Common Summer Wildflowers of West Virginia

Norma Jean Venable
WVU Extension Service

Appreciation is expressed to William N. Grafton, extension wildlife specialist, West Virginia University, for help with this work including selection of plant species described.


Introduction Illustrated Glossary
Arrowhead, Duck Potato Asiatic Day-flower
Common Day Lily Nodding Ladies' Tresses
Wood Nettle Dutchman's Pipe
Common Smartweed, Water Pepper Japanese Knotweed
Pokeweed Soapwort
Yellow Water Lily Tall Buttercup
Wild Columbine Black Snakeroot, Black Cohosh
Wild Hydrangea Pipestem, Meadowsweet
Flowering Raspberry Pasture Rose
Cypress Spurge, Graveyard Weed Jewelweed, Touch-me-not
Dotted St. John's-Wort Fireweed
Common Evening Primrose Poison Hemlock
Queen Ann's Lace, Wild Carrot Indian Pipe, Corpse Plant
Wintergreen, Teaberry Whorled Loosestrife
Closed Gentian Orange Milkweed, Butterfly Weed
Common Milkweed Field Bindweed, Morning Glory
Fall Phlox Viper's Bugloss, Bluedevil
Blue Vervain Heal-all, Self Heal
Bittersweet, Climbing Nightshade Common Ground-cherry
Great Mullein Butter and Eggs, Toadflax
Turtlehead Monkey Flower
Downy Yellow Foxglove Japanese Honeysuckle
Wild Raisin Common Teasel
Venus' Looking Glass Tall Bellflower
Cardinal-flower Great Blue Lobelia
New York Ironweed Common Joe-Pye Weed
White Snakeroot Boneset
Early Goldenrod, Yellow-top Blue Wood Aster
Black-eyed Susan Common Sunflower
Yarrow Bull or Common Thistle
Chickory Purple Goat's Beard, Oyster Plant, Salsify
White Lettuce, Rattlesnake Root Devil's Paintbrush


Travelers exploring West Virginia during the summer often are interested in identifying and leaning more about the state's many wildflowers. This booklet was written to help meet that interest.

West Virginia has more than 2,000 kinds of vascular plants. It is beyond the scope of this publication to describe all of them, but some of the more common and showy summer flowers that can be seen along roadsides and around scenic areas are described here.

Readers wanting more specific information can consult the references listed in the bibliography.

Summer wildflowers as defined in this publication are those primarily blooming from June through August, although many flowers included here bloom May-October.

Plants are listed in the order in which they occur in the standard work on West Virginia vegetation: Flora of West Virginia by P. D. Strausbaugh and Earl Core. In this and other botanical works, the plants are arranged systematically from more primitive plant families such as lilies to the most advanced-the daisy or composite family. Common and scientific names follow listings in the Flora. Plant illustrations also are taken from the Flora.

Plant names can vary according to the source consulted. An alphabetic listing of common names is found in the index. The brief illustrated glossary will help the reader understand the flower types and leaf arrangements and shapes described in the text.

In many areas 50 percent or more of the plants are not native. After being brought from Europe, Asia, and other places, they now grow wild throughout the state. In this booklet such plants are described as "introduced," meaning not native to this area. There is increased effort today to protect native plants through habitat preservation.

Plants and their use as wild food and medicines have fascinated people from ancient times. Now there is increased interest in such uses of plants and in their folklore. Because many plants are poisonous to eat or touch, it is dangerous to eat wild plants. Those interested in wild foods should attend a wild foods weekend offered at state parks or nature centers. Many plants were used in ancient times as cure-alls, but modem science has found little evidence to support their use as medicines. Readers interested in this topic should consult the many excellent references on the subject, some of which are listed in the bibliography.

Illustrated Glossary

Most of the following descriptive plant terms are defined in the text but are illustrated here. Flower identification is easier if you note the leaf shape and arrangement, the flower type, the presence or absence of distinguishing features (thorns, bracts, and stipules), and type of fruit (berry, capsule, or nut). Note also the habitat and type of soil where the plant grows. Then compare your specimen with the description in the text. Note: Information in this glossary has been simplified for those not familiar with botanical terms. For complete definitions of terms, see Strausbaugh and Core's Flora of West Virginia.

Leaf Type, Shape, and Arrangement

Alternate and Opposite on the Stem. (Note illustration.) Many plants have alternate leaves, but some, such as St. John's Worts, have opposite leaves.




Axillary, Leaf Axil. Upper angle between a leaf or branch and the place it meets the stem. Many flowers, such as those of the mint family, grow from this angle and are termed "axillary."





Basal Rosette. "Basal" means growing low on the plant or on the ground; "rosette" means arranged in a circular pattern like the spokes of a wheel. Great mullein has leaves in a basal rosette.



Bract. A modified leaf under a flower, which may be brightly colored as in poinsettias.





Compound. Composed of similar parts; compound leaves are divided into several leaflets.




Dissected. Leaves are deep cut so as to appear feathery; yarrow and Queen Anne's lace are examples.





Ocrea. A modified stipule or leaf appendage characteristically found on plants in the buckwheat family such as smartweed.





Sessile. Lacks a stalk. Leaves and flowers may be referred to as "sessile."





Simple. Many leaves, such as sunflower leaves, are simple and not divided into leaflets.




Stipule. A leaf appendage.





Thoms and Prickers. Modified stipules which may he very sharp as in thistles.




Whorl. Arranged in circular shape; see basal rosette.






Flower Parts, Types, and Arrangements; Fruits; Roots

Berry. Fleshy fruit, such as tomato.

Capsule. Dry fruit, such as touch-me-not.




Calyx. Outer part of the sepals. (See illustration.)

Corolla. Petals. (See illustration.)




Dicot. More advanced plants have two cotyledons or seed leaves; often they have net-veined leaves, (see illustration.) and leaf and flower parts not in a series of three such as in monocots. Except for the first four discussed, all plants in this work are dicots.




Monocots characteristically have one cotyledon or seed leaf, parallel-veined leaves, and flower parts in a series of three (such as trilliums).




Disk Flower. The composite or daisy family is the largest family of plants. The flower heads have two kinds of flowers: disk or tubular flowers often in the center of the flower head, and ray or strap-shaped flowers extending from the flower center. Occasionally flower heads have only one type of flower. (See ray flower.)

Fruit. Mature, ripened ovary. Fruits, if present, help identify plants.





Nut. A type of fruit, often with a hard outer cover.




Petal. A division of the corolla, often brightly colored. (See illustration.)

Pistil. The part of the plant having ovules that if pollinated produce fruit.

Ray Flower. See disk flower.

Reflexed. Bent backward, as are milkweed flowers.




Rootstock. Rhizome, or underground rootlike stem.




Sepal. See calyx and illustration.

Spathe. A large bract or modified leaf enclosing the inflorescence or flowers. Occurs on jack-in-the pulpit, skunk cabbage, and other members of the Arum family.

Spur. A sac-like extension of a flowers, seen on many orchids.





Stamens. The part of the flower which bears pollen. See illustration.

Tubers. A short, thick underground stem having buds or eyes, such as the familiar potato and arrowhead (not illustrated).




Sagittaria latifolia

You might see the white flowers and arrow shaped leaves of this plant growing in shallow water along lakes, streams, and ponds. Reaching about 4 feet tall, the plant has individual leaves that can be more than a foot long. Leaves are usually arrow-shaped with backward-pointing lobes, but vary in shape and may be long, linear, and grasslike. Flowers are about an inch in diameter, with three rounded petals, growing from the thick stem in whorls of three. After flowering, the seed heads or achenes are in round greenish 1-inch diameter clusters. Arrowhead's horizontal roots have short, thick stems or tubers at their tips in autumn. The starchy edible tubers were used for food by American Indians. Muskrats, beaver, and other wildlife also eat the tubers, sometimes storing them in caches in their lodges. Geese and ducks eat both seeds and tubers, giving this plant the name "duck potato." July-September.

Asiatic Day-flower
Commelina communis

Growing around gardens, homes, fields, and stream edges, this very common plant is a native of Asia. The 1- to 3-foot-high plants are easily identified by their flowers, which have two large light blue or violet upper petals contrasting with a smaller third petal that is whitish and supports the stamens. Anthers, located on the ends of the stamens, contain pollen. This particular plant has only three anthers that are fertile and produce pollen. The flowers are located in the hollow of a heart-Shaped, leaflike structure called a "spathe." Each flower lasts for only a few hours during the day, giving the name day-flower. After their short blooming time, the petals liquefy, forming a sweet mass attractive to bees. Leaves are lance-shaped, shiny, and bright green. The base of the leaf forms a tubular sheath around the stem. The sprawling stems have many branches, and roots grow out of the trailing part of the stem where the leaves are attached. There are several kinds of day-flowers, which belong to the spiderwort family. Spiderworts are similar to day-flowers and usually have purple or blue flowers. July-October.

Common Day Lily
Hemerocallis fulva

Clumps of tawny orange day lily flowers are a familiar sight along roadsides in summer. Natives Of Europe, these cultivated plants have escaped and grow wild, forming large colonies. Flower stalks reaching 2 to 5 feet high are topped with several buds, each opening and lasting for a day. The large, 3- to 4-inch-long flowers do not have the dark spots that characterize native wild lilies such as wood lily. Seeds are not fertile and the plant reproduces vegetatively from tile roots. Long leaves are grasslike, an inch across, and pointed at the tips, with smooth edges. Plants have fleshy, fibrous roots. A similar species of day lily has bright lemon-yellow flowers. There are many cultivated species. June-July.

Nodding Ladies' Tresses
Spiranthes cernua

The several species of ladies' tresses are among the latest of all wildflowers to blossom, appearing in late summer and fall. Growing in fields and damp meadows, they also thrive in pastures where grazing animals have eaten grass, giving the plants-which reach 6 inches to 2 feet in height-room to grow. The numerous small white flowers spiral or twist downward on the stem, a distinguishing feature of ladies' tresses. The scientific name comes from the Greek speira, a coil or spiral. Other common names are pearl-twist and corkscrew plant. Flowers are up to 1/2-inch long, with three petals and three petal-like sepals. The largest petal or lip flares at one end and is wrinkled at the edges. Ladies' tresses are members of the orchid family, and the flowers, although small, have the characteristic orchid shape with the large lip. Grassy leaves are in a basal rosette, and may have withered when the flower stalk appears. Leaves on the upper stem are small and scalelike. Some species of ladies' tresses, once called "ladies' traces," from the supposed resemblance to lacing on ladies' clothes, are fragrant. Ladies' tresses have been used as medicinal plants; vanilla comes from the seeds of a tropical orchid. August-October.

Wood Nettle
Laportea Canadensis

Wood nettle reaches between 1-1/2 and 4 feet high, flourishing along stream banks in wooded areas. Clusters of small greenish flowers grow in leaf axils. The 2- to 8-inch leaves alternate on the long-stalked stem, and the leaf edge is coarsely toothed. There are several kinds of nettles, the stems and leaves of which have stinging hairs that cause skin irritation on contact. The scientific name for the nettle family Urticaceae, comes from Uro, meaning "I burn," an accurate description of the sensation, although the burning feeling usually lasts only a few minutes. Stinging nettles, which come from Europe and grow along homesites and old fields, can cause intense itching and have leaves opposite each other on the stem with heartshaped leaf bases. Cooked stinging nettles are sometimes used as pot-herbs or greens. July-August.

Dutchman's Pipe
Aristolochia macrophyla

This twining vine with its thick stem and large 6- to 15-inch, heart-shaped leaves climbs high into tree tops. It is especially noticeable in the higher mountain areas in the state. The 2-inch, brown-purple or greenish flowers are S- or pipe-shaped, accounting for the name. Sometimes mistaken for grape vines, dutchman's pipe is a characteristic plant of the southern Appalachian forests. May-June.




Common Smartweed, Water Pepper
Polygonum hydropiper

Recognized by their spikelike clusters of tiny pink or whitish flowers, the many kinds of smartweeds are members of the buckwheat family that includes cultivated buckwheat. Smartweeds often have swollen or knotty joints where the leaf attaches to the stem or where the stem divides; smartweeds are also called "knotweeds." There is also a papery sheath at each leaf base called an Aocrea." The ocrea, a sheathing stipule or modified leaf, is,a distinguishing feature of many plants in the buckwheat family. Smartweeds are named for their acrid juice that gives a peppery taste to leaves and stems. Common smartweed has this nippy flavor. Usually reaching less than a foot high, it grows in damp soils, wet ditches, fields, and roadsides. Animals eating smartweeds and then exposed to sun may become photosensitive, developing skin blisters and nervous disorders. However, leaves and roots of other smartweed species have been used for human food. Wildlife, including shorebirds, songbirds, and small mammals such as chipmunks, eat smartweed seeds. There are some 20 smartweed species in the state, including one that grows in water. June-September.

Japanese Knotweed
Polygonum cuspidatum

Japanese knotweed, also known as Japanese bamboo, is another member of the buckwheat family. Introduced from Japan, it is shrub-size growing to 7 feet or more. It has auxiliary clusters of greenish white, tiny 1/8-inch flowers and 4- to 6-inch rounded leaves. Weedy, these bushes can invade and takeover large areas. July-October.




Phytolaccaceae americana

Red-purple stems and drooping clusters of purple-black berries quickly identify this bushy plant reaching 10 feet tall. Poke is common, growing in both urban and rural areas in ditches, clearings, and roadsides. Poke has small white flowers which are actually four or five sepals blooming July-September. Berries ripen August-October. The long leaves may reach up to a foot. Poke comes from an American Indian word Pokan meaning "red juice plant used as a stain or dye," suggesting one way this plant was used. Another name for it is inkberry. Both Native Americans and early settlers used poke as a medicinal plant. Poke is poisonous, with roots and seeds having greatest concentrations of poisons. No part of the plant is tasty so it is not usually eaten raw by mistake, although cooked young leaves sometimes are used as greens. Birds do eat the berries.

Saponaria officinalis

Brought from Europe, this common summer plant is often seen growing along roadsides, rail-road banks, and other places where the soil has been disturbed. Reaching 1 to 2 feet in height, soapwort spreads by underground stems that often form large colonies. Flowers are pinkish or white, fragrant, about an inch wide, with five scalloped petals. Flowers are sometimes double. Leaves, which have three to five conspicuous veins, are 2-1 inches long and opposite each other on the stem. When crushed in water, the foliage forms froth or lather, hence the name. Another name is "bouncing bet," an old-fashioned nickname for washerwoman. The soaplike substances are poisonous to eat. July-September.

Yellow Water Lily
Nuphar advena

Growing in shallow water around pond edges, this member of the water lily family has large oval leaves up to a foot long and 9 inches across. In deeper water leaves may float on the surface; in shallow places they may protrude above the water. Conspicuous flowers are 3 inches across; they resemble flattened globes and are greenish outside and reddish inside. Yellow color comes from the sepals; the petals are inconspicuous. There are five. to seven rows of stamens. Individual flowers are raised above the water on separate leafless stalks. This plant tolerates muddy water with fluctuating level-conditions that may stop growth of other plants. Deer and muskrat eat the thick, more-than-a-yard long root stocks and ducks eat the seeds, but the plant has low wildlife value. July-September. Less commonly seen water lilies include the fragrant water lily, which has up to 40 fragrant white or pinkish petals.

Tall Buttercup
Ranunculus acris

Butter-colored, waxy petals and leaves often shaped like the foot of a crow quickly identify buttercups, of which there are many kinds. The scientific name Ranunculus means "little frog"; buttercups often grow in wet places which also attract frogs. Meadow buttercup, introduced from Europe, grows in meadows, fields, and disturbed lands, and is one of the tallest, most common buttercups. Reaching 3 feet, the plant has flowers with five glossy, bright yellow petals. This shiny texture is produced by a special layer of cells beneath the surface cells. Leaves are deeply cut or incised. Bottom leaves are up to 4 inches; upper leaves are smaller. Buttercups have an acrid juice with an unpleasant taste so animals don't often eat them, which is one reason buttercups are common in fields. The juice is also poisonous and contact with some buttercup species can cause skin blisters.

Wild Columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

This lovely wildflower has showy, scarlet, and yellow bell-like flowers with five petals tapering backwards into long tubes or spurs. The distinctive flowers are nodding on long stalks. Tubes contain nectar attractive to hummingbirds and certain insects. The 4- to 6-inch pale green leaves have long stalks, and compound three-lobed leaflets. Wild columbine grows 1-3 feet tall in woods and rocky banks. The similar garden columbine has blue or purple flowers. Columbine comes from the word "columba," meaning "dove," because of the supposed resemblance of the flowers to the head and neck of a dove, or because the spurs of the flowers took like a cluster of doves drinking at a fountain. April-June.

Black Snakeroot, Black Cohosh
Cimicifuga racemosa

A large plant reaching 8 feet tall, black snakeroot is often seen in rich soil in woods throughout the state. It has small, white flowers growing in clusters on flower stalks that may be 3 feet long. Flowers are 1/2-inch wide with 4 to 5 sepals (there are no petals) that often fall as the flower opens. The large, compound leaves are twice divided into units of threes, with toothed edges and leaflets to 4 inches long. "Cohosh" is an American Indian name for plants reputed to have medicinal qualities. The thick, knotted root stock was supposed to prevent and cure snake bite and other maladies. A member of the buttercup family, the plant has an unpleasant odor purported to repel bugs, which gives it another common name "bugbane." June-August.

Wild Hydrangea
Hydrangea arborescens

Hydrangeas are shrubs often grown around homes and gardens for their large, globe-shaped ornamental flowers. Wild hydrangea is a native species found in woods and along rocky slopes and stream banks. It can reach over 8 feet tall. The scientific name arborescens means "treelike." The small, whitish flowers appear in flat to round 2- to 5-inch clusters. Sometimes the outer flowers are sterile consisting of a colorful calyx. Leaves are opposite each other on the stem, 5-15 inches long, with pointed ends and toothed edges. Leaf shape varies from circular to egg-shaped. Fruit appearing in fall consists of small, dry capsules eaten by wild turkey. June-July.

Pipestem, Meadowsweet
Spiraea alba

This relative of cultivated spiraea grows in wet soil and reaches 8 feet tall. Often this shrub is the most conspicuous part of the vegetation, taking over large areas. Its white flowers grow in spikelike clusters at the top of the plant. Leaves are oblong or lance-shaped, toothed on the edges. Twigs are tough and yellowish brown. The hollow, upright stems were used as pipe stems. A related shrub is steeplebush, which has pink or purple flower spikes flowering the same time as meadowsweet in early summer through September.



Flowering Raspberry
Rubus odoratus

Clusters of lovely rose-lavender flowers attract attention to this 3- to 6-foot tall rambling shrub growing along roads, meadow edges, and in thickets and fields. Flowers are 1-2 inches wide, fragrant, with five roselike petals and many yellow stamens. The 4- to 10-inch leaves are maplelike with three to five lobes. Unlike many raspberries, this shrub does not have prickers. Twigs are often hairy. Flowers, twigs, and leaves may have hairs that have clammy tips. Older branches may have flaking bark. Birds and other wildlife eat the red fruit. Depending on the plant, locale, and weather, the fruit can be tasty and juicy or dry and tasteless. A member of the rose family, flowering raspberry is cultivated as an ornamental. June-September.

Pasture Rose
Rosa carolina

Pasture rose grows about 3 feet high and may be conspicuous in dry, rocky pastures and woods where soil is thin. Attractive flowers are pink. Leaves are compound, usually with seven leaflets. Stipules, which are leafy appendages growing on each side of the leaf, are quite narrow. The thorns are often straight, not curved. May-July. Several other kinds of wild rose grow in a variety Of sites, including swamp rose found in wet areas.




Cypress Spurge, Graveyard Weed
Euphorbia cyparissias

There are many kinds of spurges, both native and introduced. Characteristics of the spurge family include the presence of bracts, which are petal-like leaves surrounding the true flowers that often are quite small. Bracts may be brightly colored as in Christmas poinsettia which is a spurge family member. Spurges also have milky juice. Plants are considered poisonous if ingested. Cypress spurge has flat-topped clusters of yellow, flowerlike bracts at the top of the stem. Bracts may turn red or orange. The actual flowers are only 3/8-inch wide. Also called "cemetery plant" because it often grows in graveyards, this spurge has distinctive, needlelike, light green leaves about 1-1/2-inch long, the uppermost in a whorl. Introduced from Europe and growing a foot high, it spreads by horizontal root stocks and can escape from cultivation, forming large patches. Purgatives were made from the roots. Contact with the sap can cause dermatitis, and animals eating hay that has spurges can be poisoned. May-September.

Jewelweed, Touch-me-not
Impatiens capensis

Orange spotted flowers nodding from thin, threadlike stems easily identify jewelweed. The attractive flowers are said to resemble jewels. The showy flower consists of several petal-like sepals in the shape of a tube or trumpet with a spur at the end. Jewelweed has two kinds of flowers, the 1-inch flower just described and tiny petalless flowers that never open. These tiny flowers produce most of the seeds, which are in a capsule or pod that explodes or flies apart when touched. The seeds are thrown several feet, giving the plant its other names, "touch-me-not" and "snapweed." When the seeds germinate the next spring, the ground may be covered with tiny seedlings whose pennyshaped leaves don't look much like the bushy, 5-foot-tall mature plants. Leaves are pale green and have a silvery sheen when wet. The flowers were used to make a yellow dye. American Indians used the juice to reduce irritation from poison ivy, and the juice can be helpful to lessen stinging caused by contact with nettles. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the showy flowers. June-October. There is another species that has pale yellow and sometimes white flowers. All these species grow along streams and in moist, shady places.

Dotted St. John's-wort
Hypericum punctatum

St. John's-worts are plants with clusters of yellow or sometimes purplish flowers with five petals and numerous stamens. Leaves are opposite each other on the stem or whorled and often have dark or translucent dots that can be seen if the leaf is held against the light. Many St. John's-wort species grow as herbs or shrubs. Found in thickets and damp areas where it may be a conspicuous part of the vegetation, dotted St. John's-wort is shrubby with woody lower branches. Crowded flowers have pale yellow petals. Leaves are sessile, meaning without a stalk. St. John's-worts ("wort" means plant") are named in honor of St. John the Baptist because the plants blossom in June, the month this saint is honored. The plants were supposed to ward off evil spirits. American Indians used native species to help heal wounds. However, another common Hypericum species is known to cause skin problems in domestic animals ingesting the plants. June-September.

Epilobium angustifolium

Fireweed, which grows 3-5 feet tall, received its name because it is one of the first plants to grow back on burned land. Bright magenta or deep pink flowers have four round petals growing in spikelike clusters. Masses of fireweed are a spectacular sight-the bright flowers seem to symbolize their fiery origin. Elongated flower buds point upward. Fruit is a 3-inch-long capsule or seed pod pointing downward, which when split shows a silky down that helps disperse seed. In West Virginia fireweed grows primarily in the mountains. Purple-leaved willow herb is a similar species found throughout the state. July-August.

Common Evening Primrose
Oenothera biennis

This common plant growing in dry soil and disturbed land around roadsides and fields attracts attention by its bright yellow flowers growing at the top of 1- to 5-foot-tall leafy stalks. Flowers are 1-2 inches wide, pleasantly lemon-scented, with four petals and four sepals that are reflexed or bent back and come from the top of a floral tube. This interesting plant is night-flowering. Flowers open in the evening within a matter of minutes, last through the night, and wilt by the next day. Flowers are pollinated by night-flying moths and insects attracted by the flower's scent. Leaves are 4-8 inches long with small teeth at the edges and oblong or linear in shape. Fruit is an oblong capsule, and the clusters of capsules are conspicuous in fall. As its scientific name indicates, this plant is a biennial. It forms a rosette of 2- to 6-inch-long leaves and a taproot in its first year and flowering stalks in the second. The stems may be red. Native to America, this plant was taken to Europe in the 1600s, where it was grown for its edible, sweet-tasting root. American Indians used the plant for food and medicinal purposes. Wild birds eat the seeds.

Poison Hemlock
Conium maculatum

This toxic plant reportedly was used to execute the Greek philosopher Socrates. A member of the carrot family as is Queen Anne's lace, poison hemlock has small white flowers located in large, umbrella-shaped clusters. The leaves are dark green, hairless, and deeply cut, resembling fern or parsley. Introduced from Europe, this is a tall plant with many branches growing to 7 feet. Two features that help identify it are a fetid or "mousey" odor, and grooved stems often splotched with purple. The scientific name maculatum means "spotted." The common name hemlock means "straw plant," referring to the stems which become dry and strawlike after flowering. It has a single taproot. Growing in pastures, meadows, roadsides, and waste places, this is a very toxic plant even when small amounts are ingested. Water hemlock, a similar very poisonous species, grows in wet places. Its tuberous roots smell like parsnips and if cut the stem exudes a yellow oily substance. Also called child bane ("bane" means "destroyer"), this blooms June-July.

Queen Anne's Lace, Wild Carrot
Daucus carota

This member of the parsley or carrot family is one of the most often seen summer wildflowers. The numerous, tiny white flowers grow on an umbrella-shaped structure called an umbel, which is 2-5 inches across. Often there is a single purplish flower in the center of the umbel. Umbels, which grow in clusters, eventually turn brown and curve inward, resembling a bird's nest. The delicate, lacy, 2- to 8-inch-long leaves were used for decoration in England during the reign of Queen Anne, hence the name. This plant, the ancestor of the garden carrot, is biennial, producing leaves and taproot the first year and flowering the second. Blooming from June-September or sometimes until frost and growing 1-3 feet tall or higher, Queen Anne's lace was introduced from Europe. It has a long history as a medicinal plant but should not be consumed because it could easily be confused with poison hemlock.

Indian Pipe, Corpse Plant
Monotropa uniflora

Growing in densely shaded pine and hardwood forests, this very unusual, 4- to 10-inch-tall plant has waxy white stems, scalelike leaves, and a solitary white or pinkish flower. The nodding or drooping flower makes the plant resemble an Indian peace pipe. The 1-inch flower appears June through August. The flower has four to six petals and 10 stamens and is pollinated by insects. After fertilization the flowers point upward and turn black. These succulent or fleshy plants often grow in clusters and may remain standing dark and withered during the winter. This highly specialized plant, whose relatives include laurel and rhododendron, lacks chlorophyll. Therefore, it cannot make its own food and does not have the typical green plant color. Nourishment comes from subsurface mycorrhizal chainlike fungi, which are interconnected with the roots of nearby plants, receiving nourishment from them. Since they are not needed to manufacture food and carry out photosynthesis, the small leaves are reduced to scales. It is difficult to transplant Indian pipe, probably because the fungi do not survive relocation.

Wintergreen, Teaberry
Gaultheria procumbens

This vinelike plant trails along the ground and as its name implies has leaves that are green year-round. Leathery, oval leaves are 1-2 inches long, crowded on the edge of stems that grow about 6 inches tall. In spring, small, white, nodding flowers are in the angle between the leaf and stem. The bright red, round, berrylike fruit seen late summer and fall and lasting through winter attracts attention to the plant. Both leaves and berries, if crushed, have a spicy taste and fragrance. Teaberry extract is used for flavoring chewing gum and candy. Berries are eaten by wildlife. Wintergreen grows in woods, often under evergreen trees or conifers, and also in clearings and sphagnum moss bogs in the mountains. Wintergreen is a member of the heather plant family, which includes rhododendron, laurel, and huckleberry. All these plants grow in acid soil.

Whorled Loosestrife
Lysimachia quadrifolia

This common plant, found in bloom June-August throughout the state, is distinct because the leaves grow in whorls around the stem like spokes around a wheel. The 2- to 4-inch, light green leaves are in whorls of three to six. The 1/2-inch wide startike flowers are also distinct with their bright yellow color and red centers. Flowers are on long stalks that grow from the angle where the leaf meets the stem. Plants reaching 1-3 feet tall grow along roadsides, thickets, fields, and wet and dry woods. Loosestrife was thought to have a pacifying effect on people and animals because of the legend that an ancient king calmed a charging bull by waving loosestrife at it. Members of the primrose family, the loosestrife species include moneywort, which grows along the ground in grassy places and has yellow flowers, and fringed loosestrife with yellow flowers, opposite leaves, and noticeably hairy leaf stalks.

Closed Gentian
Gentiana clausa

Dark blue vase- or bottle-shaped flowers make closed gentian easy to recognize. The 1- to 2-inch-long flowers, which are almost closed at their tips, grow in tight clusters at the top of the plant and in the axils of the upper leaves. The 4-inch-long leaves are whorled (coming out like the spokes of a wheel) below the upper flowers but are opposite each other on the stem on the lower part of the plant. Closed gentian reaches 1-2 feet high, growing in rich soil in woods, thickets, and around banks of ponds and streams throughout the state. It is often seen at higher elevations. There are several other gentian species, including narrowleaf gentian which grows in mountain bogs. Gentians are named for King Gentius, an ancient king who used the plant's roots for medicinal purposes. Bottled gentian is pollinated by bumblebees, strong insects that go headfirst into the closed flower but keep their back legs outside so they can pull themselves out of the narrow passage. August-October.

Orange Milkweed, Butterfly Weed
Asclepias tuberose

Flowers of bright orange, an unusual color in the plant world, make identification easy. Butterfly weed is a member of the milkweed family with characteristic flower structure of five turned down petals and central crown. Flowers may have touches of yellow. Unlike common milkweed, this plant has watery, not milky, sap. Growing to 2 feet tall, it is branched at the tops. Seed pods are long, slender, hairy, and erect. Leaves are 2-6 inches long and alternate on the stem. Found in dry soil in open places, roadsides, and fields, this plant is also called pleurisy root, as its thick tuberous roots were used by American Indians to cure pleurisy. The brilliant flower color and fragrance attract many butterflies, giving the plant its name. It is a valuable wildlife plant. June-August.

Common Milkweed
Asclepias syriaca

Distinguishing features of this fascinating plant include unique flower structure, seed pods with silky tufts, and leaves and stems with thick milky juice. Purple-pink flowers are complex with five swept-back petals and a five-part, nectar containing upper cup that has five curving hornlike structures. The 1/2-inch-wide, heavily scented flowers produce large amounts of nectar and are in clusters at the top of the plant and in the leaf junction or axils of the upper leaves. Light green leaves are almost stalkless, are 3-10 inches long, have smooth edges and many veins, with gray down underneath, and appear opposite each other on the stem. Reaching 2-6 feet tall, common milkweed grows in fields, along roadsides, and on disturbed land. Thick seed pods are 2-5 inches long with soft spines, displaying cottony tufts on each seed. When the pod opens on one side, the silky material "floats" the seeds along, aiding their dispersal. This silky material has been used as filling for life jackets. The scientific name for milkweed comes from Aesculapius, Greek god of medicine; American Indians used the plant for medicinal purposes. The milky sap has substances that affect the heart and can be poisonous if eaten. However monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars) can consume the plant with no apparent harm, and the toxins in turn make the caterpillars and adult butterflies distasteful to birds and other predators. The monarch butterfly and other insects feeding on the plant are often colored red, orange, and black-hues that warn potential predators of a less than tasty meal. Common milkweed is considered a valuable plant in wildlife gardens to attract the majestic monarchs. June-August.

A plant related to and sometimes confused with common milkweed is spreading dogbane, growing 1-4 feet tall. Nodding bell-like flowers are pink and seed pods are 3-6 inches long. Unlike milkweed pods which are thick, those of dogbane are pencil-thin. Curving downward and hanging in pairs, they also contain a cottony fluff similar to the milkweed's. The word "dogbane" means "killer of dogs." This plant, along with other members of both the milkweed and dogbane families, has poisonous compounds known as cardiac glycosides, which affect the heart and can poison animals that graze on them. Blooming June-August, this plant grows in fields and open places and can be quite conspicuous in very late summer with its yellow leaves and long seed pods.

Field Bindweed, Morning Glory
Convolvulus sepium

This member of the morning glory family is a trailing vine. Its 2- to 3-inch-long, funnel-shaped flowers are white or pink with white stripes. Alternate leaves are 2-4 inches long, triangular or arrow-shaped. Field bindweed vines reach 10 feet long and can be pesky weeds as they twine around garden and ornamental plants. Indeed the scientific name convolvere means "to twine or twist" and the word "sepium" means "of hedges," so this plant is appropriately named. It grows in fields, thickets, and roadsides. There are several species in the morning glory family whose flowers open in the diffuse early morning light. Seeds of plants in the morning glory family are reported toxic. June-September.

Fall Phlox
Phlox paniculata

At least seven kinds of phlox grow in West Virginia. Wild blue phlox and the ground-growing moss pink are considered spring wildflowers. Fall or garden phlox, blooming July-October, grows in gardens or escapes cultivation and grows in open woods and thickets. The attractive 2- to 6-foot-high plant has pyramidal clusters of pink/lavender flowers. Leaves are 3-5 inches long, pointed at the ends, and opposite. Phlox is a Greek word meaning "flame," so called perhaps because the twisted flower buds resemble torches. Phlox flowers characteristically are bell-shaped, with a tube that flares into five lobes. Butterflies often visit the fragrant phlox flowers.


Viper's Buglos, Bluedevil
Echium vulgare

Introduced from Europe in the 1600s, this plant is found throughout West Virginia but is especially common and conspicuous on dry limestone soils in the eastern part of the state. Al-though the flowers are a source of honey, the plant is considered an obnoxious weed. The 3/4-inch-long flowers attract attention with their bright blue color and protruding reddish stamens. Growing 1-1/2 feet tall, the plant has hairy leaves that are 2-6 inches long. The entire plant has a bristly look. Fruit consists of small nutlets, which because they resemble a serpent's head suggested that the plant cured snakebite. Bugloss is Greek for "ox-tongue," which the broad rough leaves supposedly resembled, thus accounting for the unusual name. Contact with the hairs on this plant can cause skin irritation. June-September.

Blue Vervain
Verbena hastata

Bright clusters of tiny violet-blue (sometimes white or purple) flowers on stiff, thin, candelabra like spikes identify this 2- to 6-foot-high plant growing in moist fields, stream banks, and roadsides, June-September. Flowers are 1/8-inch wide; the opposite leaves are 4-6 inches long and rough textured, having toothed edges. This plant is a member of the vervain or verbena family, which has mostly tropical plants and includes teak used for making furniture. The name Verbena is Latin for "sacred plant," and in ancient times vervain plants were thought to cure many ills.



Heal-all, Self Heal
Prunella vulgaris

A member of the mint family, heal-all is a very common herb blooming May-October and growing in fields, gardens, lawns, and disturbed places. Dozens of plants in the mint family grow in the state. Some of them, such as peppermint, spearmint, and wild sage, are used as herbs; others including wild bergamot are attractive wildflowers. As a group, members of the mint family are easy to recognize because they have two-lipped flowers, square stems, opposite and often aromatic leaves, and auxiliary flowers growing from where the leaf attaches to the stem. Heal-all has all these characteristics and also is low-growing (6-12 inches) and, if cut, often sprawls on the ground. It has dense spikes of purple-white, 1/2-inch flowers that crowd and overlap. Heal-all was supposed to cure many ills and was used as an herbal remedy for throat problems.

Bittersweet, Climbing Nightshade
Solanum dulcamara

Bittersweet is a woody 2- to 8-foot-long vine climbing over other plants and vegetation in gardens, vacant lots, and wet places. Its distinctive 1/2-inch-wide flowers have five purple petals that are bent back or reflexed, thus permitting the five fused, yellow, beaklike stamens to protrude. The long, skinny pistil or ovule-bearing structure projects from the middle of the stamens. Flowers, which are in clusters, mature into shiny green berries that turn bright red and crimson. Berries should be considered poisonous. The 3-inch-long leaves are distinctive with two lobes at their base. Introduced from Europe, bittersweet, seen June-September, is a member of the nightshade or potato family and gets its name from the Latin word dulcamara meaning "sweet-bitter," because ancient drug collectors said the root tasted first bitter, then sweet. Nightshade comes from the legend that witches brewed "magic" plants at night to concoct powerful potions. Several members of the nightshade family, including deadly nightshade or belladonna, are poisonous. However, the family also contains familiar edible plants, including eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes. Acceptance of tomatoes as a food was slow because of its relation to deadly plants. Tobacco is also a member of the nightshade family.

Common Ground-cherry
Physalis heterophylla

Common ground-cherry has a yellow, tomatolike berry surrounded by a papery covering called the calyx. This plant is related to the cultivated Chinese-lantern which has a showy orange calyx. Flowers are bell-shaped, greenish yellow with brown-purple centers. Leaves of this sticky, hairy plant are 1-4 inches long and generally heart-shaped, with teeth on the edges. A member of the nightshade family as is bittersweet, it grows 1-3 feet tall in sandy soil, July-October. There are several ground cherry species in the state; unripe fruit is considered poisonous and animals can be poisoned by feeding on the plants, although birds and wildlife relish berries of plants in the nightshade family. The scientific name Physalis implies bellows, or bladders, in reference to the inflated papery calyx characteristic of this group of plants.

Great Mullein
Verbascum thapsus

This 2- to 6-foot-high weed having a woolly stem with packed clusters of yellow flowers and velvety lower leaves is conspicuous growing in fields, roadsides, waste places, and disturbed land. Flowers are about an inch wide with five petals. Only a few flowers on the stalk are open at one time, and flowers open during the morning. Blooming time is June-September. Lower leaves are gray-green, thick, and furry. The plant is biennial, producing roots and a rosette of groundlevel leaves that remain green all winter the first year and flowering the second. Great mullein invades disturbed and burned areas and gravel banks-places other plants don't grow-as this plant does not tolerate competition from other plants. Over the centuries great mullein has been used for many purposes. A European plant, the scientific name thaspsus comes from the Greek island Thapsos. In ancient Greece, the rolled and dried leaves were used for oil lamp wicks. Romans dipped the flower stalks in suet and used them for torches. In the Middle Ages, mullein stalks dipped in tallow and set aflame were supposed to frighten away witches. Tea was made from the leaves to cure colds, and American Indians put the furry leaves in their moccasins to keep out the cold. Moth mullein, a related plant, has white or yellow flowers with rounded petals and purple-brown markings. Fuzzy stamens look like moth antennae; hence the name.

Butter and Eggs, Toadflax
Linaria vulgaris

Two-tone pattern of yellow (butter) and orange (eggs) gives this plant its name. Two-lipped flowers are in clusters on a leafy stem. Leaves are 1-2 inches long, gray-green, and grasslike. This plant grows 1-3 feet high in dry fields, meadows, and roadsides and may be conspicuous, forming large masses. The orange color on the lower lip leads insects to nectar located in the long spur. Introduced from Europe, the plant blooms June-October and is a member of the snapdragon family characterized by two-lipped flowers.

Chelone glabra

Turtlehead, another member of the snapdragon family, is common in the state, blooming July-September in low ground and wet places, and along streams and lakes. The tight terminal clusters of lavender or white, two-lipped tubular flowers which grow close together on a spike resemble a turtle's head, and the scientific name Chelone means "tortoise." Flowers are about an inch long, with the upper lip arching over the hairy lower lip. The opposite leaves are 3,6 inches, long with sharp teeth on the edges. Turtlehead, also called "snakeshead," grows 1-3 feet high.

Monkey Flower
Mimulus ringens

Monkey flower grows in wet places, tinging areas near streams, ponds, and springs with its blue-purple flowers. A member of the snapdragon family, monkey flower has characteristic two-lipped flowers about an inch long. The upper lip has two lobes; the lower one is three-lobed, with yellow spots on the inside. Flowers grow singly from the leaf axils. Leaves are 2-4 inches long and have a lance shape. The stem is square; the plant reaches 1-3 feet high. The flower supposedly resembles a monkey's face and the scientific name mimus means "buffon," suggesting the blossoms seem to grin. June-September.

Downy Yellow Foxglove
Gerardia virginica

A stem with yellow, funnel-shaped, 1-inch-wide flowers with five flaming lobes identifies this plant, which is also a member of the snapdragon family. Leaves are 2-5 inches long, opposite, and fuzzy. Lower leaves have lobes but the upper ones may not. Reaching 1-5 feet high, downy yellow foxglove blooms July-August in dry open woods, where it is partly parasitic on oak tree roots.


Japanese Honeysuckle
Lonicera japonica

This vine has very fragrant, 1-1/2-inch-long, auxiliary, white, two-lipped flowers that turn yellow with age. Its 3-inch leaves are oval, hairy, opposite, and green year-round. Fruit is a black berry. Brought from China and Japan, this plant has escaped from cultivation and thrives in woods, thickets, roadsides, and gardens where it can grow as much as 30 feet a year, covering other vegetation. There are many members of the honeysuckle family, many of which have attractive scarlet berries. Elderberries and the ornamental snowberry belong to this plant family whose fruits are attractive to wildlife.

Wild Raisin
Viburnum cassinoides

Wild raisin is a shrub growing to 12 feet high, attracting attention with its pink-red, berrylike fruit which turns blue-black when ripe in fall. Especially common in the mountain counties, it has flat-topped, stalked clusters of small, scented, white flowers, blooming June and July. Leaves are 2-4 inches long, opposite, thick, oval, and dull green. There are several viburnums, including black haw with dark fruits; maple-leaved with maple-shaped leaves; and hobblebush, which turns bronze-red in autumn. Viburnum fruits are wildlife foods.


Common Teasel
Dipsacus sylvestris

Teasels have small, lavender flowers crowded together on an oval, thistlelike spike with a prickly stem. Flowers open in the center of the spike, forming a ring around it, then open in both directions, eventually forming two bands of flowers. Spiny projections curve up from the base of the flower spike. Leaves are 4-16 inches long, toothed on the edges, and opposite. Upper leaves are joined at their bases around the stem, forming a sort of cup. These cups or basins may hold a half-pint of rain water and apparently the plant requires this water source to form perfect teasers. The scientific name dipsacus comes from dipsa meaning "thirst," suggesting the plant's built-in water supply could quench thirst. Teasels may form large colonies and grow 2-6 feet high in old fields and roadsides, July-September. Teasels were brought from Europe by wool makers who used the spiky flower heads to tease or raise or pull up the nap on fine wool cloth. At one time teasers were grown commercially and sent to woolen mills in Europe.

Venus' Looking Glass
Specularia perfoliata

This very distinctive plant has violet-blue, wheel-shaped flowers growing from axils of leaves that grow around the stem. Flowers are 3/4-inch wide, with five petals. The shell-shaped leaves are up to an inch wide. Plants grow to 1-1/2 feet tall in dry woods and fields. The scientific name comes from the Latin specularius referring to mirrors and may indicate the plant's shiny seeds.


Tall Bellflower
Campanula americana

Blue flowers in a spikelike cluster attract attention to this plant, which grows 2-6 feet high in moist thickets and woods, July-September. In addition to the tall flower stalk, the 1-inch-wide flowers with five petals also grow in the axils of the upper leaves. The leaves are 3-6 inches long and toothed on the edges. This member of the bluebell family has flowers that are flat, rather than bell-shaped as are many bluebell flowers.


Lobelia cardinalis

The numerous brilliant red blossoms on a long stalk tend striking color in damp places and along stream banks where this plant usually grows. Flowers are 1-1/2, inch long, tubular, and two-lipped; the upper lip has two lobes and lower has three. Stamens are conspicuous. Leaves reach 6 inches long and are toothed and alternate. Cardinal-flower, one of the most attractive wildflowers, grows 2-4 feet tall, blossoming July-August. Hummingbirds pollinate cardinal-flower so this member of the bluebell family makes an attractive as well as valuable wildlife plant. The common name is a reference to the scarlet robes worn by Roman Catholic Church officials.


Great Blue Lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica

Great blue lobelia blooms July-October and is unusual in that it is one of the few wildflowers blooming into fall. A blue counterpart of cardinal-flower, it is also in the bluebell family. It grows 1-4 feet tall along streambanks and wet, shady places. Cheery, bright blue flowers grow at the tip of the leaf stem and in the leaf axils. Flowers are two-lipped and the lower lip has white stripes. Because the plant had such lovely flowers, it was introduced into English gardens in the 1600s. Lobelia flowers have a long history of use, including Greeks who believed they cured many disorders as well as chased away ghostly spirits; and American Indians who used lobelia for medicinal purposes. Perhaps because of their beauty, the flowers were favored for love charms.

New York Ironweed
Vernonia noveboracensis

In late summer many fields and bottomlands are covered with these tall plants (to 6 feet high). Their sprays of deep lavender to violet flowers make ironweed easy to spot. Flower clusters are 34 inches wide, with 30-50 disk flowers and no ray flowers. Bracts or modified leaves around the flower head have long, hairlike tips. The painted leaves are 4-8 inches long and have toothed edges. The fruit has purplish bristles. The name comes from the tough, woody stems that stock don't enjoy eating so the plant prospers on overgrazed land. In past times a very bitter tonic was made from the root stocks of ironweed; there are several species. July-September.

Common Joe-Pye Weed
Eupatorium fistulosum

Common Joe-Pye weed is a conspicuous late summer plant, blooming August-September, often seen growing in wet and damp meadows and thickets. Growing to 6 feet high, it is recognized by its flat-topped clusters of pink-purple fuzzy flower heads, large size, and leaves in whorls that come out from the stem like wheel spokes, Flowers are in 6-inch-wide clusters. The thick leaves, which are coarsely toothed, are in whorls of three to five. Stems are hollow. The plant is named for Joe Pye, American Indian in New England who used the plant to treat typhus fever. The plant also is called feverweed. Flowers also were used to produce a reddish dye.

White Snakeroot
Eupatorium rugosum

One of the most common woodland wildflowers, white snakeroot grows in profusion in fields, clearings, and wood edges. Growing to 4 feet call, it has striking, snow-white, fuzzy flowers blooming July-August. Dark green leaves are 3,6 inches long, stalked, sometimes sharp toothed, and opposite. This plant has a gruesome history as it caused milk fever which killed many early settlers. If cows ate the plant it proved fatal to many who then consumed the milk. Cattle also died from ingesting the plant. Milk fever was a serious and mysterious disease in the 19th century before the plant was recognized as the cause. Despite its name, it is not known to cure snake bite.

Eupatorium perfoliatum

Boneset has two distinguishing features: clusters of dull, white, flap-topped flowers and leaves united at the base so that the stem seems to grow through the leaf. Boneset, growing 2-5 feet tall, blooms July-September in wet fields and on stream and pond banks. About 15 tiny, tubelike flowers are on each of the numerous flower heads. Leaves reach 8 inches long and are rough and wrinkled with toothed edges; they look like one long leaf. Boneset, as its name implies, was placed in bandages to promote heating of broken bones. Boneset tea was used by settlers as a cure for malaria throughout eastern North America. There are several species of boneset.

Early Goldenrod, Yellow-top
Solidago juncea

With their wandlike clusters of bright golden flowers, goldenrods are some of the most familiar wildflowers. Many are fall-blooming species; however, early goldenrod blooms from early June to as late as November in dry fields and is one of the most abundant species in the state. The leaves are long and stemless, and the stem is cylindrical. Some 29 kinds of goldenrods grow in the state, including silverrod with white or cream flowers blooming July-September. Goldenrods, which often cover large areas, do not cause hay fever because they are pollinated by insects and not the wind. (Ragweed is the culprit.) The scientific name Solidago is Greek, meaning "to make whole," and goldenrod species were used in ancient times to promote healing. American Indians used the plant to treat fevers, and early settlers used a goldenrod species as a tea substitute at the time of the Boston Tea Party. However, at least one species is poisonous, and a toxic fungus grows on some kinds, poisoning animals grazing on them.

Blue Wood Aster
Aster cordifolius

Asters as a group are easy to recognize because their flower centers consist of many tubular or disk flowers surrounded by a row of strap-shaped or ray flowers. The ray flowers are often in showy shades of blue, purple, or white. Ray flowers radiate from the centers like beams of celestial bodies, perhaps accounting for the name "aster" meaning "star." Blue wood aster has bright blue ray flowers blooming August-October. Growing in woodlands, along fences, and borders of fields, it has a branched stem and lower leaves that are heart-shaped and toothed. Upper leaves are narrower. Some 27 species of aster grow in the state (telling them apart is a job for experts), including white wood aster, and New England aster, blooming August-October. The latter has showy, violet-purple ray flowers and yellow disk flowers. Asters grow all over the world and historically have been used as charms and as cure-alls for many ills. A similar group of plants is fleabanes, which have more ray flowers and usually bloom spring and early summer.

Black-eyed Susan
Redbeckia hirta

This familiar bright and sunny plant is a prairie native having golden ray flowers and disk flowers forming a central brown cone. Showy flower heads are 2-3 inches wide. Leaves are up to 7 inches long, rough, and hairy; upper leaves are often without a stem. Black-eyed Susan grows 1-3 feet high in fields, meadows, roadsides, and open woods. This biennial plant forms a rosette of leaves the first year and flowers the next.


Common Sunflower
Helianthus annuus

From summer through fall, the buttery bright blossoms of sunflowers enliven the West Virginia landscape. The scientific name comes from the Greek hilios, "sun," and anthos, "flower." Some are planted as ornamentals, and sunflower seeds are relished by chickadees, finches, cardinals, and other birds. Some 18 kinds of sunflowers grow in the state with characteristically stout stems and opposite leaves; plants may reach several feet high. Common sunflower blooms July-September in rich soil. Native to prairies in the central states, it and other sunflower species have escaped cultivation and grow wild.

Another sunflower (Hilianthus tuberosus) is Jerusalem artichoke; its thick tubers or root stocks were cultivated and eaten by American Indians. The name Jerusalem is a corruption of the French word girasol, meaning "sunflower." The tubers taste like artichokes. The plant has 12-20 broad ray flowers, and central disks with tuberous flowers about an inch in diameter. There are dozens of sunflowerlike plants in the state. Wing-stem grows to 6 feet tall in thickets and woodlands and has yellow ray flowers and a hairy stem with conspicuous outgrowths known as wings. Another sunflower relative familiar to woods walkers is beggar-ticks or pitch-forks with yellow flowers. Its lobed leaves produce barbed or hooked seeds (actually fruits) which attach tenaciously to clothing. The genus name for this group is Bidens, meaning "two teeth," in reference to the barbed hooks.

Achillea millefolium

Yarrow has white, 1/4-inch-wide flowers in flat-topped clusters growing at the top of the 1- to 3-foot-high plant. Its 6-inch-long leaves are very distinctive: fern- or featherlike, finely divided, gray-green, and aromatic when crushed. One form of yarrow has pinkish flowers. Yarrow comes from Europe and grows in many places, including fields, roadsides, and sometimes woods. It spreads rapidly by seeds, roots, and underground runners. Yarrow could be confused with Queen Anne's lace which has lacelike flowers. The scientific name for yarrow comes from Achilles, an ancient Greek war hero who used yarrow to prevent wounds. He covered himself with a yarrow potion except for his heel, leading to his downfall and giving us today's term Achilles' heel, meaning "weak point."

Bull or Common Thistle
Cirsium vulgare

Thistles are notoriously prickly plants with spiny leaves and showy, egg-shaped heads of tubular, purple or white flowers. Bull thistle is the spiniest of the thistles. It is best to use gloves when handling this plant pincushion which puts prickly cactus to shame. Bull thistle has a spiny winged stem with rose-purple flower heads encircled with prickly bracts or leaflike structures. Flower heads are 1-2 inches wide and quite showy. Leaves are 36 inches long and lobed. It grows 2-6 feet high. Thistles are biennials, producing rosettes of leaves the first year and flowering stalks the second. The thistle down carries and helps spread the seeds, which are eaten by some birds including goldfinches. It blooms July-November in fields and disturbed areas. Thistles today are considered obnoxious weeds, although in ancient times through the 19th century the plants were used to treat everything from bums to cancer. Thistledown was used to stuff upholstery. Several species of thistlelike plants grow in the state. Nodding thistle growing in the eastern part of the state July-August often attracts the visitor's attention with its drooping flowers and 9-foot-tall stature. Introduced from Europe, this plant has rose-purple, 2-1/2-inch-wide flower heads.

Cichorium intybus

Chickory is a lovely plant with sky-blue flowers in 1-1/2-inch-wide flower heads. The blue ray flowers have square ends that are slightly fringed. Only a few flowers open at a time and shut in bright sun. Stems are stiff. Bottom leaves are stiff and long, with milky sap and dandelionlike lobes. Upper leaves are small. Chickory, which reaches 3 feet tall July-October growing in fields, is especially common along roadsides and railroad tracks where limestone chips have been spread because the plant thrives in an alkaline situation. Chickory roots are ground, roasted, and added to coffee as flavoring in some places such as New Orleans. In its native Europe, chickory was grown as hay for cattle and has been used as a pot herb. The scientific name intybus is Arabic and refers to the bitter taste. Chickory is also called blue sailors. Legend has it that a young lady was transformed into the blue flower to haunt waysides in search of her vanished sailor-lover.

Purple Goat's Beard, Oyster Plant, Salsify
Tragopogon porrifolius

This plant attracts attention especially when the fruit looks like a big ball of fluff or an oversized bristly dandelion seed head. The plant has branched stems topped with flower heads of pink-purple flowers. Flower heads are 2-4 inches wide. Leaves grow to 1 foot long, and are grasslike, clasping the stem. Reaching 2-4 feet high, the plant was introduced from Europe; its roots are boiled and eaten. The name comes from the Greek tragos for "goat" and pogon for "beard" because the fruit heads look like a goat's beard. The plant has escaped cultivation and grows in fields June-July. A similar species seen in fields and waste places is yellow goat's beard or meadow salsify.

White Lettuce, Rattlesnake Root
Prenanthes alba

White lettuce is a slender, 2- to 5-foot-tall plant having drooping clusters of pinkish or white flowers in flower heads 1/2-inch long with conspicuous creamy stamens. Leaves are variable in shape and may reach 8 inches in length. Upper leaves and triangular lower ones may have lobes. The fruit is dry, with tan bristles. This plant grows mostly in the mountains July-October. There are several species in this plant group; all have milky juice, drooping flower heads, and lobed leaves. Tall white lettuce is a similar species reaching 6 feet high, which grows throughout the state.

Devil's Paintbrush, Orange Hawkweed
Hieracium aurantiacun

Striking splashes of red-orange, velvety flowers growing in mountain meadows at high elevations make this plant an attention-getter. Flower heads are 3-4 inches wide, with all ray flowers; leaflike structures around the flower head are covered with black, gland-tipped hairs. The basal, hairy leaves are 2-5 inches long. The stem is also fuzzy. Reaching 1-2 feet tall, it was introduced from Europe. Ten species Of hawkweed, some having yellow flower heads, grow in the state. The name comes from a legend that hawks ate the flowers to improve their eyesight.




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Aquatic and Wetland Plants of West Virginia, Norma Jean Venable, West Virginia University Extension Service, Morgantown, 1986

Botany Illustrated, Introduction to Plants and Flowering Plant Families, Janice Glimn-Lacy and Peter Kaufman, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1984.

Flora of West Virginia, P.D. Strausbaugh and Earl Core, Seneca Books, Inc., Grantsville, West Virginia, 1977.

Guide to Field Identification of Wildflowers of North America, Frank Venning, Golden Press, New York, 1984.

Handbook of Edible Weeds, James A. Duke, CRC Press, Ann Arbor, 1992.

How Plants Get Their Names, L. H. Bailey, Dover Publications, New York, 1963.

How to Know the Wildflowers, Mrs. William Starr Dana, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1963.

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine, and Crafts, Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, New York, 1974.

Life and Lore of Illinois Wildflowers, William E. Werner, Jr., Illinois State Museum, Springfield, Illinois, 1988.

Names of Plants, D. Gledhill, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1990.

New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, Henry A. Gleason, New York Botanical Garden, New York, 1952.

Plants That Poison, Ervin Schmutz and Lucretia B. Hamilton, Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, Arizona, 1979.

Spring Wildflowers of West Virginia, Earl L. Core, West Virginia University, Morgantown, 1981.

Wild Flowers, Pamela Forey, Gallery Books, New York, 1990.

Winter Botany, Winter Characteristics of Selected Trees and Shrubs of West Virginia, Norma Jean Venable, West Virginia University Extension Service, 1986.