Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Compositae

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.)


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