Wildflowers (4/13)

Coltsfoot found along Green ridge Road, 4/6

Coltsfoot found along Green Ridge Road, 4/6

Last year, I purchased a small wildflower guidebook at the Williamsport Visitor Center, and I expected it to transform me into an expert in identifying these plants.  Instead, it has led to many frustrating hours flipping through the booklet and checking out multiple websites.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), one of my many transformations into being middle-aged is hair loss.  Otherwise, I would be yanking it all out of my scalp in utter frustration while trying to ID wildflowers.  My friends, I am not a botanist: I just play one on the internet.

Last Sunday, I finished off the Log Roll Trail and hiked down Green Ridge Road back to the Town Creek Aqueduct.  Suddenly, to my right, a small, golden flower appeared just off the side of the road.  I took out my cellphone and snapped a picture.  Actually, I handed it to Candee and she took the picture.  I take really lousy pictures!  Anyway, I was thinking about the process of looking up wildflowers again.  So many of them look almost exactly alike, and I don’t have an eye for these things.  Once again, I passed the buck to Candee and her son Tyler.  I can’t afford to lose anymore hair.  After a couple of hours of “Hey, does this look like a ____?” these are the results.

Dutchmans Breeches

Dutchmans Breeches

Actually, I’m not being 100% honest.  I did recognize the Dutchmans Breeches that we spotted along Tunnel Hill Road.  After not seeing much of anything along the C&O in the vicinity of the Paw Paw Tunnel, I was somewhat shocked to start running into wildflowers on the top of the hill.  A few days earlier, Candee saw plenty of the breeches and Bloodroot near Shepherdstown, so it was a pleasant but not complete surprise.  Along the way, we also spotted several of the mottled leaves that signify the presence of the Trout Lily, so they are probably right around the corner.  As one flower has it’s week or two in the spotlight end, another one seems to come along and take its turn.

Cut-Leaved Toothwort

Cut-Leaved Toothwort

Along Tunnel Hill Road, the most common flower was the Cut-Leaved Toothwort.  After a whole lot of searching, my crew and I are about 95% certain that’s what it is.  We systematically eliminated anything and everything that didn’t correspond to the toothed leaves and four petal flowers, and I would probably bet the farm that we made a proper identification.

All of this leads to one of the more interesting flowers that we’ve seen along the C&O Canal or any of the neighboring trails.  While heading back down Tunnel Hill Trail, a tiny, purple flower with bi-colored petals stopped me in my tracks.  For once, the guidebook seemed to have all of the necessary information for an easy identification: the Birdfoot Violet.  It’s probably as unique looking as the Trout Lily or Larger Blue Flag (which should be growing in the damp canal bed within the next couple of months).  In spite of all of the homework, it was great getting back out on the trail, and we’re looking forward to the weekly or bi-weekly changing of the guard that seems to be a big part of learning more about wildflowers.

Birdfoot Violet (bicolored variety)

Birdfoot Violet (bicolored variety)


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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by LevelWalker on April 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    After a couple more posts, I can finally move “How to poop in the woods” to page two!!!


  2. Posted by Joy on April 14, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Coltsfoot is nicknamed ‘Son before Father’ because the flower blooms and dies back before any leaves appear on the stem.


  3. Posted by Joy on April 14, 2014 at 11:53 am

    I agree with all of your identifications.


  4. Posted by Jamie on April 14, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Your comment makes me chuckle.

    As always, I enjoy the pictures of flowers and other things tiny. You also beat me to the post because I have a few wildflower pictures that will be going up on the blog either tonight or tomorrow (the Mile by Mile Photo Gallery has already been updated at miles 96-98 and two of the pics are wildflowers).

    Keep up the great work!


  5. Posted by LevelWalker on April 14, 2014 at 7:01 pm


    Thanks for the information on Coltsfoot. If we would have made any mistakes, I was counting on an expert stepping in and letting me know. Candee is pretty good at matching things up, but I get pretty mixed up sometimes. Thanks for helping to keep things straight.


    I’m guessing you ran into some great plant life below Williamsport. I always enjoy looking at your website. Sometimes I go straight to the Quest and miss things in the photo gallery. Your pictures and insights are always A+.


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