Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh


Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Among the earliest woodland flowers, Spring Beauties are abundant and cheerful when the rest of the woods is just waking up. These flowers were blooming in the middle of April along the Trillium Trail in Fox Chapel.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CLAYTONIA [Gronov.] L. SPRING BEAUTY. Sepals 2, ovate, free, persistent. Stamens 6, adhering to the short claws of the petals. Style 3-cleft at the apex. Pod l-celled, 3-valved, 3-6-seeded. — Perennials, our two species sending up simple stems in early spring from a small deep tuber, bearing a pair of opposite leaves, and a loose raceme of pretty flowers. Corolla rose-color with deeper veins, opening for more than one day. (Named in honor of Dr. John Clayton, one of our earliest botanists, who contributed to Gronovius the materials for the Flora Virginica.)

C. virginica L. Leaves linear-lanceolate, elongated (7-16 cm. long).— Moist open woods, N. S. to Sask., and southw.; common, especially westw. and southw.

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

Also known as Dogtooth Violet or Adder’s Tongue, this very attractive plant is as remarkable for its mottled leaves as for its yellow flowers. It likes wooded stream valleys where the soil is very rich and moist. These plants were blooming in the middle of April in the Squaw Run valley, Fox Chapel.

Gray describes the genus and the species:


Perianth lily-like, of 6 lanceolate recurved or spreading divisions, deciduous, the 3 inner usually with a callous tooth on each side of the base, and a groove in the middle. Filaments 6, awl-shaped; anthers oblong-linear. Style elongated. Capsule obovoid, contracted at base, 3-valved, loculicidal. Seeds rather numerous. Nearly stemless herbs, with two smooth and shining flat leaves tapering into petioles and sheathing the base of the commonly one-flowered scape, rising from a deep solid scaly bulb. Flowers rather large, nodding, in spring. (The Greek name for the purple-flowered European species, from erythros, red. )

E. americanum Ker. (YELLOW ADDER’S-TONGUE). Scape 1.5-2 dm. high; leaves elliptical-lanceolate, pale green, mottled with purplish and whitish and often minutely dotted; perianth light yellow, often spotted near the base (2-4 cm. long); style club-shaped; stigmas united. Rich ground, N. B. to Fla. , w. to Out. and Ark.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

These cheery little flowers pop up at about the same time as the Coltsfoots; this plant was a late-bloomer in mid-April, when most of its neighbors had already finished blooming, beside a back road in Fox Chapel. The flowers open before the leaves are fully unfurled, so each flower stem is elegantly wrapped in a shell-like green leaf. The English and Latin names both come from the fact that the root is full of red juice.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

SANGUINARIA [Dill.] L. BLOODROOT. Sepals 2. Petals 8-12, spatulate-oblong. Stamens about 24. Style short; stigma 2-grooved. Pod ellipsoid or fusiform, turgid, 1-celled, 2-valved. Seeds with a large crest. — Low perennial; its thick prostrate rootstocks (surcharged with red-orange acrid juice) sending up in earliest spring a palmate-lobed leaf and 1-flowered scape. Flower white, handsome, the bud erect, the petals not crumpled. (Name from the color of the juice.)

S. canadensis L. — Open rich woods; common. Apr., May.


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