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Identify a Wildflower Through Pictures
If you need to identify a wildflower, as a first step you can browse through these pictures. The Vermont Wildflower Farm was the site for many of these pictures of wildflowers. I interviewed one of its owners, Chris Borie during my visit. Chris, a native of France, moved to Vermont in 1995, where he teamed up with Diana, a Vermont native. The couple uses the farm as a base for selling seeds for wild plants. Admittance is free to the meadows and woods out back, where visitors can view many types of wildflowers (with signs that help you with identification as you approach the various plants).
You may question the inclusion of this red poppy in a gallery of wildflower pictures from New England, but the Vermont Wildflower Farm does not restrict itself to wildflowers indigenous to Vermont. Chris remembers fondly the red poppies from his native France and has no qualms including them in his wildflower meadow in New England, along with other non-natives. In this case, then, "wildflower meadow" signifies a look and is not an indication of place of origin. If you wish to view only images of plants indigenous to this region, browse photos of New England native plants.Continue to 2 of 14 below.
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New England Aster
Unlike the wildflowers in the prior photo, New England asters are native to the northeastern U.S.
There are many types of asters native to the Northeast, including the aptly named "New England aster" (Aster novae- angliae), a perennial listed among the salt-tolerant plants, making it suitable for roadside plantings. The flower in the picture isn't an actual wildflower but is rather a cultivar named the 'Purple Dome' New England aster. Propagation can be achieved by dividing, come spring.Continue to 3 of 14 below.
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Blanket flowers are so named because their colors are reminiscent of a Native American blanket.
A North American plains wildflower, blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata) offers a two-toned look. Division in spring provides a way to rejuvenate these beautiful blossoms and increase your stock.Continue to 4 of 14 below.
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Queen Anne's Lace Wildflower
Queen Anne's lace bears the Latin name of Daucus carota.
Indeed, Queen Anne's lace is related to carrots. If you pull up one of these wildflowers, you'll smell the carrot fragrance emanating from the bruised roots.
By the way, did you notice in the picture the one dark little flower in the middle of the flower head? It goes by various nicknames. Some call it the "fairy seat." The color can also vary: I've heard the fairy seat referred to as purple, but I would call the one shown above burgundy. Peter Del Tredici has the following to say about this whimsical feature in Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast:
"About one in four plants has a single deep purple flower (the "fairy seat") in the center of the cluster of all-white flowers."Continue to 5 of 14 below.
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The origin of the name "bachelor buttons" comes from the way these flowers were once used.
Also sometimes written as "bachelor's buttons," they were sometimes "placed in the buttonhole of a suit or shirt; decades ago, bachelors sported the flower when they went courting," according to Colorado State Extension.
These flowers are prized as one of the true-blue wildflowers. The common name can refer both to the annual known to botanists as Centaurea cyanus (seen in the image above) and to perennial bachelor buttons, Centaurea montana.Continue to 6 of 14 below.
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Plains CoreopsisContinue to 7 of 14 below.
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Learn more about this genus in the articles on the orange coneflowers, Echinacea 'Firebird' and 'Secret Lust'. Those interested in natural remedies may know purple coneflower equally well by its Latin name, Echinacea purpurea.
The herbal extract from purple coneflower is reputed to be effective in promoting immune system health. In wildflower gardens, purple coneflower is valued for the purplish color of its petals, which radiate from the sturdy "cone" for which this wildflower is named. Spring is the recommended time to divide this perennial.Continue to 8 of 14 below.
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If ever a plant needed a common name, it's Rudbeckia hirta, better known as "black-eyed susan".
As my picture of Rudbeckia hirta shows, it's just too pretty and cheerful a plant to be called by its ponderous Latin name. A wildflower native to eastern North America, black-eyed susans share the Rudbeckia genus name with gloriosa daisies.Continue to 10 of 14 below.
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White Water Lily
Water lilies (or "pond lilies") are a must wildflower for water gardens.
The lily pads of water lilies are perhaps valued as highly as the water lily flowers. And yes, I have, in fact, spotted frogs lounging around on lily pads (it's not just a cartoon image!). The ones with white flowers are most commonly spotted when traversing the back roads of my native New England (U.S.), but there is also a pink-blooming type. These splendid aquatic plants bear the botanical name of Nymphaea odorata.
A similar yet different plant (also widely found in New England ponds) is Nuphar luteum, commonly known as the "yellow pond lily." It is similar in the sense that it shares the same natural habitat (ponds) and sports those iconic lily pads, but it is distinct both botanically (different genus) and color (yellow).Continue to 11 of 14 below.
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Chicory root, after it's dried, can be roasted and ground up, to serve as a coffee substitute. For plant enthusiasts, it's valued more as a blue wildflower.
The picture here of chicory (sometimes misspelled "chickory") shows what this perennial, native to Europe, looks like.Continue to 13 of 14 below.
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Shasta daisy is a hybrid that bears a resemblance to the well-known wildflowers whose name was originally "day's eye".
For example the oxeye (Leucanthemum vulgare), an Old World native that has become an invasive plant in North America, despite enjoying a popularity not unlike that of black-eyed susans. Shasta daisies are among the most popular perennial garden plants in North America. 'Becky' is a cultivated shasta daisy.Continue to 14 of 14 below.
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How Do Wildflower Farms Get Their Seeds?
The picture above is the sign for the Vermont Wildflower Farm.
An interesting fact I took away from my interview with Chris Borie is how they procure their wildflower seed. Chris indicated that his wildflower farm gets seed in two ways:
- By on-site hand-gathering
- Via machines, off-site
That is, some wildflower seed is gathered by hand from the wildflower farm itself -- from some of the very flowers visitors like myself get to view! The rest of their wildflower seed comes from wildflowers grown in vast fields elsewhere (some owned by the Vermont Wildflower Farm itself, others contracted out) and harvested by machines. The business ships wildflower seed around the world.