Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

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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.)

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