Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

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Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Every year we give the Coltsfoot flowers their honored place among the first wild flowers of spring. Here we have a good collection from a colony growing in open woods in Mount Lebanon, where they were blooming in early April. In these close-up pictures taken just as the flower heads were opening, we can see the individual star-shaped disk flowers clearly.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

TUSSILÀGO [Tourn.] L. COLTSFOOT. Head many-flowered; ray-flowers in several rows, narrowly ligulate, pistillate, fertile; disk-flowers with undivided style, sterile. Involucre nearly simple. Receptacle flat. Achenes slender-cylindric or prismatic; pappus copious, soft, and capillary. — Low perennial, with horizontal creeping rootstocks, sending up scaly scapes in early spring, bearing a single head, and producing rounded heart-shaped angled or toothed leaves later in the season, woolly when young. Flowers yellow. (Name from tussis, a cough, for which the plant is a reputed remedy.)

T. farfara L. — Wet places and along brooks, e. Que. to Pa., O.,and Minn. (Nat. from Eu.)


Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)

We have featured this flower before, and there is no reason to say anything different from what we said then.

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 Mount Lebanonin 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. Pa. to N. C, and “Mich.” (Eu.) Perhaps introduced. A doubtful specimen from w. Mass. (Miss Vail).


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.)


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