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Wildflowers of New York

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
     Vervain family, small flowers in numerous, pencil-like spikes, blooming a few at a time from bottom of spike upward. Leaves opposite, coarsely toothed, rough-surfaced. Height 1-4 feet. Found in moist fields, meadows and along shores. Blooms July-September. Seeds have been roasted, ground and used for meal.
Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis)
     Pink family, showy flowers with 5-10 petals. 5 sepals united in a tube. Ten stamens. Two styles. Leaves opposite, entire, 3-5 ribbed, joined to opposite leaf at base, on stout stems. Height 1-2 feet. Found on roadsides and waste places. Blooms July – September. Originally grown in gardens. Juice of roots, stems and leaves containing saponin, used as soap by early settlers. Roots occasionally used in medicine.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
     Composite family, each flower on a single, hairy, leafless, scaly-bracted stalk. No leaves present at time of blooming. Flower about 1 ½ inches in diameter, resembling a dandelion. Leaves long-stalked, hairy on under surface, broad, with shallow lobes, appearing later in the season. Height of flower stem to 15 inches. Found on moist banks, railroads and roadsides. Blooms March – June. Makes delicious candy, “coltsfoot candy”, which is considered helpful to the respiratory system. Sometimes used in cough medicine. One of the first flowers found in spring.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
     Jewelweed family, flowers are orange, funnel-shaped, sack-like structures with crimson spots. Sack terminated by a curved spur. Semi – succulent leaves oval with coarsely toothed edges, on long petioles. Height 2-5 feet. Pale Touch-Me-Not is usually somewhat larger than Jewelweed and has pale yellow flowers. Found in moist places. Blooms April – June. Seeds expelled from fruits at maturity. Edible seeds have butternut flavor.
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
     Composite family, flowers small, purple, without rays; few to many on each head. Heads in terminal clusters. Leaves in whorls of 3-6 at intervals on the stout stem. Height 3-12 feet. Found in moist places, thickets and open woods. Blooms July – October. Roots formerly used in medicines.
May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum)
     Barberry family, 6 or 9 white petals form the ill-smelling flower. Stamens twice as many as petals. One 5-9 lobed, umbrella-like leaf on each flowerless stem. Flower stem usually with two similar leaves. Fruit a large berry, golden-yellow when ripe. Height 1-1 ½ feet. Found in woods and pastures, blooms from late April to May. Fully ripe fruit good raw, in marmalade, jelly or as juice in fruit drinks. Green fruit harmful. Foliage and rootstocks poisonous.
Meadow Blue Violet (Viola sororia)
     Violet family, many species of violets occur in New York State. This one has flowers and leaves on separate stems. Flowers nearly equal to or taller than leaves in height. Petioles and lower surface of leaves hairy. Found in moist meadows, low woods and shady places. Blooms April – June. Violets have been used as herbs and in salads. Some recommend using the leaves in soup.
Milkweed (Asclepias syrica)
     Milkweed family, five-part corolla turned back when in full bloom, exposing 5 small horn-like parts. Flowers in large clusters from axils of leaves. Leaves opposite, slightly hairy on the lower surface, up to 9 inches long. Fruit pod contains seeds with long silky hairs. Height 3-5 feet. Found in fields and waste places. Blooms June-August. Young shoots and leaves may be cooked as a green vegetable. Young seed pods can be boiled and eaten. A brown sugar can be made from the flowers. Plant fiber sometimes used in papermaking and in weaving some muslins.
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
     Composite family, many kinds of asters are found in New York State in autumn. This one has heads of flowers with numerous, narrow purple rays surrounding the yellow flowers in the center. Heads form large showy clusters at tips of branches. Leaves hairy, thin, toothless, of dryish texture, clasping the stout, rough stem. Height 2-8 feet. Found in moist or dry roadsides, fields, waste places, borders of woods and swamps. Blooms August – October. A cultivated garden flower in Europe.
Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum)
     Composite family, flower heads to an inch in diameter with bright orange-red rays slightly fringed at ends. Several heads terminate each hairy stem. Most of the blunt, veiny, hairy leaves grow in a basal rosette. Height to 1 ½ feet. Found in fields, clearings and on roadsides. Blooms June – September. Often considered a sign of poor soil.
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
     Loosestrife family, flowers with long, purple petals, growing in circles on spikes terminating the stout stem. Leaves without petioles, opposite or in circles around the stem, heart-shaped at base. 8-12 stamens and styles in 3 different lengths. Height to 3 feet. Blooms July – September. Found in marshes, along shores, in swamps and wet meadows, often in great numbers. Note: This plant is considered an invasive species.
Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota)
     Parsley family, tiny white flowers in flat-topped clusters. Often a purple or blackish floret in the center of the cluster. Leaves compound, finely dissected, yellowish-green. Height 2-3 feet. Flower head curls up when aged. Found in fields and waste places. Blooms June – October. Cultivated carrot developed from this plant. Sometimes a serious problem as a weed. Not to be confused with Giant Hogweed! Giant Hogweed resembles a large version of Queen Anne's Lace and is an exetremely hazardous weed. For more information about Giant Hogweed visit the DEC website.
Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
     Mustard family, small white petals about twice as long as sepals. Leaves small along the stem and lance-shaped. Basal rosette of deeply lobed leaves. Fruits heart-shaped; more conspicuous than flowers. Found on roadsides, waste places and cultivated grounds. Blooms March – December. Young leaves used as greens, either raw or cooked. Tastier when blanched. Seeds ground into meal by Indians. Name comes from the shape of the fruit.
St. John's Wort (Hypercium perforatum)
     St. John’s Wort family, five-petaled yellow flowers with numerous stamens in 3-5 tufts. Leaves opposite, showing tiny dots when held to light. Usually many flowers clustered at top of plant Height 1-3 feet. Found in pastures, roadsides, fields and waste grounds. Blooms June – September. Poisonous to livestock if eaten in large quantity. Results in skin eruptions if animal is exposed to bright light, especially with white skinned animals.
Tall Field Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)
     Buttercup family, five yellow petals about twice the length of the sepals. Leaves with 3 to 7 main divisions, which are somewhat further divided. Height 2-3 feet. Many species of buttercups occur in New York State. This is the common large buttercup of fields, meadows and waste places. Fresh leaves and tops poisonous to livestock. Harmless when dried, as in hay. Juice may produce blisters and sores on bare skin. Blooms May – August.
Tall Meadow Rue (Thalictrum polygamum)
     Buttercup family, flowers with 4 – 5 white sepals. No petals. Staminate, pistillate and perfect flowers on same or different plants. Numerous conspicuous stamens. Misty white flower clusters, often a foot long. Compound leaves. Height 3-10 feet. Blooms June – August. Found in moist meadows, swamps and along stream banks.
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
     Buttercup family, nodding flowers with five red sepals. Petals yellow and red, projecting to the rear in a prominent red spur. Numerous yellow stamens. Compound leaves with three-lobed leaflets. Height 1-2 feet. Found in rocky or sometimes sandy woods. Often on rocky cliffs or ledges. Blooms April - July. Wilts quickly when picked.
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
     Heath family, waxy, white flowers with 5 rounded lobes, nodding beneath the evergreen leaves. Leaves thick, hard, shiny dark green, except when very young. Height 2-6 inches. Fruit a bright red berry. Found in woods, especially with evergreens and in clearings. Blooms July-August. Young leaves and berries eaten by children. Berries sometimes used in pies. Mature leaves used to make tea. Wintergreen oil is derived from the Black Birch tree, not from this plant.
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Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District
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Rochester, New York 14624
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Page last updated: May 6, 2013