Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Cruciferae

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.)


Spring Cress (Cardamine bulbosa)

Cardamine-bulbosa-2013-05-03-Bird-Park-01A relative of the Toothworts (which most botanists now also place in the genus Cardamine), this pretty little flower seems to like damp locations. This one was growing in a damp open woods in Bird Park in Mount Lebanon, where it was blooming in early May. The round leaves (changing to long and narrow as they go up the stem) distinguish this from other common species of Cardamine in our area.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CARDÂMINE [Tourn.] L. BITTER CRESS. Pod linear, flattened, usually opening elastically from the base; the valves nerveless and veinless, or nearly so; placentae and partition thick. Seeds in a single row in each cell, wingless; the funiculus slender. Cotyledons aecumbent, flattened, equal or nearly so, petiolate.— Mostly glabrous perennials, leafy-stemmed, growing along watercourses and in wet places. Flowers white or purple. (A Greek name, used by Dioscorides for some cress, from its cordial or cardiacal qualities.)

Simple-leaved perennials with tuberous base.

С. bulbosa (Srhreb.) BSP. (SPRING CRESS.) Stems upright from a tuberous base and slender rootstock bearing small tubers, simple, or rarely forking, glabrous, in anthesis 1-1.5 dm. high; root-leaves oblong to cordate-ovate, stem-leaves 5-8, scattered, the lower ovate or oblong and somewhat petioled, the upper sessile, almost lanceolate, all often toothed; sepals greenish, with white margin; petals white, 7-12 mm. long; pods linear-lanceolate, pointed with a slender style tipped by a conspicuous stigma; seeds oval. (C. rhomboidea DC.) — Wet meadows and springs, e. Mass. to Minn., and southw. May, .June.


Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)

Depending on your point of view, this is either an invasive weed or a cheery harbinger of spring. It comes from Europe, and it makes itself at home in our lawns, where it politely refuses to exceed the height of the grass around it. There are people who eat it as a salad herb, so it can’t be all bad. It’s one of the first things to bloom in the spring, appearing along with the crocuses and persisting through daffodil season. This patch was blooming in a lawn in Beechview in early April.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CARDÂMINE [Tourn.] L. Bitter Cress. Pod linear, flattened, usually opening elastically from the base; the valves nerveless and veinlees, or nearly so; placentae and partition thick. Seeds in a single row in each cell, wingless; the funiculus slender. Cotyledons accumbent, flattened, equal or nearly so, petiolate.— Mostly glabrous perennials, leafy-stemmed, growing along watercourses and in wet places. Flowers white or purple. (A Greek name, used by Dioscorides for some cress, from its cordial or cardiacal qualities.)

Root mostly biennial or annual; leaves pinnately 5-11-foliolate, flowers small, white.

Stamens 4; leaflets strigose-hispid upon the upper surface.

С. hirsuta L. Leaves chiefly radical, with short and broad leaflets, but those on the erect stem reduced and with narrow leaflets; pods erect, on ascending or appressed pedicels. — Moist places, s. l’a. to N. C, and “Mich.” (Eu.) Perhaps introduced. A doubtful specimen from w. Mass. (Miss Vail).


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