Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

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Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Also called Spiked Loosestrife and a number of less polite names, this is one of our most attractive ecological disasters. Purple Loosestrife is a simply glorious flower that can invade wetlands and displace everything else. This stand was growing by the Allegheny in O’Hara Township, where it was blooming in the middle of September.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

LYTHRUM L. LOOSESTRIFE. Calyx cylindrical, striate, 6-7-toothed, with as many little processes In tlx sinuses. Petals 6-7. Stamens as many as the petals or twice the number, inserted low down on the calyx. Capsule subcylindrical, 2-celled. — Slender herbs, with pink or magenta (rarely white) flowers in summer. (From lythros, blood; perhaps from the styptic properties.)

Stamens 12 (rarely 8 or 10), twice the number of the petals, 6 longer and 6 shorter; flowers large, crowded and whorled in an interrupted spike.

L. Salicaria L. (SPIKED L.) More or less downy and tall; leaves lanceolate, heart-shaped at base, sometimes whorled in threes; flowers magenta, trimorphous in the relative lengths of the stamens and style; calyx and bracts greenish, somewhat pubescent, the calyx-lobes much shorter than the subulate appendages. — Wet meadows, local, N. E. to Del. and D. C. (Introd. from Eu.) June-Sept. Var. tomentosum (Mill.) DC. Calyx and bracts white-tomentose. — Wet meadows and shores, e. Que. to Vt. and s. Ont. (Nat. from Eurasia.)

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

This is actually the same plant as the garden parsnip, though not bred for flavor. It is often found on roadsides and at the edge of the woods, frequently growing almost as tall as a person. These were growing in a clearing in Schenley Park, where they were blooming in early June. The combination of tall, thick stems and broad compound umbels of yellow flowers is distinctive; Golden Alexanders, another member of the same family with yellow flowers, is a much more delicate plant.

Gray describes the genus and the species.

PASTINÀCA L. PARSNIP. Calyx-teeth obsolete. Fruit oval, very much flattened dorsally; dorsal ribs filiform, the lateral extended into broad wings, which are strongly nerved toward the outer margin; oil-tubes small, solitary in the intervals, 2-4 on the commissure; stylopodium depressed. — Tall stout glabrous biennial, with pinnately compound leaves, mostly no involucre or involucels, and yellow flowers. (The Latin name, from pastus. food.)

P. satìva L. Stem grooved; leaflets ovate to oblong, cut-toothed. — Waste places, open rich soil, etc. (Nat. from Eu.)

English Plantain

These ubiquitous weeds are found in every lawn, in sidewalk cracks, along the edge of the street, and anywhere else they can gain a foothold; these particular plants were growing along the roadside in Highland Park, where they were blooming in the middle of June. They are actually relatives (according to modern genetic studies) of our garden snapdragons, to which, however, they bear little superficial resemblance. The unmistakable flower heads look like some imaginative artist’s conception of plant life on another planet. A tea made from the leaves supposedly has benefit against coughs, but as with all herbal medicines that have not been adequately studied, one must place a heavy emphasis on the word “supposedly.”

Gray describes the genus and the species:

PLANTÀGO [Tourn.] L. PLANTAIN, RIBWORT. Calyx of 4 imbricated persistent sepals, mostly with dry membranaceous margins. Corolla salver-form or rotate, withering on the pod, the border 4- parted. Stamens 4, or rarely 2, in all or some flowers with long and weak exserted filaments, and fugacious 2-celled anthers. Ovary 2 (or in P. decipiens falsely 3-4)-celled, with 1-several ovules in each cell. Style and long hairy stigma single, filiform. Capsule 2-celled, 2-several-seeded, opening transversely, во that the top falls off like a lid and the loose partition (which bears the peltate seeds) falls away. Embryo straight, in fleshy albumen. — Leaves ribbed. Flowers whitish, small, in a bracted spike or head, raised on a naked scape. (The Latin name.)

P. lanceolàta, L. (RIB GRASS, RIPPLE GRASS, ENGLISH P.) Mostly hairy; scape grooved-angled, at length much longer than the lanceolate or lance-oblong leaves, slender, 2-7 dm. high; spike dense, at first capitate, in age cylindrical; bracts and sepals scarious, brownish ; seeds 2, hollowed on the face. — Very common in grass land. (Nat. from Eu.)


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