Click on the family name to view thumbnail images of flowers in that family.
"in our area" covers Northeastern/ North central USA

POPPY FAMILY (Papaveraceae) These plants have milky, acrid juice (white, yellow, red). The showy flowers have 4 petals or multiples od 4 and 2 sepals. Stamens numerous. leaves lobed or cut suggesting butter cup family. POPPY SUB FAMILY (Papaveroideae) 9 species in our area.

MUSTARD FAMILY (Cruciferae) Cabbage, turnip and radish belong to this family. The Cruciferae are so named because their 4 petals form a cross. There are 6 stamens 2 usually shorter. The single pistil develops into a characteristic seed pod, which in many species is slender and angles upward. 138 species in our area.

CROWFOOT FAMILY - BUTTER CUP FAMILY (Ranunculaceae) A large North Temperate family, best characterized by the numerous stamens and pistils that form the button or bushy centers of the flowers. In many species such as the hepaticas the petals are absent and the sepals are showy resembling petals. 101 species in our area.

COMPOSITE FAMILY (Compositae) or Daisy Family: The largest family of flowering plants. The flower heads are clusters of many small flowers growing together hence composite. These produce many seeds which may be provided with bristles, prickles or soft hairs, aiding in there distribution. Typical composites have flat strap shaped flowers (rays) as well as small tube like flowers ( disk flowers). The rays are arranged in a circle around the center disk as in a daisy. Supporting each flower cluster is a compact involucre of small leaflets or bracts. some composites lack rays. 690 species in our area.

ROSE FAMILY (Rosaceae) Wild roses have 5 roundish petals, and numerous stamens encircling the center. So do the other genera of this family, which includes strawberries, blackberries, apples etc. Leaves alternate usually with stipules ( small modified leaflets where leafstalks joins stem). 469 species in our area.

PINK FAMILY (Caryophyllaceae) The hot house Carnation is the best example. Pinks are known generally for there swollen joints, opposite leaves, and flowers with 5 sometimes 4 petals, which are usually notched, 5 petals 8 to 10 stamens. 98 species in our area.

LILY FAMILY (Liliaceae) Includes lilies, trilliums, onions, tulips, hyacinths and so on.     bulbed perennials with parallel veined leaves. Flowers usually bell like or triangular, with plan of 6 or 3. Typical lilies have 6 parted flowers with 6 stamens and pistil ending in 3 lobed stigma. Trilliums are triangular with 3 leaves 3 petals and 3 sepals. 104 species in our area.

BARBERRY FAMILY (Berberidaceae) A family of dissimilar genera lumped on technical grounds. Podophyllum (may apple) bears showy white flower attached between two large palmate leaves. Jeffersonia ( twin leaf) has 2 bladed leaf and a single flower on a separate stalk. Caulophyllum ( Blue Cohosh) has a terminal cluster above its triparted deeply cut leaves. 7 species in our area.

PURSLANE FAMILY (Portulacaceae) Small plants, 2 sepals, usually 5 petals, leaves usually opposite, toothless, thickish. 13 species in our area.

PHLOX FAMILY (Polemoniaceae) The genus phlox have flat 5 petals are joined at the narrow corolla tube which hides the 5 stamens and 3 pronged style, leaves are simple undivided. The genus Polemonium the flowers are bell like with dropping stamens protruding past the 5 jointed petals. Leaves pinnately divided. 22 species in our area.

ORCHID FAMILY (Orchidaceae) Our orchids are terrestrial unlike the tropical orchids which are epiphytic. Flowers are 6 parted, irregular with 3 sepals, 2 lateral petals and a 3rd petal usually larger sometimes sack like or lip like and often with a spur. Flowers single or clusters and in spikes. Entire leaves are parallel veined some times sac like. 76 species in our area.

VIOLET FAMILY (Violaceae) Low plants, flowers with 5 petals, the lowest often wider, heavily veined, and extending back into a spur. The lateral petals usually breaded. Violets have a instinctive pistil with a thickened head and a short beak. 52 species in our area.

HEATH FAMILY (Ericaceae) Includes rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries. Chiefly woody, shrubby, our species favor acid bogs, mountains. Flowers usually 5 or 10 parted with a single pistil. Petals and sepals 4 to 5 united, stamens 8 to 10. 76 species in our area. 66 species in our area.

SAXIFRAGE FAMILY (Saxifragaceae) Closely related to the Rose Family but differing in seed characteristics. Some are widely cultivated in rock gardens. Leaves mostly basal often forming rosette. Small flowers in a loose cluster on a slender erect stem. Flower plan in 4's or 5's stamen may be 8 or 10.

GERANIUM FAMILY (Geraniaceae) Pink or lavender 5 parted flowers. After the petals fall there remains an erect, beak like "cranes bill" which when seeds mature, splits from the base into 5 curled strips. Like the flower 5 petals, 5-15 stamens, and 5 sepals. Leaves deeply cleft. (not to be confused with buttercup leaves) 15 species in our area.

ARUM FAMILY or Calla lily Family (Araceae). In many species , a large floral leaf, called a spathe, surrounds or partly enfolds a spike like stem called the spadix, on which many minute florets are crowded. The calla lilly is a familiar example, the white petal is the spathe, the yellow club the spadix. The  leaves of arums are usually large, smooth and glossy. 10 species in our area.

MINT FAMILY (Labiatae) Herbs with tiny glands that may give aromatic odor. Most have square stems and opposite leaves. Flowers small, usually in spikes or in clusters in axils of leaves. The corolla is a tube usually with 2 flaring lips hence the name labiatae The upper lip notch or 2  lobed the lower 3 lobed. Almost all mints have these characters but there are exceptions. Stamens 2 to 4 style 1 forked at tip sepals joined. 136 species in our area.

BORAGE FAMILY OR FORGET ME NOT FAMILY (Boraginaceae) A 1 sided rolled up coil that gradually unfolds with growth. Flower parts mostly in 5's. Leaves alternate undivided. 55 species in our area. 

DOGBANE FAMILY (Apocynaceae) Related to milkweeds. These plants have a milky juice and often bear slender pods with tufted seeds. Common dogbanes have paired untoothed leaves and clusters of small flowers nodding and 5 lobed. Periwinkle or Myrtle of our gardens also belong to this family. 11 species in our area.

MADDER FAMILY OR BEDSTRAW FAMILY (Rubiaceae) Our species are mostly low with small or tiny 4 parted flowers sometimes 3 parted. The leaves are usually small and slender and are in pairs or in whorls. The bedstraws (Galium) have square stems leaves in whorls tiny flower clusters often bristly. 52 species in our area.

BIRTHWORT FAMILY (Aristolochiaceae) Mainly tropical. Our genera have large heart shaped leaves and reddish brown flowers with 3 triangular petal like sepals that flare out from a swollen cup like ovary. 11 species in our area.

 IRIS FAMILY (Iridaceae) Plants with flat sward like leaves. Showy flowers in plan of 3 (3 petals, stamens, and styles); Irregular in true Iris with 3 broad petal like sepals (falls) heavily veined and arching down, 3 erect petals (standards) and 3 prominent styles over the sepals which look like petals. Blue eyed grass and black berry lily have sepals and petals alike, seeming 6 petaled. 21 species in our area.

ORPINE or SEDUM FAMILY (Crassulaceae) Low succulent herbs, often hugging rocks, cliffs. Frequently cultivated in rock gardens. Flowers small and in clusters; petals 4 to 5 stamens 4 to 5 or 8 to 10. Leaves stalk less and very fleshy. 18 species in our area.

BEAN or PEA FAMILY (Pulse) (Leguminosae) Bean, peas, clovers belong to this family. Note the shape of the flowers typical of the sweet pea in our gardens. Most genera have irregular flowers with 5 petals, the 2 lowers join to form a keel, 2 side ones form wings upper one a banner. Often clusters or heads. Leaves usually alternate, compound with stipules. 230 species in our area. 230 species in our area.

WOOD SORREL FAMILY ( Oxalidaceae) Our one genus Oxalis, has somewhat clover like leaves on  slender stalks. Leaves are divided into 3 heart shaped segments or leaflets, leaves may fold down at the center at times, could be to protect against water loss in the heat of the day. Flowers are 5 parted, 5 petals, 5 sepals, 5 to 25 stamens. Species in our area 9.

AMARYLLIS FAMILY (Amaeyllidaceae) Bulded Plants with narrow leaves grass like and showy , 6 parted often lily like flowers. 14 species in our area.

BROOM RAPE FAMILY (Orobanchaceae) Low, fleshy leafless herbs; scales taking place of leaves. Roots parasites with out chlorophyll. Flowers having 2 lipped or 5- lobed corollas. 9 species in our area.

PARSLEY FAMILY (Umbeliferae) Plants with umbrella shaped clusters (umbels) of numerous small 5 petaled flowers. Umbels usually compound. Leaves usually finely cut. 88 species in our area.

FIGWORT OR SNAPDRAGON FAMILY (Scrophulariaceae) Flowers have swollen corolla tubes that flare into 2 lips ( 2 lobes above, 3 below). Or the 5 petals sometimes 4 petals may be more regular. Thus, not all look like the snapdragons of the garden. Stamens 2 to 5, 1 or 2 may lack anthers. The style may or may not be forked. 152 species in our area.

MALLOW FAMILY (Malvaceae) The garden Holly hock is familiar. Showy flowers with 5 broad petals, 5 sepals. The characteristic feature is a column  formed by stamens that join around the style. The tip or tips of the style project through the round cluster of anthers. 34 species in or area.

MILKWEED FAMILY (Ascelepiadaceae) Plants with a thick milky juice, most of the leaves paired or in whorls of 4. Flower Structure unique with 5 petals swept back and 5 parted cup that supports 5 little horns curving onto the central structure of united stamens and stigma. Flowers born in umbel-like clusters, fruit a long pod with seeds attached to tuffs of floss. 37 species in our area.

BIGNONIA FAMILY (Bignoniaceae) Woody plants with showy tubular flowers, bean like pods; represented by 3 genera in our area. Campsis and Bignonia are vines with swollen orange trumpet like flowers; Catalpa is a genus of trees with large heart shaped leaves. 5 species in our area.

WINTERGREEN FAMILY (Pyrolaceae) Small woodland plants, often under conifers. Leaves usually evergreen; flowers hang down, parts mostly in 5's like 5 petals, 5 sepals and 10 stamens. In genus Monotropa has no green pigment. Genus Moneses has a single nodding flower. Genus Pyrola , flowers are arranged along a leafless stalk with leaves near the base. In genus Chimaphila, leaves are in whorls around the stem. 15 species in our area.

BLUEBELL FAMILY (Campanulacaea) LOBELIA SUB-FAMILY (Lobelioideae) The corolla is usually bell shaped with 5 flaring lobes, 5 stamens, a single style with 2 to 5 lobed stigma. Leave undivided, alternate. 16 species in our area. LOBELIA SUB-FAMILY (Lobelioideae) Our genus Lobelia is especially distinctive. The corolla tube opens along upper side, 2 lobes on upper lip and 3 drooping  lower lips. Stamens joined together in tube. Leaves alternate and plant has a milky juice. 15 species in our area.

VERVAIN FAMILY (Verbenaceae) Plants with paired, toothed leaves and small flowers in slender spikes or flat clusters. Most species have 5 petals, united to the corolla tube , 5 unequal sepals, 4 stamens 2 being short. 16 species in our area.

HONEYSUCKLE FAMILY (Caprifoliaceae) Mostly woody shrubs and vines, rarely herbs. Leaves opposite. Flowers usually bell shaped, tubular or funnel like. The corolla usually flaring into 5 regular lobes or points. 5 stamens.

WATERLEAF FAMILY (Hydrophyllaceae) Mostly hairy plants, leaves cut and divided; often marked as if stained with water. Flower parts in 5's (petals, sepals, stamens). In genus Phacelia the flat flowers in a curved terminal spray may suggest the for get me not family. In genus hydrophyllum the loose terminal cluster of bell like flowers suggest Polemonium. 17 species in our area.

TOUCH-ME-NOT FAMILY (Balsaminaceae) Thin leafed plants with watery juices and pendent, bright flowers of irregular shape. Mostly tropical. Our genus Impatiens has large colored bell shaped sepal from which 3 petals emerge. There are 2 smaller green sepals. The slender seed pod, when ripe, pops at a touch into 5 coiled valves and ejects the seeds.

CACTUS FAMILY (Cactaceae) Thick Fleshy plants; leafless and very spiny. the swollen fleshy green joints do the chlorophyll work of leaves. The large cup like blossoms have many petals with numerous stamens and several stigmas crowded in the center.

SNAPDRAGON FAMILY (Scrophulariaceae) Flowers of this family may have swollen corolla tubes that flare into 2 lips. Or the 5 petals may be more regular. Thus not all look like the snapdragons of the garden. Stamens 2 to 5 (1 or 2 lack anthers). The style may or may not be forked. 152 species in our area.

NIGHTSHADE FAMILY (Solanaceae) Tomato or night shade family; Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers belong to this family. Some species are poisonous like the nightshade plant. Flower parts mostly in 5's; fruit in a pod or berry with many seeds. Ground cherries have sepals that form a papery bag about the berry. Jimsonweed is spiny with a morning glory like flower opening in the late evening then closing in the early morning. Nightshades have stamens and pistil united to form a beak

SPIDERWORT FAMILY (Commelinaceae) Plants with leafy stems and terminal clusters of flowers that open one or two at a time. Three roundish petals usually blue; subtended by a leafy spathe in dayflowers.

TEASLE FAMILY (Dipsacaceae) Native to Europe and Asia, escaped from cultivation in N. America. Flowers small 4 to 5 parted, crowded in dense, bristly heads. Leaves usually opposite.

PRIMROSE FAMILY (Primulaceae) Most have 5 petals, with each stamen at the center of a petal instead of between petals as in most other 5 petaled flowers. Typical primroses have rather flat flowers; the shooting stars (Dodecatheon) have swept back petals and stamens united to form a beak. Leaves simple undivided. 28 species in our area.

GENTIAN FAMILY (Gentianaceae) Flowers with 4 to 12 jointed petals and an equal number of stamens joined to them. Leaves usually opposite, stalk less, undivided. marsh pinks, Sabatia, have star shaped pink or white flowers. Gentians, Gentiana, are usually blue, tubular, petals united for most of its length. 48 species in our area.

CATTAIL FAMILY (Typhaceae) Tall marsh plants growing in dense stands. Leaves long erect, blade like, stem stiff with a cylindrical sausage like brown head of minute, tightly packed pistillate female flowers. Above this is a more slender "tail" of paler staminate male flowers.

MORNING GLORY FAMILY (Convolvulaceae) Mostly vines with bell shaped blossoms that are often showy. The 5 united petals flare out to form a bell like corolla with very shallow lobes. The dodders (cuscuta) are leafless vines with minute flowers. numerous species in our area. Brought in by cultivation.


Peterson Field Guide  WILD FLOWERS northeastern/northcentral north American
By: Roger Tory Peterson/Margaret McKenny

WILDFLOWERS of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge mountains
By: Oscar W. Gupton/Fred C. Swope

By: John Kieran

How to Know The Spring Flowers
By: Mabel Jaques Cuthbert

How to Know the Fall Flowers
By: Mabel Jaques Cuthbert

How to know The Trees
By: H.E. Jaques

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