Wildflowers and nature enthusiasts are in for a treat when they explore the scenic beauty of Virginia. From the Appalachian Mountains to wetlands and coastal plains, Virginia has a wide variety of habitats for wildflowers to thrive. In this article, we will discuss some of the most beautiful and common wildflowers that paint the state with all the colors of the rainbow.
10 Wildflowers in Virginia
The official flower of Virginia is the American Dogwood, an appointment it received back in 1918. Known for its dazzling white or sometimes pink flowers, this small tree or shrub illuminates Virginia’s landscapes in the spring.
However, Dogwood isn’t the only wildflower putting on a show in Virginia. With the arrival of spring, the state comes alive with the colors of Dutchman’s Breeches and Spring Beauties.
The summer sun ushers in the vibrant hues of Cardinal Flowers and Black-eyed Susans, while fall sees the arrival of Goldenrods and New England Asters. These blooms, seen in varied environments across the state, add to the stunning natural tapestry of Virginia.
1. Virginia Bluebell
Scientific Name: Mertensia virginica
Near the woodlands and riverbanks in springtime, Virginia bluebells come alive. When budding, these flowers are blue, pink, or purple, but as they reach maturity, they turn blue.
These delicate wildflowers, also known as Virginia Cowslip, typically bloom from late March to early May. Their clusters of trumpet-shaped blossoms attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.
2. Cardinal Flower
Scientific Name: Lobelia cardinalis
The cardinal flower is a stunning wildflower known for its striking red blossoms. It adds a pop of bright color to wetlands, stream banks, and shady woodland areas throughout Virginia.
Growing up to 6 feet tall, this plant is named for its similarity to the color of the robes worn by Cardinals in the Catholic church. This beautiful flower was recognized as Virginia’s Wildflower of the Year in 1991.
3. Eastern Red Columbine
Scientific Name: Aquilegia canadensis
You can find the Eastern red columbine in woodlands and rocky slopes in Eastern Virginia. This plant’s red and yellow flowers resemble a group of doves standing together, which makes sense because “columbine” is Latin for “dove.” This wildflower species is very attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators, making it an important part of Virginia’s diverse ecosystems.
4. Black-Eyed Susan
Scientific Name: Rudbeckia hirta
The Black-eyed Susans are a common wildflower throughout North America, including Virginia. They are known for their bright yellow petals that surround a dark, cone-shaped center. Despite the name, these centers are typically chocolate-brown in color rather than black.
These yellow flowers can be up to 4 inches wide and sit atop hairy green stems. From June to September, you can see these flowers growing along the sides of the road and the woods in Virginia.
5. Butterfly Weed
Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa
The Butterfly weed is a member of the milkweed family. This species features bright orange flowers attached to hairy stems. Also called orange milkweed, butterfly love, and pleurisy root, butterfly weed is a host plant for Monarch butterflies.
This means the butterfly species rely heavily on the plant to nourish their larvae. This wildflower species prefers areas with full sun and can often be seen along roadsides as you travel across the state.
6. Purple Coneflower
Scientific Name: Echinacea purpurea
This native wildflower, also known as the Eastern purple coneflower, graces meadows, prairies, and open woodlands throughout the state, showcasing its vibrant and distinctive purple petals. Purple coneflowers grow up to 4 feet tall and typically bloom from June to August. The deep purple petals surround a spiky, coppery-brown cone and are very attractive to insects and goldfinches.
7. Wild Bergamot
Scientific Name: Monarda fistulosa
The Wild bergamot blooms across fields and meadows in Virginia from mid-summer to early fall. As a member of the mint family, it gives off a faint mint fragrance. Growing up to 3 feet high, the wild bergamot has lavender-pink flowers with soft, fuzzy hair.
From a distance, these flowers resemble a daisy, but as you get closer, you can see the unique shape of the petals and the fuzzier appearance.
8. Queen Anne’s Lace
Scientific Name: Daucus carota
The Queen Anne’s lace features umbrella-shaped white flowers gathered together in clusters. In the center of the spray of white flowers is a single, dark purple flower that helps differentiate Queen Anne’s lace from some of its poisonous look-alikes, such as hemlock.
The flower heads are surrounded by feathery, ferm-like leaves that give the plant its delicate, lacy appearance. You can find this intricate flower in Virginia’s meadows, fields, and roadside areas.
Scientific Name: Sanguinaria canadensis
In early spring, bloodroots start to bloom in doesn’t. White flowers with 8 to 12 petals attract pollinators, but the bloodroot is a sneaky flower. This plant doesn’t actually provide nectar, but the attractive flower display tricks the insects into pollinating the flower without a tasty reward.
This plant has a thick, orangish-red underground stem, which is where it got its name. In addition, the plant also secretes a red, milky sap that has historically been used as face paint, dye, and other purposes in Native American culture.
Scientific Name: Arisaema triphyllum
Also called Indian turnips, Jack-in-the-Pulpit blooms from April to June in lush woodlands and shaded areas of Virginia. The flower consists of a hooded spathe, resembling a pulpit, which envelops a central spadix, commonly called “Jack.” The spathe can vary in color, ranging from green to maroon or purple, while the spadix is typically a greenish-yellow.
These perennials can live for decades and are toxic to humans if consumed, causing your tongue, lips, and throat. Cooking or drying the plant removes the toxicity, but it is still not a recommended dietary choice.
Where and When to Find Wildflowers in Virginia
When looking for wildflowers in Virginia, time and location are key elements. Each wildflower species has different blooming seasons and preferred habitats. During the spring months of April and May, the Coastal Plain region is bursting with color from wildflowers like the Eastern Red Columbine. Visit places like First Landing State Park, False Cape State Park, or Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to see what spring has to offer.
Visit Pocahontas State Park or the Blue Ridge Parkway in the springtime to see Virginia bluebells, cardinal flowers, and more. In the summer, the mountains come to life with blooms in areas like Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest.
Set your sights on the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge of Virginia’s Park System in the summer to see water-loving blooms. One thing is for sure: Virginia’s landscapes are alive in spring and summer with a gorgeous array of wildflowers you would be lucky to see.