An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

September 15, 2014

Bloom Day - River Flowers

     With few exceptions, my September blooms look a lot like my August blooms, so feeling pressed for time, and wanting to do something different, this month's Bloom Day will feature some of the plants I saw yesterday while kayaking along the James River in Charles City County, Virginia. This part of the river is about halfway between Williamsburg and Richmond, and is far enough from the coast that the water is mostly fresh, which changes the plant palette I normally see when I paddle.

     The most abundant flower I saw was Helenium autumnale. Its common name is sneezeweed, which is not very endearing, but it came not from anything to do with alergens, but from the fact it was once used as snuff. The species was so numerous, a nearly continuous band of yellow wrapped the shoreline.
Helenium autumnale (6)

Helenium autumnale (1)

Helenium autumnale (8)

     Helenium was not the only yellow flower on the shore. Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke) was blooming, as well as...
Helianthus angustifolius (7)

     Rudbeckia laciniata (cutleaf coneflower).
Helianthus angustifolius (1)

     Not all the blooms were yellow. Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) was still showing a little red, despite being at the end of its season.
Lobelia cardinalis

     Conoclinium coelestinum (blue misflower)
Conoclinium coelestinum

     Pontideria cordata (pickerel weed)
Pontederia cordata

     One flower I did not expect to see was Hibiscus syriacus (althea, rose of Sharon). With the exception of the newer, sterile cultivars, this plant has a reputation for seeding around the garden, but I saw several growing along the bank, far from any garden bed.
Hibuscus syriacus

     Rosa palustris (swamp rose)
Herring Creek, Derelict Barge, Rosa palustris (2)

     There were acres and acres of  wild rice (Zizania aquatica var. aquatica) growing in the vast marshes. The seeds were just starting to ripen, and years ago would have been an important crop for the local native Americans.
Herring Creek - Zizania aquatica var. aquatica (1)

Herring Creek (5)

     The plant I enjoyed the most along the river had no blooms at all, but it is one of my favorite trees, Taxodium distichum (bald cypress). Any time I can paddle among these giants is a good time.
James River (1)

James River (9)

Herring Creek

James River (4)

     Bloom Day is held on the 15th of each month, and is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Garden. If you pay her a visit, please tell her I said thank you, and that I apologize for bending the rules, yet again.

(A different account of this trip is available at my kayaking blog, A Tidewater Paddler, and all of the photos can be seen on my Flickr page.)


  1. The 2 plants you have labeled as Helianthus angustifolius appear to be different plants. The first resembles Helianthus tuberosus with its large leaves. The second photo resembles Rudbeckia laciniata.

    1. Thanks for the correction Brian. I appreciate your more careful eye.

  2. Thanks for the clarification of the name sneezeweed. My new trivia tidbit! Must have been wonderful to be on the water near those Taxodium. I've rarely had a chance to experience them in person.

  3. An honorable way to "cheat." You found some beautiful wildflowers--most of which would look lovely in any garden. The Bald Cypresses are impressive!

  4. The bald cypress have so much character. Nice color on the Va. Creeper (?) too.

  5. Beautiful post and photos--as usual.

  6. I love the sky and the water as much as the blooms of September.

  7. How nice and different for GBBD! Wonderful wildflowers and great views of the river, the trees, and the sky! Happy Day!