: Hoping that this Bellflower is a Campanula trachelium, or Nettle-leaved Bellflower! Commonly known as Throatwort, it was once believed to help throat ailments. The fine-toothed, narrow, alternating, nettle-like leaves of the plant and the hairy interior of the star-shaped flower are clues, as well as the square edge of the stem. The flowers are growing on one side of the main “spike” and have a slight droop. Like this one, discovered on the trail at Trapp, the plant is found growing at the edge of woodlands.

The reason to be concerned is that these Bellflowers are related to another “beautiful” invasive or weed, Creeping Bellflower. Creeping Bellflower was imported from Europe to be a colorful enhancement to gardens. Today, in some states gardeners are unable to rid their properties of this plant and have resorted to chemicals. In Calgary, Alberta they are so wary of its ability to spread widely that planting it is explicitly restricted.

The reason for its successful self-propagation: the plant has multiple forms of reproduction by both seed (15,000 per plant) and root tubers giving serious competition to other species. It has the ability to thrive in multiple environments, including challenging ones, like roadsides, thought it prefers partial shade. It can sprout from small amount of root so digging it out is not likely to eliminate it!

April 8: Yellow Toadflax! Butter and Eggs!

This charming flower is classified as weed, or an opportunistic, invasive plant, that grows along roadsides and in disturbed areas, preferring open, sunny, rocky locations. These were growing along the Lake Champlain Causeway Bike path – a perfect environment.

Toadflax needs a pollinator heavy enough to depress the lower lip of the flower to reach the pollen, like honeybees or bumblebees. It is a relative of the Snapdragon.

Toadflax was introduced into New England from Britain in the 1600’s and it was valued by early colonists as an ornamental flower, a medicinal plant and tea and as a fabric dye. From there, the plant escaped and has now established itself across the United States and in Canada. It is a capable competitor with other species and can easily establish itself in an open area, like a farm field, driving out many other desirable species and crops.

The plant contains alkaloids and much research has been done to discover if it is poisonous to animals, since it commonly invades and establishes itself in their grazing areas. Current research has established that it is only mildly toxic.

It’s always interesting to discover the common names of a plant. Linaria vulgaris is the Latin name. However, there are many, many common names for this plant including: bridewort, bunny mouths, dead men’s bones, calf’s snout, yellow rod, doggies, gallweed, impudent lawyer, and flax weed.

April 7: How can we celebrate early springtime without mentioning the tiny and delicate Carolina spring beauty? The candy-striped flower of this perennial is classified as an ephemeral, as it blooms early and then disappears when the leaf cover of the forest blocks the sun overhead. Root tubers remain till the following year for the next blooming, though they are also food for small creatures like chipmunks. The flowers grow on a single stem with two leaves at the base.

This particular flower was discovered on a rainy day hike in Green Mountain National Forest, just south of Lake Dunmore. We hiked for another hour, farther into the woods on a trail along a wet area next to a stream. It was a great day for discoveries. On the way back we saw many of the spring beauty plants had flowered where they had not been before!

These flowers are originally native to mountainous areas in Asia – there is a Siberian spring beauty – and North America, especially the Appalachian Mountains.

Carolina spring beauty, also known as Claytonia caroliniana, was named for the pioneer Colonial Virginia botanist, John Clayton (1695-1773).

April 6: Jewelweed is an annual, midsummer flowering plant that likes wet areas, especially found thriving near streams. It grows in abundant, full clumps dotted with many brightly-colored flowers to attract pollinators. The plant is common to the Northeastern United States. It is one of two members of the Balsam Family, known as Impatiens. The other is Hydrocera from Southeast Asia.

The stems of the plant are succulent and when crushed the sap applied to the skin is commonly thought to be an antidote to poison ivy. Jewelweed is also known as touch-me-not, or noli-tangere, but not because the plant is an irritant. Instead, when the seeds are ripe and the pods are touched, they explode.

The Orange or Spotted Jewelweed flower has a freckled appearance inside the flower. The photo shows a pollinating insect inside the nectar spur. These were growing abundantly at the trailhead of the Nebraska Notch Trail in Underhill, very near a large wasp nest.

The Yellow Jewelweed was growing along the trail at Mt. Philo. It is known as Impatiens pallida or Pale Touch-me-Not. These flowers are primarily pollinated by bees.

April 5: Let’s talk about Violets. There are many, many, many plants that can be called Violets. On a Wildflower Walk last summer – as part of the GMC Annual meeting in 2019 – our Vermont State Program Botanist, Bob Popp, found these violets to talk about before we even got on the trail!

So what makes a Violet a Violet? We know the Violet as a shade-loving plant with heart-shaped leaves and a clump of short-stemmed purple (violet) nodding flowers. But there are between 400 and 500 more kinds of violets just in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are the tall-stemmed and the short-stemmed, the annuals and perennials and the cultivars created by horticulturalists. The Pansy is a type of cultivated violet. Biologists estimate that there are hundreds of global examples of the Violet’s high level of genetic diversity.

There are distinct sections of violets: in South America, in Australia, in the Northern Hemisphere and in Africa. The temperate Northern Hemisphere section is called Viola.

The Genus Viola may have started in the remote Andes mountains but it can be found everywhere: so much for that myth of the “shrinking violet.”

April 4: Dutchman’s Breeches is a native wildflower common to the Northeast and appears in early spring. It is often found growing out of last year’s leaves in March. The flowers do look like little white pantaloons dangling upside down. The leaves resemble ferns, especially before flowering. It is a relative of the Bleeding Heart, another plant from the genus Dicentra.

Another name for this plant is Little Blue Staggers due to the narcotic qualities of the plant that can cause cattle to wobble around from eating it. It can cause mild skin irritation from contact.

This is a nectar-producing plant with “spurs” that contain the nectar. This plant is favored by bumblebees and it has a floral scent. Ants provide an important role in distribution of the seeds.

April 3: Ah, Trillium! Everyone’s favorite, early Springtime, native plant. All these examples were found on the hiking trails here in Vermont.

Trillium generally favors the Northeast and Canada and it’s a perennial and single bloomer. We can enjoy a profusion of them in April and May in several colors. Each type has three petals, three bracts and three leaves growing from a single stem. Like the Hepatica, this flower is an early bloomer, becoming visible before the flower competition and it has no nectar.

They may all be called Wake Robin as they are, like the Robin, a harbinger of Spring. Trillium grow in groups called “drifts” making a carpet of flowers that can extend up to a mile in some areas.

The white version, “great white” or “grandiflorum”, has no scent. It may darken in color later in the summer.

The Red Trillium is known in Latin as “erectum” but also, as Stinking Benjamin referring to a meaty scent used by the flower to encourage flies who eat the Trillium’s pollen and also pollinate it.

The red-centered, Painted Trillium is a rarer version classified “undulatum” as the flowers petals have a wavy edge. The French call it Trille Ondulé. The leaves tend to be a darker green compared to the other Trillium.

Trillium is from the Latin “Tri” three, from the repeated pattern of threes and “illium” lily. It is also a member of the Lily family.

Great White Trillium or Trillium grandiflora

Red Trillium or Trillium erectum

Painted Trillium or Trillium undulatum

April 2: Round-lobed Hepatica or Anemone Americana is an especially early spring flower. We saw these on a rainy day hiking a lakeside trail

Leaves remain over winter, turning rusty and the flowers appear in season on a single hairy stalk. Each flower has three small leaves around it called a BRACT. They are Eastern native members of the Buttercup Family – along with the Sharp-lobed Hepatica whose leaves are pointed rather than round on the end.

You’ll find these in wooded, leafy areas where the ground collects the rich soil of decaying leaves. Look for them at the base of a tree sheltering between the above ground roots.

One interesting evolved strategy by this plant is to attract pollinators by blooming early. The flowers are easily seen among the darkened leaves of last year. As a survival strategy, Hepatica doesn’t produce nectar but the pollen is an attractive and valuable nutrient collected for bee larvae and this benefits both bees and plant.

April 1: Starflower is a charming plant which grows up like an umbrella from a single stalk and then produces one or two white flowers. Its foliage grows in a unique spiral of five to nine leaves that look like a star.

It can be seen between May and June here in Vermont where there is open shade but it may also be found in upland and wetter areas. This one was photographed in the woods near Barre but our woods along the trail host many of these flowers in season.

Starflower is another perennial woodland plant, native to the Northeastern United States and Canada. It has no known uses as a folk medicine though the flower is enjoyed by bees.

March 30: Joe-Pye Weed, Kidney Root, Indian Joe Pie, Gravel Root, Purple Boneset, Hempweed, Queen of the Meadow or Trumpet Weed are all names for this tall, clumping plant with compound blooms. The pink-purple flowers are much loved by insects and butterflies. The plant can grow to up to 7 feet tall and the leaves grow very long and slender.

This plant is perennial native to the Northeast and Central United States and Canada but also farther south. It’s in the Sunflower family and likes the open fields, especially damp areas like this one in the photograph, where it is growing abundantly on the Nebraska Notch Trail.

Wondering who is Joe Pye?

Folkloric stories elaborate widely. The plants do have a history and reputation for healing in traditional medicine. As far back as the first century BC the plant has been used as a diuretic and called ‘gravel root” or “kidney root” for its use as an aid to getting rid of kidney stones. T.E. Hemmerly, author of “Appalachian Wildflowers”, named this plant as a ‘native cure’ for kidney stones and urinary tract problems.

Many stories surround the name, Joe Pye. For example, that the plant was named for a man named Jopai or alternatively, that jopai is an indian word for typhus which the weed was said to be used to cure.

Another story is that a Mohican sachem, named Joseph Schauquethequeat, used this plant and it gained a reputation with the colonists of Massachusetts as a cure, or that he was a Wampanoag or even a Pilgrim selling “cures” pretending to be an Indian. Interesting!

We are not recommending its use, of course, except as a beautiful sight on the trail!

March 29: Eastern Red Columbine or Canadian Columbine is a native that lives on rocky slopes in the Northeastern United States and Canada and in the woods, as well. It’s unique red and yellow bell-like flowers and lobed leaves make it stand out from the surrounding greenery.

This Columbine is a long-living perennial and grows well in shade and sun. Deep in the flower’s “spur” is where pollinators will find nectar. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

This particular plant surprised us – growing by the gravelly roadside on the Lake Champlain Causeway – which is a rocky slope, albeit a small one.

Fun fact: crushed seeds were used by some indigenous men as a love charm.

March 28: Here’s our first wildflower! This is White Baneberry and it’s native to Eastern North America and Canada. This plant is a perennial and likes rich soils and shade so it can often be found in the woods.

The flower is characterized as a RACEME which generally means that it flowers in a cluster on a single stalk.

White Baneberry has a funny common name: Doll’s Eyes. The name comes from the look of the berry which is white, with a black dot in the middle.

Birds like this plant and eat the berries but they are poisonous to humans.

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