Category Archives: Wildflowers

Useful Plants: Common Soapwort

Photo of Common Soapwort

A perennial plant native to Europe, Common Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) now grows nearly throughout North America as a cultivated plant or garden escapee. Common Soapwort has smooth stems and leaves that are oppositely arranged, with entire margins and a few prominent, parallel ribs. The five-petaled, pink-to-white flowers are clustered near the tops of the plants.* The roots and flowering stems of Common Soapwort can be crushed and mixed with water to produce an effective wild soap. Visit Go Botany for more photos of this plant. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)

Note: Double-petaled (i.e., ten-petaled) varieties also occur.

Moths: Primrose Moth

Photo of Primrose Moth

Dawn (who blogs at Things with Wings) has planted a number of search images in my mind over the years, including several this summer of the Primrose Moth (Schinia florida). More than once she's reported finding these pink winged-ones on the (edible) flowers of Common Evening-primrose, where they often rest during the day. Last week, while on a walk in Falmouth, Maine, I scanned a few plants and noticed this moth attempting to go unseen. Thanks, Dawn, for widening my awareness, and perhaps, reader, this post will help to widen yours.

Photo of Primrose Moth

Orchids: Checkered Rattlesnake-plantain

Photo of Checkered Rattlesnake-plantain flowers

In late July, Jenny and I attended our first mushroom foray with the Maine Mycological Association. The event was held in a section of the Massabesic Experimental Forest in Alfred -- a large forest tract that we'd not visited before. After the foray, Jenny and I went off to explore another part of the forest where we ventured down a trail that offered views of a community of Atlantic White Cedars (Chamaecyparis thyoides).

Along the way, we noticed a type of Rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera sp.) starting to bloom. Initially, we suspected we'd found Downy Rattlesnake-plantain (G. pubescens), a plant we've seen in previous years, but a closer look made us think again. The leaves of pubescens have noticeably white mid-ribs and are darker green, and the flowers are more densely clustered. It turns out we'd located a new-to-us species called Checkered Rattlesnake-plantain (Goodyera tesselata) who I later identified using Newcomb's Wildflower Guide and Go Botany's simple key to New England Orchids. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)