Flowering Plants of the Metro Area
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)

I photographed this at Oregon Ridge State Park. It was in a thick mat of vegetation,
mostly Wild Ginger, in a wooded natural area. It was planted here by park staff who
hoped to establish it in the park.

Ginseng root is highly prized for its reputed medicinal effects. It is eaten or steeped
in hot water to make a bitter tea. Ginseng has been decimated in the wild by
collectors who destroy the plants to get the root to use themselves or sell. Ginseng
root is reputed to give increased energy and some say it is an aphrodisiac.

University of Maryland Medical Center - Center for Integrative Medicine has
information on Ginseng and many other herbs.

Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)

These are the bell shaped flower that precede the familiar blue fruit. A number of
species of blueberry are found in our area, with differing habitats, sizes and shapes.  
All varieties have the familiar small blue fruit in the summer. The plant pictured at left
is a Highbush Blueberry (
Vaccinium corymbosum) photographed in wet woods in
Owings Mills, Maryland. The Highbush Blueberry is a plant of wet areas.

Blueberries of all species are eaten
by a variety of birds and mammals.
Some of the native blueberries can
be grown in the garden to attract wildlife.

Smartweed (Polygonum sp.)

The purple-pink flowers of the Smartweed are familiar in open grassy areas and even
growing from cracks in sidewalks. There are several species.

The smartweeds are said to cause a contact dermatitis, or skin irritation, in some
people, hence the name Smartweed. I have never had any problem after touching it
and I have never seen anyone else have problems, so am not sure if there is any
truth to this.

Azalea (Rhododendron sp.)

Woody Plants of Maryland (Brown & Brown, 1972) lists seven species of azaleas in
our area. In addition to these native species, others are planted as ornamental
shrubs in lawns and gardens. Some of the native species are ideal for those who
want to grow a colorful garden with native plants.  

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

This early spring wildflower is usually seen in patches in sunny woods. It is very
abundant in some areas.

The Spring Beauty's small heart shaped tuber is edible. The tuber can be roasted or
boiled. The outer jacket should be peeled off
before eating. I have eaten these roasted in
the oven or wrapped in foil and roasted in a
campfire. They are good with salt, pepper and
butter, but the root is small and it is difficult to
collect enough for a meal. Collecting the tubers
is also destructive, so collecting should be
limited to private land and only where the plant
is extremely abundant.

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American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) - click for larger image
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) - click for larger image
Highbush Blueberry - click for larger image
Highbush Blueberry - click for larger image
Smartweed - click for larger image
Azelia - click for larger image
Dogbane (Apocynum sp.) - click for larger image
Dogbane (Apocynum sp.)

Dogbanes have paired leaves and milky sap like the milkweeds. They grow in open
areas and roadsides. The long slender seed pods are seen in the picture at left.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) - click for larger image
Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) - click for larger image
Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) - click for larger image
Perfoliate Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata)
Blueberry - click for larger image