Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh


Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Elecampane is a tall and striking flower, imported from Europe. It is not particularly common around here, but abundant where it does take up residence. These plants were blooming in Highland Park in late July.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

ÍNULA L. ELECAMPANE. Heads many-flowered, radiate; disk-flowers perfect and fertile. Involucre Imbricated, hemispherical, the outer bracts herbaceous or leaf-like. Receptacle naked. Anthers caudate. Achenes more or less 4-5-ribbed; pappus simple, of capillary bristles. — Coarse herbs, not floccose-woolly, with alternate simple leaves, and large yellow heads. (The ancient Latin name.)

I. Helènium L. (ELECAMPANE.) Stout perennial, 1-1.6 m. high; leaves large, woolly beneath; those from the thick root ovate, petioled, the others partly clasping; rays very many, narrow. — Roadsides and damp pastures. Aug. — Heads very large. Root mucilaginous. (Nat. from Eu.)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

One of our most beloved wild flowers, the Purple Coneflower is at the eastern edge of its native range here; but ornamental plantings have made it a common sight, and from those ornamental plantings come seeds that reinforce the wild population. These plants grew in a clearing in Scott Township, where they were blooming in early July. Up close, the vivid red-orange of the disk florets is as striking as the bright pink-purple of the rays.

This is the Echinacea so much prized by herbalists for its supposed use against colds.

Gray describes the genus (which he lists as Brauneria) and the species:

BRAUNÈRIA Neck. PURPLE CONE-FLOWER. Heads many-flowered; rays mostly drooping, pistillate but sterile. Bracts of the involucre imbricated, lanceolate, spreading. Receptacle conical, the lanceolate carinate spiny-tipped chaff longer than the disk-flowers. Achenes thick, short, 4-sided; pappus a small toothed border.—Perennial herbs, with stout and nearly simple stems naked above and terminated by a single large head; leaves chiefly alternate, 3-5-nerved. Rays rather persistent; disk purplish. (Named, it is said, for Jacob Brauner, a German herbalist of the early part of the 18th century.) Echinacea Moench.

Rays purple, rose-color, or rarely white.

B. purpurea (DC.) Britton. Stem smooth, or in one form rough-bristly; leaves rough, often serrate; the lowest ovate, 5-nerved, veiny, long-petioled ; the others ovate-lanceolate; involucre imbricated in 3-5 rows; rays 15-20, dull purple (rarely whitish), 2.5-4.5 cm. long or more. (Echinacea Moench.) — Prairies and banks, from w. Pa. and Va. to Mich., Ia., and southw.; reported as adventive eastw. July.

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.)


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