Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh


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.)

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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.)

Bee-Balm (Monarda didyma)


Monarda-didyma-2013-07-14-North-Park-01Also called Bergamot, Oswego-tea, and several other names.

Monarda is a fascinating example of parallel evolution: it makes a display by clustering small ray-like flowers together in one head so closely that the head is often taken for a single flower. In other  words, it adopts the method of the Compositae. This particular species is bright red, which is a very attractive color to hummingbirds. It is otherwise very similar to Wild Bergamot (M. fistulosa), which is rather more common around here.

This is a native perennial, but much used as an ornamental planting, so that it is difficult to distinguish truly wild populations from garden escapes. These plants are probably truly wild; both grew in North Park, where they were blooming in the middle of July. The species is very adaptable to different light conditions: one of these plants was growing in full sun,and the other deep in the woods where a fallen tree had opened up the sky just a bit.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

MONÁRDA L. HORSE MINT. Calyx 15-nerved, usually hairy in the throat. Corolla elongated, with a slightly expanded throat; lips linear or oblong, somewhat equal, the upper erect, entire or slightly notched, the lower spreading, 3-lobed at the apex, its lateral lobes ovate and obtuse, the middle one narrower and slightly notched. Stamens elongated, ascending, inserted in the throat of the corolla. — Odorous erect herbs, with entire or toothed leaves, and large attractive flowers in a few verticels closely surrounded by bracts. (Dedicated to Nicolás Monardes, author of many tracts upon medicinal and other useful plants, especially those of the New World, in the latter half of the 16th century.)

Stamens and style exserted beyond the linear straight acute upper lip of the corolla; heads solitary and terminal or sometimes 2 or 3; leaves acutely more or less serrate; perennials.

Leaves petioled; calyx-teeth scarcely longer than the width of the tube.

Glabrous or villous.

Calyx smooth or smoothish in the throat.

M. didyma L. (Oswego Tea, Bee Balm.) Stem somewhat hairy, 2 m. or less high, acutely 4-angled; leaves ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, the floral ones and the large outer bracts tinged with red; calyx smoothlsh, nearly naked in the throat; corolla smooth or minutely pubescent, 4-5 cm. long, bright red, showy. — Moist woods, by streams, w. Que., Out., and south w. July, Aug.


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