Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh


Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

A plant whose whole life cycle, from bursting out of the ground through flowering and seeding and withering and back to dormancy, occupies about a month in the early spring. Toothworts are common in the woods around Pittsburgh, sometimes in great numbers. The deeply cut leaves are distinctive and easily set this plant apart from other members of the same group, such as the Broadleaf Toothwort and Spring Cress.

Gray puts the Toothworts in the genus Dentaria, and lists this one as Dentaria laciniata.

Pod lanceolate, flat. Style elongated. Seeds in one row, wingless, the funiculus broad and flat. Cotyledons petioled, thick, very unequal, their margins somewhat infolding each other. —Perennials, of damp woodlands, with long fleshy sometimes interrupted scaly or toothed rootstocks, of a pleasant pungent taste; stems leafless below, bearing 2 or 3 petioled compound leaves about or above the middle, and terminated by a corymb or short raceme of large white or purple flowers. (Name from dens, a tooth.)

D. laciniata Muhl. Tubers deep-seated; stems pubescent above; cauline leaves 3, whorled or nearly so, the lateral leaflets deeply cleft, glabrous or pubescent, the segments linear to narrowly oblong, conspicuously gash-toothed; basal leaves, when present, similar; flowers white or purplish; calyx 6-9 mm. long; petals 1-2 cm. long. Rich damp woods, w. Que. and Vt. to Minn., and southw. Apr., early May.

Smooth Yellow Violet (Viola pensylvanica)

It is hard to sort out violets, and there is no agreement even among competent botanists about this one. The current fashion seems to be to identify it as a variety of Viola pubescens (var. scabriuscula), but it is still often identified as a species in its own right, sometimes as Viola scabriuscula or Viola eriocarpon.

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

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 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.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)—the Complete Color Range

Virginia Bluebells are, as the name suggests, commonly blue. But in a large patch you may find other colors occasionally as well: pale lavender, pink, pale purple, and pure white. Here we have the complete color range from near the Trillium Trail in Fox Chapel, where they were all blooming in late April.

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


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.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.