The Appalachian forest floor is alive with out-of-the-ordinary plant life. From Jack-in-the-Pulpits with their green hooded flowers that boast brown stripes to trout lilies, an attractive seasonal groundcover, Appalachia is the perfect home for a variety of plants that enjoy shady conditions and rich, moist soil.
Arisaema triphyllum, also know as Jack-in-the-Pulpit, is an easy-to-cultivate woodland perennial found throughout the forest regions of Appalachia. Arisaema triphyllum is identified by its cylindrical hooded flower that prefers to bloom under the cover of large leaves. These flowers are light green with brown stripes. The flower garnered the nickname Jack-in-the-Pulpit due to the green flower, the pulpit, which rises up and over Jack, or the brown spadix in the center of the blossom. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of the University of Texas, the plant produces a cluster of bright red berries in the late summer months. Jack-in-the-Pulpit is edible with a strong peppery flavor is eaten raw. However, the underground tubers of the plant are often dried or cooked to eliminate some of the pepper flavor. In addition this plant can be dried and ground down as a pepper substitute.
Mountain Witch Alder
Fothergilla major, commonly called mountain witch alder, large witch-hazel or mountain witch-hazel, is commonly found throughout the wooded regions of southern Appalachia, the Allegheny Mountains and Blue Ridge. According to The Center for Plant Conservation, Fothergilla major is a small flowering shrub that thrives in rich mountain woods as well as the rocky ravine banks of rapid-flow streams. Fothergilla was named for English Philanthropist Dr. John Fothergill, who established a large garden and financed W. Bartram's travels across North America, CPC states. Mountain witch alder has a small white flower that is comprised of clusters of spike-shaped petals surrounding yellow stamens. These flowers are highly fragrant and commonly bloom from late April to early May.
Erythronium americanum, also referred to as yellow trout-lily, trout lily or dogtooth violet, is a yellowish-bronze flower that has distinct brown stamens. In addition to the plants recognizable flowers the trout lily also has very specific leaf markings that resemble the markings of a brook trout. This is how the flower garnered its nickname. The LBJ Wildflower Center asserts that trout lilies are a very common spring wildflower that is often found in large colonies. They bloom March through May in sunny conditions with moist, rich soil. In addition, the LBJ Wildflower Center website states that trout lilies make an attractive seasonal ground cover.
Polygonatum commutatum, commonly called Solomon's seal or great Solomon's seal, features arching stems that camouflage greenish-white bell-shaped flowers which hang in pairs from the stem. These flowers are often found at the base of trees in the forest thicket. In addition, they produce berries that attract birds. The roots of this plant have markings that resemble Solomon's seal or the star of David, which is how this plant came to be called Solomon's seal.