Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

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Sharp-Winged Monkey-Flower (Mimulus alatus)

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAn attractive snapdragon-like flower that likes wet locations; this one was growing in a ditch along a country lane near Cranberry, where it was beginning to bloom in late July.

Most botanical references place the genus Mimulus in the Snapdragon family, Scrophulariaceae; but modern genetic studies have persuaded botanists to remove it to the family Phrymaceae, the Lopseed family, which had previously had only one species in it.

Gray’s description of this species depends on his description of M. ringens, so we print that description in brackets:

MÍMULUS L. MONKEY FLOWER. Calyx prismatic, 5-angled, 5-toothed, the uppermost tooth largest. Upper lip of corolla erect or reflexed-spreading, 2-lobed; lower spreading, 3-lobed. Stigma 2-lobed; lobes ovate. Seeds numerous. — Herbs, with opposite (rarely whorled) leaves, and mostly handsome flowers. (Diminutive of mimus, a buffoon, from the grinning corolla.)

Corolla violet-purple (rarely white); erect glabrous perennials; leaves feather-veined.

[M. ríngens L. Stem square, 1 m. or less high; leaves oblong or lanceolate, pointed, clasping by a heart-shaped base, serrate; peduncles longer than the flower; calyx-teeth taper-pointed, nearly equal; corolla personate, 2-4 cm. long. — Wet places, N. B. to Man., and southw. June-Sept.]

M. alàtus Ait. Stem winged at the angles; leaves oblong-ovate, tapering into a petiole; peduncles shorter than the very short-toothed calyx; otherwise like the preceding. — Wet places, Ct. to s. Ont., Kan., and southw.

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Silvery Cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea)

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Originally from Europe, this little flower joins the herds of little five-petaled flowers in our fields. This plant was growing in a grassy area in Highland Park, where it was blooming in the middle of June.

Gray describes the genus (which is large and varied) and the species:

POTENTÍLLA L. CINQEFOIL. FIVE-FINGER. Calyx flat, deeply 5-cleft, with as many bractlets at the sinuses, thus appearing 10-cleft. Petals 5, usually roundish. Stamens many. Achenes many, collected in a head on the dry mostly pubescent or hairy receptacle; styles lateral or terminal, deciduous. Radicle superior. — Herbs, or rarely shrubs, with compound leaves, and solitary or cymose flowers; their parts rarely in fours. (Name a diminutive from potens, powerful, originally applied to P. Anserina, from its once reputed medicinal powers.)

Styles filiform, not glandular at base; inflorescence cymose.

Style terminal; achenes glabrous; stamens 20; herbaceous perennials, with rather large yellow petals.

Leaves palmate.

Flowers in loose leafy cymes.

P. argéntea L. (SILVERY C.) Stems ascending or depressed, 1-5 dm. long, paniculately branched at the summit, many-flowered, white-woolly; leaf lets 5, wedge-oblong, almost pinnatifid, entire toward the base, with revolute margins, green above, white with silvery wool beneath; calyx white-tomentose. — Dry barren fields, etc., N. S. to Dak. and southw. to D. C. June- Sept. (Eu.)


Yellow Corydalis (Psuedofumaria lutea)

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Formerly Corydalis lutea. A relative of Bleeding-Hearts and Dutchman’s Breeches, native to Europe, but gaining a foothold in North America. It is not very common in Pittsburgh, perhaps completely unknown except for this patch, which was growing in the rocks beside a small stream in Frick Park, where it was blooming in late June. We suspect that this plant was deliberately introduced to Frick Park, but it is thriving there.

 


Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

Adaptable to many different lighting conditions; we wrote earlier that Foxglove Beardtongue “likes a sunny open field or clearing, although it will tolerate some shade,” but this one was growing in quite deep shade in a thicket in Schenley Park. It was blooming in early June.

A relative of snapdragons and Butter-and-Eggs, this cheery flower also bears a passing resemblance to a foxglove, whence both the common and scientific names. The name “Beardtongue” comes from the hairy stamen visible in each flower.

Most earlier botanical references spell the genus name Pentstemon, which may be more etymologically correct but apparently is not the way it was spelled in the original description.

Traditionally, botanists placed snapdragons and their allies in the Snapdragon or Figwort family, Scrophulariaceae; but modern genetic research has led botanists to move them into the Plantain family, Plantaginaceae.

The pictures in this particular article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. No permission is needed to use them for any purpose whatsoever.

Gray makes this species a variety of P. laevigatus, so we turn to Alphonso Wood for a description of the genus and the species more in line with the consensus of modern botanists:

PENTSTEMON, L. Beard-tongue. Calyx deeply 5-cleft. Cor. elongated, often ventricous, lower lip 3-lobed, spreading. The fifth filament (tongue) sterile, bearded, longer than the rest or about as long; anth. smooth. Seeds numerous, angular, not margined. Perennial N. American, branching, paniculate. Leaves opposite, the lower petiolate, upper sessile or clasping. Flowers showy, red, violet, blue, or white, in Summer.

Native E. of the Mississippi River, sometimes cultivated.

Leaves undivided, serrulate. Sterile filament (tongue) bearded.

P. digitalis N. Glabrous; leaves elliptic to lanceolate, the upper clasping; flowers many, large, corolla tube abruptly enlarged to bell-form, pale blue or purplish, 12—15″ long, throat widely open, beardless. Rich soils, Pa., W. and S.


Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

Ground Ivy, Creeping Charlie, or Gill-Over-the-Ground, is a foreign invader, and for grass purists it’s a hated broadleaf weed. It is, however, easy to get along with. It smells minty fresh when you mow it, and it produces these stunningly beautiful flowers in the spring. This colony was growing in a lawn in Mount Lebanon, where it was blooming in late May.

The pictures in this particular article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. No permission is needed to use them for any purpose.

Gray places this in the genus Nepeta:

NEPETA L. CAT MINT. Calyx tubular, often incurved. Corolla dilated in the throat; the upper lip erect, rather concave, notched or 2-cleft; the lower 3-cleft, the middle lobe largest, either 2-lobed or entire. —Perennial herbs. (The Latin name, thought to be derived from Nepete, an Etruscan city.)

N. hederacea (L.) Trevisan. (GROUND IVY, GILL-OVER-THE-GROUND.) Creeping and trailing; leaves petioled, round-kidney-shaped, crenate, green both sides; corolla thrice the length of the calyx, light blue. (Glecoma L.; Glechoma Benth.) Damp or shady places, near towns—May-July. (Nat. from Eu.)


Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

Pittsburghers usually call it “phlox,” or—as we have heard a Pittsburgher say—“some sort of phlock.” But this ubiquitous late-spring flower is really a member of the mustard or crucifer family, as you can tell by the four-petaled flowers (real Phlox flowers have five petals). It came from Europe as a garden flower and quickly made itself at home. It would be hard to conjure up any inhospitable feelings toward this welcome guest, whose bright flowers decorate roadsides and back yards everywhere. Each colony blooms in a mixture of colors from deep magenta to white, and many plants grow flowers with splashes or stripes of contrasting colors. The flowers in these pictures were blooming in late May; the solid colors were in Mount Lebanon, and the bicolors in Beechview.

The pictures in this particular article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. No permission is needed to use them for any purpose.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

HESPERIS [Tourn.] L. ROCKET. Pod linear, nearly cylindrical; stigma lobed, erect. Seeds in 1 row in each cell, oblong, marginless. Cotyledons incumbent. Biennial or perennial, with serrate sessile or petiolate leaves, and large purple flowers. (Name from hespera, evening, from the evening fragrance of the flowers.)

H. matronalis L. (DAME’S VIOLET.) Tall: leaves lanceolate, acuminate; pods 5-10 cm. long, spreading. Sometimes cultivated, and spreading to roadsides, etc. (Introd. from Eu.)


Bluets (Houstonia caerulea)

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAlso known as Quaker Ladies, these tiny blue flowers form tidy clumps in shaded lawns and roadsides. Small as the delightful four-petaled flowers are, they rise from a plant that seems tiny out of all proportion to the flowers. These were blooming in late May (a little late this year) in Frick Park.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

HOUSTÔNIA L. Calyx 4-lobed, persistent; the lobes in fruit distant. Corolla usually much longer than the calyx-lobes, the lobes valvate in the bud. Anthers linear or oblong. Style 1; stigmas 2. Ovary 2-celled. Pod top-shaped, globular, or didymous, thin, its summit or upper half free from and projecting beyond the tube of the calyx, loculicidal across the top. Seeds 4-20 in each cell, pitted. — Small herbs, with short entire stipules connecting the petioles or narrowed bases of the leaves, and cymose or solitary and peduncled flowers; these dimorphous, in some individuals with exserted anthers and short included style; in others the anthers included and the style long, the stigmas therefore protruding. (Named for Dr. William Houston, an English botanist, who collected in tropical America.)

Small and delicate, vernal-flowering; peduncles 1-flowered; corolla salverform; upper half of the broad and someirhat 2-lobed pod free; seeds globular, with a very deep round cavity occupyiny the inner face.

Perennial by delicate filiform creeping rootstocks or creeping stems; peduncles filiform, 2-5 cm. long.

H. caerulea L. (BLUETS, INNOCENCE.) Glabrous; stems erect, slender, sparingly branched from the base, 0.5-2 dm. high; lrares oblong-spatulate,6-9 mm. long; peduncle filiform, erect; corolla light blue, pale lilac or nearly white, with a yellowish eye, the straight slender long-exserted tube much longer than its lobes or than those of the calyx. — Moist and grassy places, N. S. to Ga., w. to Ont., Wise, and Ala.; producing from early spring to midsummer its delicate little flowers.


Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureus)

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Now Packera aurea, but the old name is so much better known that most Internet searchers are not likely to find an article on “Packera.”

Golden Ragworts are attractive flowers, a bit like a yellow aster, that bloom in the middle spring, just after the tulips in your garden. The heart-shaped basal leaves and the pinnately lobed (rather fern-like) stem leaves are distinctive. They like a somewhat shady location; these were blooming in late May (a little later than usual this year) near a stream in Scott Township.

A peculiar property of Golden Ragworts is their resistance to the autofocus systems on most digital cameras. If one does not resort to manual focus, it takes a great many pictures to get a few that are decently in focus. If you are a graduate student in evolutionary biology, here is a thesis topic for you.

Gray (with help from J. M. Greenman) describes the genus and the species:

SENECIO [Tourn.] L. GROUNDSEL. RAGWORT. SQUAW-WEED. Revised By J. M. Greenman. Heads many-flowered; rays pistillate or none; involucre cylindrical to bell-shaped, simple or with a few bractlets at the base, the bracts erect-connivent. Receptacle flat, naked. Pappus of numerous very soft and capillary bristles.— Ours herbs, with alternate leaves and solitary or eorymbed heads. Flowers chiefly yellow. (Name from senex, an old man, alluding to the hoariness of many species, or to the white hairs of the pappus.)

S. aureus L. (GOLDEN R. ) Stems erect from rather slender rootstocks, 3-8 dm. high, at first often lightly floccose-tomentose, soon glabrate; lower leaves long-petioled, ovate-rotund to slightly oblong, 1.5-8 cm. long, two thirds as broad, crenate-dentate; stem-leaves lyrate to laciniate-pinnatifid; the uppermost sessile, amplexicaul, often bract-like; inflorescence cymose-corymbose; heads radiate; rays yellow; achenes glabrous. — In wet meadows, moist thickets, and swamps, Nfd., s. to Va., w. to Wisc., Mo., and Ark. May-Aug.


Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Obviously this is one of our favorite flowers, since this is its third time being featured here. (More pictures are here and here.)

As we see here, some forms of this species grow leaves with deep red markings along the veins, and those forms have been developed into cultivated varieties with even more pronounced red markings. All the plants in this hollow in Schenley Park had the red markings on their leaves. They were blooming in early May, a little later than usual this year.

The pictures in this particular article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. Do what you like with them; no permission is needed.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

TIARELLA L. FALSE MITERWORT. Calyx bell-shaped, 5-parted. Petals 5, with claws. Stamens long and slender. Styles 2. Capsule membranaceous, 2-valved; the valves unequal. Seeds few, at the base of each parietal placenta, globular, smooth. Perennials; flowers white. (Name a diminutive from tiara, a tiara, or turban, from the form of the pistil, which is like that of Mitella, to which the name of Miterwort properly belongs.)

T. cordifolia L. Leaves from the rootstock or summer runners, heart-shaped, sharply lobed and toothed, sparsely hairy above, downy beneath; stem (1-4 dm. high) leafless or rarely with 1 or 2 leaves; raceme simple; petals oblong, often subserrate. Rich rocky woods, N. S. and N. B. to Minn., Ind., and southw. in the mts. Apr.-June.


Bloody Butcher (Trillium recurvatum)

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We must admit that we have no idea what this plant is doing here. We had first identified this as Trillium sessile, but Mr. Scott Namestnik pointed out in a comment that this plant clearly seems to be T. recurvatum. But how did it get here in Bird Park, Mount Lebanon, merrily blooming in mid-May as if it were perfectly at home? Neither Gray nor the USDA PLANTS database places any wild populations of Trillium recurvatum anywhere in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, or even within two hundred miles. It is a prairie-state plant, almost unknown in Ohio, and not common till Indiana, although (oddly) there is apparently an isolated wild population way over in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Is someone attempting to populate Bird Park with unusual wildflowers? Or have we discovered something previously unknown in the botanical literature—another isolated wild population, like the one in Lancaster County?

Gray describes the genus and the species:

TRÍLLIUM L. WAKE ROBIN. BIRTHROOT. Sepals 3, lanceolate, spreading, herbaceous, persistent. Petals 3, larger, withering in age. Stamens б; anthers linear, on short filaments, adnate. Styles awl-shaped or slender, spreading or recurved above, persistent, etig matic down the inner side. Seeds ovate, horizontal, several in each cell. — Low perennial herbs, with a stout and simple stem rising from a short and praemorse tuber-like rootstock, bearing at the summit a whorl of 3 ample, commonly broadly ovate, more or less ribbed but netted-veined leaves, and a terminal large flower; in spring. (Name from tres, three; all the parts being in threes.) — Monstrosities are not rare with the calyx and sometimes petals changed to leaves, or the parts of the flower increased in number.

Ovary and fruit 6-angled and more or less winged.

Flower sessile; leaves usually mottled.

T. recurvàtum Beck. Leaves contracted at the base into a petiole, ovate, oblong, or obovate; sepals reflexed; petals pointed, the base narrowed into a claw, oblong-lanceolate to -ovate, dark purple; fruit ovoid, strongly winged above, 1.8 cm. long. — Rich woods, O. to Minn., Ark., “Miss.,” and Tenn.


Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALily of the Valley, a favorite ornamental ground cover for shady spots, is a frequent escape from gardens; it may sometimes mark old homesites, as a patch can persist indefinitely. It comes from the Old World, but it is also apparently native (there is some debate) to the Appalachians; if so, however, its native range is well to the south of our area. When we see Lily of the Valley growing in the wild, we may regard it as a guest rather than a resident. These plants were blooming in the middle of May deep in the woods in Bird Park, Mount Lebanon.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CONVALLÀRIA L. LILY OF THE VALLEY. Perianth bell-shaped, white, with 6 short recurved lobes. Stamens 6, included, inserted on the base of the perianth; anthers introrse. Ovary 3-celled, tapering into a stout style; stigma triangular. Ovules 4-6 in each cell. Berry few-seeded, red. — Perennial herb, glabrous, stemless, with slender running root- stocks, 2 or 3 oblong leaves, and an angled scape bearing a one-sided raceme of sweet-scented nodding flowers. (From Lilium convallium, the popular name.)

С majàlis L. — High mountains, Va. to S. С. — Apparently identical with the European Lily of the Valley of the gardens which occurs as an occasional escape from cultivation elsewhere within our limits.

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Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

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A shrub or small tree, originally imported from eastern Asia as an ornamental, and now common to the point of invasiveness in some areas. This plant was growing along a country lane near Cranberry, where it was blooming in the middle of May.

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This species seems not to have been established in the wild in Gray’s time, though there is a native species (E. commutata) farther north. In our area, this is the only species of Eleaeagnus, so Gray’s description of the genus is enough:

ELAEÁGNUS [Tourn.] L. Calyx cylindric-campanulate above the persistent cylindrical or globose base, the limb valvately 4-cleft, deciduous. Stamens 4, in the throat. Style linear, stigmatic on one side. Fruit drupe-like, with an ellipsoid 8-striate stone.— Leaves alternate, entire and petioled, and flowers axillary and pedicellate. (From elaia, the olive, and agnos, the Greek name of the Chaste-tree, Vitex Agnus-castus.)


English Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

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The beloved English Bluebell or “Wood Hyacinth” is often cultivated, and occasionally escapes. The USDA PLANTS database records it as occurring in the wild in Westmoreland County, but this one grew spontaneously in Beechview in the city of Pittsburgh, where it was blooming along a fence at the edge of a yard in the middle of May.


Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

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A common tree in the forests around Pittsburgh, and also a favorite ornamental in urban and suburban yards. This tree was blooming in early May (later than usual this year) on a wooded hillside in Schenley Park.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CÉRCIS L. REDBUD. JUDAS TREE. Calyx 6 toothed. Corolla imperfectly papilionaceous; standard smaller than tbe wings and inclosed by them in the bud; the keel petals larger and not united. Stamens 10, distinct, declined. Pod oblong, flat, many-seeded, the upper suture with a winged margin. Embryo straight.—Trees, with rounded heart-shaped simple leaves, caducous stipules, and red-purple flowers in umbel-like clusters along the branches of the last or preceding years, appearing before the leaves, acid to the taste. (The ancient name of the oriental Judas Tree.)

C. canadensis L (REDBUD.) Leaves pointed; pods nearly sessile above the calyx.—Rich soil, N. Y. and N. J. to Fla., w. to s. Ont., e. Neb., and Tex.—A small ornamental tree, often cultivated.


Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

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One of our most magnificent spring displays, these trees have flowers that are actually heads of insignificant greenish flowers surrounded by four white bracts that look like flower petals. The wild ones are usually white or barely tinged with pink; cultivated varieties in pink and nearly red have been developed. This tree was blooming in early May on a wooded hillside in Schenley Park.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CORNUS [Tourn.] L. CORNEL. DOGWOOD. Flowers perfect (or in some foreign species dioecious). Calyx minutely 4-toothed. Petals 4, oblong, spreading. Stamens 4; filaments slender. Style slender ; stigma terminal, flat or capitate. Drupe small, with a 2-celled and 2-seeded stone. — Leaves opposite (except in one species), entire. Flowers small, in open naked cymes, or in close heads surrounded by a corolla-like involucre. (Name from cornu, a horn; alluding to the hardness of the wood.)

Flowers greenish or purple in a close cluster, surrounded by a showy usually 4-bracted corolla-like white or pinkish involucre; fruit bright red.

С. florida L. (FLOWERING D.) Tree, 4-12 m. high; leaves ovate, pointed, acutish at the base; bracts of the involucre obcordate, 3-6 cm. long; fruit ovoid. — Dry woods, from s. Me. to Ont. and s. Minn., s. to Fla. and Tex. May, June, — Very showy in flower, scarcely less so in fruit.


Tartarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)

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A noxious weed in many places, but rather uncommon here so far, especially compared to the ubiquitous Morrow’s Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowi). The pink flowers of this species are distinctive, although it may also produce white flowers, in which case it may be much harder to tell from Morrow’s. This bush was growing just above the lake in Schenley Park, where it was blooming in early May.

Gray describes the genus and the species which he places in the section Xylosteon:

LONICERA L. HONEYSUCKLE. Calyx-teeth very short. Corolla tubular or funnel-form, often gibbous at the base, irregularly or almost regularly б-lobed. Berry several-seeded. — Erect or climbing shrubs. Leaves entire. Flowers often showy and fragrant. (Named in honor of Adam Lonitzer, latinized Lonicerus, a German herbalist of the 16th century.) A large boreal genus most abundant in Asia and long popular in cultivation.

XYLÓSTEON [Tourn.] Pers. Leaves all distinct; peduncles axillary, single, 2-flowered at the summit; the two berries sometimes united into one; calyx-teeth not persistent.

Upright bushy shrubs.

Bracts (2 or sometimes 4) at the base of the ovaries small, lance-oblong to linear.

Corolla-lobes subequal.

Peduncles long and slender (1.4-3 cm. in length).

L. tatarica L. (TARTARIAN H.) Smooth shrub, 1.6-3 m. high ; leaves thin, glabrous, entire, cordate-oval, on short petioles ; corolla showy, white or rose-colored; the lobes subequal, widely spreading, nearly as long as the tube; berries united at the base, red or orange. — Escaped from cultivation and estab lished on rocky shores and sheltered banks, Me. to Ont., N. J., and Ky. May, June. (Introd. from Asia.)


Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica), pink form

The pink form is uncommon, but if you come across a patch of bluebells that covers an acre or more, like the one along the Trillium Trail in Fox Chapel where these flowers were blooming in early May, some of them are likely to nonstandard colors—pink, pale blue, lavender, or white.

Gray describes the genus and the species (though he seems not to have run across any pink flowers):

MERTENSIA Roth. LUNGWORT

Corolla longer than the deeply 5-cleft or 5-parted calyx, naked, or with 5 small glandular folds or appendages in the open throat. Anthers oblong or arrow-shaped. Style long and thread-form. Nutlets ovoid, fleshy when fresh, smooth or wrinkled, obliquely attached by a prominent internal angle; the scar small. Smooth or soft-hairy perennial herbs, with pale and entire leaves, and handsome purplish-blue (rarely white) flowers, in loose and short panicled or corymbed raceme-like clusters, only the lower one leafy-bracted; pedicels slender. (Named for Franz Karl Mertens, a German botanist.)

Corolla trumpet-shaped, with spreading nearly entire limb and naked throat; filaments slender, exserted; hypogynous disk 2-lobed.

M. virginica (L.) Link. (VIRGINIAN COWSLIP, BLUEBELLS.) Very smooth, pale, erect, 2-6 dm. high; leaves obovate, veiny, those at the root 1-1.5 dm. long, petioled; corolla trumpet-shaped, 2-2.5 cm. long, many times exceeding the calyx, light blue (pinkish in bud), rarely white; nutlets dull and roughish. Alluvial banks, N. Y. and Ont. to Neb., and southw. Apr., May.


Smooth Yellow Violet (Viola pensylvanica)

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A violet with smooth leafy stems, distinguishing it from the otherwise very similar V. pubescens, of which many botanists consider it a variety (var. scabriuscula). These plants were blooming at the beginning of May on a wooded hillside overlooking a stream in Bird Park, Mount Lebanon.

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Gray lists this as Viola scabriuscula; others as V. pubescens var. scabriuscula or V. eriocarpa.

VtOLA [Tourn.] L. VIOLET. HEART’S-EASE. Revised By E. Brainerd. Petals somewhat unequal, the lower one spurred at the base. Stamens closely surrounding the ovary, often slightly cohering with each other; the two lower bearing spurs which project into the spur of the corolla. Besides these conspicuous blossoms, which appear in spring, others are produced later, on shorter peduncles or on runners, often concealed under the leaves; these never open nor develop petals, but are fertilized in the bud and are far more fruitful than the ordinary blossoms. —The closely allied species of the same section, when growing together, often hybridize with each other, producing forms that are confusing to the student not familiar with the specific types. The hybrids commonly display characters more or less intermediate between those of the parents, and show marked vegetative vigor but greatly impaired fertility. (The ancient Latin name of the genus.)

Plants with leafy stems.

Style capitate, beakless, bearded at the. summit; spur short; stipules entire, the lower more or less scarious.

Stems few, mostly erect, not leafy below.

Petals yellow.

Sparingly pubescent; root-leaves usually 1-2; stem-leaves rarely over 7 cm. wide.

V. scabriuscula Schwein. (SMOOTH YELLOW V.) Similar to the preceding [V. pubescens], with which it intergrades; the more pronounced forms have commonly 2-4 stems and 1-3 radical leaves from one rootstock, the stems shorter and more leafy, the leaves smaller and sparingly pubescent to glabrate, the time of flowering earlier; flowers, capsules, and seeds as in the preceding [petals purple-veined, the lateral bearded ; sepals narrowly lanceolate, acute; apetalous flowers abundant in summer on short peduncles; capsules ovoid, glabrous or woolly ; seeds light brown, large, nearly 3 mm. long].  Moist thickets, often in heavy soil, e. Que. to L. Winnipeg, and southw.


Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

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A foreign invader; it makes a fine hedge, but it is beginning to show up where it is not wanted. The tiny flowers probably go unnoticed most of the time, but they make a very pretty display close up. The long thorns and spoon-shaped leaves are distinctive. This one was blooming at the beginning of May on a wooded hillside in Mount Lebanon.

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The National Park Service (in a “least wanted” posting) gives us this description:

Japanese barberry is a dense, deciduous, spiny shrub that grows 2 to 8 ft. high. The branches are brown, deeply grooved, somewhat zig-zag in form and bear a single very sharp spine at each node. The leaves are small (½ to 1 ½ inches long), oval to spatula-shaped, green, bluish-green, or dark reddish purple. Flowering occurs from mid-April to May in the northeastern U.S. Pale yellow flowers about ¼ in (0.6 cm) across hang in umbrella-shaped clusters of 2-4 flowers each along the length of the stem. The fruits are bright red berries about 1/3 in (1 cm) long that are borne on narrow stalks. They mature during late summer and fall and persist through the winter.


Crabapple (Malus coronaria)

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Crabapple blossoms light up the woods around here before the leaves appear on most of the trees. These trees were blooming in late April near the edge of the woods in Mount Lebanon. More Crabapple pictures are here.

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Gray places the genus Malus as a section in the larger genus Pyrus, but most modern botanists treat Malus separately. Gray’s description:

PYRUS [Tourn.] L. Calyx-like receptacle urn-shaped, bearing б sepals. Petals roundish or obovate. Stamens numerous. Styles 2-5. Fruit a large fleshy pome, or smaller and berry-like, the 2-6 cells imbedded in the flesh, papery or cartilaginous, mostly 2-seeded. —Trees or shrubs, with showy flowers in corymbed or umbellike cymes. (The classical name of the Pear-tree.) A large genus, often subdivided, but with sections less strongly or constantly marked than our few species would suggest.

MALUS (Hill) S. F. Gray. (APPLE.) Leaves simple; orifice of concave receptacle open; flesh of large subglobular fruit copious, free from sclerotic cells. Malus [Tourn.] Hill.

Leaves and usually the outer surface of the calyx-lobes glabrate.

Calyx-lobes persistent in fruit.

P. coronaria L. (AMERICAN CRAB.) Tree, somewhat armed, 6-10 m. high; leaves ovate or elliptic, usually rounded or even cordate at the base; those of the sterile shoots somewhat triangular-ovate and lobed, sharply serrate; petals broadly obovate, white or nearly so; pome greenish-yellow, hard and sour, 2-2.6 cm. in diameter, depressed-globose. (Malus Mill.) — Thickets and open woods, N. J. to Ont., Kan., and southw.


Wake-Robin, White Form (Trillium erectum var. album)

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Two early bloomers among the Trilliums in Bird Park, Mount Lebanon, where they were beginning to bloom in late April. This species is most commonly mahogany red in most of its range, but in our area the white form (more pictures here and here) is most common. There is also a pink form and a greenish-yellow form.

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Gray describes the genus and the species:

TRÍLLIUM L. WAKE ROBIN. BIRTHROOT. Sepals 3, lanceolate, spreading, herbaceous, persistent. Petals 3, larger, withering in age. Stamens б; anthers linear, on short filaments, adnate. Styles awl-shaped or slender, spreading or recurved above, persistent, stigmatic down the inner side. Seeds ovate, horizontal, several in each cell. — Low perennial herbs, with a stout and simple stem rising from a short and praemorse tuber-like rootstock, bearing at the summit a whorl of 3 ample, commonly broadly ovate, more or less ribbed but netted-veined leaves, and a terminal large flower; in spring. (Name from tree, three; all the parts being in threes.) — Monstrosities are not rare with the calyx and sometimes petals changed to leaves, or the parts of the flower increased in number.

Ovary and fruit 6-angled and more or less winged.

Flower pediceled; connective narrow, not produced; leaves subsessile.

Anthers at anthesis exceeding the stigmas.

T. eréctum L. Leaves very broadly rhombic, shortly acuminate ; peduncle (2—8 cm. long) usually more or less inclined or declínate; petals ovate to lanceolate (18-36 mm. long), brown-purple or often white or greenish or pinkish; stamens exceeding the stout distinct spreading or recurved stigmas; ovary purple; fruit ovoid, 2.5 cm. long, reddish. — Rich woods, e. Que. to Ont., southw. to Pa. and in the mts, to N. C. — Flowers ill-scented.


Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

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Ubiquitous in lawns, and there are some unaccountably dour types who try to eradicate it. Violets cause no harm; they never grow too high and are easily mowed, and they give us flowers like these, which were blooming on Easter Sunday in the middle of April in a lawn in Mount Lebanon. If you think nothing but identical blades of grass should make up a lawn, then you miss half the poetry of having a plot of land in the first place.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAGray, with assistance from Brainerd, describes the genus and the species:

VIOLA [Tourn.] L. VIOLET, HEART’S-EASE. [Revised by E. Brainerd.] Petals somewhat unequal, the lower one spurred at the base. Stamens closely surrounding the ovary, often slightly cohering with each other; the two lower bearing spurs which project into the spur of the corolla. Besides these conspicuous blossoms, which appear in spring, others are produced later, on shorter peduncles or on runners, often concealed under the leaves; these never open nor develop petals, but are fertilized in the bud and are far more fruitful than the ordinary blossoms. — The closely allied species of the same section, when growing together, often hybridize with each other, producing forms that are confusing to the student not familiar with the specific types. The hybrids commonly display characters more or less intermediate between those of the parents, and show marked vegetative vigor but greatly impaired fertility. (The ancient Latin name of the genus.)

Plants stemless, the leaves and scapes directly from a rootstock or from runners.

Style dilated upward in a vertical plane, capitate, with a conical beak on the lower side; stigma within the tip of the beak.

Rootstock fleshy and thickened, without runners; petals violet-blue to purple, the lateral bearded (Blue Violets).

Leaves heart-shaped, the margins merely eremite-serrate.

Plants more or less pubescent.

Leaves all undivided.

Spurred petal glabrous or bearing only scattered hairs; capsules 8—12 mm. long.

V. sororia. In size and habit like no. 7 (V. papillonacea), into which it passes; leaves villous-pubescent especially on the petioles and under surface when young; vernal flowers on peduncles about the length of the leaves, violet to lavender and occasionally white; outer sepals ovate-oblong, commonly obtuse, ciliolate below the middle and on the short rounded auricles; cleistogamous flowers ovoid, on short prostrate peduncles; capsules of these usually purple; seeds dark brown. (V. palmata, var. Pollard.) — Moist meadows, alluvial woods, shady hedges and dooryards, w. Que. to Minn., and southw.


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALike most other spring flowers, the Coltsfoots are quite late this year; this clump was blooming along a wooded trail in Scott Township in the middle of April.

More pictures of this species are here and here.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

TUSSILÀGO [Tourn.] L. COLTSFOOT. Head many-flowered; ray-flowers in several rows, narrowly ligulate, pistillate, fertile; disk-flowers with undivided style, sterile. Involucre nearly simple. Receptacle flat. Achenes slender-cylindric or prismatic; pappus copious, soft, and capillary. — Low perennial, with horizontal creeping rootstocks, sending up scaly scapes in early spring, bearing a single head, and producing rounded heart-shaped angled or toothed leaves later in the season, woolly when young. Flowers yellow. (Name from tussis, a cough, for which the plant is a reputed remedy.)

T. farfara L. — Wet places and along brooks, e. Que. to Pa., O.,and Minn. (Nat. from Eu.)


Porcelain Berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)

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Parthenocissus-tricuspidata-2013-10-17-Oakland-01[Update: We had originally identified this as Boston Ivy, but a kind correspondent pointed out the error.]

An Asian vine now considered an invasive species in our area, especially in the city. The National Park Service gives us this description:

Plant: deciduous, woody, perennial vine that resembles grape and climbs by non-adhesive tendrils at the base of each leaf; grows to 15-20 ft.; young twigs are usually pubescent; stem pith is white (grape is tan or brown) and is continuous across the nodes (except for V. rotundifolia, grape is interrupted by a diaphragm across the node); bark is dotted with lenticels and does not peel (grape bark lacks lenticels and peels or shreds).

Leaves: alternate, simple, 3-5 lobed to highly dissected with heart-shaped base and coarsely toothed margins, shiny underneath with hairs on veins.

Flowers, fruits and seeds: tiny, greenish-white flowers with petals separate at their tips occur in flat-topped clusters opposite the leaves; appear in summer (June through August); fruit is a speckled berry in colors ranging from aqua to pink to purple; each berry carries 2-4 seeds.

Spreads: by seed that is eaten by birds and other small animals and dispersed in their droppings.

Look-alikes: native species of grape (Vitis) and peppervine (Ampelopsis) including heartleaf peppervine (Ampelopsis cordata) which is native to the Southeast and has unlobed leaves and smooth (hairless) stems; other native Ampelopsis have compound leaves.

These vines sprawled over a chain-link fence in the back streets of Oakland, where they were blooming and fruiting in the middle of October.


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