Okay, when you’re identifying wildflowers, one clue is the positioning of the leaves: are they opposite each other as they climb the stem? Do they alternate? Or do the leaves encircle (whorl) the stem? It’s easy to see the whorled leaves on this plant, and the distinctive way the flowers radiate from the axils. Can be about three feet tall. Native. Primrose family.
Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)
This is not a pretty picture, but at least you can get the idea of what Stinging Nettle looks like — the greenish flowers are on long droopy spikes (racemes) coming out of the axils (where the leaves are attached). Leaves are opposite and coarsely toothed. The stem and the undersides of the leaves have bristly hairs which cause painful stings if they touch your skin. It feels similar to a bee sting and is caused by an acid that covers the hairs. Stinging Nettle has also been used medicinally for thousands of years — stems, leaves, and root. Native, but also common around the world. (Photo taken June 25, 2013)
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
The young shoots are edible… but when young, there is a highly toxic plant that looks very much like it. So maybe let’s not eat it. Produces little fruits that turn red in late summer. And just to remember — It’s evidently called False because the leaf is similar to Smooth Solomon’s Seal, but true Solomon’s Seal has pendular blossoms. Ruscus family. Native. (Photo taken June 4, 2013)
False Solomon’s Seal, Treacleberry, Solomon’s plume, False Spikenard (Maianthemum racemosum)
I was going to a conservation area in Dover that I hadn’t visited in a long time, accidentally took the wrong road and happened across a small wood I hadn’t been to, which had this beautiful little flower. This is the first time I’ve seen it and in fact I thought maybe it was some kind of escaped domestic; it’s reminiscent of squill. But it’s wild! Native. Lily family. (Photo taken June 3, 2013.)
Yellow Star Grass, Common Goldstar (Hypoxis hirsuta)
One I did not spot last year! And truly blue, which is unusual. Also known as “carpenter’s herb” because it was thought to help stop bleeding. Evidently makes a good groundcover for shade if you don’t mind that it can be invasive. Native to Eurasia, escaped from cultivation. Mint family.
Bugle, Carpet-bugle (Ajuga reptans)
Good fact from illinoiswildflowers.info: “Because the foliage is toxic, it is little bothered by mammalian herbivores.” A beautiful form to appreciate up close. The round ends of the spurs contain nectar which attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Family: Buttercup (Ranunculaceae). Native. Flowers April to July.
Wild Red Columbine, Rock Bells (Aquilegia canadensis)
This is a plant with creamy white flowers, and later each flower is replaced by a leafless vertical seed pod that hugs the stem. They can grow to be 4 to 5 feet tall. Native. (Photo taken May 29, 2013)
Tower Rockcress, Tower Mustard (Arabis glabra)
Bonus picture: this turtle was also using the path. I think it’s a musk turtle. They only get to be about 5 inches long, and are primarily aquatic, living in the shallows. This one was still wet from the river. They rarely leave the water, but they usually nest in June, so maybe this one was on a nesting mission.
A shade-tolerant deciduous shrub common in New England. Will have blue-black berries that ripen to red in late summer. Native.
Maple-leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acericolium Linnaeus)
Self-heal is one of those perennial herbs with a long history of being eaten raw, cooked, infused into drinks, and used medicinally as a poultice and also taken internally as a medicinal tea. Is being studied for antibacterial action, and in AIDS and allergy research. Plus, just grows in the yard. Native to Europe, Asia and North America.
Common Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)