Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Latest

Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria)

These stately, slender perennials have lately become favorites in the garden trade. In the wild, they grow white or yellow flowers. The yellow flowers seem to be more common in most places, but the white ones (var. albiflorum, according to Gray) are far more common in Pittsburgh. Gardeners have bred a number of attractive pastels. A close look (click to enlarge the picture above) reveals the “filaments all bearded with violet wool,” as Gray describes them.

The plants like to grow in a clear spot at the edge of the woods, as they did here on a hillside in Mount Lebanon, where they were blooming in the middle of July.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

VERBASCUM [Tourn.] L. MULLEIN. Calyx 5-parted. Corolla 5-lobed, open or concave; the lobes broad and rounded, a little unequal. Style flattened at the apex. Capsule globular, many-seeded. Tall and usually woolly biennial herbs; the leaves of the stem sessile, often decurrent. Flowers in large terminal spikes or racemes, ephemeral, in summer. (The ancient Latin name, altered from Barbascum.)

V. blattaria L. (MOTH M.) Green and smoothish, or somewhat glandular-pubescent above, slender; lower leaves petioled, oblong, doubly serrate, sometimes lyre-shaped, the upper partly clasping; raceme loose, the pedicels longer than the fruit; filaments all bearded with violet wool. Roadsides and waste places, w. Me. to Ont., and southw., local. Corolla either yellow, or (in var. albiflorum Ktze.) white with a tinge of purple. (Nat. from Eu.)

In Wild Flowers Worth Knowing, the Moth Mullein is described thus:

Moth Mullein

Verbascum blattaria

Flowers–Yellow, or frequently white, 5-parted, about 1 in. broad, marked with brown; borne on spreading pedicles in a long, loose raceme; all the filaments with violet hairs; 1 protruding pistil. Stem: Erect, slender, simple, about 2 ft. high, sometimes less, or much taller. Leaves: Seldom present at flowering time; oblong to ovate, toothed, mostly sessile, smooth.

Preferred Habitat–Dry, open waste land; roadsides, fields.

Flowering Season–June-November.

Distribution–Naturalized from Europe and Asia, more or less common throughout the United States and Canada.

“Of beautiful weeds quite a long list might be made without including any of the so-called wild flowers,” says John Burroughs. “A favorite of mine is the little Moth Mullein that blooms along the highway, and about the fields, and maybe upon the edge of the lawn.” Even in winter, when the slender stem, set with round brown seed-vessels, rises above the snow, the plant is pleasing to the human eye, as it is to that of hungry birds.

White Avens (Geum canadense)

This unassuming little member of the rose family likes to grow at the edge of the woods; this plant was growing along a trail in Scott Township, where it was blooming in the early July. The white flowers bear more than a passing resemblance to the flowers of blackberries or strawberries.

Gray describes the genus and the species, which he puts in the Eugeum or Geum-proper division of the genus:

GEUM L. AVENS

Calyx bell-shaped or flattish, deeply 5-cleft, usually with 5 small bractlets at the sinuses. Petals 5. Stamens many. Achenes numerous, heaped on a conical or cylindrical dry receptacle, the long persistent styles forming hairy or naked and straight or jointed tails. Seed erect; radicle inferior. Perennial herbs, with pinnate or lyrate leaves. (A plant name used by Pliny.)

EUGEUM T. & G.  Styles jointed and bent near the middle, the upper part deciduous and mostly hairy, the lower naked and hooked, becoming elongated; head of fruit sessile in the calyx, calyx-lobes reflexed.

Petals white or pale greenish-yellow, small, spatulate or oblong; stipules small.

Receptacle of the fruit densely hairy.

G. canadense Jacq. Stem (0.6-1.1 m. high) and petioles sparingly hairy; leaves soft-pubescent beneath or glabrate, the basal of 3-5 leaflets or undivided, those of the stern mostly 3-divided or -lobed, rather sharply toothed; stipules ovate-oblong, 1-1.5 cm. long, subentire; petals white. (G. album J. F. Gmel.) Borders of woods, etc., widely distributed.

Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)

Heal-All, or Self-Heal, is everywhere; it tolerates a good deal of mowing, and seems to be indifferent to sun or shade, so it can establish itself in urban lawns as easily as at the edge of the woods. The color of the flowers is variable from deep purple to white, including bicolors; here we see almost the complete range, all from plants growing in one shady lawn in Mount Lebanon, where they were blooming in early July.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

PRUNÉLLA L. SELF-HEAL. Calyx tubular-bell-shaped, somewhat 10-nerved, naked in the throat, closed in fruit; upper lip broad, truncate. Corolla ascending, slightly contracted at the throat and dilated at the lower side just beneath it, 2-lipped; upper lip erect, arched, entire; the lower reflexed-spreading, 3-cleft, its lateral lobes oblong, the middle one rounded, concave, denticulate. Filaments 2-toothed at the apex, the lower tooth bearing the anther; anthers approximate in pairs, their cells diverging. — Low perennials, with nearly simple stems, and 3-flowered clusters of flowers sessile in the axils of round and bract-like membranaceous floral leaves, imbricated in a close spike or head. (Name said to be from the German Bräune, a disease of the throat, for which this plant was a reputed remedy. Often written Brunella, which was a pre-Linnean form.)

P. vulgàris L. (HEAL-ALL, CARPENTER-WEED.) Leaves ovate-oblong, entire or toothed, petioled, hairy or smoothish; corolla violet or flesh-color, rarely white, not twice the length of the purplish calyx. — Woods and fields, Nfd. to Fla., westw. across the continent. June-Sept. (Eu.)

Var. laciniata L Some upper leaves tending to be pinnatifld. (P. laciniata L.) — Said to be introd. near Washington, D. C. (Adv. from Eu.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.