Eastern Woodland Plants

For our July 2010 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, we asked readers to tell us their favorite Eastern Woodland plant. Our winner, chosen at random from the entrants, is Kathy G. of Gaithersburg, MD, who said, "My favorite wildflower is Spring Beauties. They create a carpet of flowers in my woods - absolutely beautiful."

Kathy G. gets an author-signed copy of An Illustrated Guide to Eastern Woodland Wildflowers & Trees: 350 Plants Observed at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland by Melanie Choukas-Bradley (a $19.95 value). This volume is an exquisitely illustrated guide to 350 eastern woodland wildflowers and trees found onsite at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland. It includes a botanical key and an illustrated glossary of common and scientific names, and is packed with nearly 400 elaborately and artistically detailed pen-and-ink drawings to make plant identification simple and fun.

Here are a few other entrants responses that I thought were worth sharing:

My favorite woodland wildflower is a May Apple. I have fond memories of my youth exploring the woods behind my house in the early spring and searching for the sweet little may apple flower hiding below the broad leaves. It always gave me such pleasure when I found them. They are simple, but beautiful.
~ Dorothy W.
Favorite Woodland Wildflower--Cinnamon fern. I just love those fiddleheads!
~ Madeline C.

Early in my elementary school education, a teacher asked me to write down my favorite color. That should have been an easy question to answer, but it wasn’t for me.
    The teacher waited impatiently while I seriously deliberated the merits of a gloriously blue sky on a spring day over the sharp shades of green experienced after a summer rain.
   I haven’t changed that much since then. I still find it difficult to easily choose just one tree or wild flower as a favorite among so many choices. So I force myself to finalize a decision with a roll of the mental dice and choose an underdog, the much maligned Black Walnut. (Juglans nigra) I love these fighting trees.
   The Black Walnuts don't just grow in the ground idly waiting for pest or a competitive plant’s assault. They are proactive. They exude juglone into the soil around them to mark their own territory, and dare you to cross the line. They seem to be able to hold their own even against the horrifically invasive garlic mustard. Garlic mustard exudes its own potent chemical brew thought responsible for killing many native seedlings. Who knows why so many disapprove of a tree that may hold the secret to controlling invasives?
   Each Black Walnut tree has its own personality starting with its woody structure that implies more character than grace. This is accentuated by compound leaves that pop out rather tardily in spring and then drop summarily in fall. The lovely wood of the Black Walnut has been exploited for so long, that it is now rarely commercially available. You may need to haunt the second hand shops to find hand crafted furniture made by earlier connoisseurs of this quality dark wood.
   Finding a fecund Black Walnut tree is also a rarity in today’s sterile landscapes. The survivors in the Mid Atlantic region are often found near old farmsteads where the extra protein source of their nuts was valued. The size, shape, weight and even the taste of the bitter-sweet black walnut can vary considerably. These trees do not give up their precious progeny easily. The green husk protecting the nut will darken the fingers or clothes of the unwary trying to obtain the omega 3 laden nut meat. I think that you would agree that it is all worth the effort, if you could only taste the black walnut cake of my childhood memories complimented by a clear icing made also with ground black walnuts …Yum.
~ Gale MB

I have to say mine would be Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis L.) though it likes far more wet than I can give it in my own garden.

So what is YOUR favorite Eastern Woodlands plant?


Dan said…
Mine is Betula nigra (river birch). It's bark and leaves, combined with it's tall and slender posture is just beautiful to me.
Sylvan said…
Silene stellata (starry campion) grows in the dry, sandy oak hickory woods on the Eastern Shore. It's delicate white flowers and whorls of leaves are always a welcome sight in the heat of summer.
Gloria said…
I have a new appreciation for Black Walnuts, after reading GaleMB's entry. I was so impressed, maybe she deserves a free book as well!
So hard to pick...but bloodroot, trout lily, and cardinal flower are high on my list.

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