Tag Archives: Ozarks

Gaura Oenothera filiformis

Botanical names can be confusing. Gaura was listed as Gaura longiflora and Gaura biensis. These were combined in the new volumes of Flora of Missouri by Dr. Yatskievych so the same plants are now Oenothera filiformis.

This confusion can make people dislike using scientific names. I prefer using these as each name refers to a particular kind of plant. Plants can have more than one common name. Or a single common name can refer to more than one plant.

Yes, I still refer to most plants by their common names when talking to other people. It makes conversation easier.

Oenothera filiformis W.L. Wagner & Hoch

June to October                                           N                                 Family: Onagraceae

gaura flower

Flower: Loose groups of flowers tip the branches and arise at leaf nodes. Each flower has four upright petals with a long pistil swooping down from them flanked by four stamens on each side. A fresh flower is usually pink tinged white and turns darker pink as it ages over the day. Two pink sepals sweep back from the flower. The long flower stalk is a cylindrical ovary with a green lower section and pink upper section.

Gaura side flower

Leaf: The basal leaf rosette can be the first year’s growth or beginning of the year’s growth. It may or may not be present when the plant blooms. The stem leaves are alternate with a short, winged petiole. Small leaves can grow at the base of the petiole. Each leaf is long flaring out to the middle then tapering to a point. The wavy edges are irregular but not lobed or toothed. There is a single midvein. Top and bottom of the leaf is green, slick-looking and covered with short hairs.

Gaura leaf

Stem: One or several slender, green, hairy stems come up from the root then branch repeatedly forming a wide, leggy bush reaching five feet or more in height.

Gaura under leaf

Root: The fleshy root can be annual or biennial.

Gaura stem

Fruit: A long tube with tapered, rounded tip.

gaura fruit

Habitat: This plant likes sunny locations favoring pastures, glades, roadsides and open, disturbed areas.


Large Flowered Gaura

Gaura plant

Gaura is tall and leggy. It looks like a coordinated structure of slender, green sticks with handfuls of flowers glued on here and there. These sway in any breath of wind.

The flowers are easily recognizable with their four petals sticking up like the ribs for a fan. They fade by noon turning deep pink and folding themselves along the developing seed pod.

Although the plants grow in a variety of sunny places, I see them commonly along the roads. The leggy bushes are easy to recognize. The flowers are smaller and must be seen from closer up.

The seed pods are colorful as they develop. They turn brown when mature. The plant seeds freely.

Horseweed Conyza canadensis

So many of the plants we regard as weeds came from Europe along with the colonists and their seeds and livestock. This weed is a native American variety. Call it horseweed, mare’s tail or hogweed, it’s tall and prolific.

Very small flowers are easier to show in pairs so the front and side views are in the same picture.

Conyza canadensis Cronquist

June to November                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Astereae

Horseweed flower

Flower: The many-branched flower panicle can be 18 inches tall and spread out over 6 inches with a flame shape. Each flower is cylindrical. The half inch long cylinder is made up of dark green, overlapping bracts. From 25 to 45 white ray flowers radiate out an eighth of an inch around the top of the cylinder surrounding numerous tube flowers.

Horseweed leaf

Leaf: Alternate leaves can be so dense as to appear whorled. Each leaf is 2 – 3 1/2 inches long but less than 1/2 inch wide. There is a midvein and thick edges. White hairs stick out along the edges. Top and bottom are dark green.

Horseweed under leaf

Stem: The single stem can reach 7 feet. It is light green with white hairs. It is stiff.

Horseweed stem

Root: The annual root is a short taproot with fibrous roots.

Horseweed seeds

Fruit: The seeds are an eighth of an inch long and thin with short, white threads sticking out one end.

Habitat: This plant prefers full sun and disturbed areas such as roadsides and barnyards.



Canada Fleabane, Hogweed, Mare’s Tail

Horseweed plant

Horseweed is a native weedy species. It produces hundreds of seeds which are wind disseminated. The plants often come up in dense stands.

The young stem growing up can be mistaken for a goldenrod. Once the flower stalks appear, horseweed is unmistakable.

In poor areas horseweed can be short, only a couple of feet tall. In better soils and with enough rain, the stems can reach seven feet with massive flower heads. If you can overlook the facts that few animals other than insects eat these plants and their sheer numbers can make them a nuisance, the tall, flowering plants are impressive.

The plants seem to prefer growing along fence lines or near sheds. They can grow in shade but do best in full sun.

Wind can make a group of horseweeds seem to ripple as the stems dip down and stand back up. The stiff stems can take a lot of wind without being uprooted. It takes pressure to snap the stems.

Each plant matures, flowers, seeds and dies over a few months. New plants replace the older ones to keep the blooming time so long. The leaves yellow and drop off from the bottoms of the stems as seed heads replace the flowers until only the stalk is left devoid of flowers, leaves and seeds.

For the serious amateur botanist, check out the book The Syrian Milkweed to find out more about how plants get their names and how the process can make mistakes.

Cup Plant Silphium perfoliatum

Each summer a line of cup plants grows up along my road. There was only one cup plant the first year. The lines have gained in length and number of plants every year since. New lines of plants have started nearby.

The thick stem and massive leaves make the cup plant noticeable. Then there is the size: eight feet tall! The flowers seem so small for such an impressive plant.

The plants seem to grow slowly. Perhaps this is because they get so tall. Even the short ones are taller than I am.

The stems are stiff and difficult to pull over without breaking them. I resorted to pulling my truck over close to the ditch and climbing into the pickup bed to get pictures of the flowers.


Silphium perfoliatum L.

July to September                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

cup plant flower

Flower: A spray of flower stalks comes up out of the top pair of leaves. These stalks can branch. Each is tipped with a flower head of a disk of yellow tube flowers and 18 to 35 orange yellow ray flowers. The cup behind the flower is green formed by numerous bracts with pointed tips but appearing almost fused around the base of the flower head, smooth and hairless.

cup plant side flower

Leaf: The opposite leaves are large, over a foot long and nearly a foot wide at the base end slowly tapering to a point. The two leaves join together to surround the stem and attach at a swollen node forming a depression around the stem. The edges have widely separated teeth. The strong midvein holds the leaves out stiffly although the  last quarter droops down. The leaves are green on the tops and pale green underneath.

cup plant leaf

Stem: A single, unbranched stem can reach ten feet. The stem is square, ridged, with a few scattered short hairs, coarse to the touch and stiff.

cup plant under leaf

Root: The perennial roots are rhizomes forming colonies.

cup plant stem


Habitat: This plant prefers moist areas such as roadside ditches, moist woods and stream banks. It likes partial sun and light shade.

Cup Plant

Cup Rosinweed

cup plant

Few plants are as impressive as the Cup Plant. The inch thick stem and massive leaves rise up out of the surrounding plants then tower over them. Most Cup Plants seem to top out at seven feet. Some are shorter and a few are up to three feet taller.

Cup Plant leaves are massive. Each pair points in the opposite direction from the previous pair. The depression where the fused leaves join the stem can hold rain water.

For such a large plant, the flower heads are small, only three inches across. Larger plants can have a bouquet of them sprouting up out of the top leaves with six open at a time.

Because of the square stem and leaves at regular intervals, an old name for the plant was measuring weed. Its accuracy for measuring is questionable.

The rhizome root is perennial and puts up more than one stem in a line. The older the root, the more stems it puts up.

White four o’clock Mirabilis albida

The white four o’clock is such an elusive wildflower. The plants are not rare, although finding them requires finding the right habitat. Too often I find the plants too late to see them bloom and only see them open up to spread their seeds. The beauty of the flowers makes the hunt worthwhile for another year.


Mirabilis albida Heimerl

May to October                                            N                                 Family: Nyctaginaceae

white four o'clock flower

Flower: Three flowers hang on long stems from the tip of each flower stalk. The three open the same evening, but not always together. Each flower has a green cup calyx. The white to pink flower is bell-shaped with ten lobes on the flared open end. Five stamens with colored thin filaments and yellow balls of pollen stick out of the bell. A single pistil is mixed in with the stamens.

white four o'clock side flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves are sessile or with a short petiole. The top is darker green than the underside. The underside has a covering of very short white hairs that cover the smooth leaf edge as well. There is a deep midvein. The leaves are much longer, up to four inches, than wide but are not narrow and have a rounded tip.

white four o'clock leaf

Stem: The single unbranched stem can be three feet tall. Flower stalks branch out at the leaf nodes, each tipped with flowers. The stem can be hairy or not. It often appears silvery or tan rather than green. It has shallow ridges on the lower portions.

white four o'clock under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial taproot.

white four o'clock stem

Fruit: Up to three seeds form a group in the center of a large, four pointed, light green to white bract. Each white to ecru seed is long and stout, covered with bumps. Each bump has a tuft of bristles sticking out.

white four o'clock fruit

Habitat: This plant likes full sun. It usually grows in poor soils such as gravel bars, glades and road cuts.


White four o’clock

Pale Umbrellawort, Hairy Four o’clock

white four o'clock in bloom

White Four o’clock flowers are fleeting. They open about dusk for an hour or two, then shrivel. The only way to see them is to stalk them.

I found several plants growing along the road. Every evening close to sunset I walked out to check on them. Flowers opened on several evenings, usually a few, but en masse one evening.

white four o'clock plant

Most years I find the plants, walk out evenings and never catch a flower open. The plants have already bloomed and are setting seed. More commonly the single stalk has numerous green calyxes. The lower ones begin to flare open exposing the seeds.


Eastern Figwort Scrophularia marilandica

The first figwort I saw was growing on a roadside near a cold water spring. The flowers were such an unusual shape and color, it caught my attention. To my surprise it turned up in Ozark Wildflowers, the last brown wildflower in the book.

That plant came up several more years until the annual brush cutting finally killed it off. However I had found another plant growing near a shed at home. that plant continues to thrive as do several others I have come across over the years.


Scrophularia marilandica L.

July to October                                            N                                 Family: Scrophulariaceae

figwort flower

Flower: Flowers are on long stalks both at the top of the stem and from leaf nodes on the upper half of the stem. Each flower has a cylindrical shape from the side. A green calyx with five pointed lobes surrounds the base. The five petals are light green on the outside. From the open end of the cylinder the inside of the petals is reddish brown. Two petals form a flat top. Two petals form the sides. A single wider petal that curves downward forms the bottom. Inside are five stamens. An infertile one is on the upper petals. Four fertile ones with cupped ends are over the lower petal. A single pistil hangs out dangling from the lower petal.

figwort side flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves are spaced along the stem. Lower leaves have long, up to 3 inches long petioles. the petioles get shorter as the leaves get higher on the stem. Each leaf has a rounded base with a long taper to a sharp point. The edges have regular teeth. The upper surface is darker green than the under side of the leaf. The midvein is prominent on the lower surface as are the main venous branches. The midvein can have short hairs on both top and bottom sides.

figwort leaf

Stem: A single rigid, square, unbranched, green stem can be three and a half feet to eight or ten feet tall. Flower stalks go off from leaf nodes and make a loose spire at the top of the stem. The sides of the stem are curved inwardly on each side. The stem can have short hairs.

figwort under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial knotty tuber with rhizomes.

figwort stem

Fruit: The seed pod is made up of two pieces forming a globular  case around numerous seeds.

figwort fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers light shade in open woods, ravines and creek banks.


Eastern Figwort

Carpenter’s Square, Late Figwort

figwort plant

Figwort plants seem to get taller every year. The lower leaves get longer, up to eight inches. this is what gets the plant noticed.

Figwort flowers are small, barely half an inch long, and easily missed. Once noticed, their unusual shape is eye-catching.

From the side a figwort flower appears green. From the front the deep reddish brown is seen. Four yellow marbles sit on the lower lip of the flower. These are the stamens.

From the side the two upper petals are flat, extending out like a flat roof over the rest of the flower. The rest of the flower hangs down from this flat roof giving the flower the appearance of a short pipe.

From the front the two upper petals have rounded, ruffled edges of deep reddish brown. The front is round and extends back inside the almost quarter inch across pipe.

The plants seem to grow singly. Once one is spotted, it comes up every year. One grows near a shed wall. The first year is was three feet tall. Ten years later it is taller than the eaves, close to seven feet tall.

Read about more Ozarks plants and animals in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Brown eyed Susan Rudbeckia triloba

Brown Eyed Susan is one of many yellow daisy type flowers blooming in the Ozarks from mid to late summer. Some are so similar, it is difficult to separate one from another or identify them with certainty.

Taking note of several things helps with identification. One is flower size, the number of ray flowers and the under side of the flower for the sepal arrangement. Another is the leaf size and shape plus any basal leaves.

Brown Eyed Susans are fairly easy to identify.

Rudbckia triloba L.

June to November                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

 brown eyed susan flower

Flower: Single flowers tip the branches and numerous stalks from leaf nodes. Each flower is one and a half inches across with six to twelve orange yellow ray flowers and central purplish brown tube flowers. These sit on a disk formed by five green, hairy bracts that arch downward.

brown eyed susan side flower

Leaf: The alternate leaves are green, thin and rough to the touch, like fine sandpaper. All the leaves may be ovate with a long, tapered point and coarse, irregular teeth. Some, mostly lower, leaves can be deeply lobed into three parts. The leaves are covered with short hairs and have three main veins. The lower leaves have a short, winged petiole while upper leaves are sessile.

brown eyed susan leaf

Stem: The stiff, green to dark red stems are covered with white hairs. The stems can reach five feet tall and have numerous branches giving the plant a bushy appearance.

brown eyed susan under leaf

Root: There are biennial to short lived perennial fibrous roots and rhizomes.

brown eyed susan lobed leaf


brown eyed susan stem

Habitat: This plant likes sunny areas with moist, well drained soil and are common along roads.


Brown Eyed Susan

brown eyed susan plant

Many of the yellow daisy type of flowers have basal leaves and stems topped with flowers. Brown eyed Susan is different.

Brown eyed Susans send up the typical tall stem but it puts out branches and more branches. These put out branches until there is a bush as much as five feet tall standing towering above most of the other plants in the area.

Each branch tip has a flower. These are small, less than two inches across, but their number makes up for this. The bush looks like yellow ornaments studding the spring green of the leaves.

Although Brown eyed Susans bloom for months, most of flowers appear in the first month. This may be different on cultivated plants where the old flowers are removed so the plant never sets seed.

The flowers are busy places. Few large butterflies visit but many small ones, bees, wasps and other insects form a steady stream of traffic. Flower spiders and assassin bugs hide among the ray flowers.

double brown eyed susan??

The flowers usually have a single row of ray flowers. I did find one plant with double flowers.

Flowering Spurge euphorbia corollata

Even in the midst of many other white flowers, those of Flowering Spurge stand out. When the flowers first appear, they are on tall stems away from other plants. Later on the stems lie along the ground and the flowers are hidden under other leaves making it fun to spot them.


Euphorbia corollata L.

May to October                                            N                                 Family: Euphorbiaceae

flowering spurge flower

Flower: Each flower branch is tipped with one flower. Each flower has a little green cup with five shallow lobes. Five white bracts that look like petals spread out from the cup. The centers of the flowers are either filled with stamens or have a single pistil. There are many more of the staminate flowers than the pistillate.

flowering spurge side flower

Leaf: Alternate leaves circle the stem. Below a branch a whorl of three leaves grows. Each leaf is up to 2 inches long, half an inch wide in the middle and has a round tip. It is darker green on top than underneath. A row of short, light green hairs is on the leaf edge and down the underside of the midvein.

flowering spurge leaf

Stem: Several unbranched stems up to 3 feet tall can come from a single taproot. The stems branch at the top to form a loose flower umbel. The stems are round, smooth and pale to medium green. The lighter stems can have purple dots.

flowering spurge under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial taproot.

flowering spurge stem


Habitat: This plant likes sunny places like prairies, glades, roadsides, pastures and old fields. It often grows in poor soil so few other plants are around it.

Poisonous: The sap is a toxic, white latex.


Flowering Spurge

flowering spurge plant

Most Ozark members of Euphorbiaceae have small flowers, too small to notice without inspection. Flowering Spurge is an exception with its quarter inch across white flowers.

Like another, more well known member of the family, the poinsettia, the petals aren’t petals but colored bracts or modified leaves. The Flowering Spurge flower is crammed into the tiny space surrounded by the bracts.

Each plant opens a dozen to two dozen flowers. Only some of these are pistillate and will later produce seeds. The others have stamens forming a yellow ring inside the bracts.

The plants look delicate with their long, slender stem. They blow in the wind and snap back to erect. As the number of flowers increases, the stem either tangles in a nearby stronger plant or gradually sinks to the ground.

Flowering Spurge grows along the road here among bluff rocks, even in cracks in the rocks. The plants tower over most nearby vegetation except for small trees. the area is sunny and the rocks heat up to make it hot.

I try to be as accurate as possible with my plant descriptions referring to Yatskievych’s Flora of Missouri. If you find a problem, please let me know.

Exploring the Ozark Hills is a book of nature essays and photographs from the four seasons.

Wood Sage Teucrium canadense

In May single, thick, square stems appear pushing their way through the dense crowd of plants. In June conical spires of flowers top the stems and the first ring of pale lavender, almost pinkish, flowers open. The Wood Sage is in bloom.

Teucrium canadense L.

June – September                             N                                             Family: Lamiaceae

wood sage flower

Flower: A flower spike surrounds the top of the stem in whorls of two to six flowers. Green calyxes surround the bases of the flowers. Each flower has a large, white to pale lavender lower lip with dark purple mottling near the throat of the flower. Two short upright petals flank the lower lip like ears. The four stamens and pistil arch up over the lower lip. The edges and undersides of the petals are covered with short hairs.

wood sage side flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves have short or no petioles. Two leaf lie bracts spread out at the base of each leaf. The leaf is long and widest toward the middle and tapers to a point. The edges are toothed. Short hairs cover the top and bottom surfaces of the leaves. The mid and side veins form strong cords on the underside of the leaf.

wood sage leaf

Stem: Stiff square stems grow three to four feet tall. Fine short hairs cover the stems. Rarely the stem branches in the upper half.

wood sage underr leafRoot: The roots are fibrous and perennial. There are rhizomes so the plant forms colonies.

wood sage stemFruit:

Habitat: This plant prefers open, sunny areas with moist soils such as along creeks, roadside ditches and prairies.

Wood Sage

American Germander

wood sage plant

Wood Sage can be considered a weed. A single stalk appears one year. The next year the one stalk has become a small colony. Other single stalks appear nearby. In a few years Wood Sage covers the area.

Various smaller native bees don’t mind this abundance of food. They zero in on the purple splotches on the lower lip of the flowers and land to feed. For people, the flowers have no scent.

The flower spikes can be eight inches long. The tall stems bring the flowers up to where they are easily noticed. The flowers are small at three quarters of an inch long but are interesting to look at with their little ears.

Wood Sage is occasionally planted in native gardens. As with other mints, this one must be confined or it will take over the garden. It is a hardy plant tolerating some drought and crowding by other plants.

I find Wood Sage along the roads where it thrives even when surrounded by giant ragweed, blackberries and poison ivy. It does like lots of sun and withstands hot temperatures. The flower spikes make it an easy plant to identify.

Enjoy more nature essays about the plants, animals and events of an Ozark year in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Hedge Parsley Torilis arvensis

White umbels of flowers seem to be everywhere lately. Queen Anne’s Lace, Sweet Cicely and Hedge Parsley are commonly seen.

hedge parsley umbel

Torilis arvensis Link.

June to September                                      I                                   Family: Apiaceae

hedge parsley flower

Flower: About 8 small, white petaled flowers form a small umbel. An average of eight small umbels form a large, loose, terminal umbel. These can be branch tips or branches coming from upper leaf nodes. Each flower is an eighth of an inch across and the petals are of uneven size giving the flower a lopsided look.

hedge parsley side flower

Leaf: Lower leaves are compound with four pairs and a terminal leaflet on a half inch petiole. The number of leaflets drops as the alternate leaves are higher on the stem until only the terminal one is left. All leaflets are lobed giving them a fern-like appearance. All are covered, top and bottom, with short hairs. They are darker green on top and pale green on the bottom where the leaf stalk shows as a prominent midvein.

hedge parsley leaf

Stem: Slender, round, ridged, green, hairy stems can reach three feet. They have a few branches. The hairs are white and short.

hedge parsley under leaf

Root: There is an annual taproot.

hedge parsley stem

Fruit: Sometimes called beggar lice, each flower forms a single football-shaped seed covered with bristles. These are reddish, then turn brown. The bristles adhere to clothing and hair.

hedge parsley fruit

Habitat: This plant likes sunny, disturbed areas commonly along roadsides.


Hedge Parsley

Hemlock Chervil

hedge parsley plant

Hedge Parsley blooms alongside Queen Anne’s Lace on roadsides. Both have umbels of white flowers. The umbels are different.

Hedge Parsley umbels have separate flower units. They are smaller. They remain spread open as the seeds replace the flowers. The seeds are in the same separate units as the flowers were.

As the seeds mature, the lower leaves yellow and wither. By the time all of the flowers have become seeds, the stems are turning brown and hard. The plant becomes a brown, brittle stalk topped by brown burs.

The seeds are sometimes referred to as beggar lice. The bristles surrounding the seeds are not hooked but still catch on any passing clothing or animal. Hair gets wrapped into the bristles making removal slow and tedious.

Originally from Eurasia, Hedge Parsley has spread widely. Each plant produces dozens of seeds that are carried off or fall to seed a colony of plants the next year.


Essays about the plants and animals of the Ozarks can be found in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Perennial Pea Lathyrus latifolius

Lathyrus latifolius L.

June to October                                           I                                   Family: Fabaceae

perennial pea flower

Flower: The round, green flower stalks come from the leaf axils and can reach almost a foot long with four to sixteen flowers on them. The flowers have five white to dark pink petals arranged with two large petals standing up behind two small petals forming a projection with the fifth petal forming a bottom of this keel.

perennial pea side flower

Leaf: The alternate, green leaves have long winged petioles topped with a pair of leaflets. Each leaflet is a broad as the petiole wings at the base and slowly tapers to a point. There is a midvein. At the junction of the two leaflets and petiole is a forked tendril. The two ends twine around objects helping the vine to climb.perennial pea leaf

Stem: The stems are green with wide wings. They can reach 7 feet long and sprawl across the ground or climb up neighboring vegetation.

Perennial pea under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial taproot with rhizomes.

perennial pea stem


Habitat: This plant prefers sunny slopes with good soil and often grow along roadsides or other disturbed areas.

Poisonous: The seeds are poisonous. The foliage is not poisonous.

perennial pea panicle of flowers

Perennial Pea

Everlasting Pea

perennial pea plant

Perennial Pea is easy to spot along a road. There are usually numerous vines snaking across over the roadside vegetation. Brilliant pink handfuls of flowers are scattered on the vines.

Other vines may have white flowers. The two colors may be adjacent to each other but do not seem to mix. Both can put on a show.

Perennial pea white flower

Originally this unscented relative of sweet peas came from southern Europe. The plant prefers south or west facing slopes where conditions are the warmest. Good soil and adequate moisture produce the biggest vines.

The vines do have tendrils and can climb, but are not strong climbers. The vines are easily broken. They can root, if they touch the ground.

Perennial pea is planted and seeds are available. The seeds germinate easily. The plant grows quickly, blooming the first year. It’s bright colors, long blooming time and ability to climb a trellis make it a popular garden plant.

Indian Physic Gillenia stipulata

There is a stretch of road that erupts with small white flowers in early summer. The leggy plants are two feet tall but so thin and sparsely leafed out, they are not noticed until the flowers open. So many flowers open at the tops of these plants covering the hillside, they bring a smile as I realize the Indian Physic is blooming.

Gillenia stipulata Nutt.

May to July                                                  N                                 Family: Rosaceae

Indian Physic flower

Flower: Five sepals form a cup surrounding the base of the flower. Five white to pink, long, narrow petals emerge from this cup spreading out into a star shape. The petals are widely spaced. Ten stamens and five pistils are inside the cup bulging outward in a mound.

Indian physic side flower

Leaf: The leaves are widely spaced on the stems giving the plant a sparse or leggy look. Each leaf is deeply lobed into three long fingers lined with jagged teeth. These teeth can divide the lower leaves into a more lacy look. The leaf has a short half inch long, hairy petiole projecting it out from the two leaf like stipules surrounding the stem at the node. A definite midvein goes out each lobe. The upper surface is a darker green than the lower surface.

Indian physic leaf

Stem: The green to red stem is usually two feet tall but can reach four. It branches in the upper half. They have a tough, smooth feel but can have short hairs mostly toward the leaf nodes.

Indian physic under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial rhizome.

Indian physic stem


Habitat: This plant likes wooded hillsides.

Midwestern Indian Physic

American Ipecac

Indian physic plant

Indian Physic forms colonies. A group of colonies can cover a hillside. All the plants begin to flower at the same time so the small flowers are noticed because of their number.

Although Indian Physic is a member of the rose family, the flowers don’t look much like a rose. The petals are long and narrow, spreading out so they look widely separated. In the calyx cup is where the rose look is seen as there is a mass of stamens.

The plant itself looks leggy. The stems are thin but tough with the leaves at long intervals. Thin branches jut off in the upper half of the plant. The flowers top long, thin stems.

At first glance the leaves look like they have five parts. The bottom two aren’t part of the leaf but surround the stem and base of the petiole. The leaf has three parts.

The blooming period is given as three months but most of the flowers appear in June and are gone by the end of June. All of the flowers I’ve seen have been white. There is pink down at the edge of the calyx cup but it doesn’t extend into the petal.

Indians used the dried root as a laxative and emetic. It has been replaced by a South American ipecac plant. When ingested, this causes a sudden, severe gagging.

Smooth Wild Petunia Ruellia strepens

I like flower gardens but don’t have time to plant one. That makes finding lovely wildflowers even more special. Petunias are such lovely flowers. Surprisingly, Ozark wild petunias only look like garden ones. The garden varieties are in the same family as potatoes, peppers and tomatoes.

Ruellia strepens L.

May to October                                            N                                 Family: Acanthaceae

wild petunia flower

Flower: Up to three lavender flowers appear at the leaf nodes and tips of branches. Each flower is two inches long, shaped like a funnel with the end broken into five rounded lobes flaring out an inch and a half. The base of the flower is surrounded by a green calyx with five points and covered with short hairs.

wild petunia side flower

Leaf: The opposite, green leaves have small leaf like bracts at their nodes. The leaves have no to short petioles. Each leaf is up to 6 inches long flaring out quickly then tapering slowly to a point. The midvein is prominent with numerous strong side veins. Minute hairs are along the underside of the veins and around the leaf edges.

wild petunia leaf

Stem: The green stem starts out unbranched but can branch on older plants. The stem has minute rows of hairs but appears hairless from a distance. It has rounded ridges.

wild petunia under leaf

Root: Perennial

wild petunia stem


Habitat: This plant likes shade and grows along creeks, in open woods and along roads.

Smooth Wild Petunia

Smooth Ruellia, Limestone Ruellia

wild petunia plant

Smooth Wild Petunia looks like a garden variety petunia but isn’t one. It varies in color from a ruby red to lavender to a rare white. Only a couple of flowers open each day and are easily missed when they are lower down on the plant. The flower only last a day.

The Smooth Wild Petunia plant stands upright and can reach three feet but is usually half that. The leaves are large and hide the flowers. The base of each leaf is hidden under a pair of bracts shaped like the leaves but much smaller. The hairs on the plant are so minute that the plant looks hairless.

There are three species of wild petunia. Although all three are listed as beginning to bloom in May, this one seems to be a week or so ahead of the others. All have similar flowers. One plant is conspicuously hairy. The other two are not. This one has the flowers without stalks from the leaf nodes. The other one has flower stalks and smaller leaves.

I find this plant in various places, often along the roads. It is an easy plant to overlook. The flowers are a lovely shade of lavender and the first thing noticed, but just a glimpse requiring a second more careful look to really find the flower.

Carolina Crane’s Bill Geranium carolinianum

The geranium family or Geraniaceae has three members in Dent County. The most noticeable is the wild geranium, Geranium maculatum, with its large deep pink flowers. This bushier, weedier member, Carolina Crane’s Bill, is more interesting after setting its fruit. Some crane type birds do put their beaks straight up to blend into the foliage behind them when danger threatens. The seed pods mimic this posture.

Geranium carolinianum L.

May to July                                                  N                                 Family: Geraniaceae

crane's bill flower

Flower: Flower stalks come out of the leaf axils. Each stalk ends with two light pink to lavender, notched flowers with three veins showing in each of the five petals. Five pointed, hairy, green sepals show between the five petals.

Crane's Bill leaf

Leaf: Some leaves are basal. The others are opposite on the stems. Each green leaf has a long hairy petiole. Five big veins go out five main lobes which divide into more lobes dividing into more lobes. The leaves can be covered with very short hairs.

Crane's Bill under leaf

Stem:The stems branch giving the up to two foot tall plant a bushy appearance. The stems are smooth, green to red and covered with short hairs.

Crane's bill stem

Root: There is an annual taproot.

Crane's Bill fruit

Fruit: The seed pod has a globular base with a long stalk pointing up from the base. These turn dark brown when ripe.

Habitat: This plant grows in many areas as glades, bluffs, prairies, stream banks, disturbed areas and woods. It prefers somewhat open areas.

Carolina Crane’s Bill

Crane's Bill plant

Carolina Crane’s Bill is easily identified by its distinctive leaves when it is small. Later the flowers look like miniature garden geraniums. Finally the seed pods looking like a crane pointing its bill skyward is unmistakable.

This is a tough plant. It can be found growing in gravel driveways. It seems to prefer these hard places as few other plants can grow there to offer competition.

Carolina Crane’s Bill stays smaller in packed ground. In better areas the plant spreads out and up for a couple of feet. Every leaf node sports flowers. Once the seed pods turn brown, the plant is decorated by them.

Since the plant is an annual, it produces lots of weeds. It grows quickly, blooms and sets more seeds. This and its tendency to grow in difficult places gets the plant listed as a weed.

The leaves are not poisonous and can be eaten. They are rated as very bitter. The short hairs would give them a fuzzy feel.

Cleavers Bedstraw Galium aparine

Galium aparine L.

April to July                                                 N                                 Family: Rubiaceae

Bedstraw flower

Flower: Tiny eighth of an inch across white, four-petaled flowers sit in the leaf nodes on short stalks. The petals come out of a green cup of sepals and fold open. The ends of the petals are pointed. One to several flowers form whorls around the leaf nodes starting about half way out the stem.

bedstraw leaf

Leaf: Whorls of six leaves surround the stems at intervals. The leaves lie flat, are long and narrow, widest just before rounding into a sharp point. Each leaf has a midvein. The midvein and leaf edges are lined with stiff barbs.

bedstraw under leaf

Stem: Several green, ridged, stiff stems come from a common root. The base of the stems is very thin. The rest of the stem is about a quarter inch thick, branching, lined with hooked barb hairs so the plant forms a dense mat. The barbs can cling to other objects and plants letting them climb upward three to four feet.

bedstraw stem

Root: The root is an annual fibrous one.

bedstraw fruit

Fruit: Usually two joined seed capsules form from each flower. The capsules are ovate and covered with stiff barbs long enough to double the apparent size of the capsule.

Habitat: This plant likes sunny, disturbed areas but will grow readily in ravines, pastures, gardens and edges of woods.


Annual Bedstraw, Goose Grass

bedstraw plant

Every stem, leaf and fruit of Cleavers or Bedstraw is covered with short, stiff, curved barbs. These join the various stems together into mats. They attach to objects and plants so the stems can grow up three to four feet. They attach to anything passing by holding on tenaciously, resisting al attempts to dislodge them, stems snapping to leave portions still attached.

The fruits caught in hair are soon wrapped in the hair. Removal with the least pain is pulling one hair out at a time until the fruit is free. As any given Cleavers stem is lined with double fruits, numerous fruits must be removed in this time consuming way but impatient tugs threaten to pull clumps of hair out with the fruits.

Each root system has numerous stems growing from it. The stems can branch but those I’ve seen do so rarely. The single stems joined together by their barbs bury nearby plants.

The name of bedstraw refers to pioneers using the plentiful plant as mattress stuffing.

There are several kinds of Galium plants. All have similar flowers although the size differs. The easiest way to recognize Cleavers is from the leaves. These are usually in whorls of six. Each leaf is long, round tipped and narrow. The other six leaf whorled Galium is a small plant about eight inches tall.

Cleavers or Bedstraw grows readily in disturbed areas such as along lawn edges and gardens. The best time to pull it out of these areas is before to just as it comes into bloom. The fruits form quickly and are a nuisance later.

Robin’s Plantain Erigeron pulchellus

Erigeron pulchellus Michx.

April to June                                                 N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Astereae

 Robin's Plantain flower

Flower: The flower is a center of yellow tube flowers surrounded by numerous white to lavender ray flowers. The entire inflorescence is close to two inches across. There are up to five on half to one inch stalks at the tip of the stem. There is a cup of green, hairy bracts under each inflorescence.

Robin's Plantain side flower

Leaf: The basal leaves are green, egg-shaped, with short petioles. They are covered with short hairs. There is a single midvein. The few stem leaves are sessile, covered with long hairs and narrower than the basal leaves.

Robin's Plantain leaf

Stem: A single, hairy, green stem can reach two feet tall. The hairs are long and spreading.

Robin's Plantain under leaf

Root: There is a perennial fibrous root system with rhizomes.

Robin's Plantain stem


Habitat: This plant forms small colonies in open woods on hillsides, pastures, ledges and bluffs.

Robin’s Plantain

Robin's Plantain plant

Although Robin’s Plantain is called a plantain, it isn’t. this name probably refers to the shape of the basal leaves which resemble those of broad-leaved plantain. Instead Robin’s Plantain is a fleabane and member of the aster family.

The relationship to the aster family is obvious with a close look at the flower. It is a typical aster type with densely packed tube flowers in the center and ray flowers around the disk. The tube flowers open in rings from the outside toward the inside. They are a yellow tube with a pistil sticking out. The stamens are fused to the pistil.

Fleabanes tend to have thinner ray flowers than other asters. Each inflorescence has a double or triple row of ray flowers. This gives a lacy look to the inflorescence.

There are several fleabanes in Dent County. Most are much smaller. Philadelphia fleabane is similar. The main ways to identify Robin’s Plantain are the long hairs on the stem, dense hair covering on the leaves and basal leaves. This plant tends to form colonies because of the rhizomes.

The ray flowers are mostly white. They can be lavender or even lavender at the base and white on the ends. Since several other white flowers bloom at the same time, Robin’s Plantain can get overlooked.

I find the plants on a hillside in woods about twenty-five feet from a pasture. A single plant bloomed the first year. There is now a small colony spreading out from the base of the oak tree where the first one grew.

Wild Hyacinth Camassia scilloides

Camassia scilloides Cory

April to May                                                 N                                 Family: Liliaceae

 wild hyacinth flower

Flower: Light blue to white, six petaled flowers on inch long stalks surround the stem. The cluster can include as many as 80 flowers. Six stamens stick out from around the green ovary bulge in the center of the flower. The flowers at the bottom of the cluster open first followed by those further up as new buds form on the tip of the stem.

wild hyacinth side flower

Leaf: The leaves are all basal and grass like. They are green, slightly darker on the under side, with parallel veins. The leaves have no hairs.

wild hyacinth leaf

Stem: A single smooth green flower stalk with no leaves on it can reach two feet but is usually 12” to 18”.

wild hyacinth stem

Root: The perennial root is a bulb.


Habitat: This plant likes light shade and moist, rich soil. It favors ravines, edges of woods and roadside ditches.

Wild Hyacinth

wild hyacinth plant

Wild Hyacinth flower clusters are looser and the flower petals thinner than the garden varieties. They only come in light blue to white. The plants still put on a display.

The six petals are referred to as tepals. This is because three are petals. The other three are sepals. They look the same so the flower appears to have six petals.

The plants tend to grow in groups. They can line the roadside for twenty feet from the edge of the ditch to four feet up. Then there are none.

On the hillside in the edge of the woods Wild Hyacinth grows near seeps or where water flows after a rain. These plants do like it moist but not wet. They will grow in full sun but seem to prefer partial light shade.

Although the Indians ate the bulbs, the plant is similar to a poisonous calla. The bulbs are small and not really worth the effort even with positive identification.

Wild Hyacinth is one of the spring ephemerals. It blooms for only a month, sets seed and disappears.


Wild Geranium Geranium maculatum

A green blush is showing on the trees meaning leaves are starting to burst from their buds. This puts pressure on the spring ephemeral wildflowers to get done with blooming and setting seed before shade covers the hillsides under the trees.

A large array of wildflowers is now bursting into bloom such as Trillium, three-lobed violets, rue anemone, spurge, shooting star and wild geranium.

Geranium maculatum L.

April to June                                                                                     Family: Geraniaceae

wild geranium flower

Flower: Clusters of pink to lavender flowers are on long, hairy stems. Each flower has a short, hairy stem, about an inch long. Five, hairy, pointed sepals spread out under the five petals. The petals spread wide and are thin with darker veins making delicate netting. Ten stamens with bar-shaped anthers surround a pistil with a split end.

wild geranium side flower

Leaf: Most leaves are basal on long, hairy petioles. Some are opposite on the stems. The leaves are deeply lobed with five lobes and palmate veins. each lobe has a rounded to squared off end with several lobes, the center one being longer than the others. The leaves have short hairs especially along the veins, upper and lower surfaces. The underside is paler green than the upper surface.

wild geranium leaf

Stem: Several stems grow up and can reach two feet tall. The stems are round, green or reddish in the sun and hairy with quarter inch long hairs drooping down.

wild geranium under leaf

Root: The roots are strong, perennial rhizomes.

wild geranium stem


Habitat: This plant prefers open woods and light shade.


Wild Geranium

Spotted Crane’s Bill

wild geranium plant

Wild Geranium is easy to spot once the flowers start opening. They are big, over an inch across and pink. I usually find them in the edges of the woods along my pastures.

The leaves start out more compact but still have the five lobes. As the plant gets older, the leaves stretch out into their characteristic shape. They do look like big crane feet, but that is not where the name comes from.

Spotted Crane’s Bill is from some plants with spotted leaves although I’ve never seen any spotted leaves. The crane’s bill part I have seen. This refers to the seed pods which have a round upper part containing the seeds and a long beak sticking out.

Wild Geranium plants are spread out because most of the leaves are basal, growing directly up from the rhizomes. There can be more than one branching flowering stem. The flowers disappear in a month or so and the plants hang on for another month or two then vanish until the next spring making this one of the spring ephemerals.

Jacob’s Ladder Polemonium reptans

The spring ephemerals including Jacob’s Ladder are up and starting to bloom all over the Ozarks. They try to grow, bloom and seed before the trees leaf out blocking the sunlight from the forest floor.

Each plant has a storage root with the food needed to bloom. It is restocked while the seeds form.

Once the seeds are ripe and disbursed, the plant withers and vanishes. Only the root remains alive and waiting for the next spring rush.

Polemonium reptans L.

April to June                                                 N                                 Family: Polemoniaceae

Jacob's Ladder flower

Flower: A thin hairy stalk ends in an olive green calyx of five pointed sepals around the base of five, light blue, thin petals forming a flaring bell-shaped flower an inch across. A long white pistil extends outmost of the length of the petals and has a style split into three parts. Five stamens of different lengths surround the pistil. Each flower cluster tends to be wider than long with five to seventeen flowers.

Jacob's Ladder side flower

Leaf: Alternate compound leaves have an end leaflet and three to nine pairs of opposite leaflets. Each leaflet has a prominent midvein. The central petiole has scattered hairs on it and bulges to partially wrap the stem.

Jacob's Ladder leaf

Stem: A single stem grows up to 18 inches tall. The sparsely hairy stems are green but turn reddish especially in the sun. The stem branches putting out several flowering stems.

Jacob's Ladder under leaf

Root: The root is a woody perennial one.

Jacob's Ladder stem


Habitat: This plant likes moist shady areas such as ravines and edges of low woods of deciduous trees.

Jacob’s Ladder

Greek Valerian

Jacob's Ladder plant

Jacob’s Ladder looks like clusters of small blue bells tucked under still bare trees in the early spring. The name comes from the leaves which look like an old makeshift ladder with a single central pole and crossbar rungs. This is another of the spring ephemerals that blooms, sets seed and goes dormant by early summer.

The pale blue flowers seem to appear often in a double row. They can point up or down yet seem to point out straight like a bank of ballpark lights.

The seed pods are light green balls and can seem to promise another round of flowers. The next round of flowers will be the next spring when some of these seeds may be plants themselves.

Smooth Rock Cress Boechera laevigata

Boechera laevigata Al-Shehbaz

April to June                                                 N                                 Family: Brassicaceae

smooth rock cress flowers

Flower: Flowers form a loose cluster on the stem tip with new flowers forming as the stem gets longer. The cluster hangs at an angle downward from the drooping end of the stem. Each flower is on a long stalk and has four white petals barely longer than the sepal cup surrounding them. The pistil starts elongating out through the petals as soon as the flower is fertilized.

smooth rock cress leaf

Leaf: The first year leaves are in a low growing rosette. They are long and narrow with a short petiole. They are gone by the time the stalk appears. Alternate stem leaves are at wide intervals. Each sessile leaf is long and narrow with a midvein. The end of the leaf has two long lobes surrounding the stem. Many leaves have teeth often toward the base but the entire edge can have teeth. The leaves are smooth with no hairs.

Smooth rock cress under leaf

Stem: The stem appears the second year. It can reach three feet tall and often droops over at the top. It is green, round and smooth with no hairs. It can turn reddish in full sun.

smooth rock cress stem

Root: The root is a biennial taproot.

smooth rock cress fruit

Fruit: The seed pod is long and curves out then hangs down. It is on a long stalk and has no hairs. Cut across the pod is round. Seeds form a single line inside the pod.

Habitat: This plant likes light shade preferring low to hilly deciduous woods growing in moister places.

Smooth Rock Cress

smooth rock cress plant

There are lots of cresses and rock cresses. Smooth Rock Cress is noticeable because of the tall drooping stem of flowers. It favors moister wooded areas with a bit of sun in the spring. I find it along the road near the river in the floodplain and on the hills on the uphill side of trees tucked near the tree.

The flower cluster looks like a falling pile of light green cups from the side. The flower petals are barely visible until you look at a flower head on. Then the four white petals are obvious.

Because there are many cresses, there are some characteristics setting Smooth Rock Cress apart. The plants are completely hairless giving them that smooth look. The seed pods have a single row of seeds visible as bulges along them, are round in cross section and, although they start out pointing up, spread out then droop down as much as three and a half inches. The leaves on the flowering stem are different too with their two long lobes, one on each side of the stem seeming, at times, to try to wrap themselves around the stem.

The plant is a biennial but the rosette of leaves from the first year goes unnoticed. It is the flowering stalk with its drooping spray of flowers that is seen by those who take the time to look.

Toothwort Cardamine concatenata

The spring ephemeral wildflowers are starting to bloom here in the Ozarks. This includes toothwort, rue anemone, false rue anemone and Johnny Jump Ups. The first blue violets and wood violets are blooming too.

Cardamine concatenata O. Schwarz

March to May                                              N                                 Family: Brassicaceae

toothwort flowers

Flower: The stem tip puts out many flower buds. Each flower is on a stalk and has a cup of green sepals with pink tips. The flower stays in a tube to the top of the sepals then the four white to pink petals flare open. Five or six stamens surrounding a pistil stick out of the central tube.

toothwort flower

Leaf: The leaves form a single whorl with three leaves going off the stem. Each leaf is split into three long narrow lobes. The two outside lobes may split into two lobes and the central lobe may split into three lobes. Each lobe is toothed at intervals.

toothwort leaf

Stem: Single unbranched stems can grow a little over a foot tall. The stems are covered with short hairs.

toothwort stem

Root: The perennial root is a series of tuberous swellings connected by thinner roots forming a rhizome.

toothwort fruit

Fruit: The seed pod is almost two inches long but barely an eighth of an inch in diameter. The seeds are lined up in the pods.

Habitat: This plant likes open woods but likes it moist. It is commonly found in bottomland forests and ravines.

Edibility: The tuberous parts of the rhizomes can be eaten in salads or dried and ground. It is spicy.

Cut-Leaved Toothwort

toothwort plant

Toothwort is one of the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom. The plants form little green forests on the forest floor The green turns to pink as the flowers open.

At one time many of the plants didn’t make it to blooming as they became potherbs. The roots were used as a horseradish substitute and toothache remedy.

Although the leaves have teeth, the name toothwort did not refer to these teeth. There are tooth-like projections on the rhizomes and these gave the plant its common name.

In early spring places in the woods and ravines seem to be covered with toothwort. The sunny forest floor turns pink when the plants bloom. The trees leaf out as the plants are finishing making seeds. A short time later the plants have vanished even though summer has barely begun.

The plant has scattered seeds to start new plants and replaced the starch in its roots and rhizomes so it can bloom in the next spring. So the plant goes dormant avoiding heat and drought and being in deep shade under summer trees full of leaves.


Starry Campion Silene stellata

Good news for those of us who try to look up the wildflowers we see. My favorite identification site is back up at http://www.missouriplants.com. This site has good pictures and descriptions of around 1000 Missouri wildflowers and plants. All you need to know is the color and leaf arrangement to look through the gallery and identify your wildflower.

Silene stellata W.T. Aiton

June to September                                      N                                 Family: Caryophyllaceae

Starry Campion flower

Flower: The open white flower has a swollen calyx surrounded by five green sepals behind it. The five petals are narrow where they join it then flare out into deeply fringed fans. The stamens and pistil are on a green bulge of ovary in the center. Open groups or panicles of flowers are on long petioles from several slender flower stalks branching off the end of the main stem.

Starry Campion side flower

Starry Campion leaf

Leaf: The stem leaves are in whorls of four sessile leaves. The leaves are triangular with the bases meeting around the stem then tapering to a sharp point. There is a prominent midvein.

Starry Campion under leaf

Stem: The unbranched stem is green and hairy. The stem forms a plum colored knob on top of each leaf node. Several flower stalks go off near the top of the stem. It can reach over three feet tall but often arches over.

Starry Campion stem

Root: The perennial root is thick and branched.


Habitat: This plant likes light shade and moist soil as is found at the edges of woods, along steams, ravines and roadside ditches.

Starry Campion

Starry Campion plant

Starry Campion is easy to overlook when it struggles through surrounding vegetation. The arching flower stalks with their white flowers is what is seen first.

In more open and favored places the growing stalk raises curiosity. It is stout and grows straight up three to four feet. The whorls of four leaves surround the stem at intervals. On top of each whorl is a swollen reddish knob making the whole appear as though constructed in pieces.

The flowers are easy to identify because of the five white fringed fans held stiffly out from a light green urn as long as the petals. The flowers don’t open at the same time but overlap enough to put on a display. They open late in the day to attract moths for pollination and close in a day or two unless the weather is hot and closes them sooner.

New stalks and flowers are produced over the summer as long as the plant remains in the shade and gets sufficient moisture. In the wild the stems are gradually buried by slender vines twining their way up. By the end of summer only the flower stalks and flowers still stick out to show where the plant is growing.

Like other flowers in the Pink family, Starry Campion is easy to grow, slow to become established but puts on a large show in a few years. Each taproot can put out several stems so the effect is massed in a clump.

Deptford Pink Dianthus armeria

Dianthus armeria L.

May to October                                            I                                   Family: Caryophyllaceae

Deptford Pink flower

Flower: Each flower stalk ends in a single vividly pink  half inch across flower. Each flower appears to be set into a brushy mix of long, narrow, pointed bracts and sepals. The five petals are pink with white spots with a reddish pink line forming a pentagon half way out. The petals are lobed on the ends. Ten stamens and two pistils are in the center tube of the flower.

Deptford Pink flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves have a common sheathe surrounding the stem at the leaf node. They are long and narrow curving down to a blunt point. They have smooth edges and are covered with short hairs. The basal leaves are wider with more rounded points and longer hairs.

Deptford Pink leaf

Deptford Pink basal leaves

Stem: The unbranched stem can reach three feet. There are short hairs at each leaf node. Flower stalks arise in the leaf nodes often branching. The stem is green, round and stiff.

Deptford Pink stem

Root: The annual or biennial root is a slender taproot.

Fruit: The fruit is a half inch long cylindrical pod pointed on both ends.

Deptford Pink seed pods

Habitat: This plant prefers drier disturbed ground like roadsides but sunny locations like edges of woods, pastures and fence lines are used too.

Deptford Pink

Deptford Pink plant

Deptford Pink got its name from the locality it was found in: Deptford, England. The pink part is because it is a member of the pink family many members of which are popular garden flowers. Carnations are pinks.

The plant has been in the New World since colonial times. There is doubt that gardeners brought it over because the flowers are much smaller than other pinks. The seeds may have been mixed in with crop seeds. However it arrived, Deptford Pinks are well established.

Deptford Pink flowers are about half an inch across. The bright pink petals are spread out flat giving maximum visibility. The plants have numerous flower stalks with many flowers ranging from forming buds to open flowers to closed flowers forming seeds.

Disturbed ground such as along roadsides is preferred by Deptford Pinks. The stems and leaves are slender and easily overwhelmed by other more robust plants. Occasional mowing encourages the plants as they will put up new stems and continue blooming.


Tall Bellflower Campanula americana

Tall bellflower is an eagerly awaited wildflower. The pages are not really going so slowly. I have been trying to identify some of the many flowers stashed in my Unknown folder. There are a lot of goldenrods. I still have pictures of at least four more to verify identification of.

Campanula americana L.

July to September                                       N                                 Family: Campanulaceae

tall bellflower flower

Flower: The top of the stem is a column of blue flowers with white centers. The calyx or cup behind the flower is made of green bracts with long tips curved outward. The flower has five pointed petals with tapered curled tips. They are around a ridged mounded disk ending with a long blue pistil sticking out. The stamens are like curled yellow ribbons around the base of the pistil.

tall bellflower side flower

Leaf: The green leaves are long and broad in the middle tapering at both ends. The stem end has a short petiole winged with leaf tissue. The leaf tip is a long point. Short hairs follow the midvein and the leaf edges, scattered elsewhere. The edges are toothed. The leaves and petioles get smaller as they get higher on the stem.tall bellflower leaf

tall bellflower under leaf

Stem: Single unbranched stems grow up to six feet tall. They are strongly ridges often with hairs on the ridges. The stems are rigid and try to grow straight but will grow at an angle or curved.

tall bellflower stem

Root: The root is an annual or biennial taproot.

Fruit: The calyx bracts get twice as long and turn brown around the developing seeds. They are in small clusters looking like ridged brown urns. They have holes open in them from which the seeds are scattered.

tall bellflower seed capsules

Habitat: This plant prefers growing in light shade as along the edges of woods and along roads.

Tall Bellflower

American Bellflower

tall bellflower plant

The easiest place to find Tall Bellflower is along a shady stretch of road especially if a ravine is close. They are easy to spot as the stems tower above most of the other plants early in their blooming time although they will get crowded out later on. The flowers are unmistakable.

Clusters of blue to purple flowers hang out over the leaves. New buds form higher on the stem even as others bloom so the plants keep blooming for months. The white centers are like bull’s-eyes pulling attention to the long pistils sticking nearly an inch out of the flowers.

Nectar around the base of the pistil attracts insects to pollinate the flowers. The flowers are sturdy enough for small bumblebees to land and hang on.

Tall Bellflower is an annual or a biennial. It depends on when the seeds germinate. Those germinating in the early spring will bloom that season. Those germinating late in the season will overwinter and bloom the following year.

The plants are easy to start from seed and grow easily. They are gaining in popularity for native gardens but make a lovely backdrop for other shorter plants. Once established, tall bellflower will self seed.

Deer will eat tall bellflower nipping off the stems. The plant puts out more flowers on the stem left growing. Even such short plants are easy to spot and identify as no other wildflower looks like this one.

In rich soil the plants can grow fairly close together offering each other support on windy days. This also masses the blooming columns making them even more noticeable and impressive.

If botany is your forte, check out How the Syrian Milkweed Got Its Name and The Floral Biology of Aristolochia. If nature essays and enjoyable reading, check out Exploring the Ozark Hills.


Bluebells Mertensia virginica

Mertensia virginica Pers. ex Link

March to June                                                                                  Family: Boraginaceae


Flower: Flowers are in clusters at the ends of flower stalks. Each flower base is set into a green cup with five pointed lobes. The flower is a long tube that flares into a bell. The tube is about twice as long as the bell. The bell’s rim has small notches as though beginning five petals. The buds are pink and turn blue as the flowers open. Some plants retain the pink flowers or can have white ones.

bluebells flower

bluebells leaf

Leaf: Basal leaves appear first. They look like loose cabbage leaves and can be pinkish in color. Each leaf is broadly oval with a single midvein. The edges are smooth often with a small notch at the leaf tip. The leaves are not hairy. The stem leaves are alternate with petioles. The petioles and leaves get smaller further up the stem.

bluebells leaf bottom

Stem: Smooth unbranched stems grow up to two feet tall but often arch so appearing shorter. Each rootstock may have several stems. The tips put out several flower stalks.

bluebells stem

Root: The perennial root is stout, woody and can have rhizomes.


Habitat: This plant likes shady moist areas such as along rivers, ravines and bottomland forests.


Virginia Cowslip

bluebells plant

Finding one Virginia Bluebell means finding several of them. The plants form colonies and are easy to spot in bloom as the blue, although it appears pastel as a single flower, is vivid when numerous flowers are in a small area.

Virginia Bluebells are a lovely wildflower and easy to grow in a shade garden. They do insist on being in the shade most of the time, having plenty of moisture and rich dirt. The plants go dormant shortly after setting seed in mid summer.

The leaves are attractive when they first come up as they are large and dark pink. They gradually turn green. They appear soft and feel smooth.

The flower buds are pink then lavender but open as blue flowers. Each cluster has a bouquet of flowers that often point downwards. Single flowers point more up.

pink bluebells

The pink or white form can be a single plant in a colony of blue flowered plants.