Kenilworth Ivy or Ivy-Leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis, was originally native to Mediterranean Europe but has been naturalized to the UK and parts of the USA for hundreds of years. It is widely planted in rock gardens and along garden pathways. This hardy snapdragon-like plant is an edible and a Stepable Plant that matures to just a few inches tall, but is often found creeping along or cascading over a stone wall or ledge, the whole plant being several feet long. The purple toadflax-like flowers have two lips with bright yellow spots on the lower one. Flowers draw back into the soil or rock crevice once fertilized.
Tag Archives: wildflowers
Common Heather, Calluna vulgaris, is a dominant plant in European moorland, and can also be found in some bog areas and pine forests. This hardy species of heath has come to be naturalized in parts of North America and Asia and is often cultivated in rock gardens around the world. There are close to 1000 different cultivars of this once-humble species, varying in growth form, flower color, flowering time, and other features. The natural species has tiny scale-like leaves and mostly pink flowers, and blooms in late summer.
The American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis, is one of North America’s last birds to get started building a family. In July, when other bird families include fledglings aplenty, the thistles are just starting to bloom. This signals the conspicuous bright yellow male goldfinch and his olive colored mate to start building a nest, constructed mostly of thistle down. When the eggs finally hatch, the thistles have gone to seed — the perfect time to start feeding chicks! Parent goldfinches serve their nestlings a milky cereal-like substance made of thistle seed — the bird world’s closest thing to mammal milk!
The American Bittersweet vine, Celastrus scandens, is native to central and eastern North America, but is unfortunately being replaced by a non-native invasive species, the Oriental Bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus. Our native species has alternate, oval, fine-toothed leaves and berry-like fruits that start out green, change to yellow then orange, then finally split open to reveal the 3-part fruit interior shown below. The fruits are poisonous to humans but eaten widely by birds and mammals, from wild turkeys to eastern cottontails. When growing up a young sapling, bittersweet vines can choke out and even kill their host, but typically it causes no real damage.
This uniquely patterned flower goes by several names including Checkered Lily, Snake’s Head Fritillary, and Guinea Hen Flower. It is Fritillaria meleagris, the genus name meaning (basically) checkered and the species name referring to guinea fowl. This plant is native to Eurasia from the UK across into western Russia. It is also widely grown as a spring bulb in gardens all across the USA. Certainly planting a few of these bulbs would provide a new conversation starter for any garden!
I just love this name: the Spiny Cream Spider Flower! This shrub grows up to about 6 feet tall, in the outback of Western Australia. It usually flowers twice per year and its leaves are slightly prickly and finely divided. Straight white hairs line the branches and the fruit looks like wrinkly green bean seeds.
The silk floss tree, Ceiba speciosa, is related to baobob and kapok trees and features the family’s swollen trunk. Not only does it have huge showy flowers up to 6 inches across, but its bark is covered in spikelets that hold water. As if it weren’t unique enough already, when young the trunk of this tree is green with chlorophyll, performing some of the photosynthesis for the plant. With age, the trunk turns grey.
Watch the nearly silent video tour of a silk floss tree, and click the links below the video to learn more — including how it got its name!
Silk Floss Tree
The lowly wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens, grows only 4 to 6 inches tall but features bright white nodding flowers that morph into bright red edible berries, and leaves that give us the familiar wintergreen flavor. A North American wildflower, it grows on the forest floor of most of the eastern half of the United States. Watch the video to learn to identify this plant with ease.
Wintergreen flowers look a lot like little blueberry flowers. That’s because they are in the same family — Ericaceae. Wintergreen flowers turn into bright red berries and the leaves are used as a wildwood tea. The berries are edible, but not in the quantities of delicious blueberries.
Wintergreen grows wild in eastern North American woodlands. It is only 4 to 6 inches tall, but you can find its reddish to dark green evergreen leaves at any time of the year, even under the snow.
The Silk Tassel Bush, Garrya elliptica, is a serpentine endemic plant — meaning it can grow on soils that (for one thing) contain high concentrations of chromium and nickel.
This is truly a heavy metal plant! 😀
It is native to the West coast of the USA — California and Oregon. Check out the links below the pic for closeups of those crazy dangling flowers!
The wooly white Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is endangered due to over-collection. The alpine flower has a long history of use as a folk remedy and lover’s sign of devotion. Ever heard the famous song by the name “Edelweiss“? You may recognize it’s melody.