Welcome to Summer!

With the extended daylight that the summer solstice brings, it offers the best opportunity of the year to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Observe nature at a local preserve.  Listen to the calls and songs of birds in your backyard.  Go fishing or kayaking.  Forage for some wild edibles.  Take a tour of any of the area bike trails.

ripe Common Blackberry fruit

ripe Common Blackberry fruit

To celebrate and enjoy all those hours of daylight, we all should consider the opportunity to observe nature in a variety of sunlit settings: dawn, mid-day and twilight. Each will offer unique lighting (great for photography) as well as contrasting opportunities to view wildlife.

Fawn along Wetland Meadow trail - Woodcock Preserve

Fawn along Wetland Meadow trail – Woodcock Preserve

Here is a list of a variety of nature-based outings and online events for your consideration.

Enjoy your summer.  Happy trails!

Sampler #2 of Late Spring Season Wildflowers along the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail

Since summer arrives tomorrow, I wanted to share one last sampler of late spring season wildflowers that I’ve recently encountered along the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail while continuing my wildflower inventory. I’m focusing on the segment in the City of Cohoes and the Town of Colonie. Kevin Kenny has created an iNaturalist project named Flowers of the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail that is aggregating our contributions. He is inventorying the next ~8-mile stretch immediately west of my segment.

Hope you find an opportunity to view these blooming beauties now on display!

Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) – Read more about this plant.
Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana) – Read more about this plant.
Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria) – Read more about this plant.
Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)
Read more about this plant from one of my What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week? posts.
Hop Trefoil (Trifolium campestre) – Read more about this plant.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) – Read more about this plant.
New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)
Read more about this plant from one of my What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week? posts.
Northern Bedstraw (Galium boreale) – Read more about this plant.
Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina) – Read more about this plant.
Common Bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris ssp. macrorhiza)
Read more about this plant in an upcoming edition of What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week?, which will be posted Saturday morning on 7/9/2022.
Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) – Read more about this plant.
Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
Read more about this plant from one of my What Wildflowers Begins Blooming This Week? posts.
Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta) – Read more about this plant.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) – Read more about this plant.
Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) – Read more about this plant.

Happy trails!

What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week? (June week 3)

This week, I’m featuring Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) as one of our local wildflowers that begins to bloom at this time.

Shinleaf is the most common species of Pyrola and it is one of the few eastern woodland plants to flower in summer in deep shade.  Contrastingly, in a 1990s study conducted in Massachusetts, Shinleaf was one of the few understory plants that still had not recovered since the forest canopy was blown down in a 1935 hurricane, even though the forest trees had largely regenerated.

Identification Tips:

Shinleaf is an erect perennial, about four or five to ten or twelve inches tall.  Botanists classify this species as a subshrub.  The oblong (elliptical) leaves are green and one to 2 ¾ inches long with barely noticeable teeth all around the edges.  A semi-lustrous rosette of papery green leaves grows at ground level.  The leaf stalk is generally as long as, or slightly shorter than, the leaf blade.

The fragrant, nodding flowers bloom on unbranched, hairless 6-10” stalks with reddish stemlets and green veins.  Each stalk has a raceme of 3 to 21 white, greenish-white or yellowish-green, waxy flowers that appear in an alternating pattern on all sides along the upper part of the stem.  Due to their appearance, the flowers are the basis for another common name:   Waxflower Shinleaf.  Each flower is about ⅓ inch wide with five oval petals (with greenish veins) and a cluster of orange-tipped stamens under the upper petals.  The flowers also have a pale green style that curves down and out below the lower petals like an elephant’s trunk.  The sepals are triangular, about as long as wide and about ¼ as long as the petals.

Shinleaf

The flowers are followed by fruit, which is a flattened, round, five-chambered capsule about ¼ inch in diameter with the remains of the style attached at the bottom.

The plant stem and seed capsules often persist through winter, aiding their identification.

Culinary and Medicinal Uses:

No edible uses were found for Shinleaf.

The common name is in reference to the medicinal properties of the plant.  The leaves are said to have analgesic properties and were used as a poultice on bruised shins and other sores and wounds.  Such a leaf plaster was referred to as a shin plaster.  American Indians used the plant to treat several ailments.  The Cherokee, for instance, used it as a dermatological aid for cuts and sores.  The Iroquois reportedly gave babies a decoction of roots and leaves to relieve fits or epileptic seizures; they also used a decoction of the whole plant as eye drops to treat sore eyes, sties and inflamed eyelids.  In addition, the Iroquois used a compound infusion of plants for rheumatism.  The Mohegans are said to have used an infusion of leaves as a gargle for sores or cankers in the mouth.

Wildlife Value:

Shinleaf has negligible value as a source of food for wildlife.

Much like wintergreens, Shinleaf is insect pollinated, most commonly by flies.  The rather large and complex stigma is believed to be an adaptation to ensure that small insects carrying pollen have an attractive landing place.

Shinleaf plants, along with other Pyrolas, are reportedly eaten in minimal amounts by Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus).

Where Found Locally:

What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week? (June week 2)

This week, I’m featuring Large Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) as one of our local wildflowers that begins to bloom at this time.

The name “flag” is from the middle English flagge, meaning “rush” or “reed.”

Henry David Thoreau once acknowledged this plant’s showy flowers, saying, “It belongs to the meadow and ornaments it much.”  Similarly, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote of the flower:

Born in the purple, born to joy and pleasance

Thou dost not toil nor spin

But makest glad and radiant with thy presence

The meadow and the lin.

Sadly, Yellow Iris (Iris pseudoacorus) is an invasive garden escapee that is replacing Iris versicolor in some locations, including locally at Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve.

Mixed with water, the flowers of Large Blue Flag can produce a blue dye that acts like litmus paper, turning red when exposed to an acid, or back to blue if the substance is alkaline.

Identification Tips:

A graceful, sword-leaved perennial plant arising from a basal cluster of leaves that grows 2-3 feet tall.  The leaves have veins, appear to be folded at the center, and are often purplish red at the base.  Stem leaves rarely rise above the flowers.

The sturdy flowering stems emerging from the base are smooth with a waxy surface and each bears three to five flowers (each 2½ to 4 inches wide) that may be variably colored blue to lavender and purple, infrequently red-purple and rarely pale blue – hence the species name of ‘versicolor.’  The blooms are formed of three small upright petals (called “standards”) and three drooping sepals (called “falls”) with a pale yellowish to greenish spot in the throat and prominent blue-purple veins radiating from it.

Large Blue Flag

Bees use the large drooping sepals as landing platforms and the special markings on each direct the bees to the nectar glands.  Bees can’t help rubbing against the pollen-bearing anther, but this flower part is positioned so that those grains can’t fall onto the stigma, which would result in self-fertilization and lead to poor-quality seeds.  Instead, the visiting bee must crawl under the tip of a style and brush past a stigma and stamen, thus depositing the pollen collected from other flowers that had been adhering to their bodies, and thereby facilitating cross-pollination.

Large Blue Flag

Fruit is an oblong, 3-celled, bluntly angled capsule around 1-1/3 to 2¼ inches long and about 1/3 as wide.  The dark brown seeds are covered in a corky deposit that allows them to distribute by floating in water.  The capsules often persist through winter.

Folklore:

Through the years, iris flowers have symbolized power, with the three parts representing wisdom, faith and courage.  The iris is also considered to be a magical plant, with people carrying the root (or rhizome) to get ‘financial gain.’

Culinary and Medicinal Uses:

No reported uses for food because the entire plant is poisonous due to the presence of iridin, especially within its rhizomes (roots).

Nevertheless, American Indians medicinally used this plant on burns, swellings, and sores and also for liver and kidney disease.  Drugs containing iridin were once produced from the plant and used as diuretics.  Iridin was once long listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Wildlife Value:

Large Blue Flag has limited value as a food source for wildlife.  Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) and short-tongued bees are pollinators of its flowers.  Several non-pollinating nectar feeders are frequent flower visitors, including Harris Checkerspot (Chlosyne harrisii) and Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok).

Where Found Locally:

What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week? (June week 1)

This week, I’m featuring Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) as one of our local wildflowers that begins to bloom at this time.

The common name is derived from the water-stained appearance of its leaves.

Identification Tips:

This herbaceous perennial plant is 1-2′ tall, branching sparingly.  The stems are green, reddish green, or reddish brown, they are purplish at the leaf nodes, and they are smooth to slightly hairy.  When they are present, these hairs are appressed (flattened against the stem).  Alternate leaves are up to 6 inches long and 4 inches wide and deeply divided into 3, 5 or 7 deep lobes (each relatively narrow with an acute tip) with coarsely toothed edges and sharply pointed tips; they are sometimes slightly hairy.  The earliest leaves often have scattered whitish spots on them, resembling water stains, but they fade with age and don’t develop on later leaves.  The leaf stems (petioles) are up to 2″ long, light green to reddish brown, and smooth to short-pubescent; they are flat or furrowed along their upper sides and convex below.  The plant begins to go dormant in early summer and disappears later in the year.

The leaves may be solid green (L) or vary in the amount of spotting (LC-R) that resembles water stains. Photo Credit: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/virginia-waterleaf-hydrophyllum-virginianum/

Flowers are in loose rounded clusters about 2 inches across at the end of a long stem.  Before opening, each flower bud is covered by densely hairy sepals, making them have a swirling, woolly appearance.

Photo Credit:
https://urbanecologycenter.org/blog/wisconsin-wildflowers-virginia-waterleaf-hydrophyllum-virginianum.html

The flowers have an interesting and uncommon form — a helicoid cyme; the flower clusters unfurl from a coil, and the individual flowers open along the coil in succession.

Individual flowers are tubular to bell-shaped, about ½ inch long and 1-2” across, with 5 lobes and long protruding hairy stamens with pale yellow tips that turn brown with age.   Lobes spread apart only slightly when the flower is fully open.  Flower color ranges from pale violet to pinkish to white.  There are 5 long narrow sepals with feathery edges under the flower head.  Each plant has 1 or 2 clusters (cymes) of 8-20 flowers on a stem, and may have multiple stems.  The flowering stalks (or peduncles) of these cymes are up to 4″ long.

Each flower is replaced by a seed capsule that splits open to release its two seeds, each of which is spherical, brown, and pitted.

Photo Credit:
https://www.prairiemoon.com/hydrophyllum-virginianum-virginia-waterleaf-prairie-moon-nursery.html

Occasionally, this plant forms colonies.  However, populations of Virginia Waterleaf will decline in response to invasion from Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

Culinary and Medicinal Uses:

The Iroquois and Menomini ate the young plants and leaves after cooking them as a potherb.  Additional common names for this plant include John’s Cabbage and Shawnee Salad, both of which are in reference to the young edible leaves and shoots as an addition to salads.  Flower buds (for a textural addition) may be mixed with its leaves along with other greens for a mixed salad.  Leaves become slightly bitter with age.

The plant is used by the Menomini, Iroquois and Ojibwe for medicine.  Root tea was once used as an astringent to stop bleeding and for diarrhea and dysentery.  Roots have been used as a mild emetic to cause vomiting.  Tea or mashed roots were once used to treat cracked lips and mouth sores.  Modern herbalists consider Virginia Waterleaf to be a first-rate astringent and use it as a remedy for those with oral sores.

Wildlife Value:

At least two specialist pollinators use Virginia Waterleaf, the Waterleaf Miner Bee (Andrena geranii) and the Waterleaf Cuckoo Bee (Nomada hydrophylli).  (NOTE:  The common name of Waterleaf Cuckoo Bee comes from the facts that it exclusively relies upon Waterleaf (any of its specific species) for its existence and also because it practices cleptoparasitism.  Like the cuckoo bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other species that wind up raising the cuckoo chicks, cuckoo bees lay their eggs on the pollen stores in the nests of other bee species.  Thus, the other bees feed and raise the Nomada larvae into adults.)

The nectar and pollen of the flowers also attract bumblebees, Halictid bees, long-horned bees (Synhalonia spp.), mason bees (such as Blue Orchard Bee, Osmia lignaria), small carpenter bees, sweat bees, yellow-faced bees, and bee flies (Bombyliidae).  Syrphid flies sometimes feed on the pollen of the flowers, but they are less effective at cross-pollination.

A female mason bee (Osmia sp.) approaching the flowers
Photo Credit:
https://www.houzz.com/magazine/great-design-plant-hydrophyllum-virginianum-stsetivw-vs~34868359

The foliage is browsed by White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) occasionally.

Where Found Locally:

Sampler of Late Spring Season Wildflowers along the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail

I have witnessed a significant “uptick” in the increase of blooming wildflowers during the past two weeks while conducting my ongoing wildflower inventory along the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail in the City of Cohoes and Town of Colonie. Of course, things also become much greener with the emergence of leaves from seemingly all trees, shrubs, vines, forbs and grasses!

I’m inventorying an ~8-mile segment of that trail system. Kevin Kenny has created an iNaturalist project named Flowers of the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail that is aggregating our contributions. He is inventorying a similar distance immediately west of my segment.

Thought I’d share with you some of the sights I encountered. Hope you can find an opportunity to similarly stretch your legs and view the blooming beauties now on display!

Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) – Read more about this plant in my next edition of What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week?, which will be posted Saturday morning on 6/4/2022.
American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia)
Read more about this plant from one of my What Wildflowers Begins Blooming This Week? posts.
Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
Unfortunately, this wonderfully fragrant wildflower is an invasive species. Read more.
Gernander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) – Read more about this plant.
Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) – Read more about this plant.
Hemlock Parsley (Conioselinum chinense) – Read more about this plant.
Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
Read more about this plant from one of my What Wildflowers Begins Blooming This Week? posts. Look for edible ripened fruit in September and consider making some Nannyberry Butter.
Common Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum) – Read more about this member of the Iris family.
False Solomon’s-seal (Maianthemum racemosum) – Read more about this plant.
Clustered Snakeroot (Sanicula odorata) – Read more about this plant.
Alternate-leaved Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) – Read more about this plant.
Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca) – Read more about this plant.
Multi-flora Rose (Rosa multiflora) – Wonderfully fragrant like all other roses, but this one is very invasive!
Thyme-leaved Sandwort (Arenaria serpyllifolia) – Read more about this tiny plant.
Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus)
Read more about this highly invasive plant that is displacing our native wild iris.
Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) – Read more about this beautiful, but highly invasive plant.
Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus) – Watch a video on how to grow these plants in your garden!
Lance-leaved Figwort (Scrophularia lanceolata) – Read more about this plant.
Maple-leaved Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)
Read more about how to grow these native shrubs in your yard.
Round-leaved Dogwood (Cornus rugosa) – Read more about this native shrub.
Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) – Read more about this native shrub.
Stout Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) – Read more about this member of the Iris family.

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy trails!

What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week? (May week 4)

This week, I’m featuring Orange-fruited Horse Gentian (Triosteum aurantiacum) as one of our local wildflowers that begins to bloom at this time.

The “horse” of the common names refers to the general coarseness of the plant.  The genus name Triosteum, is derived from the Greek words treis, meaning three, and osteon, meaning “a bone” and referring to the 3 hard nutlets in the fruit which have bony ridges.  Aurantiacum means orange-colored.

Identification Tips:

This wildflower is a herbaceous perennial about 2-3½’ tall that is unbranched.  The central stem is light green, rather stout, and covered with glandular hairs.  Pairs of opposite leaves (each rotate 90 degrees from the pair below) occur along the entire length of the stem.  The leaves of Orange-fruited Horse Gentian are 5 to 10 inches long, 2 to 4 inches wide, broadly oval to elliptic in shape, tapering to winged sessile bases; they are not connate-perfoliate (merged together at their bases and surrounding the stem).  Each leaf has toothless edges, softly hairy surfaces (especially on the underside), and networks of secondary veins are prominent on the underside.

Axillary flowers appear at the bases of lower-middle to upper leaves along the stem; they are stemless (or nearly so), occurring as either solitary flowers or in small clusters of up to 6.  Each flower is ½-¾” long, featuring a tubular corolla that is dull red to purplish red along with 5 reddish green to reddish purple sepals.  Along its upper rim, the corolla has 5 short lobes that are rounded and erect.  The sepals are about the same length as the corolla; there are linear in shape and hairy.  Only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time.

Orange-fruited Horse Gentian

Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by 3-celled fruits that become about ½” long at maturity. Mature fruits are orange to orange-red, ovoid-globoid in shape, and glandular-pubescent; their flesh is dry and mealy. In Autumn these are quite noticeable in the leaf axils. Each fruit (drupe) contains 3 bony seeds that are bluntly 3-angled and oblongoid in shape.

Orange-fruited Horse Gentian (Triosteum aurantiacum)

Plants usually do not occur throughout a given site, but are most often restricted to a few dense patches.

Culinary and Medicinal Uses:

The common name of Wild Coffee (which may be applied to all three native species of Triosteum) is best explained by Merritt Fernald when he wrote that:

Barton, a distinguished botanist of Philadelphia a century and more ago, wrote:

I learned from the late Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg, that the dried and toasted berries of this plant, were considered by some of the Germans of Lancaster County, as an excellent substitute for coffee, when prepared in the same way. Hence the name of wild coffee, by which he informed me it was sometimes known.

SOURCE:  Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America, by Merritt L. Fernald and Alfred C. Kinsey

Horse gentians were traditionally valued for their medicinal properties.  They were used by American Indians for urinary pain and applied topically to sores and swollen areas.  Roots were used to treat fevers, induce vomiting, and as a powerful laxative.  The Iroquois used an infusion of this plant for soaking sore feet.

Wildlife Value:

The flowers attract long-tongued pollinators, especially long-tongued bumblebees (like Bombus fervidus and Bombus vagans) and Anthophorid bees, seeking nectar.  Smaller bees also collect pollen.

Where Found Locally:

What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week? (May week 3)

This week, I’m featuring Early Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum) as one of our local wildflowers that begins to bloom at this time.

PLEASE NOTE:  New York Protected Status:  Exploitably Vulnerable = Native plants likely to become threatened in the near future throughout all or a significant portion of their ranges within the State if causal factors continue unchecked.  Fragmentation of remaining habitat, contamination of the gene pool, and wild harvesting present ongoing threats to this species.

Identification Tips:

Early Azalea is a multi-stemmed shrub, with picturesque, ascending branches that form an upright rounded shrub and grows to 3-8 feet tall.  Bark of the main stem is dark gray, often becoming scaly with small plates.  Twigs are densely and often minutely hairy, reddish brown, becoming brown to dark gray.  This azalea is exceptionally cold hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as -25°F.

Leaves are blue-green, elliptical and alternate, but tend to be clustered near the branch tips.  Leaf blades are 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long and half that wide, ovate shaped, with entire margins; they are sparsely hairy on both surfaces and the main veins of the undersurface are densely hairy.

Early Azalea

Light pink, funnel-shaped flowers with protruding stamens occur in large clusters of 4-12 blossoms, appearing before or with the leaves.  The blooms of Early Azalea provide a delightful spicy fragrance and a stunning floral display.  The exterior of the blooms are covered with thin down and gland-tipped hairs from which its fragrance emerges.

Early Azalea

Flowers wither to sparsely to densely glandular-hairy covered capsules about ½ inch long and less than ¼ inch wide, and narrowly oblong to cylindrical in shape.

Culinary and Medicinal Uses:

CAUTION!  All parts of this plant are highly toxic due to the presence of andromedotoxin and may be fatal if ingested.

Wildlife Value:

Nectar from the flowers attracts Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) and Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus).  Azalea Miner (Andrena cornelli, which is the only Andrena bee to visit azaleas) collects the pollen from these flowers.

Due to the bitterness and toxicity of its foliage, no known animals browse from this plant.

Where Found Locally:

CANCELED = Wildflower Walk #4 on 5/26/2022

I am very disappointed to announce that I must CANCEL this walk for next Thursday since several of the showiest (and most fragrant) blooms will be done blooming by then.

Today, I visited Ann Lee Pond Nature and Historic Preserve at noon with a small group of my co-workers to get a “sneak peak” at the target species for my walk next week.

While I’m happy to report that we enjoyed our walk, the few Early Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum) flowers we found were nearly done blooming already, such as this fragrant cluster –

We also found several Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) like this one –

Also, we only found one Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) in bloom. Unfortunately, none of these will be around at the end of next week. Ironically and in addition, none of the Yellow Clintonia (Clintonia borealis) had a flower stalk! So, if you can, I urge you to visit Ann Lee Pond Nature and Historic Preserve this weekend and enjoy these blooming beauties while they’re still available!

If you go, park in the lot along Heritage Lane directly across from the apple orchard. Then, walk past the locked gate and follow that trail to the plastic bridge over Ann Lee Pond. Immediately after crossing the bridge, walk slowly along the path and watch for pink blooms of Early Azalea along both sides of the trail. When you get to the fork in the trail, go left (and left again at the next fork) and continue to the portion of trail where the Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) come up to the edge of the trail on your right. Continue along this path to near the end of the lengthy fern patch, then head out amongst the ferns and look for Painted Trillium. After you’ve viewed them, retrace your tracks over the bridge and return to the parking lot. Or, you could also continue along this path past the fern patch and then go left at the next fork in the trail. This path will take you back out to the outlet of the pond and the small parking lot just beyond it. Continue walking toward the larger parking lot in the distance (that is where you started), which is across from the apple orchard.

Enjoy!

What Wildflower Begins Blooming This Week?  (May week 2)

This week, I’m featuring Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) as one of our local wildflowers that begins to bloom at this time.

Wood Anemone

The compound leaves of Wood Anemone are split into five sections, hence the species name “quinquefolia” or “five-leaved.”

Wood Anemone is one of our true spring ephemeral woodland wildflowers: it completes its entire life cycle–from emerging from dormancy to setting seed–in the spring before the forest canopy closes above it.  The above-ground portion of this perennial dies back by mid-summer, leaving only the underground rhizome to await the next spring.

Such a fleeting existence for such a delicate woodland wildflower perhaps inspired William Cullen Bryant’s poetic tribute:

Within the woods,
Whose young and half transparent leaves scarce cast
A shade, gray circles of anemones
Danced on their stalks.

Identification Tips:

Wood Anemone is a perennial herbaceous plant approximately 3-8 inches tall.  Leaves are compound in groups of 3, though the lateral leaflets may be cleft so it appears to be 4 or 5 leaflets.  A single whorl of 3 stalked leaves sits at the top of the stem with the flower stalk arising from the center.  Leaflets are up to 1½ inches long, notched, lobed or deeply divided in 2 or 3 parts, coarsely toothed at the tip end, wedge-shaped at the base, and very short-stalked or stalkless.  Leaf color ranges from bright green to (sometimes when first unfurling its leaves) purplish green to dark purple.  A single basal leaf similar to the stem leaves, but nearly round in outline, may also be present.  Leaves and stems are covered in fine hairs.

A single 1-inch white flower on a hairy stalk arises from a whorl of leaves at the end of the stem.  Flowers have 4 to 9 petal-like sepals, usually 5.  Faint lines on the sepals may serve as guides to help insects find nectar.  The flowers remain closed in low light and have a strong daily rhythm.  They open in the morning from a pinkish, slightly downturned bud into a glistening white, upturned cup as the sunlight reaches them.  They close again at evening as the light fades.  A single plant may take 5 years or longer to flower, so often only a few flowers are seen among the leaves.

Mature flowers produce a dry elliptical to ovoid shaped fruit (achene) containing a single seed that is up to 1/5 inch long with a beak that is straight or curved.

Wood Anemones often carpet large areas due to their growth habitat of spreading via horizontal rhizomes.

Folklore:

The name “Anemone” refers to the gods of the four winds, Anemoi, and means “windflower,” referring to the timing of the flowers opening in the spring wind.  According to Greek mythology, Zephyros, the god of the west wind, was infatuated with a nymph named Anemona.  Zephyros’s wife Flora was angered by this so she turned Anemona into a flower.  Zephyros then lost interest in Anemona, but another wind god, Boreas (god of the north wind), fell in love with her in her flower form.  He tried to woo her, but Anemona wasn’t interested, so every spring he angrily blows open her petals, fading them prematurely.

Culinary and Medicinal Uses:

This plant is very toxic.  All parts of this plant contain protoanemonin, an irritating acrid oil that is an enzymatic breakdown product of the glycoside ranunculin.  While protoanemonin can cause severe topical and gastrointestinal irritation (such as blistering), it is unstable and changes into harmless anemonin when plants are dried or heated.

Despite the plant’s toxicity, it has been employed for a few external medicinal uses.  It was used as a rubefacient for treating fevers, gout, and rheumatism and it also has been used as a vesicant for removing corns from feet.  The root contains anemonin, which helps to relieve pain (analgesic).

Wildlife Value:

These flowers attract long-tongued bees (such as the Black-and-Yellow Nomad, Nomada luteoloides), short-tongued bees (such as the Eastern Masked Bee, Hylaeus affinis), mining bees, Lasioglossum sweat bees, and hoverflies.

Where Found Locally: