Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

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Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Sometimes called “Blue Cardinal Flower” because of its strong resemblance to its close relative the Cardinal Flower, L. cardinalis, with which this species apparently hybridizes. The unattractive species name comes from an old belief that it was a treatment for syphilis. The Plant Fact Sheet (PDF) from the Natural Resources Conservation Service adds that “The Meskwaki ground up the roots of this plant and used it as an anti-divorce remedy.” What America needs today is more ground-up Lobelia siphilitica roots.

The flowers are variable in color: some are solid pale blue, some darker blue, and some—as here—strongly bicolored. A white form is found occasionally.

Like the Cardinal Flower, this Lobelia likes damp situations; these were blooming at the end of August in a roadside ditch near Cranberry.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

LOBELIA [Plumier] L. Calyx 5-cleft, with a short tube. Corolla with a straight tube split down on the (apparently) upper side, somewhat 2-lipped; the upper lip of 2 rather erect lobes, the lower lip spreading and 3-cleft. Two of the anthers in our species bearded at the top. Pod 2-celled, many-seeded, opening at the top. — Flowers axillary or chiefly in bracted racemes ; in summer and early autumn. (Dedicated to Matthias de l’Obel, an early Flemish herbalist.)

Flowers blue, or blue variegated with white.

Flowers rather large (corolla-tube 1-1.3 cm. long), spicate-racemose; stem leafy, 0.3-1 m. high; perennial.

Leaves ovate to lanceolate, numerous; lip of corolla glabrous.

L. siphilitica L. (GREAT LOBELIA.) Somewhat hairy; leaves thin, acute at both ends, 0.5-1.5 dm. long, irregularly serrate; flowers nearly 2.6 cm. long, pediceled, longer than the leafy bracts; corolla light blue, rarely white; calyx hirsute, the sinuses with conspicuous deflexed auricles, the short tube hemispherical. — Low grounds, Me. to Ont. westw. and southw.; rare eastw.

The pictures in this article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, so no permission is required to use them for any purpose whatsoever.

Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris), White Form

Heal-All, or Self-Heal, is everywhere; it tolerates a good deal of mowing, and seems to be indifferent to sun or shade, so it can establish itself in urban lawns as easily as at the edge of the woods. The color of the flowers is variable; this white form, however, is quite unusual. This patch grew in St. Michael’s Cemetery on the South Side Slopes, where it was blooming in the middle of August.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

PRUNÉLLA L. SELF-HEAL. Calyx tubular-bell-ehaped, somewhat lO-nerved, naked in the throat, closed in fruit ; upper lip broad, truncate. Corolla ascending, slightly contracted at the throat and dilated at the lower side just beneath it, 2-lipped; upper lip erect, arched, entire; the lower reflexed-spreading, 3-cleft, its lateral lobes oblong, the middle one rounded, concave, denticulate. Filaments 2-toothed at the apex, the lower tooth bearing the anther; anthers approximate in pairs, their cells diverging. — Low perennials, with nearly simple stems, and 3-flowered clusters of flowers sessile in the axils of round and bract-like membranaceous floral leaves, imbricated in a close spike or head. (Name said to be from the German Bräune, a disease of the throat, for which this plant was a reputed remedy. Often written Brunella, which was a pre-Linnean form. )

P. vulgàris L. (HEAL-ALL, CARPENTER-WEED.) Leaves ovate-oblong, entire or toothed, petioled, hairy or smoothish; corolla violet or flesh-color, rarely white, not twice the length of the purplish calyx. — Woods and fields, Nfd. to Fla., westw. across the continent. June-Sept. (Eu.)

Var. laciniata L Some upper leaves tending to be pinnatifld. (P. laciniata L.) — Said to be introd. near Washington, D. C. (Adv. from Eu.)

The pictures in this article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, so no permission is required to use them for any purpose whatsoever.

Soft Agrimony (Agrimonia pubescens)


Agrimonies are notoriously difficult to sort out, so we would welcome a correction if this identification is wrong.

These delicate racemes of yellow flowers appear in the open woods, and you are likely to miss them if you are not looking for them. The plants in these pictures were blooming in North Park in early August.

Older references usually list this as Agrimonia mollis, a synonym. Gray describes the genus and the species:

AGRIMONIA [Tourn.] L. AGRIMONY. Calyx-tube top-shaped or hemispherical, the throat beset with hooked bristles, indurated in fruit and inclosing 2 achenes; the limb 5-cleft, closed after flowering. Petals 5, yellow. Stamens 5-15. Styles terminal. — Perennial herbs, with interruptedly pinnate leaves, crenate-serrate leaflets, and small spicate-racemose flowers. Bracts 3-cleft. (Name a corruption of Argemone.)

Fruiting calyx more or less top-shaped, deeply furrowed.

Leaflets (exclusive of the little intermediate ones) chiefly 5-0, ovate to obovate or elllptic-oblong.

Rhachis appressed-vlllous or glandular-puberulent, without long widely spreading hairs.

Boots fusiform-thickened toward the end; lower surface of leaflets velvety-tomentose, scarcely or not at all resinous-dotted.

Larger leaflets 5-9, oblong or elliptical; fruiting calyx 4-5 mm. wide (exclusive of spreading hooks).

A. mollis (T. & G.) Britton. Grayish-pubescent, 6-15 dm. high; leaflets oblong, mostly obtuse, soft to the touch on both surfaces; fruit broadly top-shaped, the hooks borne on a broad disk, the outer widely spreading. (A. pubescens Wallr.?) — Open woods, dry ground, etc., Mass. to N. C, and westw.




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