Category Archives: Ozark Hills

Walking and learning about the Ozark Hills

Yellow Giant Hyssop Agastache nepetoides

Yellow Giant Hyssop is a strange looking plant. I noticed it as a tall candelabra scaffold of branches tipped with bottle brushes. This second year of looking at it is bringing out the skeletal beauty of the plants.

Agastache nepetoides Kuntze

July to September                                       N                                 Family: Lamiaceae

Yellow Giant Hyssop flower

Flower: Each branch is tipped with a flower spike. The individual flowers have green cup, 5 pointed lobed calyxes. They are in dense whorls on the spike. A few flowers open each day seemingly at random. The flower is tubular, less than half an inch long with rounded lobes at the end. Two lobes are on top. two lobes are on the sides. A single wider lobe forms a lower lip. The flower is listed as yellow but is usually creamy white, turning yellowish as it ages. there are four stamens and a pistil split at the end.

Yellow Giant Hyssop flower spike

Leaf: Leaves are opposite with long, up to two inches, grooved petioles. The leaves are twice as long, up to 6 inches, as wide with coarsely toothed edges. The leaf top is green with indented main veins. The under side is light green and covered with short hairs.

Yellow Giant Hyssop leaf

Stem: One main stem can reach 7 feet tall. A few branches go off oppositely from about half way up the stem. All the branch stems arch out then straight up. The stems are square, have four sharp angles, are light green, feel scratchy and are stiff.

Yellow Giant Hyssop under leaf

Root: The perennial root is fibrous with rhizomes.

Yellow Giant Hyssop stem

Fruit: Four seeds develop in the base of each calyx. they turn deep brown when ripe.

Yellow Giant Hyssop seeds

Habitat: This plant likes light shade and good soil with adequate moisture. It grows in open woods, along streams and roads.


Yellow Giant Hyssop

Yellow Giant Hyssop plant

Yellow Giant Hyssop might seem hard to miss because it is so tall. It is easy to overlook because the plants are so open. The flower spikes are long but only a few flowers, all short, open at a time so the spikes can appear to be thick branch tips. The color of Yellow Giant Hyssop is a medium green that blends into a background often much more colorful with brown-eyed Susans or boneset or white snakeroot.

Once noticed, Yellow Giant Hyssop catches the eye every time it is in the vicinity. As there are rhizomes, established plants can be part of small colonies.

The stems feel hard and stiff. They are brittle. The branches snap off the main stem, if pulled down a short ways. The main stem can be snapped off by the wind and the remaining part will send up a new main stem and branches.

I see these plants most commonly along the roadside. They can grow in open areas as overgrown pastures but are more common under trees along ditches.

Spearmint Mentha spicata

So many items come with spearmint flavoring: gums, mouthwash, chewing tobacco, candy and more. All this flavoring comes from a plant that now grows worldwide, first as a crop, then as a naturalized citizen.

It’s fun to come across this plant and easy to identify it due to the smell. You can chew on a leaf, but beware it’s potency.

Mentha spicata L.

June to October                                           I                                   Family: Lamiaceae

spearmint flower

Flower: Flowers occur in spikes at the ends of branches. These spikes can reach several inches in length. The individual flowers are in whorls around the spike. Each white, pink or lavender flower is tube-shaped with five lobes at the open end and a five l pointed lobed calyx around the base. Four stamens are spaced around and lie along the tube. A single pistil with a split tip sticks out of the center of some of the flowers.

spearmint umbel

Leaf: Opposite, sessile leaves have numerous teeth with their pointed tips bent toward the leaf tip. The leaves are longer than wide, darker green on top than underneath and have indented veins giving them a wrinkled look. The tops have no hairs although there may be a line of hairs along the midvein on the under side. Whole or crushed the leaves have a strong, minty odor.

spearmint leaf

Stem: The green stems have four angles and are squared. They often lie prostrate but can grow erect up to two feet tall. There are usually no hairs on the stems. Every leaf node can put out roots.

spearmint under leaf

Root: The perennial root is fibrous with rhizomes.

spearmint stem

Fruit: The plant spreads vegetatively through rhizomes and rooting at leaf nodes. Some of the flowers do produce seeds with four tucked into the calyx of the flower.

Habitat: This plant prefers growing in shallow water in full sun along stream banks, springs and ponds.

Edibility: Spearmint is used as a flavoring in many foods and medicines. The leaves can be used for and in tea.


spearmint plant

Spearmint is smelled before it is seen. The minty odor surrounds the patch and crushing the leaves increases it many times.

Much of the time Spearmint grows low to the ground, less than a foot high. It likes to grow in four or five inches of water. The plants grow so densely, few other plants grow in the area covered.

When conditions are favorable, Spearmint spreads aggressively. Most of the spread is due to rooting at the leaf nodes. The rhizomes can grow out a foot or more putting up new branches every few inches. Since the rhizomes are below the ground a little, they withstand drought and cold weather.

Spearmint is used for various foods such as mint jelly or in mint icing. The leaves make a strong tea. The crushed leaves are supposed to have an antiseptic effect. The tea is used to soothe the stomach.

A leaf can be picked and chewed on. The intensity builds quickly spreading around the mouth. It soon is like a strong mouthwash.

Too much of the juice can be toxic.

Dodder Cuscuta ssp

Although Dodder vines grow throughout the spring and summer, they are most noticeable in late summer into fall. The yellow or orange vines draped over other plants in sometimes thick blankets is eye catching. The long, thin, waxy stems do earn their common name of witch’s hair.


Cuscuta ssp

June to October                                           N                                 Family: Convolvulaceae

dodder flower

Flower: Groups of flowers open along the stems throughout the blooming time. The flowers can be insect pollinated or will self pollinate. The flowers are white. They have three to five sharply pointed corolla lobes, depending on the species. These lobes can curve inward or flare slightly.

dodder side flower

Leaf: If rudimentary leaves are present, they are alternate. Any leaves present are reduced to flaps. They have the same color and look as the stem, containing no chlorophyll and are incapable of photosynthesis.

dodder stem twining

Stem: Annual, thin, white to yellow to orange, waxy stems twine around and sprawl across host plants. Periodically hastoria or suckers pierce the host plant stem to divert sap into the dodder stem. Stems can be several feet in length.

dodder stem suckers

Root: The seed puts out a root which withers away when the stem finds a host plant or a few days pass even if no host plant has been found.

Dodder fruit

Fruit: The seed capsules are globular and turn brown at maturity. The seeds can be spread by wind or water.

rope dodder fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers full sun and moist areas but will grow wherever host plants grow. Each dodder species can parasitize more than one species of plant.

dodder plants blanketing host plants


Field, Buttonbush, Compact, Rope, Common, Pretty,

Smartweed, Hazel, Cusp, Witch’s Hair

dodder plant on sedges

All Dodders are parasitic producing no chlorophyll themselves. If the germinating sprout doesn’t find a host plant within a day or so, it will die.

Dodder vines are like long, thin spaghetti with a waxy coating. Different species vary in color but fall in the white to yellow to orange range. The mass of such color can be striking.

Some of the Dodders can be identified in the field. Rope Dodder forms thick coils of stems, flowers and seed capsules. Buttonbush Dodder has four lobes in its flower. Most require careful study of the flowers under magnification so they are treated as a group here.

The different Dodders may have a preferred host plant but are not confined to that one plant. That makes identification by the host plant unreliable.

Dodder can overwhelm the host plants and kill them.

Giant Ragweed Ambrosia trifida

Every year I watch the giant ragweed start to grow. It lines the road. It surrounds the barn. It fills the barn lot and adjacent pasture. Its population gains every year.

The pollen spikes start growing. They get six to ten inches tall lined with green balls. When the green balls open, releasing pollen into the air, the boxes of tissues get set out around the house.

By mid September the spikes are only brown stalks. The pollen is gone for the year. Now the seeds scatter across the ground promising a new, bigger crop of giant ragweed next year.


Ambrosia trifida L.

July to September                                       N                                 Family: asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

giant ragweed male flowers

Male flowers

Flower: There are separate male and female flowers. The male flowers are in hanging bundles on a spire. One main and several auxiliary spires can come from the tips of each branch. The female flowers are tucked into swirls of bracts at the base of the spires. The flowers are wind pollinated.

giant ragweed female flowers

Two female flowers

Leaf: Opposite leaves are rough, green on the upper side, slightly paler on the under side and covered with very short hairs. Many of the leaves have three lobes but can have five or none. Main veins run out each lobe. The leaves have long petioles that can be winged. each leaf can reach twelve inches long and eight inches wide.

giant ragweed under leaf

Stem: The thick, ridged stem can reach 12 feet in height. It has branches. The stems are light green, rough to the touch, stiff, hollow and have lines of short hairs. The bases of tall stems thicken, become woody and can be three inches in diameter.

giant ragweed leaf

Root: The annual roots are fibrous around a taproot.

giant ragweed stem

Fruit: The seed is tan with an ovate base. the top has a main rounded spike surrounded by a ring of lower, rounded lobes.

giant ragweed fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers full sun, good soil and moisture. It is not particular and grows in a wide variety of places especially disturbed ground and pastures.

Edibility: Cattle, goats and deer eat giant ragweed. The seeds have a tough coat but can be eaten.


Giant Ragweed

Great Ragweed, Horseweed, Buffalo Weed

giant ragweed plant

Giant Ragweed is considered a noxious weed in some states. it does tend to form dense colonies once established in an area. It is the most abundant ragweed.

The plants are annuals and produce lots of seeds. These germinate in mid to late spring. The seedlings grow rapidly often in dense stands, many of which die from the competition.

Although, under ideal conditions, Giant Ragweed can to 12 feet with stalks three inches in diameter, tough enough to require a saw to cut them, many times the plants are cut or grazed or mowed off. The plants then put out new branches quickly reaching two to three feet and blooming. Even six inch plants will put up single spires.

As are other ragweeds, Giant Ragweed is wind pollinated. Each plant produces tremendous amounts of pollen. This is a major cause of hayfever in late summer.

Bees still visit Giant Ragweed male flowers to gather pollen. They may knock some pollen down on the female flowers, but do not visit them. They leave the pollen spikes heavily laden.

Archeologists find caches of Giant Ragweed seeds at various sites. The seeds are tough but do contain edible oils. Few birds can eat them due to the tough shells.

Spreading Aster Symphyotrichum patens

When blue daisies like the spreading aster begin to bloom, fall is close behind. This aster is common along the roads now along with Drummond’s Aster, Azure Aster and New England Aster.


Symphyotrichum patens G.L. Nesom

August to October                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Astereae

spreading aster flower

Flower: Flower stalks grow out of leaf nodes. They can branch and tend to be long and slender. Each one has a single flower head at the end. The cup holding the flower has numerous, small, pointed, hairy, green bracts with purple tips. These lie smoothly but make a jagged top of the cup. Sticking out of the cup are 15 to 20 rays lying flat and making a flower head almost two inches across. The rays are blue to purplish blue and often lighter on the first half and deeply colored on the outer half. The central disk flowers are yellow.

spreading aster side flower

Leaf: Only stem leaves are present when the plant blooms. These alternate leaves are sessile and have two projections that clasp the stem and a tapered, slightly rounded tip. The edges have no teeth or lobes. Both top and bottom are covered with short hairs which go around the leaf edges too.

spreading aster leaf

Stem: The branched stems can reach four feet. They attempt to grow upward, but usually curve down toward the ground. The green stems are hairy.

spreading aster under leaf

Root: The perennial root is both rhizomes and thickened fibrous roots.

spreading aster stem

Fruit: The seeds are purplish brown footballs.

spreading aster seeds

Habitat: This plant likes full to partial sun growing in pastures, open woods, glades, prairies and along roads.


Spreading Aster

Purple Daisy

spreading aster plant

There are several blue to purplish blue daisies blooming in late summer into fall. Spreading Aster can be identified by the leaves clasping the stems and the hairiness of the stems.

These blue asters are among the first blue aster to bloom along the roads. The two to three foot long stems arch over the ground with several long flower stalks sticking out. the flowers open one or two then several at a time.

Smaller butterflies such as buckeyes, red admirals and skippers visit the flowers.

Once the flowers are pollinated, the rays wither. The seeds develop and brown with the threads sticking out of the enclosing cup. There can be buds to blooms to seeds on the same plant at the same time.

Although small, the flowers are delicately pretty. The plants are fairly drought tolerant. Seeds are available from a variety of sources.

False Buckwheat Fallopia scandens

Every year the false buckwheat vines grow up over the front porch railings and part way up the posts. They stay as the vines are attractive all summer into fall. Frost kills them but they are easy to pull off and dispose of, no thorns, stickers or burs.


Fallopia scandens Holub

June to November                                       N & I                           Family: Polygonaceae

false buckwheat flower

Flower: Racemes or sprays of flowers 2 inches to 8 inches long stick up from the leaf nodes. The greenish-white flowers form whorls around the flower stalk. Each flower has two inner and three outer petal-like tepals. The outer ones are winged.

false buckwheat leaf

Leaf: The alternate leaves are dark green on top, light green underneath. They are mostly heart-shaped and on petioles which get progressively shorter as the leaf gets further along the vine.

false buckwheat under leaf

Stem: This vine can reach 20 feet long. The stem twines. It is round or ridged, green turning red with age, hairless or with hairs on the ridges. A tan sheathe surrounds the stem at each leaf node.

false buckwheat stem

Root: The perennial fibrous roots get fleshy.

Fruit: The small, black seed is inside the outer three winged tepals which fuse around it. The winged seeds hang down on the flower stalk.

false buckwheat fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers partial shade but tolerates full sun as long as the soil is good and enough moisture is present. It’s found along roads, yards, pastures, edges of woods, along streams and in prairies.


False Buckwheat

Crested Buckwheat

false buckwheat plant

False Buckwheat is one of those plants found worldwide. There are varieties of it so the population is partially the native one and partially an imported variety. The plant is not concerned and grows abundantly under the right conditions.

Numerous vines come from the rootstock. These cover the ground and any object or plant they encounter. The vines can be thick enough to blanket and smother these objects. They look light weight but are heavy enough en masse to bend small plants or saplings to the ground.

The flowers are small but make up for this with their number. The winged seed pods are pretty. Since the vines bloom for two to three months, they make pretty plants for growing on trellises.

False Buckwheat is an aggressive grower and seeds freely. The roots are persistent. In areas where the vines are mowed frequently, they will eventually die out.

Autumn Sneezeweed Helenium autumnale

The sneezeweeds are often one of the last entries in a wildflower guidebook under yellow flowers. They don’t bloom until fall is starting. Autumn Sneezeweed is easy to spot in wet areas.


Helenium autumnale L.

August to November                                   N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

autumn sneezeweed flower

Flower: Upper leaf nodes and branch tips put out flower stalks that thicken just under the flower head. The numerous sepals are light green, threadlike and curve upward around the center disk. Up to 20 triangular ray flowers surround the central disk. The rays range from yellow to orange and have three lobes on the outer edge. They stick straight out or slope away from the central disk. The central disk is a globular mound of yellow tube flowers.

autumn sneezeweed side flower

Leaf: Alternate leaves are sessile looking like they are part of the stem going off because of the wings. The leaves are long with a single midvein. Many, especially lower leaves have teeth. The surfaces have a dotted appearance due to tiny glands on them.

autumn sneezeweed leaf

Stem: One or several main stems grow up to 5 feet tall branching about half way up. The pale green to whitish stems are squared off and have green wings descending down from each leaf.

autumn sneezeweed stem

Root: The perennial roots are fibrous and shallow making the plant vulnerable to drought and fire.


Habitat: This plant likes very moist conditions preferring sunny edges of spring wetlands, ponds, creeks and lakes.

Poisonous: The plant contains a bitter lactone and can be toxic to grazing livestock.


Common Sneezeweed

Autumn Sneezeweed

autumn sneezeweed plant

Autumn Sneezeweed is a late blooming sunflower. It doesn’t open until the asters do, then blooms until autumn frosts drive most plants into dormancy for the winter.

This is an easy plant to identify. First, it likes growing in or near water. I find it around lakes and in wetlands.

Second, the flowers are so distinctive. No other yellow flower has the blunt triangle rays with lobes on the wide end. And the center is a pompom. For autumn Sneezeweed, the pompom is yellow.

Insects pollinate sneezeweed. The pollen doesn’t blow around making people sneeze. Where did the name come from?

Years ago Indians dried the plant. The dry leaves and flowers were crumbled in powder and used as a cold remedy snuff. This is sniffing pinches of powder. This caused sneezing.

Any of the sneezeweeds are bitter and avoided by livestock. Autumnal Sneezeweed is not a problem in any but low, wet pastures. In these it can grow in dense stands and be a problem.

Gaura Oenothera filiformis

Botanical names can be confusing. Gaura was listed as Gaura longiflora and Gaura biensis. These were combined in the new volumes of Flora of Missouri by Dr. Yatskievych so the same plants are now Oenothera filiformis.

This confusion can make people dislike using scientific names. I prefer using these as each name refers to a particular kind of plant. Plants can have more than one common name. Or a single common name can refer to more than one plant.

Yes, I still refer to most plants by their common names when talking to other people. It makes conversation easier.

Oenothera filiformis W.L. Wagner & Hoch

June to October                                           N                                 Family: Onagraceae

gaura flower

Flower: Loose groups of flowers tip the branches and arise at leaf nodes. Each flower has four upright petals with a long pistil swooping down from them flanked by four stamens on each side. A fresh flower is usually pink tinged white and turns darker pink as it ages over the day. Two pink sepals sweep back from the flower. The long flower stalk is a cylindrical ovary with a green lower section and pink upper section.

Gaura side flower

Leaf: The basal leaf rosette can be the first year’s growth or beginning of the year’s growth. It may or may not be present when the plant blooms. The stem leaves are alternate with a short, winged petiole. Small leaves can grow at the base of the petiole. Each leaf is long flaring out to the middle then tapering to a point. The wavy edges are irregular but not lobed or toothed. There is a single midvein. Top and bottom of the leaf is green, slick-looking and covered with short hairs.

Gaura leaf

Stem: One or several slender, green, hairy stems come up from the root then branch repeatedly forming a wide, leggy bush reaching five feet or more in height.

Gaura under leaf

Root: The fleshy root can be annual or biennial.

Gaura stem

Fruit: A long tube with tapered, rounded tip.

gaura fruit

Habitat: This plant likes sunny locations favoring pastures, glades, roadsides and open, disturbed areas.


Large Flowered Gaura

Gaura plant

Gaura is tall and leggy. It looks like a coordinated structure of slender, green sticks with handfuls of flowers glued on here and there. These sway in any breath of wind.

The flowers are easily recognizable with their four petals sticking up like the ribs for a fan. They fade by noon turning deep pink and folding themselves along the developing seed pod.

Although the plants grow in a variety of sunny places, I see them commonly along the roads. The leggy bushes are easy to recognize. The flowers are smaller and must be seen from closer up.

The seed pods are colorful as they develop. They turn brown when mature. The plant seeds freely.

Horseweed Conyza canadensis

So many of the plants we regard as weeds came from Europe along with the colonists and their seeds and livestock. This weed is a native American variety. Call it horseweed, mare’s tail or hogweed, it’s tall and prolific.

Very small flowers are easier to show in pairs so the front and side views are in the same picture.

Conyza canadensis Cronquist

June to November                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Astereae

Horseweed flower

Flower: The many-branched flower panicle can be 18 inches tall and spread out over 6 inches with a flame shape. Each flower is cylindrical. The half inch long cylinder is made up of dark green, overlapping bracts. From 25 to 45 white ray flowers radiate out an eighth of an inch around the top of the cylinder surrounding numerous tube flowers.

Horseweed leaf

Leaf: Alternate leaves can be so dense as to appear whorled. Each leaf is 2 – 3 1/2 inches long but less than 1/2 inch wide. There is a midvein and thick edges. White hairs stick out along the edges. Top and bottom are dark green.

Horseweed under leaf

Stem: The single stem can reach 7 feet. It is light green with white hairs. It is stiff.

Horseweed stem

Root: The annual root is a short taproot with fibrous roots.

Horseweed seeds

Fruit: The seeds are an eighth of an inch long and thin with short, white threads sticking out one end.

Habitat: This plant prefers full sun and disturbed areas such as roadsides and barnyards.



Canada Fleabane, Hogweed, Mare’s Tail

Horseweed plant

Horseweed is a native weedy species. It produces hundreds of seeds which are wind disseminated. The plants often come up in dense stands.

The young stem growing up can be mistaken for a goldenrod. Once the flower stalks appear, horseweed is unmistakable.

In poor areas horseweed can be short, only a couple of feet tall. In better soils and with enough rain, the stems can reach seven feet with massive flower heads. If you can overlook the facts that few animals other than insects eat these plants and their sheer numbers can make them a nuisance, the tall, flowering plants are impressive.

The plants seem to prefer growing along fence lines or near sheds. They can grow in shade but do best in full sun.

Wind can make a group of horseweeds seem to ripple as the stems dip down and stand back up. The stiff stems can take a lot of wind without being uprooted. It takes pressure to snap the stems.

Each plant matures, flowers, seeds and dies over a few months. New plants replace the older ones to keep the blooming time so long. The leaves yellow and drop off from the bottoms of the stems as seed heads replace the flowers until only the stalk is left devoid of flowers, leaves and seeds.

For the serious amateur botanist, check out the book The Syrian Milkweed to find out more about how plants get their names and how the process can make mistakes.

Cup Plant Silphium perfoliatum

Each summer a line of cup plants grows up along my road. There was only one cup plant the first year. The lines have gained in length and number of plants every year since. New lines of plants have started nearby.

The thick stem and massive leaves make the cup plant noticeable. Then there is the size: eight feet tall! The flowers seem so small for such an impressive plant.

The plants seem to grow slowly. Perhaps this is because they get so tall. Even the short ones are taller than I am.

The stems are stiff and difficult to pull over without breaking them. I resorted to pulling my truck over close to the ditch and climbing into the pickup bed to get pictures of the flowers.


Silphium perfoliatum L.

July to September                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

cup plant flower

Flower: A spray of flower stalks comes up out of the top pair of leaves. These stalks can branch. Each is tipped with a flower head of a disk of yellow tube flowers and 18 to 35 orange yellow ray flowers. The cup behind the flower is green formed by numerous bracts with pointed tips but appearing almost fused around the base of the flower head, smooth and hairless.

cup plant side flower

Leaf: The opposite leaves are large, over a foot long and nearly a foot wide at the base end slowly tapering to a point. The two leaves join together to surround the stem and attach at a swollen node forming a depression around the stem. The edges have widely separated teeth. The strong midvein holds the leaves out stiffly although the  last quarter droops down. The leaves are green on the tops and pale green underneath.

cup plant leaf

Stem: A single, unbranched stem can reach ten feet. The stem is square, ridged, with a few scattered short hairs, coarse to the touch and stiff.

cup plant under leaf

Root: The perennial roots are rhizomes forming colonies.

cup plant stem


Habitat: This plant prefers moist areas such as roadside ditches, moist woods and stream banks. It likes partial sun and light shade.

Cup Plant

Cup Rosinweed

cup plant

Few plants are as impressive as the Cup Plant. The inch thick stem and massive leaves rise up out of the surrounding plants then tower over them. Most Cup Plants seem to top out at seven feet. Some are shorter and a few are up to three feet taller.

Cup Plant leaves are massive. Each pair points in the opposite direction from the previous pair. The depression where the fused leaves join the stem can hold rain water.

For such a large plant, the flower heads are small, only three inches across. Larger plants can have a bouquet of them sprouting up out of the top leaves with six open at a time.

Because of the square stem and leaves at regular intervals, an old name for the plant was measuring weed. Its accuracy for measuring is questionable.

The rhizome root is perennial and puts up more than one stem in a line. The older the root, the more stems it puts up.

White four o’clock Mirabilis albida

The white four o’clock is such an elusive wildflower. The plants are not rare, although finding them requires finding the right habitat. Too often I find the plants too late to see them bloom and only see them open up to spread their seeds. The beauty of the flowers makes the hunt worthwhile for another year.


Mirabilis albida Heimerl

May to October                                            N                                 Family: Nyctaginaceae

white four o'clock flower

Flower: Three flowers hang on long stems from the tip of each flower stalk. The three open the same evening, but not always together. Each flower has a green cup calyx. The white to pink flower is bell-shaped with ten lobes on the flared open end. Five stamens with colored thin filaments and yellow balls of pollen stick out of the bell. A single pistil is mixed in with the stamens.

white four o'clock side flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves are sessile or with a short petiole. The top is darker green than the underside. The underside has a covering of very short white hairs that cover the smooth leaf edge as well. There is a deep midvein. The leaves are much longer, up to four inches, than wide but are not narrow and have a rounded tip.

white four o'clock leaf

Stem: The single unbranched stem can be three feet tall. Flower stalks branch out at the leaf nodes, each tipped with flowers. The stem can be hairy or not. It often appears silvery or tan rather than green. It has shallow ridges on the lower portions.

white four o'clock under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial taproot.

white four o'clock stem

Fruit: Up to three seeds form a group in the center of a large, four pointed, light green to white bract. Each white to ecru seed is long and stout, covered with bumps. Each bump has a tuft of bristles sticking out.

white four o'clock fruit

Habitat: This plant likes full sun. It usually grows in poor soils such as gravel bars, glades and road cuts.


White four o’clock

Pale Umbrellawort, Hairy Four o’clock

white four o'clock in bloom

White Four o’clock flowers are fleeting. They open about dusk for an hour or two, then shrivel. The only way to see them is to stalk them.

I found several plants growing along the road. Every evening close to sunset I walked out to check on them. Flowers opened on several evenings, usually a few, but en masse one evening.

white four o'clock plant

Most years I find the plants, walk out evenings and never catch a flower open. The plants have already bloomed and are setting seed. More commonly the single stalk has numerous green calyxes. The lower ones begin to flare open exposing the seeds.


Eastern Figwort Scrophularia marilandica

The first figwort I saw was growing on a roadside near a cold water spring. The flowers were such an unusual shape and color, it caught my attention. To my surprise it turned up in Ozark Wildflowers, the last brown wildflower in the book.

That plant came up several more years until the annual brush cutting finally killed it off. However I had found another plant growing near a shed at home. that plant continues to thrive as do several others I have come across over the years.


Scrophularia marilandica L.

July to October                                            N                                 Family: Scrophulariaceae

figwort flower

Flower: Flowers are on long stalks both at the top of the stem and from leaf nodes on the upper half of the stem. Each flower has a cylindrical shape from the side. A green calyx with five pointed lobes surrounds the base. The five petals are light green on the outside. From the open end of the cylinder the inside of the petals is reddish brown. Two petals form a flat top. Two petals form the sides. A single wider petal that curves downward forms the bottom. Inside are five stamens. An infertile one is on the upper petals. Four fertile ones with cupped ends are over the lower petal. A single pistil hangs out dangling from the lower petal.

figwort side flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves are spaced along the stem. Lower leaves have long, up to 3 inches long petioles. the petioles get shorter as the leaves get higher on the stem. Each leaf has a rounded base with a long taper to a sharp point. The edges have regular teeth. The upper surface is darker green than the under side of the leaf. The midvein is prominent on the lower surface as are the main venous branches. The midvein can have short hairs on both top and bottom sides.

figwort leaf

Stem: A single rigid, square, unbranched, green stem can be three and a half feet to eight or ten feet tall. Flower stalks go off from leaf nodes and make a loose spire at the top of the stem. The sides of the stem are curved inwardly on each side. The stem can have short hairs.

figwort under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial knotty tuber with rhizomes.

figwort stem

Fruit: The seed pod is made up of two pieces forming a globular  case around numerous seeds.

figwort fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers light shade in open woods, ravines and creek banks.


Eastern Figwort

Carpenter’s Square, Late Figwort

figwort plant

Figwort plants seem to get taller every year. The lower leaves get longer, up to eight inches. this is what gets the plant noticed.

Figwort flowers are small, barely half an inch long, and easily missed. Once noticed, their unusual shape is eye-catching.

From the side a figwort flower appears green. From the front the deep reddish brown is seen. Four yellow marbles sit on the lower lip of the flower. These are the stamens.

From the side the two upper petals are flat, extending out like a flat roof over the rest of the flower. The rest of the flower hangs down from this flat roof giving the flower the appearance of a short pipe.

From the front the two upper petals have rounded, ruffled edges of deep reddish brown. The front is round and extends back inside the almost quarter inch across pipe.

The plants seem to grow singly. Once one is spotted, it comes up every year. One grows near a shed wall. The first year is was three feet tall. Ten years later it is taller than the eaves, close to seven feet tall.

Read about more Ozarks plants and animals in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Brown eyed Susan Rudbeckia triloba

Brown Eyed Susan is one of many yellow daisy type flowers blooming in the Ozarks from mid to late summer. Some are so similar, it is difficult to separate one from another or identify them with certainty.

Taking note of several things helps with identification. One is flower size, the number of ray flowers and the under side of the flower for the sepal arrangement. Another is the leaf size and shape plus any basal leaves.

Brown Eyed Susans are fairly easy to identify.

Rudbckia triloba L.

June to November                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

 brown eyed susan flower

Flower: Single flowers tip the branches and numerous stalks from leaf nodes. Each flower is one and a half inches across with six to twelve orange yellow ray flowers and central purplish brown tube flowers. These sit on a disk formed by five green, hairy bracts that arch downward.

brown eyed susan side flower

Leaf: The alternate leaves are green, thin and rough to the touch, like fine sandpaper. All the leaves may be ovate with a long, tapered point and coarse, irregular teeth. Some, mostly lower, leaves can be deeply lobed into three parts. The leaves are covered with short hairs and have three main veins. The lower leaves have a short, winged petiole while upper leaves are sessile.

brown eyed susan leaf

Stem: The stiff, green to dark red stems are covered with white hairs. The stems can reach five feet tall and have numerous branches giving the plant a bushy appearance.

brown eyed susan under leaf

Root: There are biennial to short lived perennial fibrous roots and rhizomes.

brown eyed susan lobed leaf


brown eyed susan stem

Habitat: This plant likes sunny areas with moist, well drained soil and are common along roads.


Brown Eyed Susan

brown eyed susan plant

Many of the yellow daisy type of flowers have basal leaves and stems topped with flowers. Brown eyed Susan is different.

Brown eyed Susans send up the typical tall stem but it puts out branches and more branches. These put out branches until there is a bush as much as five feet tall standing towering above most of the other plants in the area.

Each branch tip has a flower. These are small, less than two inches across, but their number makes up for this. The bush looks like yellow ornaments studding the spring green of the leaves.

Although Brown eyed Susans bloom for months, most of flowers appear in the first month. This may be different on cultivated plants where the old flowers are removed so the plant never sets seed.

The flowers are busy places. Few large butterflies visit but many small ones, bees, wasps and other insects form a steady stream of traffic. Flower spiders and assassin bugs hide among the ray flowers.

double brown eyed susan??

The flowers usually have a single row of ray flowers. I did find one plant with double flowers.

Flowering Spurge euphorbia corollata

Even in the midst of many other white flowers, those of Flowering Spurge stand out. When the flowers first appear, they are on tall stems away from other plants. Later on the stems lie along the ground and the flowers are hidden under other leaves making it fun to spot them.


Euphorbia corollata L.

May to October                                            N                                 Family: Euphorbiaceae

flowering spurge flower

Flower: Each flower branch is tipped with one flower. Each flower has a little green cup with five shallow lobes. Five white bracts that look like petals spread out from the cup. The centers of the flowers are either filled with stamens or have a single pistil. There are many more of the staminate flowers than the pistillate.

flowering spurge side flower

Leaf: Alternate leaves circle the stem. Below a branch a whorl of three leaves grows. Each leaf is up to 2 inches long, half an inch wide in the middle and has a round tip. It is darker green on top than underneath. A row of short, light green hairs is on the leaf edge and down the underside of the midvein.

flowering spurge leaf

Stem: Several unbranched stems up to 3 feet tall can come from a single taproot. The stems branch at the top to form a loose flower umbel. The stems are round, smooth and pale to medium green. The lighter stems can have purple dots.

flowering spurge under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial taproot.

flowering spurge stem


Habitat: This plant likes sunny places like prairies, glades, roadsides, pastures and old fields. It often grows in poor soil so few other plants are around it.

Poisonous: The sap is a toxic, white latex.


Flowering Spurge

flowering spurge plant

Most Ozark members of Euphorbiaceae have small flowers, too small to notice without inspection. Flowering Spurge is an exception with its quarter inch across white flowers.

Like another, more well known member of the family, the poinsettia, the petals aren’t petals but colored bracts or modified leaves. The Flowering Spurge flower is crammed into the tiny space surrounded by the bracts.

Each plant opens a dozen to two dozen flowers. Only some of these are pistillate and will later produce seeds. The others have stamens forming a yellow ring inside the bracts.

The plants look delicate with their long, slender stem. They blow in the wind and snap back to erect. As the number of flowers increases, the stem either tangles in a nearby stronger plant or gradually sinks to the ground.

Flowering Spurge grows along the road here among bluff rocks, even in cracks in the rocks. The plants tower over most nearby vegetation except for small trees. the area is sunny and the rocks heat up to make it hot.

I try to be as accurate as possible with my plant descriptions referring to Yatskievych’s Flora of Missouri. If you find a problem, please let me know.

Exploring the Ozark Hills is a book of nature essays and photographs from the four seasons.

Wood Sage Teucrium canadense

In May single, thick, square stems appear pushing their way through the dense crowd of plants. In June conical spires of flowers top the stems and the first ring of pale lavender, almost pinkish, flowers open. The Wood Sage is in bloom.

Teucrium canadense L.

June – September                             N                                             Family: Lamiaceae

wood sage flower

Flower: A flower spike surrounds the top of the stem in whorls of two to six flowers. Green calyxes surround the bases of the flowers. Each flower has a large, white to pale lavender lower lip with dark purple mottling near the throat of the flower. Two short upright petals flank the lower lip like ears. The four stamens and pistil arch up over the lower lip. The edges and undersides of the petals are covered with short hairs.

wood sage side flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves have short or no petioles. Two leaf lie bracts spread out at the base of each leaf. The leaf is long and widest toward the middle and tapers to a point. The edges are toothed. Short hairs cover the top and bottom surfaces of the leaves. The mid and side veins form strong cords on the underside of the leaf.

wood sage leaf

Stem: Stiff square stems grow three to four feet tall. Fine short hairs cover the stems. Rarely the stem branches in the upper half.

wood sage underr leafRoot: The roots are fibrous and perennial. There are rhizomes so the plant forms colonies.

wood sage stemFruit:

Habitat: This plant prefers open, sunny areas with moist soils such as along creeks, roadside ditches and prairies.

Wood Sage

American Germander

wood sage plant

Wood Sage can be considered a weed. A single stalk appears one year. The next year the one stalk has become a small colony. Other single stalks appear nearby. In a few years Wood Sage covers the area.

Various smaller native bees don’t mind this abundance of food. They zero in on the purple splotches on the lower lip of the flowers and land to feed. For people, the flowers have no scent.

The flower spikes can be eight inches long. The tall stems bring the flowers up to where they are easily noticed. The flowers are small at three quarters of an inch long but are interesting to look at with their little ears.

Wood Sage is occasionally planted in native gardens. As with other mints, this one must be confined or it will take over the garden. It is a hardy plant tolerating some drought and crowding by other plants.

I find Wood Sage along the roads where it thrives even when surrounded by giant ragweed, blackberries and poison ivy. It does like lots of sun and withstands hot temperatures. The flower spikes make it an easy plant to identify.

Enjoy more nature essays about the plants, animals and events of an Ozark year in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Hedge Parsley Torilis arvensis

White umbels of flowers seem to be everywhere lately. Queen Anne’s Lace, Sweet Cicely and Hedge Parsley are commonly seen.

hedge parsley umbel

Torilis arvensis Link.

June to September                                      I                                   Family: Apiaceae

hedge parsley flower

Flower: About 8 small, white petaled flowers form a small umbel. An average of eight small umbels form a large, loose, terminal umbel. These can be branch tips or branches coming from upper leaf nodes. Each flower is an eighth of an inch across and the petals are of uneven size giving the flower a lopsided look.

hedge parsley side flower

Leaf: Lower leaves are compound with four pairs and a terminal leaflet on a half inch petiole. The number of leaflets drops as the alternate leaves are higher on the stem until only the terminal one is left. All leaflets are lobed giving them a fern-like appearance. All are covered, top and bottom, with short hairs. They are darker green on top and pale green on the bottom where the leaf stalk shows as a prominent midvein.

hedge parsley leaf

Stem: Slender, round, ridged, green, hairy stems can reach three feet. They have a few branches. The hairs are white and short.

hedge parsley under leaf

Root: There is an annual taproot.

hedge parsley stem

Fruit: Sometimes called beggar lice, each flower forms a single football-shaped seed covered with bristles. These are reddish, then turn brown. The bristles adhere to clothing and hair.

hedge parsley fruit

Habitat: This plant likes sunny, disturbed areas commonly along roadsides.


Hedge Parsley

Hemlock Chervil

hedge parsley plant

Hedge Parsley blooms alongside Queen Anne’s Lace on roadsides. Both have umbels of white flowers. The umbels are different.

Hedge Parsley umbels have separate flower units. They are smaller. They remain spread open as the seeds replace the flowers. The seeds are in the same separate units as the flowers were.

As the seeds mature, the lower leaves yellow and wither. By the time all of the flowers have become seeds, the stems are turning brown and hard. The plant becomes a brown, brittle stalk topped by brown burs.

The seeds are sometimes referred to as beggar lice. The bristles surrounding the seeds are not hooked but still catch on any passing clothing or animal. Hair gets wrapped into the bristles making removal slow and tedious.

Originally from Eurasia, Hedge Parsley has spread widely. Each plant produces dozens of seeds that are carried off or fall to seed a colony of plants the next year.


Essays about the plants and animals of the Ozarks can be found in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Perennial Pea Lathyrus latifolius

Lathyrus latifolius L.

June to October                                           I                                   Family: Fabaceae

perennial pea flower

Flower: The round, green flower stalks come from the leaf axils and can reach almost a foot long with four to sixteen flowers on them. The flowers have five white to dark pink petals arranged with two large petals standing up behind two small petals forming a projection with the fifth petal forming a bottom of this keel.

perennial pea side flower

Leaf: The alternate, green leaves have long winged petioles topped with a pair of leaflets. Each leaflet is a broad as the petiole wings at the base and slowly tapers to a point. There is a midvein. At the junction of the two leaflets and petiole is a forked tendril. The two ends twine around objects helping the vine to climb.perennial pea leaf

Stem: The stems are green with wide wings. They can reach 7 feet long and sprawl across the ground or climb up neighboring vegetation.

Perennial pea under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial taproot with rhizomes.

perennial pea stem


Habitat: This plant prefers sunny slopes with good soil and often grow along roadsides or other disturbed areas.

Poisonous: The seeds are poisonous. The foliage is not poisonous.

perennial pea panicle of flowers

Perennial Pea

Everlasting Pea

perennial pea plant

Perennial Pea is easy to spot along a road. There are usually numerous vines snaking across over the roadside vegetation. Brilliant pink handfuls of flowers are scattered on the vines.

Other vines may have white flowers. The two colors may be adjacent to each other but do not seem to mix. Both can put on a show.

Perennial pea white flower

Originally this unscented relative of sweet peas came from southern Europe. The plant prefers south or west facing slopes where conditions are the warmest. Good soil and adequate moisture produce the biggest vines.

The vines do have tendrils and can climb, but are not strong climbers. The vines are easily broken. They can root, if they touch the ground.

Perennial pea is planted and seeds are available. The seeds germinate easily. The plant grows quickly, blooming the first year. It’s bright colors, long blooming time and ability to climb a trellis make it a popular garden plant.

Indian Physic Gillenia stipulata

There is a stretch of road that erupts with small white flowers in early summer. The leggy plants are two feet tall but so thin and sparsely leafed out, they are not noticed until the flowers open. So many flowers open at the tops of these plants covering the hillside, they bring a smile as I realize the Indian Physic is blooming.

Gillenia stipulata Nutt.

May to July                                                  N                                 Family: Rosaceae

Indian Physic flower

Flower: Five sepals form a cup surrounding the base of the flower. Five white to pink, long, narrow petals emerge from this cup spreading out into a star shape. The petals are widely spaced. Ten stamens and five pistils are inside the cup bulging outward in a mound.

Indian physic side flower

Leaf: The leaves are widely spaced on the stems giving the plant a sparse or leggy look. Each leaf is deeply lobed into three long fingers lined with jagged teeth. These teeth can divide the lower leaves into a more lacy look. The leaf has a short half inch long, hairy petiole projecting it out from the two leaf like stipules surrounding the stem at the node. A definite midvein goes out each lobe. The upper surface is a darker green than the lower surface.

Indian physic leaf

Stem: The green to red stem is usually two feet tall but can reach four. It branches in the upper half. They have a tough, smooth feel but can have short hairs mostly toward the leaf nodes.

Indian physic under leaf

Root: The root is a perennial rhizome.

Indian physic stem


Habitat: This plant likes wooded hillsides.

Midwestern Indian Physic

American Ipecac

Indian physic plant

Indian Physic forms colonies. A group of colonies can cover a hillside. All the plants begin to flower at the same time so the small flowers are noticed because of their number.

Although Indian Physic is a member of the rose family, the flowers don’t look much like a rose. The petals are long and narrow, spreading out so they look widely separated. In the calyx cup is where the rose look is seen as there is a mass of stamens.

The plant itself looks leggy. The stems are thin but tough with the leaves at long intervals. Thin branches jut off in the upper half of the plant. The flowers top long, thin stems.

At first glance the leaves look like they have five parts. The bottom two aren’t part of the leaf but surround the stem and base of the petiole. The leaf has three parts.

The blooming period is given as three months but most of the flowers appear in June and are gone by the end of June. All of the flowers I’ve seen have been white. There is pink down at the edge of the calyx cup but it doesn’t extend into the petal.

Indians used the dried root as a laxative and emetic. It has been replaced by a South American ipecac plant. When ingested, this causes a sudden, severe gagging.

Smooth Wild Petunia Ruellia strepens

I like flower gardens but don’t have time to plant one. That makes finding lovely wildflowers even more special. Petunias are such lovely flowers. Surprisingly, Ozark wild petunias only look like garden ones. The garden varieties are in the same family as potatoes, peppers and tomatoes.

Ruellia strepens L.

May to October                                            N                                 Family: Acanthaceae

wild petunia flower

Flower: Up to three lavender flowers appear at the leaf nodes and tips of branches. Each flower is two inches long, shaped like a funnel with the end broken into five rounded lobes flaring out an inch and a half. The base of the flower is surrounded by a green calyx with five points and covered with short hairs.

wild petunia side flower

Leaf: The opposite, green leaves have small leaf like bracts at their nodes. The leaves have no to short petioles. Each leaf is up to 6 inches long flaring out quickly then tapering slowly to a point. The midvein is prominent with numerous strong side veins. Minute hairs are along the underside of the veins and around the leaf edges.

wild petunia leaf

Stem: The green stem starts out unbranched but can branch on older plants. The stem has minute rows of hairs but appears hairless from a distance. It has rounded ridges.

wild petunia under leaf

Root: Perennial

wild petunia stem


Habitat: This plant likes shade and grows along creeks, in open woods and along roads.

Smooth Wild Petunia

Smooth Ruellia, Limestone Ruellia

wild petunia plant

Smooth Wild Petunia looks like a garden variety petunia but isn’t one. It varies in color from a ruby red to lavender to a rare white. Only a couple of flowers open each day and are easily missed when they are lower down on the plant. The flower only last a day.

The Smooth Wild Petunia plant stands upright and can reach three feet but is usually half that. The leaves are large and hide the flowers. The base of each leaf is hidden under a pair of bracts shaped like the leaves but much smaller. The hairs on the plant are so minute that the plant looks hairless.

There are three species of wild petunia. Although all three are listed as beginning to bloom in May, this one seems to be a week or so ahead of the others. All have similar flowers. One plant is conspicuously hairy. The other two are not. This one has the flowers without stalks from the leaf nodes. The other one has flower stalks and smaller leaves.

I find this plant in various places, often along the roads. It is an easy plant to overlook. The flowers are a lovely shade of lavender and the first thing noticed, but just a glimpse requiring a second more careful look to really find the flower.

Common Mallow Malva neglecta

At first Common Mallow plants were few in number. The flowers are pretty. It was in out of the way places. That has changed. Ten years later this plant is taking over the chicken yard, expanding into the goat barn lot and covering a wide swath of ground in front of these places. It tried to take over my garden but diligent weeding has reduced it to occasional.

The flowers are still pretty. I still enjoy seeing them. The seed pods are interesting. The plants are ruthlessly mowed.

Malva neglecta Wallr.

April to October                                           I                                   Family: Malvaceae

common mallow flower

Flower: Hairy flower stalks grow from the leaf nodes and end in one to three flowers. Each flower has five hairy, pointed sepals. There are five white to light pink to lavender petals with dark pink veins. The flowers have an open bell shape.

Common Mallow side flower

Leaf: The alternate, green leaves have long, hairy petioles. Each leaf has several veins radiating out from the petiole into the five to seven shallow lobes of the leaf. The leaf appears almost circular but has two definite sides that overlap. The edges are toothed. The teeth and lobes give the leaf a scalloped look. The edges can have jagged waves.

Common Mallow leaf

Stem: Several stems come from the root. The green stems branch. They are hairy.

Common Mallow under leaf

Root: The taproot is fleshy, can fork or have fleshy side roots. It can be annual or perennial.

Common Mallow stem

Fruit: The seeds are arranged in a single circle inside a flattened round seed pod that resembles a wheel of cheese.

Common Mallow fruit

Habitat: This plant grows almost anywhere. It seems to prefer disturbed sunny areas.

Edibility: The leaves, young stems and flowers are edible raw or cooked. The seeds are edible but their small size makes gathering them tedious.

Common Mallow

Cheeses, Cheeseweed

Common Mallow plant

Common Mallow came from Europe. It spreads rapidly from seed. The plant grows, flowers and sets seed quickly. The seeds can sprout at any time of the year.

The Malvaceae family is the mallow family giving this plant its common name. The name referring to cheese is from the shape of the seed pod. It looks like a wheel of cheese. Cheese weed is from its growth habits.

The leaves and flowers resemble those of the garden variety of geranium. The plant can be a foot tall but sprawls across the ground. Its stems can be two feet long.

Common Mallow is considered edible. The leaves produce a mucilage so adding a few to soup can thicken the soup. As with the mucilage from okra, not everyone likes the texture. The young leaves, sprouts and flowers can be added to salad or cooked as greens.

An emerging sprout puts down a taproot. This can grow to a foot long. It is thick and difficult to pull out. The root can be eaten.

This plant is often considered a weed. It spreads so rapidly and spreads out to cover an area, the ground is covered with it. Once established, it is difficult to eradicate. Mowing makes it into a low ground cover still blooming and setting seed.

The plant is an alternate host for hollyhock rust.

Carolina Crane’s Bill Geranium carolinianum

The geranium family or Geraniaceae has three members in Dent County. The most noticeable is the wild geranium, Geranium maculatum, with its large deep pink flowers. This bushier, weedier member, Carolina Crane’s Bill, is more interesting after setting its fruit. Some crane type birds do put their beaks straight up to blend into the foliage behind them when danger threatens. The seed pods mimic this posture.

Geranium carolinianum L.

May to July                                                  N                                 Family: Geraniaceae

crane's bill flower

Flower: Flower stalks come out of the leaf axils. Each stalk ends with two light pink to lavender, notched flowers with three veins showing in each of the five petals. Five pointed, hairy, green sepals show between the five petals.

Crane's Bill leaf

Leaf: Some leaves are basal. The others are opposite on the stems. Each green leaf has a long hairy petiole. Five big veins go out five main lobes which divide into more lobes dividing into more lobes. The leaves can be covered with very short hairs.

Crane's Bill under leaf

Stem:The stems branch giving the up to two foot tall plant a bushy appearance. The stems are smooth, green to red and covered with short hairs.

Crane's bill stem

Root: There is an annual taproot.

Crane's Bill fruit

Fruit: The seed pod has a globular base with a long stalk pointing up from the base. These turn dark brown when ripe.

Habitat: This plant grows in many areas as glades, bluffs, prairies, stream banks, disturbed areas and woods. It prefers somewhat open areas.

Carolina Crane’s Bill

Crane's Bill plant

Carolina Crane’s Bill is easily identified by its distinctive leaves when it is small. Later the flowers look like miniature garden geraniums. Finally the seed pods looking like a crane pointing its bill skyward is unmistakable.

This is a tough plant. It can be found growing in gravel driveways. It seems to prefer these hard places as few other plants can grow there to offer competition.

Carolina Crane’s Bill stays smaller in packed ground. In better areas the plant spreads out and up for a couple of feet. Every leaf node sports flowers. Once the seed pods turn brown, the plant is decorated by them.

Since the plant is an annual, it produces lots of weeds. It grows quickly, blooms and sets more seeds. This and its tendency to grow in difficult places gets the plant listed as a weed.

The leaves are not poisonous and can be eaten. They are rated as very bitter. The short hairs would give them a fuzzy feel.

Cleavers Bedstraw Galium aparine

Galium aparine L.

April to July                                                 N                                 Family: Rubiaceae

Bedstraw flower

Flower: Tiny eighth of an inch across white, four-petaled flowers sit in the leaf nodes on short stalks. The petals come out of a green cup of sepals and fold open. The ends of the petals are pointed. One to several flowers form whorls around the leaf nodes starting about half way out the stem.

bedstraw leaf

Leaf: Whorls of six leaves surround the stems at intervals. The leaves lie flat, are long and narrow, widest just before rounding into a sharp point. Each leaf has a midvein. The midvein and leaf edges are lined with stiff barbs.

bedstraw under leaf

Stem: Several green, ridged, stiff stems come from a common root. The base of the stems is very thin. The rest of the stem is about a quarter inch thick, branching, lined with hooked barb hairs so the plant forms a dense mat. The barbs can cling to other objects and plants letting them climb upward three to four feet.

bedstraw stem

Root: The root is an annual fibrous one.

bedstraw fruit

Fruit: Usually two joined seed capsules form from each flower. The capsules are ovate and covered with stiff barbs long enough to double the apparent size of the capsule.

Habitat: This plant likes sunny, disturbed areas but will grow readily in ravines, pastures, gardens and edges of woods.


Annual Bedstraw, Goose Grass

bedstraw plant

Every stem, leaf and fruit of Cleavers or Bedstraw is covered with short, stiff, curved barbs. These join the various stems together into mats. They attach to objects and plants so the stems can grow up three to four feet. They attach to anything passing by holding on tenaciously, resisting al attempts to dislodge them, stems snapping to leave portions still attached.

The fruits caught in hair are soon wrapped in the hair. Removal with the least pain is pulling one hair out at a time until the fruit is free. As any given Cleavers stem is lined with double fruits, numerous fruits must be removed in this time consuming way but impatient tugs threaten to pull clumps of hair out with the fruits.

Each root system has numerous stems growing from it. The stems can branch but those I’ve seen do so rarely. The single stems joined together by their barbs bury nearby plants.

The name of bedstraw refers to pioneers using the plentiful plant as mattress stuffing.

There are several kinds of Galium plants. All have similar flowers although the size differs. The easiest way to recognize Cleavers is from the leaves. These are usually in whorls of six. Each leaf is long, round tipped and narrow. The other six leaf whorled Galium is a small plant about eight inches tall.

Cleavers or Bedstraw grows readily in disturbed areas such as along lawn edges and gardens. The best time to pull it out of these areas is before to just as it comes into bloom. The fruits form quickly and are a nuisance later.

Robin’s Plantain Erigeron pulchellus

Erigeron pulchellus Michx.

April to June                                                 N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Astereae

 Robin's Plantain flower

Flower: The flower is a center of yellow tube flowers surrounded by numerous white to lavender ray flowers. The entire inflorescence is close to two inches across. There are up to five on half to one inch stalks at the tip of the stem. There is a cup of green, hairy bracts under each inflorescence.

Robin's Plantain side flower

Leaf: The basal leaves are green, egg-shaped, with short petioles. They are covered with short hairs. There is a single midvein. The few stem leaves are sessile, covered with long hairs and narrower than the basal leaves.

Robin's Plantain leaf

Stem: A single, hairy, green stem can reach two feet tall. The hairs are long and spreading.

Robin's Plantain under leaf

Root: There is a perennial fibrous root system with rhizomes.

Robin's Plantain stem


Habitat: This plant forms small colonies in open woods on hillsides, pastures, ledges and bluffs.

Robin’s Plantain

Robin's Plantain plant

Although Robin’s Plantain is called a plantain, it isn’t. this name probably refers to the shape of the basal leaves which resemble those of broad-leaved plantain. Instead Robin’s Plantain is a fleabane and member of the aster family.

The relationship to the aster family is obvious with a close look at the flower. It is a typical aster type with densely packed tube flowers in the center and ray flowers around the disk. The tube flowers open in rings from the outside toward the inside. They are a yellow tube with a pistil sticking out. The stamens are fused to the pistil.

Fleabanes tend to have thinner ray flowers than other asters. Each inflorescence has a double or triple row of ray flowers. This gives a lacy look to the inflorescence.

There are several fleabanes in Dent County. Most are much smaller. Philadelphia fleabane is similar. The main ways to identify Robin’s Plantain are the long hairs on the stem, dense hair covering on the leaves and basal leaves. This plant tends to form colonies because of the rhizomes.

The ray flowers are mostly white. They can be lavender or even lavender at the base and white on the ends. Since several other white flowers bloom at the same time, Robin’s Plantain can get overlooked.

I find the plants on a hillside in woods about twenty-five feet from a pasture. A single plant bloomed the first year. There is now a small colony spreading out from the base of the oak tree where the first one grew.

Wild Hyacinth Camassia scilloides

Camassia scilloides Cory

April to May                                                 N                                 Family: Liliaceae

 wild hyacinth flower

Flower: Light blue to white, six petaled flowers on inch long stalks surround the stem. The cluster can include as many as 80 flowers. Six stamens stick out from around the green ovary bulge in the center of the flower. The flowers at the bottom of the cluster open first followed by those further up as new buds form on the tip of the stem.

wild hyacinth side flower

Leaf: The leaves are all basal and grass like. They are green, slightly darker on the under side, with parallel veins. The leaves have no hairs.

wild hyacinth leaf

Stem: A single smooth green flower stalk with no leaves on it can reach two feet but is usually 12” to 18”.

wild hyacinth stem

Root: The perennial root is a bulb.


Habitat: This plant likes light shade and moist, rich soil. It favors ravines, edges of woods and roadside ditches.

Wild Hyacinth

wild hyacinth plant

Wild Hyacinth flower clusters are looser and the flower petals thinner than the garden varieties. They only come in light blue to white. The plants still put on a display.

The six petals are referred to as tepals. This is because three are petals. The other three are sepals. They look the same so the flower appears to have six petals.

The plants tend to grow in groups. They can line the roadside for twenty feet from the edge of the ditch to four feet up. Then there are none.

On the hillside in the edge of the woods Wild Hyacinth grows near seeps or where water flows after a rain. These plants do like it moist but not wet. They will grow in full sun but seem to prefer partial light shade.

Although the Indians ate the bulbs, the plant is similar to a poisonous calla. The bulbs are small and not really worth the effort even with positive identification.

Wild Hyacinth is one of the spring ephemerals. It blooms for only a month, sets seed and disappears.