Barnes & Noble

Sending out 89 letters to all the B&N stores in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and North Carolina that are located in the Coastal Plain — all the retail outlets and college stores as well.  Hope they all are as enthusiastic about ordering our book as were the retail and college bookstores in Williamsburg and the retail store off Jefferson Avenue.

Wildflowers & Grasses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain

Order Form Wildflowers


 From articles written and published by the first author in local newspapers over the past 7 years, a book has been created about local wildflowers and grasses. The second author Dr. Gustavus Hall, Professor Emeritus, College of William and Mary, re-wrote portions of the text to ensure botanical accuracy.  Louise Menges, Editor, maintained the photo inventory, selected appropriate images for each page, and designed the layout of each page.
Sponsored by the John Clayton Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, many plants included are native to the Coastal Plain of Virginia, but some are introduced from other areas in the U.S. and from other countries. Included are non-woody plants often seen along roadsides, in meadows, gardens and lawns. Many are weedy, with small flowers, not usually seen in field guides. Also included are grasses commonly seen in the Virginia’s Coastal Plain.
The plants included here occur in most counties of the Coastal Plain of Virginia, and some may be found throughout the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains from Cape Cod to Mexico. Originally the book was conceived to include only those plants native to the Coastal Plain. However, in decades of field work, the authors have observed very conspicuous non-native (introduced) plants displacing natives in many locations.  These familiar, introduced plants are in the book, to help users distinguish desirable native plants from unwanted species.
The plants are arranged in the book by flower color (white, yellow, orange, red, pink, blue, violet, green, brown), indicated by a colored rectangle on the upper edge of the page. The grasses and grass-like plants (tan rectangle) are in the last section of the book. Within each color group the plants are arranged alphabetically by families. Photographs on each page show the most prominent feature of each plant, usually the flower.
Text follows the photographs with user-friendly descriptions of the plant’s characteristics, habitat, range and growing conditions, and interesting facts about uses in folk medicine, by the Native Americans, and origins of the plant’s names.Claytonia virginica low res-page-001
All photographs were contributed by members of local chapters of the Virginia Native Plant Society: Ellis Squires from the Northern Neck Chapter; and from the local John Clayton Chapter, Teta Kain, Seig Kopinitz, Louise Menges, Kathi Mestayer, Phillip Merritt, and Jan Newton; and Felice Bond from the Historic Rivers Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists.
Dr. Donna Ware, retired Herbarium Curator, College of William and Mary has written the Preface, the book was peer-reviewed by Dr. John Hayden, Botanist, University of Richmond, and Bland Crowder, Editor of the Flora of Virginia, has done the copy editing.
Additional information about the plants can be found in the “Further Reading” section of the book which follows the list of references the authors have used throughout. For readers wishing more information about each plant featured within, the Flora of Virginia (2012) is the definitive resource for technical botanical information.
On the right is a sample page from the book, featuring Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), signature plant of the John Clayton Chapter. On the book’s cover is the same plant, contributed by Gary Fleming, Vegetation Ecologist, Virginia Natural Heritage Program.

Spring Beauty


Our signature plant the spring beauty Claytonia virginica is blooming now through May.

Widespread in Virginia, Spring Beauty prefers organically rich,moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.Native Americans and colonists used them for food.

More information is on page 55 of our book

Master Gardeners

Two more talks last week — the Prince George MGs were so receptive — Kathy’s article appeared in the Richmond paper and they bought copies of our book before I started to talk! And more after .. On Friday, a large crowd (96) of Hanover MGs bought fewer copies, but were very receptive to the “Plants for Pollinators” talk

Winter Groundcover


Photographed in January, Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) retains its green leaves.  The yellow flowers are one of the first plants to bloom in the spring, often colonies of them are seen in the swamps and marshes in early March.  When the tall stems with flowers wither, the heart-shaped leaves remain as groundcover throughout most of the year.


Swamp Sunflower in the snow

Also known as Narrowleaf Sunflower by the narrow, strap-like leaves, generally less than ½ wide.  Blooming August-October, the plant is covered with bright yellow flowers, achieving a bushy form.  This perennial grows in swamps and other moist places, mostly near the coast in the southeastern counties of Virginia.  With good conditions, the stems are over 6 feet tall – the height can be controlled by cutting the tops of the plant 12 inches or so in early spring.  Flowering will occur, but the plant will be shorter.

This plant is featured on page 87 in “Wildflowers and Grasses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain”

Photographed in the Williamsburg Botanical  Garden in January.  The summer photo is by Jan Newton.

Swp Sunflwr swamp_sunflwr_close3_byjan10_12_07

Sedum in the snow

The Williamsburg Botanical Garden in January

This species is probably Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’, growing quickly to 2 feet tall.  The clusters of pink flowers fade to rusty red in late fall, persisting through the winter.  The flowers were covered with bees in the summer, now covered with snow!

Sedum spectabilecr


Orange Grasses

Clumps of tawny-orange grasses are seen all winter along the roadsides – Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) usually indicates poor soil, growing in abandoned fields and disturbed, dry soil.  It is easily confused with Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), which has bent bristles on each seed, while the bristles on the seeds of Broomsedge are straight.  Both species grow together, and are labeled, in the Grass Garden.




At the Mid-Atlantic Horticulture Conference last week, several boxes of books were sold, I attended 10 classes in two days, and made a lot of good contacts for future presentations.  The book was well received by everyone who had a close look at it


Broomsedge adds color to the winter landscape with clumps of reddish-orange stems and leaves, striking when sunlight catches the white, fuzzy seedheads.  In the spring this perennial grass forms a stiff clump of light green stems 3 feet tall.  Tufts of paired flowers are held against the stem by leafy bracts, opening in late fall.  Attached to each seed is a straight bristle surrounded by silvery hairs, allowing distribution by the wind. Splitbeard Bluestem, A. ternarius, is similar a similar grass, but the flowers are obviously paired, each seed with a bent bristle, not straight.

This grass grows in open, sunny locations on dry soil, preferably loose, sandy, and moist sites such as abandoned fields, roadsides and clearings.  While the primary native meadow grass in the northeast, the presence of Broomsedge often indicates poor soil, low in phosphorus, that has been overgrazed and nutrient-poor.  Occurring in every county of Virginia, it is found throughout the eastern states, from Massachusetts to Ohio, Missouri and Kansas, south to Florida and Texas.  Requiring low amounts of water, the grass can be used for residential landscaping and golf courses.

The Zabulon skipper is an eastern butterfly, which has been sighted in the Williamsburg area.  Broomsedge is a nectar source and larval host for this butterfly and others.  Small birds eat the seeds in winter when other food supplies are limited, and the grass provides cover for ground nesting birds such as quail and turkeys.




American Holly (Ilex opaca)

Almost everybody is familiar with the American Holly, also known as the Christmas holly.   Although American Holly is a common understory tree in the Virginia coastal plain today, it was not among the species mentioned by Captain John Smith.  Perhaps it had become temporarily uncommon due to the forest burning practices of the Native Americans.  This holly has long been one of the most popular trees in the eastern United   States, its foliage and berries being used for Christmas decorations and for ornamental plantings.

The flowers of the American holly are functionally only either male or female and a given individual tree bears only one type of flower; thus the presence of trees of both types is required if the trees with female flowers are to produce berries.  The small white and very fragrant flowers appear in late spring and the berries that form on the trees with female flowers mature in the fall and persist into winter.  Mature trees may grow from a single trunk or be multi-stemmed.  The bark is smooth and light gray.

American Holly survives on a wide variety of soils, but growth is best on moist, slightly acid, well-drained ground such as upland pine sites and well-drained bottomland.  It is known to tolerate air pollution.  Although reported to be toxic to some animals, the fruits are eaten by numerous songbirds, bobwhite, and wild turkey.