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12 Wildflowers in Rhode Island

Although Rhode Island is known as the smallest state, it also boasts an abundance of plant life. There are wildflowers in Rhode Island for every season of the year, and they are just some of the more than 1,200 native plants that grow in the state’s landscapes. In this article, we will explore just a few of the many wildflowers in Rhode Island to help you identify these beauties in the wild. 

12 Wildflowers in Rhode Island

The state wildflower of Rhode Island

The official state flower of Rhode Island is the Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia). It was designated as the state flower in 1968, after being chosen many years prior on Arbor Day by Rhode Island school children in 1897. This beautiful perennial flower is small compared to others, but it is a symbol of the natural beauty of the smallest state in the United States.

The Common Blue Violet can be found throughout Rhode Island, blooming in the spring every year. It has heart-shaped leaves and produces delicate purple-blue flowers with five petals that are often used in gardens and as a natural food coloring. The Common Blue Violet is also known for its medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including headaches, coughs, and colds.

1. Common Blue Violet 

Common blue violet
Common blue violet | image by Emma Helman via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Viola sororia
  • Bloom period: Mid-Spring

The state’s wildflower, Common Blue Violet, can be found throughout the entire state, as it prefers meadows, woods, and roadsides. The name of this plant accurately describes its blue-violet blossoms, and the plant is quite small. People use this plant as attractive ground cover, or historically to aid in treatment of various illnesses, including the common cold, headache, and cough

2. Spotted Joe Pye weed

Spotted joe pye weed flower
Spotted joe pye weed flower | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Eutrochium maculatum
  • Bloom period: Summer

The Spotted Joe Pye weed produces blossoms throughout the summer season, and one can easily locate them in the counties of Washington and Newport. The wildflowers display a purple shade and have spots on them. Like other aster species, these blossoms grow in clusters, creating the illusion of a single flower. Some Native American tribes also believe that Joe Pye Weed possesses aphrodisiac properties. 

3. Pink Ladyslipper

Pink ladyslipper
Pink ladyslipper | image by gonodactylus via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific name: Cypripedium acaule Ait.
  • Bloom period: Early summer

If you happen to be in Rhode Island during the summer months, you’ll likely come across the pink lady slipper, which is also referred to as the moccasin flower, across the state. This orchid typically produces large flowers that range in color from magenta to a whitish pink, but on rare occasions, a few varieties will produce all-white blossoms. Pink lady’s slipper grows from 6 to 15 inches tall and interacts with a fungus from the Rhizoctonia genus in the soil to reproduce.

4. New England aster

New England aster flowers
New England aster flowers | image by Alvin Kho via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
  • Bloom period: Late summer to autumn

You may witness the New England Aster in the state during the summer to autumn. This captivating flower, primarily located in the counties of Providence and Bristol, decorates Rhode Island with its flowers. These can range in color from violet, purple, and lavender, to various shades of pink, attracting a wide range of pollinators. Additionally, the plant itself can grow up to 6 feet in height. 

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5. Eastern red columbine

Eastern red columbine
Eastern red columbine | Image by Jessica Jeffery from Pixabay
  • Scientific name: Erysimum asperum
  • Bloom period: Late Spring to Early summer

The Eastern red columbine grows in various soil and light conditions, showcasing its adaptability. However, it flourishes most in partial shade. The plant can reach a height of up to 2 feet, producing blooms in a combination of red and yellow coloration.

Hummingbirds and butterfly species often pollinate the flowers, and researchers have discovered that its nectar contains twice the amount of sugar compared to all other columbines native to North America.

6. Bloodroot

Bloodroot flowers
Bloodroot flowers | image by Jason Hollinger via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Sanguinaria canadensis
  • Bloom period: Early to mid-spring

Another flower that you might see in the early to mid-spring in Bristol and Providence counties is bloodroot. It’s one of the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring and is a perennial plant that bears white flowers with a yellow center in the middle of each flower. The red sap that the plant oozes whenever it’s damaged is where the name of the plant originated from. 

7. Purple flowering raspberry

Purple flowering raspberry
Purple flowering raspberry | image by rockerBOO via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Rubus odoratus
  • Bloom period: Late Spring

In Rhode Island, you may come across the purple flowering raspberry, a vibrant purple flower that thrives in the forests and along the edges of woodlands. The plant can reach a height of up to 10 feet, and while it’s renowned for its fruit-bearing capabilities, it also serves as an ornamental addition, thanks to the gorgeous blossoms that cover its branches every spring. 

8. Swamp verbena

Blue vervain 
Blue vervain  | image by Matt Lavin via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Verbena hastata
  • Bloom period: Summer

As its name suggests, swamp verbena is a wildflower that grows in wet fields, stream banks, slough edges, and wet meadows. In the summer, it produces flower spikes covered in tiny, violet- or deep-purple-colored blossoms. It also acts as the larval host for several species, including the common buckeye butterfly, the verbena moth, and the verbena bud moth. 

9. Butterfly milkweed

Butterfly milkweed flower
Butterfly milkweed | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Asclepias tuberosa
  • Bloom period: Mid-Summer

The capability of attracting many bees and butterflies is what makes butterfly milkweed a widely recognized species of plant. Notably, over 450 insects have been identified to feed on various parts of this plant. Its flowers are generally orange, but they can vary in color from orange to yellow or red, and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy these blooms every mid-summer in Rhode Island. 

10. Sundial lupine

Sundial lupine
Sundial lupine | image by Joshua Mayer via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Lupinus perennis
  • Bloom period: Mid-spring to mid-summer

One species of lupine that grows in sunny spots with bare sand is the sundial lupine, which produces purple flowers in clusters. You can find them all over Rhode Island, except for Bristol and Newport counties. Many species, such as birds and small mammals, rely on the seeds of this plant as a source of food. Additionally, the flowers of this plant can attract a wide variety of pollinators, including hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. 

11. Trailing arbutus

Trailing arbutus flowers
Trailing arbutus flowers | image by USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab via Flickr
  • Scientific name: Epigaea repens
  • Bloom period: Spring

The Trailing arbutus, so named for its trailing growth habit, forms a small shrub that creates a mat-like pattern, typically measuring just three inches in height. In early spring, the plant produces small white or pink flowers and flourishes in habitats with acidic soil that are shaded. The Native Americans utilize the plant to induce vomiting and to treat abdominal pain. 

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12. Crimson-eyed rosemallow

Crimson-eyed rosemallow
Crimson-eyed rosemallow | image by peganum via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific name: Hibiscus moscheutos
  • Bloom period: Summer

The crimson-eyed rosemallow is one of the hardy perennial wetland plants that can withstand cold temperatures and grow in large colonies throughout the state. This plant produces beautiful flowers every summer, and nearly all of its parts are edible. The crimson-eyed rosemallow earned its name due to its striking feature of white petals surrounding a vibrant red-to-crimson “eye” at the center of the flower. 

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About Louise Robles

Louise writes about a wide variety of topics including wildlife, animals, and nature. She's developed a growing interest in animal biology and categorization due to her fascination with how they interact with one another and with their surroundings.