Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Compositae

Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)

Sneezeweed is an attractive composite flower with distinctively notched rays that make it easy to identify. (A similar species, Purple-Headed Sneezeweed, Helenium flexuosum, has been introduced in a few locations; it is easy to distinguish by the dark brownish button in the center.) The plant likes damp areas; this one was growing in Schenley Park, in a section of former lawn that is being allowed to grow into a meadow for better water retention. It was blooming in the middle of September.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

HELÈNIUM L. SNEEZEWEED. Heads many-flowered, radiate; rays several, wedge-shaped, 3-6-cleft, fertile, rarely sterile. Involucre small, reflexed; the bracts linear or awl-shaped. Receptacle globose or ellipsoid. Achenes top-shaped, ribbed; pappus of 6-8 thin 1-nerved chaffy scales, the nerve usually extended into a bristle or point. — Erect branching herbs with alternate leaves, often sprinkled with bitter aromatic resinous globules; heads yellow, rarely purple, terminal, single or corymbed. (The Greek name of some plant, said to be named after Helenus, son of Priam.)

Leaves broad, decurrent on the angled stem.

H. autumnàle L. Perennial, nearly smooth, 0.2-2 m. high; leaves mostly toothed, lanceolate to ovate-oblong; heads larger (2-4 cm. broad); disk yellow; rays fertile, yellow. — Alluvial river-banks and wet ground, w. Que. and w. Mass. to Man., southw. and westw. Aug.-Oct.


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.)


Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum)

Also called “Devil’s Paintbrush,” on the principle that attributes anything striking or bright in nature to satanic forces. Gray gives us another name, Grim the Collier, that refers to a traditional character who gets the best of the devil in folk tales, putting our subject on the side of good rather than evil.

There is no mistaking this plant for anything else. There are many flowers that look like small dandelions, but only one is bright orange—a rare color among flowers, otherwise represented here mostly by Daylilies and Orange Touch-Me-Nots.

This would be an ordinary dandelion-like weed, except that the flowers are bright orange, making it one of our showiest wild flowers. It is fairly rare in the city of Pittsburgh itself, but begins to be seen in the northern fringes of our area, and becomes quite common farther north in Pennsylvania. This plant was one of a thriving colony in St. Peter’s Cemetery in the Arlington neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where it was blooming in late August.

This species is often placed in the genus Pilosella, but there seems to be much uncertainty. The imperfectly omniscient Wikipedia leads us on a merry chase: Hieracium aurantiacum redirects to Pilosella aurantiaca, but Pilosella redirects to Hieracium. [This has been true for several years now, and we were tempted to correct it, except that we still find it amusing.]

Gray describes the genus and the species:

HIERACIUM [Tourn.] L. HAWKWEED
Heads 12-many-flowered. Involucre more or less imbricated. Achenes short, oblong or columnar, striate, not beaked; pappus a single row of tawny and fragile capillary rough bristles. —Hispid or hirsute and often glandular perennials, with entire or toothed leaves, and single or panicled heads of mostly yellow flowers; summer and early autumn. (Name from hierax, a hawk.)

Flowers orange-red.

H. aurantiacum L. (ORANGE H., DEVIL’S PAINT-BRUSH, GRIM THE COLLIER.) Long-hirsute; leaves oblanceolate, 6-15 cm. long, green on both sides; a stolons numerous, slender; scape 2-6 dm. high, usually 1-2-bracted; heads about 2 cm. broad. Fields, etc., e. Que. to Ont. and Pa., locally too abundant. June, July [but seen in late August and early September in Pittsburgh]. (Nat. from Eu.)


Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureus)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Now Packera aurea, but the old name is so much better known that most Internet searchers are not likely to find an article on “Packera.”

Golden Ragworts are attractive flowers, a bit like a yellow aster, that bloom in the middle spring, just after the tulips in your garden. The heart-shaped basal leaves and the pinnately lobed (rather fern-like) stem leaves are distinctive. They like a somewhat shady location; these were blooming in late May (a little later than usual this year) near a stream in Scott Township.

A peculiar property of Golden Ragworts is their resistance to the autofocus systems on most digital cameras. If one does not resort to manual focus, it takes a great many pictures to get a few that are decently in focus. If you are a graduate student in evolutionary biology, here is a thesis topic for you.

Gray (with help from J. M. Greenman) describes the genus and the species:

SENECIO [Tourn.] L. GROUNDSEL. RAGWORT. SQUAW-WEED. Revised By J. M. Greenman. Heads many-flowered; rays pistillate or none; involucre cylindrical to bell-shaped, simple or with a few bractlets at the base, the bracts erect-connivent. Receptacle flat, naked. Pappus of numerous very soft and capillary bristles.— Ours herbs, with alternate leaves and solitary or eorymbed heads. Flowers chiefly yellow. (Name from senex, an old man, alluding to the hoariness of many species, or to the white hairs of the pappus.)

S. aureus L. (GOLDEN R. ) Stems erect from rather slender rootstocks, 3-8 dm. high, at first often lightly floccose-tomentose, soon glabrate; lower leaves long-petioled, ovate-rotund to slightly oblong, 1.5-8 cm. long, two thirds as broad, crenate-dentate; stem-leaves lyrate to laciniate-pinnatifid; the uppermost sessile, amplexicaul, often bract-like; inflorescence cymose-corymbose; heads radiate; rays yellow; achenes glabrous. — In wet meadows, moist thickets, and swamps, Nfd., s. to Va., w. to Wisc., Mo., and Ark. May-Aug.


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALike most other spring flowers, the Coltsfoots are quite late this year; this clump was blooming along a wooded trail in Scott Township in the middle of April.

More pictures of this species are here and here.

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.)


Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum)

Hieracium-aurantiacum-2013-09-02-Fox-Chapel-02Until today we had not found this plant in the city of Pittsburgh, though it is ubiquitous north of a line that roughly bisects Pennsylvania from east to west. This plant, however, was one of a number growing in a lawn in Highland Park, where it was blooming at the beginning of September.

There is no mistaking this plant for anything else. There are many flowers that look like small dandelions, but only one is bright orange—a rare color among flowers, otherwise represented here mostly by Daylilies and Orange Touch-Me-Nots.

We had previously collected a picture of this species from Crawford County, and we repeat our remarks:

Also called “Devil’s Paintbrush,” on the principle that attributes anything striking or bright in nature to satanic forces. Gray gives another name, Grim the Collier, that refers to a traditional character who gets the best of the devil in folk tales, putting our subject on the side of good rather than evil.

This would be an ordinary dandelion-like weed, except that the flowers are bright orange, making it one of our showiest wild flowers. It seldom or never [obviously this is not true] comes as far south as the city of Pittsburgh itself, but begins to be seen in the northern fringes of our area, and becomes quite common farther north in Pennsylvania.

This species is often placed in the genus Pilosella, but there seems to be much uncertainty. The imperfectly omniscient Wikipedia leads us on a merry chase: Hieracium aurantiacum redirects to Pilosella aurantiaca, but Pilosella redirects to Hieracium. [This is still true three years later.]

Gray describes the genus and the species:

HIERACIUM [Tourn.] L. HAWKWEED
Heads 12-many-flowered. Involucre more or less imbricated. Achenes short, oblong or columnar, striate, not beaked; pappus a single row of tawny and fragile capillary rough bristles. —Hispid or hirsute and often glandular perennials, with entire or toothed leaves, and single or panicled heads of mostly yellow flowers; summer and early autumn. (Name from hierax, a hawk.)

* Flowers orange-red.

H. aurantiacum L. (ORANGE H., DEVIL’S PAINT-BRUSH, GRIM THE COLLIER.) Long-hirsute; leaves oblanceolate, 6-15 cm. long, green on both sides; a stolons numerous, slender; scape 2-6 dm. high, usually 1-2-bracted; heads about 2 cm. broad. Fields, etc., e. Que. to Ont. and Pa., locally too abundant. June, July. (Nat. from Eu.)


Pittsburgh Pest (Galinsoga parviflora)

Galinsoga-parviflora-2013-07-16-Greenfield-01

Obviously this is not known as Pittsburgh Pest everywhere in its nearly global range, but the name seems to be well established here. It has many other names in English, including the delightful folk etymology “Gallant Soldiers.” It comes originally from South America, where it is a popular ingredient in Colombian cuisine.

The flowers are like tiny five-rayed daisies; the plant is low and hairy,and can grow from any crack in the pavement. This one grew at the edge of a sidewalk in Greenfield, where it was blooming in the middle of July. It is very much an urban weed, ubiquitous in the city of Pittsburgh, but much rarer in the near suburbs, and unknown in all the other counties of the metropolitan area but one (Washington County).

Gray describes the genus and the species:

GALINSÒGA R. & P. Heads several-flowered, radiate; rays 4-6, small, roundish, pistillate. Involucre of 4-5 ovate thin bracts. Receptacle conical, with narrow chaff. Pappus of small oblong cut-fringed chaffy scales, sometimes wanting. — Annual herbs, with opposite triple-nerved thin leaves, and small heads; disk yellow; rays white or reddish. (Named for Dr. Mariano Martinez de Galinsoga, a Spanish botanist.)

Rays white; pappus of disk-flowers about equaling the achenes.

G. parviflòra Cav. Pubescence subappressed; leaves ovate, crenate-serrate, petioled; pappus of the disk-flowers of spatulate obtusish scales.— Roadsides and waste places, from N. E. across the continent. (Adv. from Trop. Am.) Var. Híspida PC. Pubescence more copious, not appressed; pappus-scales of the disk-flowers attenuate and bristle-tipped. — Me. to Ont., Wise., and southw. (Nat. from Trop. Am.)


Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureus)

Senecio-aureus-2013-05-05-Scott-01Golden Ragworts are attractive flowers, a bit like a yellow aster, that bloom in the middle spring, just after the tulips in your garden. The heart-shaped basal leaves and the pinnately lobed (rather fern-like) stem leaves are distinctive. They like a somewhat shady location; these were blooming in early May near a stream in Scott Township.

Gray (with help from J. M. Greenman) describes the genus and the species:

SENECIO [Tourn.] L. GROUNDSEL. RAGWORT. SQUAW-WEED. Revised By J. M. Greenman. Heads many-flowered; rays pistillate or none; involucre cylindrical to bell-shaped, simple or with a few bractlets at the base, the bracts erect-connivent. Receptacle flat, naked. Pappus of numerous very soft and capillary bristles.— Ours herbs, with alternate leaves and solitary or eorymbed heads. Flowers chiefly yellow. (Name from senex, an old man, alluding to the hoariness of many species, or to the white hairs of the pappus.)

S. aureus L. (GOLDEN R. ) Stems erect from rather slender rootstocks, 3-8 dm. high, at first often lightly floccose-tomentose, soon glabrate; lower leaves long-petioled, ovate-rotund to slightly oblong, 1.5-8 cm. long, two thirds as broad, crenate-dentate; stem-leaves lyrate to laciniate-pinnatifid; the uppermost sessile, amplexicaul, often bract-like; inflorescence cymose-corymbose; heads radiate; rays yellow; achenes glabrous. — In wet meadows, moist thickets, and swamps, Nfd., s. to Va., w. to Wisc., Mo., and Ark. May-Aug.


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Tussilago-farfara-2013-03-30-Bird-Park-01

Tussilago-farfara-2013-03-30-Bird-Park-02One of our earliest spring flowers, Coltsfoot bursts through the leaf litter in March and soon covers woodsy roadside banks with sunny yellow flowers. These flowers were blooming at the end of March beside the lower parking area at Bird Park in Mount Lebanon.

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.)

Another picture, and more description, is here.


Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

A charming flower, often cultivated. It likes a moist and somewhat shady location; these plants were blooming in Bird Park in Mount Lebanon at the beginning of September.

The genus Conoclinium was formerly included in Eupatorium, but was separated when Eupatorium was forced to sell off its superfluous species at fire-sale prices.

It is very difficult for a cheap digital camera to capture the delicate blue color of these flowers. The noticeable difference in color between the two pictures is mostly a figment of the camera’s imagination.

Gray describes the genus Eupatorium, the section Conoclinium (now regarded as a separate genus), and the species:

EUPATÒRIUM [Tourn.] L. THOROUGHWORT. Heads discoid, 3-many-flowered; flowers perfect. Involucre cylindrical or bell-shaped, of more than 4 bracts. Receptacle flat or conical, naked. Corolla 6-toothed. Achenes 6-angled; pappus a single row of slender capillary barely roughish bristles. —Erect perennial herbs, often sprinkled with hitter resinous dots, with generally corymbose heads of white, bluish, or purple blossoms, appearing near the close of summer. (Dedicated to Eupator Mithridates, who is said to have used a species of the genus in medicine.)

CONOCLÍNIUM (DC.) Baker. Receptacle conical; involucral bracts nearly equal, somewhat imbricated.

E. coelestìnum L. (MIST-FLOWER.) Somewhat pubescent, 0.5-1 m. high; leaves opposite, petiolate, triangular-ovate and slightly heart-shaped, coarsely and bluntly toothed; heads many-fiowered, in compact cymes; flowers blue or violet. — Rich soil, N. J. to Mich., Kan., and southw.


Ox-Eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

“She loves me…she loves me not…”

This is the most universally beloved of all wild flowers, the focus of countless childhood traditions and the very image of “flower” in the popular imagination. It may be derided as a pernicious weed by agricultural and environmental authorities, but the ordinary citizen will never be persuaded to hate it. The flowers above were blooming in early June at the edge of a gravel lot in Scott Township; the one to the right was blooming in late May on a sunny bank in Mount Lebanon.

Daisies like these were formerly kept in the genus Chrysanthemum, but have been removed by bored botanists to the genus Leucanthemum “because they are not aromatic and their leaves lack grayish-white hairs,” according to the Wikipedia article on the genus. (The genus “Leucanthemum” was apparently named by Lamarck, whose discredited theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics still haunts high-school biology classes.) Because of this new sorting of the genera, we leave Gray and give the description of the genus and species from the Flora of North America at efloras.org:

Leucanthemum Miller, Gard. Dict. Abr. ed. 4. vol. 2. 1754.

[Greek leuco-, white, and anthemon, flower]

John L. Strother

Perennials, (10–)40–130(–200+) cm (rhizomatous, roots usually red-tipped). Stems usually 1, erect, simple or branched, glabrous or hairy (hairs basifixed). Leaves mostly basal or basal and cauline; petiolate or sessile; blades obovate to lanceolate or linear, often 1[–2+]-pinnately lobed or toothed, ultimate margins dentate or entire, faces glabrous or sparsely hairy. Heads usually radiate, rarely discoid, borne singly or in 2s or 3s. Involucres hemispheric or broader, 12–35+ mm diam. Phyllaries persistent, 35–60+ in 3–4+ series, distinct, ovate or lance-ovate to oblanceolate, unequal, margins and apices (colorless or pale to dark brown) scarious (tips not notably dilated; abaxial faces glabrous or sparsely hairy). Receptacles convex, epaleate. Ray florets usually 13–34+, rarely 0, pistillate, fertile; corollas white (drying pinkish), laminae ovate to linear. Disc florets 120–200+, bisexual, fertile; corollas yellow, tubes ± cylindric (proximally swollen, becoming spongy in fruit), throats campanulate, lobes 5, deltate (without resin sacs). Cypselae ± columnar to obovoid, ribs ± 10, faces glabrous (pericarps with myxogenic cells on ribs and resin sacs between ribs; embryo sac development monosporic); pappi 0 (wall tissue of ray cypselae sometimes produced as coronas or auricles on some cypselae). x = 9.

Species 20–40+ (3 in the flora): introduced; mostly temperate Europe (some widely cultivated and sparingly adventive).

The three leucanthemums recognized here are weakly distinct and are sometimes included (with a dozen or more others) in a single, polymorphic Leucanthemum vulgare.

SELECTED REFERENCE

Vogt, R. 1991. Die Gattung Leucanthemum (Compositae–Anthemideae) auf der Iberischen Halbinsel. Ruizia 10: 1–261.

Leucanthemum vulgare Lamarck, Fl. Franç. 2: 137. 1779.

Ox-eye daisy, marguerite blanche

Chrysanthemum leucanthemum Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 888. 1753; C. leucanthemum var. pinnatifidum Lecoq & Lamotte

Perennials, 10–30(–100+) cm. Stems simple or distally branched. Basal leaves: petioles 10–30(–120) mm, expanding into obovate to spatulate blades 12–35(–50+) × 8–20(–30) mm, margins usually pinnately lobed (lobes 3–7+) and/or irregularly toothed. Cauline leaves petiolate or sessile; blades oblanceolate or spatulate to lanceolate or linear, 30–80+ × 2–15+ mm, margins of mid-stem leaves usually irregularly toothed proximally and distally.Involucres 12–20+ mm diam. Phyllaries (the larger) 2–3 mm wide. Ray florets usually 13–34+, rarely 0; laminae 12–20(–35+) mm. Ray cypselae 1.5–2.5 mm, apices usually coronate or auriculate. 2n = 18, 36, 54, 72, 90.

Flowering spring–fall. Disturbed places, meadows, seeps, clearings; 0–2000 m; introduced; Alta., B.C., Ont., Que., Sask.; Alaska, Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Conn., Fla., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Mass., Mich., Mo., Mont., Nev., N.Mex., N.Y., N.Dak., Ohio, Okla., Oreg., Pa., S.C., S.Dak., Tenn., Utah, Va., Wash., W.Va., Wis., Wyo.; Europe, widely adventive.

Some botanists (e.g., W. J. Cody 1996) have treated Leucanthemum ircutianum de Candolle, with blades of mid and distal cauline leaves oblong to oblong-lanceolate and not ± pinnate at bases, as distinct from L. vulgare.


Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium)

A garden favorite that sometimes makes itself at home here, especially in the city. This plant was blooming on a bank in Beechview in early June. Feverfew is named for its supposed fever-reducing effects, though modern science has looked for those effects and failed to find them. The cheery flowers are like generous clusters of small daisies.

Botanists often place this species in the genus Tanacetum with the Tansies, but it is most familiar under the name Chrysanthemum, which is where Gray puts it:

CHRYSANTHEMUM [Tourn.] L. OX-EYE DAISY. Heads many-flowered; rays numerous, fertile. Scales of the broad and flat involucre imbricated, with scarious margins. Receptacle flat or convex, naked. Disk-corollas with a flattened tube. Achenes of disk and ray similar, striate. — Annual or perennial herbs, with toothed, pinnatifid, or divided leaves, and single or corymbed heads. Rays white or yellow (rarely wanting); disk yellow. (Old Greek name, Chrysanthemon, i.e. golden flower.)

C. parthènium (L.) Bernh. (FEVERFEW.) Tall, branched, leafy; leaves bipinnately divided, the divisions ovate, cut; rays white. — Escaped from gardens, and naturalized in some places. (Introd. from Eu.)


Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureus)

Golden Ragworts are attractive flowers, a bit like a yellow aster, that bloom in the middle spring, just after the tulips in your garden. The heart-shaped basal leaves and the pinnately lobed (rather fern-like) stem leaves are distinctive. They like a somewhat shady location; these were blooming in early May beside a wooded country lane west of Cranberry.

Gray (with help from J. M. Greenman) describes the genus and the species:

SENECIO [Tourn.] L. GROUNDSEL. RAGWORT. SQUAW-WEED. Revised Bt J. M. Greenman. Heads many-flowered; rays pistillate or none; involucre cylindrical to bellshaped, simple or with a few bractlets at the base, the bracts erect-connivent. Receptacle flat, naked. Pappus of numerous very soft and capillary bristles.— Ours herbs, with alternate leaves and solitary or eorymbed heads. Flowers chiefly yellow. (Name from senex, an old man, alluding to the hoariness of many species, or to the white hairs of the pappus.)

S. aureus L. (GOLDEN R. ) Stems erect from rather slender rootstocks, 3-8 dm. high, at first often lightly floccose-tomentose, soon glabrate; lower leaves long-petioled, ovate-rotund to slightly oblong, 1.5-8 cm. long, two thirds as broad, crenate-dentate; stem-leaves lyrate to laciniate-pinnatifid; the uppermost sessile, amplexicaul, often bract-like; inflorescence cymose-corymbose; heads radiate; rays yellow; achenes glabrous. — In wet meadows, moist thickets, and swamps, Nfd., s. to Va., w. to Wisc., Mo., and Ark. May-Aug.

 


Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)

As the specific name vulgaris implies, there is nothing unusual about Groundsel; but even for this opportunistic bloomer, there is something unusual about seeing flowers and ripe seeds in early February. Groundsel can take advantage of a very brief break in the weather to bloom, and the warm winter this year has given it the chance to burst into bloom all over.

Gray describes the genus and the species—but we should not take what he says about the blooming season too seriously.

SENECIO [Tourn.] L. Groundsel. Ragwort. Squaw-weed. Heads many-flowered; rays pistillate or none; involucre cylindrical to bellshaped, simple or with a few bractlets at the base, the bracts erect-connivent. Receptacle flat, naked. Pappus of numerous very soft and capillary bristles.— Ours herbs, with alternate leaves and solitary or corymbed heads. Flowers chiefly yellow. (Name from senex, an old man, alluding to the hoariness of many species, or to the white hairs of the pappus.)

Annuals (rarely becoming biennial); stems leafy to the Inflorescence; heads medium-sized, 1 сш. or less high during anthesis.

S. vulgàris L. (Common Groundsel.) Low annual, 1-6 dm. high. corymbosely branched, glabrate, leafy to the inflorescence; leaves pinnatifid and toothed, 1-8 cm. long, 0.6-3 cm. broad; calyculate bracts (bracteoles) of the involucre distinctly black-tipped; rays none; achenes hirtellous. — Waste grounds, common. July-Sept. (Nat. from Eu.)


Tall Thoroughwort (Eupatorium altissimum)

Our broad modern highways seem to have been the making of this plant around here. It likes the median strips of interstate highways better than any other environment, and its grey-green leaves topped with dusty white flowers make it a decorative companion to the goldenrods that often grow in the same places. The plant above was growing along the side of a highway near Rostraver; the one below in a vacant lot in West Mifflin; both were blooming in late September.

Flower heads. Rayless, white, borne in layers of flat-topped clusters.

Leaves. Dark greyish-green; lanceolate; the upper ones entire, the lower toothed past the midpoint; with three prominent parallel veins. Often there are two smaller leaves where the petiole meets the stem.

Stems. Straight and study; greyish-green, paler than the leaves, often with a brown cast toward the base; much branched.

This plant apparently hybridizes with E. serotinum, and is easily confused with it, probably even on this site.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

EUPATÒRIUM [Tourn.] L. THOROUGHWORT. Heads discoid, 3-many-flowered ; flowers perfect. Involucre cylindrical or bell-shaped, of more than 4 bracts. Receptacle flat or conical, naked. Corolla 6-toothed. Achenes 6-angled; pappus a single row of slender capillary barely roughish bristles. —Erect perennial herbs, often sprinkled with hitter resinous dots, with generally corymbose heads of white, bluish, or purple blossoms, appearing near the close of summer. (Dedicated to Eupator Mithridates, who is said to have used a species of the genus in medicine.)

EUPATORIUM proper. Receptacle flat.

Heads 3-20-flowered; involucre of 8-15 more or less imbricated and unequal bracts, the outer ones shorter; flowers white or nearly so.

Leaves sessile or nearly so, xcith a narrow base, mostly opposite; heads mostly 5-flowered.

Bracts not scarious or only obscurely so, obtuse, at length shorter than the flowers.

E. altissimum L. Stem stout and tall, 1-2 m. high, downy; leaves lanceolate, tapering at both ends, conspicuously 3-nerved, entire, or toothed above the middle, 0.5-1.3 dm. long, the uppermost alternate; corymbs dense; bracts of the involucre obtuse, shorter than the flowers. — Dry soil, Pa. to Minn., Neb., and southw.


Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa)

These beautiful flowers, close relatives of the garden Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus), seem to be found almost exclusively along railroads. We have three pictures now of this species, each beside a different railroad; this particular plant was part of a colony growing by the railroad viaduct that separates the South Side Flats from the Slopes, where it was blooming at the end of July. (The other two pictures are here and here.)  The color is variable from purple through white, but this purplish pink is by far the most common color.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CENTAUREA L. STAR THISTLE. Heads many-flowered; flowers all tubular, the marginal often much larger (as it were radiate) and sterile. Receptacle bristly. Involucre ovoid or globose, imbricated; the bracts margined or appendaged. Achenes obovoid or oblong, compressed or 4-angled, attached obliquely at or near the base; pappus setose or partly chaffy, or none. Herbs with alternate leaves; the single heads rarely yellow. (Kentaurie, an ancient Greek plant-name, poetically associated with Chiron, the Centaur, but without wholly satisfactory explanation.)

C. maculosa Lam. Pubescent or glabrate, with ascending rather wiry branches; involucre ovoid-cainpanulate, in fruit becoming open-campanulate; the outer and middle ovate bracts with rather firm points and with 5-7 pairs of cilia at the dark tip; innermost bracts elongate, entire or lacerate; corollas whitish, rose-pink, or purplish, the marginal falsely radiate. Waste places, roadsides, etc., N. E. to N. J. (Adv. from Eu.)


Spotted Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article gave the wrong species name in the title.

Shorter than the more common Hollow Joe-Pye-Weed (E. fistulosum), with flatter cymes, and with leaves commonly in whorls of 4 rather than 6. The two species sometimes grow side by side, as they did here in a damp depression in Schenley Park, where they were both blooming in early August.

Most botanists today place the Joe-Pye-Weeds in the genus Eutrochium, making this Eutrochium maculatum; we keep the more familiar name for the convenience of Internet searchers.

Once again, we turn to Alphonso Wood for a description:

EUPATORIUM.

Dedicated to Eupator, king of Pontus, who first used the plant m medicine.

Flowers all tubular; involucre imbricate, oblong; style much exserted, deeply cleft; anthers included; receptacle naked, flat ; pappus simple, scabrous; achenia 5-angled.—Perennial herbs, with opposite or verticillate leaves. Heads corymbose. Flowers of the cyanic series, that is, white, blue, red, &c., never yellow.

Leaves verticillate. Flowers purple.

E. Maculatum. (E. purpureum, ß. Darl.) Spotted Eupatorium.

Stem solid, striate, hispid or pubescent, greenish and purple, with numeróos glands and purple lines; the glands on the stem and leaves give out an acrid effluvium in flowering-time: leaves. triple-veined, 3-5 in a whorl.—Low grounds, U. S. and Can. Stem 4-6 ft. high. Leaves petiolate, 6-7 in. by 3-4 in., strongly serrate. Flowers purple. July-Sept.


Hollow Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)

Probably the most common species of Joe-Pye-Weed in our area. Most botanists today put Joe-Pye-Weeds in the genus Eutrochium; we keep the name Eupatorium for the convenience of Internet searchers.

This magnificent plant, with its domes of dusty-rose flowers on towering stems, is common in damp fields and roadsides everywhere; these plants grew in a moist depression in Schenley Park, side by side with their close cousins the Spotted Joe-Pye-Weeds (E. maculatum). Enlightened gardeners who have space for a few eight-foot towers in their perennial beds are beginning to discover and make use of this plant, which can now be seen in some of Pittsburgh’s most tasteful gardens.

The taxonomy of the Joe-Pye-Weeds seems to be in an awful mess. Alphonso Wood’s Class-Book of Botany seems to be closest to the modern botanists’ classification of this species, so we use Wood’s description here:

EUPATORIUM.

Dedicated to Eupator, king of Pontus, who first used the plant m medicine.

Flowers all tubular; involucre imbricate, oblong; style much exserted, deeply cleft; anthers included; receptacle naked, flat ; pappus simple, scabrous; achenia 5-angled.—Perennial herbs, with opposite or verticillate leaves. Heads corymbose. Flowers of the cyanic series, that is, white, blue, red, &c., never yellow.

Leaves verticillate. Flowers purple.

E. fistulosum Barratt. (E. purpureum Willd. in part. E. incarnatum Linn., in part. E. purpureum, v. angustifolium T. & G.) Trumpet-weed.Stem fistulous, glabrous, glaucous-purple, striate or fluted; leaves in about 12 whorls of 6s, largest in the middle of the stem, rather finely glandular-serrate; midvein and veinlets livid purple; corymb globose, with whorled peduncles.—Thickets, U. S. and Can., very abundant in the Western States! Height 6-10 ft., hollow its whole length. Leaves, including the 1″ petiole, 8 by 2″. Corymb often 1 ft. diam. Flowers purple. The glaucous hue and suffused redness of this majestic plant are most conspicuous in flowering-time. It does not appear to possess the acrid properties of E. maculatum. July—Sept.


Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus)

Also called “Daisy Fleabane,” “Fleabane Daisy,” “Plains Fleabane,” “Prairie Fleabane,” and probably many other names. Pittsburghers usually call them “little daisies.” Old herbal legend has it that dried plants repel fleas. Fleabane is very common around here; if it were not, it would be treasured as a garden ornamental. It blooms for a good bit of the summer; these were blooming in late June in a clearing in the woods in Scott Township.

The seventh edition of Gray lists this as Erigeron ramosus, though the sixth had listed it as E. strigosus.

ERIGERON L. FLEABANE. Heads many-flowered, radiate, mostly flat or hemispherical; the narrow rays very numerous, pistillate. Involucral bracts narrow, equal, and little imbricated, never coriaceous, neither foliaceous nor green-tipped. Receptacle flat or convex, naked. Achenes flattened, usually pubescent and 2-nerved; pappus a single row of capillary bristles, with minuter ones intermixed, or with a distinct short outer pappus of little bristles or chaffy scales. Herbs, with entire or toothed and generally sessile leaves, and solitary or corymbed naked-pedunculate heads. Disk yellow; rays white, pink, or purple. (The ancient name presumably of a Senecio, from er, spring, and geron, an old man, suggested by the hoariness of some vernal species.)

E. ramosus (Walt.) BSP. (DAISY F.) Stem panicled-corymbose at the summit, roughish like the leaves with minute appressed hairs, or almost smooth; leaves entire or nearly so, the upper lanceolate, scattered, the lowest oblong or spatulate, tapering into a slender petiole; rays white, twice the length of the minutely hairy involucre. (E. strigosus Muhl.) Fields, etc., common. June-Oct. Stem smaller and more simple than the preceding [E. annuus], with smaller heads but longer rays. Var. DISCOIDEUS (Robbins) BSP., with the rays minute, scarcely exceeding the involucre, occurs in s. N. E. and N. Y.


Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot is one of our earlier spring flowers; these were blooming on the grounds of the Pittsburgh Zoo, Highland Park, in early April. The cheery and shaggy yellow flower heads top a short stalk that pops straight out of the ground; there are no leaves until later on. The plant’s favorite habitat seems to be a damp hillside at the  edge of the woods, often beside a street or highway. Coltsfoot was, as its generic name suggests, a popular cough remedy; but it has been known to cause serious liver damage, so it’s not as popular as it used to be.

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.)

Frederic William Stack gives us this description in Wild Flowers Every Child Should Know:

COLTSFOOT. COUGHWORT.

Tussilago Farfara. Thistle Family.

This is the same Coltsfoot that our grandmothers used to gather and dry and hang in the garret along with their Boneset, Catnip, Goldthread, and a various assortment of garden herbs. Coltsfoot was considerably used at one time as a family remedy for coughs and colds, and many a steaming cupful has been sipped by country people for this purpose. Its Latin name, an old one used by Pliny, is derived from tussis, a cough, and ago, alluding to the medicinal use of the leaves. The ancients smoked the leaves of Coltsfoot for relief in cases of asthma. Its fresh juice has been used for affections of the skin, and in Germany the dried leaves are said to be used as a substitute for smoking tobacco. The flowers of the Coltsfoot look something like those of an imperfectly developed, or half-opened Dandelion, but where the flower heads of the Dandelion are slightly tufted or raised toward the centre, those of the Coltsfoot are cupped or hollowed, more like an Aster, with a finely fringed edge. The rather large, solitary flower is borne on a thick, hollow, light green stem, rising direct from the long, slender, creeping perennial root from four to eighteen inches in height. It is usually stained with red and is covered with numerous scalelike and alternating leaflets. The light yellow flower head is of a lighter shade than that of the Dandelion, and is set in a deep, leafy, thimble-shaped green cup. It is composed of many ray and disc florets — an arrangement fully explained in the description of the Asters. The ray florets are fringe-like, and the small disc florets are five-parted. They have an agreeable odour, and as they fade, they turn to red-brown.


Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)

This ubiquitous weed is found in temperate latitudes throughout the world. The tight little flower heads never open up any wider than what you see here. These plants, growing on a sunny and recently disturbed bank in Beechview, were among the very earliest flowers to bloom in the spring; this picture, in fact, was taken on March 20, the first day of spring.

Gray’s description of the genus and species follows, but it does not describe the plants in the photograph very well. The on-line Flora of North America remarks that the plants may be “sparsely tomentose when young,” as these plants were. And although Gray gives “July-Sept” as the flowering period, the Flora of North America says “flowering early spring.” In fact these can also be seen very late in the fall, and almost any time in between. The plant blooms very quickly from seed, and seedlings can overwinter; and it seems to present very different habits depending on the time of year.

SENECIO [Tourn.] L. Groundsel. Ragwort. Squaw-weed. Heads many-flowered; rays pistillate or none; involucre cylindrical to bellshaped, simple or with a few bractlets at the base, the bracts erect-connivent. Receptacle flat, naked. Pappus of numerous very soft and capillary bristles.— Ours herbs, with alternate leaves and solitary or corymbed heads. Flowers chiefly yellow. (Name from senex, an old man, alluding to the hoariness of many species, or to the white hairs of the pappus.)

Annuals (rarely becoming biennial); stems leafy to the Inflorescence; heads medium-sized, 1 сш. or less high during anthesis.

S. vulgàris L. (Common Groundsel.) Low annual, 1-6 dm. high. corymbosely branched, glabrate, leafy to the inflorescence; leaves pinnatifid and toothed, 1-8 cm. long, 0.6-3 cm. broad; calyculate bracts (bracteoles) of the involucre distinctly black-tipped; rays none; achenes hirtellous. — Waste grounds, common. July-Sept. (Nat. from Eu.)


Zigzag Aster (Aster prenanthoides), white form

The white form of the Zigzag Aster (for which the preferred botanical name is now Symphyotrichum prenanthoides) is not terribly rare, though far less common than the blue form. Here we see the white form in the foreground, and the blue in the background. All shades between pale blue and white occur, so it’s very hard to mark where blue ends and white begins.

This plant was growing along a trail in Bethel Park, where it was blooming in early October.

We repeat the description we gave when we presented the blue form:

Flowers. Heads about an inch and a quarter wide, in irregular corymbs; disk flowers yellow, fading to red-brown; rays pale blue or violet, sometimes white, linear, numerous.

Leaves. Variable: alternate; lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, with sharp and narrow points; strong central rib; rough, outward-facing hairs noticeable when rubbed toward stem; lower leaves on petioles with broad wings clasping the stem; upper sessile and clasping. On some plants the leaves are jaggedly toothed; on others the teeth are less prominent, with the upper leaves almost entire.

Stem. Tough, wiry; with purplish vertical lines; arching, about 1 or 2 feet high; characteristically zigzag from leaf to leaf, as in the picture at right.

Gray describes the genus Aster and the species:

ÁSTER [Tourn.] L. STARWORT. FROST-FLOWER. ASTER. Heads many-flowered, radiate; the ray-flowers in a single series, fertile. Bracts of the involucre mure or less imbricated, usually with herbaceous or leaflike tips. Receptacle flat, alveolate. Achenes more or less flattened; pappus simple, of capillary bristles (double in §§ 4 and 5). — Perennial herbs (annual only in §§ 7 and 8), with corymbed, panicled, or racemose heads, flowering chiefly in autumn. Rays white, purple, blue, or pink; the disk yellow, often changing to purple. Species often without sharply defined limits, freely hybridizing. (Name aster, a star, from the radiate heads of flowers. )

A. prenanthoìdes Muhl. Stem 1 m. or less high, corymbose-panicled, hairy above in lines; leaves rough above, smooth underneath, ovate to lanceolate, sharply cut-toothed in the middle, conspicuously taper-pointed, and rathrr abruptly narrowed to a long contracted entire portion, which is abruptly dilated into a conspicuously auricled base; heads on short divergent peduncles; involucre 5-8 mm. high; bracts narrowly linear, tips recurved-spreading; rays violet. — Borders of streams and rich woods, w. N. E. to Va. and Ky., w. to Minn, and la. Aug.-Oct.