Other Local Wildflowers


Helleborine, Orchid family (Orchidaceae), Alien


Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) is the only non-native orchid that grows wild in New England. It can be found on the edges of trails at Sawink Farm Reservation or the north side of Lake Chauncy. It was first introduced from Europe to Syracuse, N.Y., in 1879. In our area it usually starts to bloom in mid-July. In other parts of North America, such as Wisconsin and southern Ontario, these plants can reach four or five feet tall and grow so prolifically that they are considered pests. Helleborine favors environments with maple or beech trees.


Blue Vervain, Vervain family (Verbenaceae), Native

Blue Vervain

Candelabra-like spikes of blue vervain (Verbena hastata) rise up in wet meadows and roadside ditches in late summer. The small purple or violet flowers bloom in rings around the spikes, starting at the bottom and moving up. The plants can be several feet tall. Blue vervain is also called simpler's joy, because simplers--people who gathered and sold herbs--found it easy to sell.

Most vervains are native to the Americas, but European vervain has long been entwined with people's beliefs. On one hand, vervain had a place in ancient Roman, Druid, Jewish, and Christian religious ceremonies. On the other hand, it was also associated with witchcraft and was supposedly used in witches' brews. Various folk beliefs have involved the use of vervain to bring either good fortune or ill.

Native Americans used vervain tea for various respiratory, digestive, and female problems. Vervain also had similar uses in European and American folk medicine.

Beechdrops, Broomrape family (Orobanchaceae), Native


In late summer, beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) plants come up under beech trees and put out many small, tubular, reddish-brown or brownish-purple flowers. The plants are parasitic on the roots of beech trees. They have flowers and many branches, but they are not green and have only scale-like brownish leaves. They look somewhat like bunches of twigs. Beechdrops grow under some of the beech trees along the trail in the woods off the Haskell Street ballfields.

In the past, people made tea from the fresh plants to treat intestinal problems such as diarrhea, as well as mouth and cold sores. The plant was also called called cancer root because it was supposed to be effective against cancer. Unfortunately, modern research has not supported this belief.

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  Copyright © Anne A. Reid, 1999-2002.
  Photographs copyright © Garry K. Kessler, 1999-2002.