Maryland’s state flower, the black-eyed Susan, is one of many native wildflowers found in the state.
Although a tiny state, Maryland contains a range of habitats that encourage diverse plant life. Beginning in the east, salt marshes found along the Chesapeake Bay give rise to forests fed by the Bay’s myriad tributaries. Moving west, you climb through increasingly higher elevations into the Appalachian Mountains of Western Maryland. Native plants — defined as those species present before European settlement — once sustained these varied ecosystems and, if planted today, can help restore the state’s natural splendor. Does this Spark an idea?
In 1918, the Maryland General Assembly named the black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) the official state flower. These daisy-like flowers form deep yellow petals with black centers at the end of summer, populating meadows and roadsides throughout the state. As perennial wildflowers, they bloom each year, increasing in number each time that they do.
The maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) especially likes the cool, moist shade of Maryland’s mountains. Delicate fronds form a fan-like shape, the only native North American plant to do so, according to the Native Plant Information Network. A creeping root system encourages the ferns to grow in clusters. Maidenhair ferns provide habitats for toads and lizards, and American Indians used the leaves to treat cough and consumption.
Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) grows in a distinctive shape suggestive of the name. Tall, tube-like leaves support a stalk with minute flowers at the base. The top part of the leaf curls over the stalk, forming a hood and giving the overall impression of a man standing inside of an enclosure. Like the maidenhair fern, Jack-in-the-pulpit prefers the cool, moist conditions in the western mountains.
Maryland Golden Aster
Moving eastward, the Maryland golden aster (Chrysopsis mariana) thrives in the forests and fields typical of the state’s central Piedmont region. The yellow blossoms of the Maryland golden aster grow close to the ground through late summer before producing wooly foliage in the fall.
The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is one of the state’s most beautiful flowering trees, growing as understory trees beneath the towering oaks and tulip trees typical of Maryland forests. The showy white or pink blossoms it produces in the spring are actually modified leaves; its flowers occur as the greenish-yellow centers of the “blossoms.”
Salt Marsh Cordgrass
On the eastern shore of Maryland, salt marshes prevail over much of the habitat. Salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) is one major species found in this ecosystem. As explained by Stony Brook University, this grass helps establish other plant life by forming a dense mat where deposited sediments form a more terrestrial habitat.