Common Wetland Plants Guide

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StructureImageSpeciesCommon NameNWPL Mtns/PdmntNWPL CPHabitLeavesFlowers/fruitField CharacteristicsHabitat and RangeSimilar SpeciesTaxonomic Note
TreesAcer negundoBoxelderFACFACSmall to medium deciduous tree, reaching 25 m.Opposite, pinnately compound with an odd number (3-9) of leaflets, although 3 and 5 leaflets most common. Leaflets mostly ovate and toothed, and 5-10 cm long and 6 cm wide.
Fruits are paired light yellow samaras, 3 cm long. Flowers March/April; fruits May to October.
Twigs shiny green with white lenticels.Floodplains, stream banks, low woods of brownwater streams, throughout NC.Sometimes confused with Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy). Look for more than 3 leaflets, distinctive green twigs, and opposite branching. Never a climbing vine like poison ivy.
TreesAcer rubrumRed MapleFACFACMedium deciduous tree, sometimes reaching large stature.Opposite, lobed with teeth and with 3-5 main points. Leaves 6-14 cm long; can be as wide as long. Green above, lighter below.
Red flowers, January to March, before leafing out. Fruit is double samara, with each half about 3 cm long. Fruits February to July.
Opposite branching pattern. Showy clusters of reddish flowers in early spring.Low woods, uplands, floodplains, swamps, stream banks, across NC. Very widespread in habitat.Acer saccharum (sugar maple) has similar, but untoothed, lobed leaves
TreesBetula nigraRiver BirchFACWFACWDeciduous, medium sized tree up to 25 m, with curly peeling papery bark.Alternate, doubly serrated, triangular or ovate leaves, 4-8 cm long. Leaves contain 7-9 straight veins on each side of leaf. Undersides lighter.
Male flowers drooping catkins and female flowers in a cone-like catkin. Fruits oblong samaras. Flowers March/April; fruits May/June.
Peeling bark and triangular leaves distinctive. Younger trees have rusty colored bark, while older bark is less colorful and darker. Floodplains, river and stream banks in moist soil. Found statewide, but chiefly Piedmont and Coastal Plain. Planted as an ornamental tree.Leaves simliar to ironwood and hop hornbeam, but bark is distinctive.
TreesCarpinus carolinianaIronwoodFACFACSmall, deciduous understory tree with smooth, gray bark, up to 10 m.Alternate, ovate leaves, 3-15 cm long. Margins doubly serrated and leaves paler green and smooth on undersides. Leaf veins pronounced (particularly on leaf undersides) with straight veins running to the leaf edges.Flowers in catkins: male catkin 3-4 cm long and female catkin about 2 cm long. Fruits are small nuts, subtended by a leafy 3-lobed bract in drooping clusters, about 10 cm long. Flowers March/April; fruits September/October.Distinctive 'muscular' branches and trunk.Floodplain forests and bottomlands throughout NC.Leaves of Carpinus caroliniana (ironwood) similar to Ostrya virginiana (hop hornbeam), but ironwood leaves are smooth, in contrast to the pubescent leaves of hop hornbeam.
TreesCeltis laevigataSugarberryFACWFACWMedium to large tree, 25 to 30 m tall, with smooth gray back that has corky warts.Simple, alternate, lance-shaped leaves with uneven bases, prominent veins, and a length 3 times the width. Leaves glossy dark green above and yellowish green below.Edible fruits fleshy drupes with a large seed inside, deep reddish-purple when ripe. The taste is similar to dates. Flowers April/May; fruits August to October.Look for corky bumpy bark and long serrated leaves that are yellowish green beneath. Leaves often covered with small galls.Bottomland forests, natural levees, nearby upland forests, poorly drained clay. Uncommon in the mountains and the Coastal Plain outside brownwater floodplains.
TreesChamaecyparis thyoidesAtlantic White CedarOBLOBLMedium sized evergreen tree to 28 m in height.Flattened, scale-like leaves, 1-3 millimeters (mm) long and green on both sides.
Small inconspicuous cones; male cone is 2 mm long and female cone is spherical, 6 mm diameter, with a crumpled appearance. Blooms March/April; fruits October/November.
Evergreen scale-like needles are flattened. Unfortunately, the wood is highly desirable, so this species was extensively logged in the past. Old-growth and extensive stands are now uncommon.Acidic swamps of the Coastal Plain, generally in peaty soils or other poorly drained areas. Often grows in dense stands (or glades) to the exclusion of other trees.Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar) is a similar upland tree, with flattened needles branching in many planes instead of one main fan-like plane as in the Atlantic white cedar.Not native in the Piedmont.
TreesDiospyros virginianaCommon PersimmonFACFACSmall to medium deciduous tree up to 16 m.Alternate, ovate to elliptic leaves to 15 cm long, often with black splotches.
Male (yellow) and female (green) flowers occur on separate trees. Male flowers grow in clusters of 2-3 and female flowers occur singly. Persimmon fruit is orange and 2-4 cm wide. Flowers May/June; fruits September into late fall.
Distinctive, blocky bark. Pith of twigs is solid or sometimes chambered. Fruits astringent/bitter, but edible usually after first frost.Forested wetlands, wet fields, dry woodlands. Most common in the Piedmont; less common in the mountains and Coastal Plain.Blackgum has similar leaves, but persimmon contains 1 linear bundle scar when leaf is pulled away from stem, whereas blackgum has 3 short bundle scars.
TreesFraxinus carolinianaCarolina AshOBLOBLSmall deciduous tree to 8 m, with smooth bark, often with several trunks.Opposite, pinnately compound: 5-9 oval or lance-shaped leaflets with entire or irregularly toothed margins. Seedling leaves are often not compound.Small flowers in dense clusters, appearing at or before leaf-out; male and female growing on separate trees. Fruit is an oval shaped samara. Flowers mainly in May; fruits July to October.Samaras oval shaped and flat or multi-winged, often bright violet.Grows only in the deeper swamps along river bottoms in the Coastal Plain. Common in the Coastal Plain but rare in the Piedmont.Note opposite branches, twigs more slender than hickories which have similar compound leaves, but have alternate branches. F. caroliniana can be difficult to distinguish from F. pennsylvanica without fruit, especially in the Coastal Plain where both species are common.
TreesFraxinus pennsylvanicaGreen AshFACWFACWMedium to large deciduous tree up to 24 m, generally with a single trunk.Opposite, pinnately compound leaves, 15 to 23 cm long. Contain 5-9 oval or lance-shaped toothed leaflets, light green beneath. Seedling leaves are often not compound.Flowers inconspicuous with male and female flowers on separate trees. Fruit is a long, very narrow, light green samara. Flowers April/May; fruits August to October.Samaras long and very narrow. Leaves and twigs smooth.Low areas, natural levees, along brownwater rivers and in bottomlands and swamps. This has been the most widely distributed of the ashes, but the emerald ash borer strongly attacks this species, causing much mortality.Note opposite branches, twigs more slender than hickories which have similar compound leaves, but have alternate branches. F. pennsylvanica can be difficult to distinguish from F. caroliniana without fruit, especially in the Coastal Plain where both species are common.
TreesGordonia lasianthusLoblolly Bayn/aFACWMedium evergreen tree up to 20 m. Crown of young tree is narrow and conical, becoming rounded when mature.Alternate, elliptical, dark green shiny leathery leaves, 16 cm long and 5 cm wide. Leaf margins are wavy with small blunt serrations.
Beautiful 5-petaled white flower with silky fringed stamens in the center. Fruit is a capsule which splits into 5 parts as it releases seeds. Blooms later than many other trees (July to September); fruits September/October.
Reddish, smooth bark is distinctive, as well as large showy flowers, when present.Swamps, bay forests and pocosins in the Coastal Plain, especially extensive pocosins and large Carolina bays.Similar to other evergreen trees and shrubs in bay forests and pocosins, but leathery leaves of Gordonia lasianthus are wavy edged and have reddish petioles.
TreesIlex opacaAmerican HollyFACUFACSmall evergreen understory tree, usually 5 to 10 m.Leathery, dark green, broadly elliptic leaves with wavy edges and scattered spines along margins.Small white four-petaled flowers appear in late May; trees have either male (with stamens) or female flowers (without stamens). Blooms April to June; fruits September/October. Small red fruits on female trees last through winter.Gray bark smooth and often blotched with various lichen species. This is the only Ilex species in North Carolina that grows to a medium sized tree. All hollies have small black stipules at leaf bases. Berries are toxic.Wide variety of forests, from dry to wetland, but it grows best in moist soil.
TreesLiquidambar styracifluaSweetgumFACFACMedium to large deciduous tree, to 20 m. Corky growth frequently appears on branches, in any plane.Alternate, palmately lobed (star-shaped) serrated leaves, measuring about 15 cm long by 11 cm wide. Leaves turn wine-burgundy in the fall.
Fruiting clusters are spherical, woody, spiny, 'gum balls,' 2-3 cm wide. The gum balls hang like ornaments and persist during winter. Blooms April/May; fruits August/September.
Distinctive, ridged corky growth often appears on twigs, but on any side. Star-shaped leaves and prickly gum balls are key features of this nearly unmistakable tree.Swampy woodlands, moist uplands and old fields. Common throughout NC in a wide range of soil conditions although absent at higher elevations.In winter, branches may be confused with winged elm (Ulmus alata) which has corky growths only along one plane, from two sides of branches.
TreesLiriodendron tulipiferaTuliptreeFACUFACULarge deciduous tree to 50 m, with towering straight trunk and pointed crown.Alternate, simple, uniquely shaped 4-lobed (or 6-lobed) leaves on long petioles.
Flower with 9 petals and tulip-shaped. Flowers yellowish- green with a splash of orange. Fruiting cones (aggregate of samaras) persist through winter.
As is characteristic of the magnolia family, the stipular scars (former attachment area of the stipule) completely encircle twigs. Tall straight trunk and unique leaf shape are key features for identifying.Low woods, stream sides, headwater seeps, rich moist uplands throughout NC.
TreesMagnolia virginianaSweetbayFACWFACWEvergreen or semi-evergreen tree or shrub to 20 m. In the northern portion of its range, sweetbay is deciduous.Alternate, entire, long and elliptical or oblong, tapering at the base of the leaf. Leathery leaves 6-15 cm long and 2-6 cm wide with pale undersides.
Typical 'magnolia' flowers with 9-12 white petals; fragrant. Fruit is a dark red cone, 5 cm long.
Blooms April to July; fruits July to October.
Note stipular scar which encircles twig and is characteristic of members of this family. Long terminal bud is distinctive.Wet flatwoods, swamps, bay forests and savannas in the Coastal Plain. Occasionally found in the Piedmont in moist sandy areas.Magnolia virginiana is similar to Persea palustris (swamp bay), but M. virginiana leaves have white undersides and are not as strongly aromatic.
TreesNyssa aquaticaWater TupeloOBLOBLMedium to large deciduous tree, to 30 m. Straight trunk typically buttressed when found in regularly flooded areas.Large, ovate or elliptic, alternate and entire or occasionally coarsely toothed. Leaves pubescent, 25 cm long and 15 cm wide, and petioles usually at least 2.5 cm long.
Elongated blue-black 2.5 cm long fruits occur on slender, long (8 cm) drooping stalks. Flowers April/May; fruits September/October.
Large leaves for a swamp tree, usually with a few 'teeth'. Thick twigs and branches with a diaphragmed pith.Floodplain swamps with (at least slowly) flowing water in the Coastal Plain, especially along the Roanoke River, Lumber River, and Waccamaw River. Not often found along creeks or small rivers.This species is found more often in flowing water than Nyssa biflora (swamp tupelo), which has smaller untoothed leaves.
TreesNyssa bifloraSwamp TupeloFACWOBLMedium to large deciduous tree, with a buttressed trunk, to 20 m.Alternate, elliptic, shiny untoothed leaves up to 15 cm long, with a somewhat rounded tip. Leaves appear clustered at branch tips.Male and female flowers occur on separate trees. Fruit is a dark blue-black drupe, 1-1.5 cm wide. Flowers April to June; fruits August to October.Three bundle scars revealed when leaf is pulled away from stem. Leaves turn a dark red in fall, some earlier. Bark has vertical furrows.Usually found in standing waters in the Coastal Plain, mainly in poorly drained areas. Much more common and widespread than N. aquatica.Nyssa biflora leaves are untoothed and smaller than the rectangular leaves of Nyssa aquatica (water tupelo). N. biflora has thicker, narrower obovate leaves with more rounded tips than N. sylvatica (blackgum).
TreesNyssa sylvaticaBlackgumFACFACMedium to large deciduous tree, to 25 m.Alternate, elliptic leaves, somewhat shiny above; margins usually entire, sometimes toothed on young trees, pubescent beneath. Leaves appear clustered at branch tips.Separate trees produce male and female flowers. Fruit is an egg-shaped dark blue-black drupe, 1-1.5 cm wide. Flowers April to June; fruits August to October.
Three bundle scars revealed when leaf is pulled away from stem. Leaves turn brilliant red-orange in fall, some earlier. Bark on older trees divided into rectangular sections.Found in dry uplands and seldomly flooded wetlands statewide, except absent from the northeast part of the state.Leaves can be confused with Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon), but Nyssa sylvatica (blackgum) has shinier leaves with scattered teeth. N. sylvatica also has wider, thinner leaves with sharper tips than N. biflora (swamp tupelo) and can be found outside wetlands.
TreesPersea palustrisSwamp BayFACWFACWMedium sized evergreen tree or shrub.Alternate, entire, dark green leaves with prominent midvein above, white undersides, and spreading reddish hairs along veins. Leaves typically have galls on edges.Small inconspicuous white flowers, later form spherical green berries which turn blue-black upon maturity. Blooms May/June; fruits September/October.
Twigs densely pubescent. Thick leaves strongly aromatic when crushed.Swamps, pocosins, bay forests, and moist sandy areas, mainly in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont. Usually in wet peat soils, but also in drier maritime forests.Persea palustris (swamp bay) has pubescent twigs, whereas the less common Persea borbonia (upland redbay) has smooth twigs, leaves without hairy veins, and is found in drier areas.
TreesPinus palustrisLongleaf PineFACFACU* 2020 proposed change to FACElegant tall evergreen tree. Seedlings resemble clumps of grass.Long needles, 25-40 cm in bundles of 3. Needles arranged in dense spherical tufts near the ends of thick twigs.Cones large, 20-45 cm long and brown and prickly. Pollen released March/April; cones mature September/October.Long, graceful needles and large cones distinguish this from other pines. New growth buds are distinctively large and silvery white., a highly visible trait in winter. This is a long-lived tree that thrives when periodic fires burn over its habitat.Sandy soil in the Coastal Plain and adjacent Piedmont; most numerous in dry sands, but ranges to wet soils (savannas).Pinus taeda (loblolly pine) has thin twigs and clusters of needles at branch tips in spherical, not cylindrical tufts.
TreesPinus serotinaPond PineOBLFACWMedium sized evergreen tree, with a gnarled appearance.Needles 10-20 cm long, usually in bundles of 3, growing in all directions.Top-shaped closed cones remain on the tree for several years. Pollen released in April; cones mature in August. Fire forces cones to open and release seed.Tufts of twigs and needles often found growing from trunks, especially after fires. Of the pines, pond pine is the most tolerant of wet conditions. Found in acidic, peat-based soils of pocosins and in wet flats along lake edges, mainly in the Coastal Plain.Easily confused with Pinus taeda (loblolly pine), but best distinguished by rounded cones almost as wide as long, as well as general crooked appearance.
TreesPinus taedaLoblolly PineFACFACMedium to large evergreen tree.Needles in bundles of 3 and 15-20 cm long.Prickly brown female cones remain on the tree for 3 years. Less conspicuous male pollen bearing cones found at branch ends. Pollen released March/April; cones mature October/November.Often called 'old field pine' because of its tendency to invade abandoned fields. Cones approximately twice as long as wide. Needles on branch tips in spherical tufts.Wet flats, old fields, in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont of NC; very tolerant of range in moisture levels, though scarce in deep sands.Pinus palustris (longleaf pine) has thick twigs and clusters of needles at branch tips in cylindrical tufts, not spherical like P. taeda.
TreesPlatanus occidentalisAmerican SycamoreFACWFACWLarge deciduous tree to 35 m. Bark on older trees white and plate-like, often flaking off.Alternate, toothed leaves up to 25 cm long and wide. Leaf petiole has swollen base and crown-like stipules present at the point of attachment.
The brown spherical fruiting 'head' is 2-3 cm in diameter, contains many seeds and persists through winter. Seeds released in spring. Flowers April to June; fruits September to November.
Bark on older trees forms a beautiful mottled patchwork of white, gray, green and yellow. Upper bark of older trees is strikingly white.Flood plains, low moist woods, edges of lakes and streams throughout NC, less commonly in the eastern Coastal Plain.
TreesQuercus laurifoliaLaurel OakFACWFACWMedium to large (to 30 m) semi-evergreen tree with leaves gradually dropping in late fall and winter.Alternate, narrowly ovate or oblanceolate leaves, widest past the middle, often persisting through winter. Thick leaves have lustrous surface, 3-9 cm long and 2-3 cm wide, entire margins and blunt apices with a short bristle tip.
Acorns faintly striped with shallow bowl-like cups enclosing one third of the acorn. Blooms March/April; acorns mature September to November of following year.
Leaves narrower and less leathery than Q. virginiana (live oak) and wider than Q. phellos (willow oak). Leaves of seedlings may be 3-lobed and differ greatly from leaves of a mature tree.Floodplain forests, stream banks, black and brownwater swamps, mostly in the Coastal Plain.Q. phellos (willow oak) has similar leaves, but they are narrower and have bristles on the tips. Q. hemisphaerica (Darlington oak) is a very similar tree, but is found in dry sandy Coastal Plain soils.
TreesQuercus lyrataOvercup OakOBLOBLMedium to large deciduous tree up to 30 m tall.Alternate, usually 7-lobed and obovate in general outline, although variable. Leaves pale on undersides; 12-23 cm long and up to 12 cm wide.
Acorns globose or slightly flattened with the nut almost completely covered by a ragged scaly cup, earning the name, 'overcup.' Flowers March/April; acorns mature September/October of the same year.
Note lighter undersides of 7-lobed leaves and distinctive acorns when present. Leaves quite narrow in middle.Bottomlands, swamps, floodplains and ephemeral wetlands in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.
TreesQuercus michauxiiSwamp Chestnut OakFACWFACWLarge deciduous tree, to 25 m, with thick branches projecting at sharp angles to form a round-topped crown.Alternate, obovate (in general outline) with crenate or shallow-lobed margins. Top of leaves dark green but not shiny, and undersides gray to rust-colored and sparsely pubescent. Leaf size variable; typically about 18 cm long and 10 cm wide.Acorn relatively large (about 3 cm long) with cup enclosing a third of the nut; acorn stem rarely more than 1 cm. Flowers April/May; acorns mature September/October of the same year.Distinctive thin, crenate leaves. This oak has light grey, flattened-scaly bark and leaves are usually pubescent.Brownwater floodplain forests, ephemeral wetlands, seldom flooded wet woods in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont. Usually absent from blackwater floodplains.Similar to Quercus montana (chestnut oak), which grows in rocky uplands and has dark, deeply furrowed bark. Similar to the rare Quercus bicolor (swamp white oak), which has thick, shiny, slightly more deeply lobed leaves with pale green or greenish-white undersides. Acorns of this species have long stems.
TreesQuercus nigraWater OakFACFACMedium sized tree, up to 25 m. Although deciduous, leaves are slow to fall, remaining into winter.Alternate, simple, club-shaped or 3-lobed but highly variable. Leaves widest toward the tip, obovate in general outline and about 10 cm long.Dark, oval acorns are about 1 cm wide and only a third covered by the saucer-like cup. Inside, cup is shiny-pubescent. Flowers in April; acorns mature September to November of following year.
Leaves commonly pear shaped but vary considerably. May be tardily deciduous. See page in Godfrey and Wooten for variability in leaves.Bottomlands, brownwater floodplains and occasionally blackwater floodplains, moist soils, and wet flats, in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont. Occasionally found in the easternmost mountains.Q. phellos (willow oak) has similar leaves, but are narrower with bristles on the tips.
TreesQuercus pagodaCherrybark OakFACWFACW* 2020 proposed change to FACLarge deciduous tree, to 40 m.Alternate, obovate to ovate in general outline, 10-20 cm long and 8-14 cm wide, typically with 5 lobes, sometimes more. End lobe usually toothed and spaces between lobes generally v-shaped (not rounded). Backs of leaves whitish and densely pubescent.
Flowers appear in spring, when leaves first emerge. Small, rounded acorns short-stalked and 1 cm long in cup-like saucers. Flowers April/May; acorns mature September to November of following year.
Leaves with sharply angled spaces between lobes and v-shaped bases. Leaf undersides densely white pubescent.Low grounds including brownwater floodplains and bottomland woods, occasionally on slopes and bluffs. Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont.Q. falcata (Southern red oak) has more rounded (bell-shaped) leaf base.
TreesQuercus phellosWillow OakFACFACWMedium to large deciduous tree, up to 30 m. May be semi-evergreen in southernmost localities.Alternate, entire, linear or linear-lanceolate with short bristle tips. Leaves typically 9 cm long and less than 2 cm wide, though sometimes larger.
Yellowish or greenish brown acorn, about 1 cm long with only the base of nut enclosed by cup. Flowers March to May; acorns mature from September to November of following year.
"Willow-like' leaves taper at both ends with bristles on tips. Leaves turn brown by mid to late fall.Brownwater floodplains, forested wetlands, floodplain pools, and depression wetlands in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont. Can occur in blackwater floodplains. Widely planted in landscaping.Q. laurifolia (laurel oak) has more diamond shaped leaves and generally without bristles on the tips. Q. nigra (water oak) leaves are much wider near the tips.
TreesSalix nigraBlack WillowOBLOBLDeciduous small tree, to 15 m high.Alternate, finely toothed, narrowly lance-shaped or sickle-shaped leaves, 12 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. Leaves dark green and shiny with stipules sometimes present at base of leaves; greenish beneath.
Male and female flowers on separate catkins. Fruit a pod-bearing seed attached to a cottony mass for easy seed dispersal. Flowers and fruits March/April.
Twigs in winter conspicuously red, yellowish or green. Willows popular for use in stream restoration projects as they root easily.Along streams, wet woodlands, fresh marshes, swamps and floodplains throughout the state although absent in high mountain elevations.Salix caroliniana (Coastal Plain willow) has leaves whitish beneath and grows as a multi-stemmed large shrub; S. nigra (black willow) has leaves that are green beneath and often grows as a few-trunked small tree.
TreesTaxodium ascendensPond CypressOBLOBLMedium to large deciduous tree with wide spreading base, especially when growing in water.Needles on grown trees short and pressed together ("appressed") along upward pointing branchlets. Female cones ball-shaped with brown-scale like markings. Pollen released March/April; fruits in October.Pond cypress is generally smaller than bald cypress; needles short and pressed together. Bark is soft and shredding.Pond cypress grows mainly in the Coastal Plain and Sandhills, in still-water areas such as Carolina bays, pocosins and other wet peaty habitats, shores of natural blackwater lakes, and non-riverine swamps. Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) has flat needles, compared to T. ascendens' (pond cypress) appressed needles; however, needles on seedlings and new shoots of T. ascendens appear more like those of T. distichum.Many references consider the two cypresses to be varieties of the same species, T. distichum, with visual differences are attributed to environmental factors.
TreesTaxodium distichumBald CypressOBLOBLMedium to large deciduous tree with straight trunk, horizontal branches, and wide spreading base. Crowns of young treess are conical, but become 'flat- topped' with old age. To 40 m or more tall.Narrow linear leaves to 2 cm long, occurring in 1 plane and appearing feather-like on small alternate branches that are not upturned.
Female cones ball-shaped with brown scale-like markings. Male cones less conspicuous in drooping panicles. Pollen released March/April; fruits in October.
Knees and buttressed trunks characteristic of cypress. Note flat-topped shape of older trees. Bark rough and not shredding.Blackwater and brownwater rivers, swamps, forested wetlands, edges of ponds, mainly in the Coastal Plain. Although it cannot germinate in water, cypress will thrive in open water once established.Taxodium ascendens (pond cypress) needles are smaller, shorter, and appressed on upturned branchlets. Needles are superficially similar to Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock), which is found in the mountains but never in the Coastal Plain.Many references consider the two cypresses to be varieties of the same species, T. distichum, with visual differences are attributed to environmental factors.
TreesUlmus americanaAmerican ElmFACWFACMedium to large deciduous tree, to 35 m. Crown broad and spreading, with a characteristic vase-like pattern of branching, unless found in dense forest stands, where tree exhibits a narrow crown.Alternate, doubly serrated oval leaves with distinctly asymmetrical leaf base. Leaves rough in one direction above, less so beneath. Average size about 8 cm long, 5 cm wide, but highly variable. Bark ridged and scaly.Fruit small, flattened clusters of oval samaras, about 1 cm long. Flowers February/March, fruits March/April.Scaly bark and asymmetrical leaf base of American elm are distinctive.Most common in bottomland floodplains adjacent to brownwater streams, rich wet or upland woodlands throughout NC.U. americana (American elm) leaves are smaller and not as rough as U. rubra (slippery elm), but larger and hairier than U. alata (winged elm). Upper leaf surface in this elm is smoother than other similar elms.
ShrubsAesculus sylvaticaPainted BuckeyeFACFACDeciduous understory shrub up to 3 m tall, rarely to 10 m.Oppositely arranged, palmately compound leaves with 5-7 leaflets. Leaflets 8-20 cm long and 3-7 cm wide. Leaflets lance-shaped or obovate.
Tubular flowers (cream, yellow or pink) on stalk. Buckeye seeds produced inside thick capsule. Flowers late March to early May; fruits July/August.
This shrub is usually the first to leaf out in early spring and the first to drop leaves in late summer or early fall. The 'buckeye' seed is poisonous to humans if ingested.Rich woods, river banks and floodplains, mainly in the Piedmont.Aesculus pavia (red buckeye) is a similar uncommon shrub along blackwater streams in the Coastal Plain. Aesculus flava (yellow buckeye) is a common shrub of high elevation mountains and cool moist slopes.
ShrubsAlnus serrulataTag AlderOBLFACWMultiple stemmed deciduous shrub up to 5 m in height. Twigs rusty and pubescent, later becoming smooth.Alternate, ovate or obovate shaped with toothed margins. Leaves 6- 10 cm long and 2.5-5 cm wide.
Both male and female flowers occur on shrub on stalks. Female 'flowers' or catkins appear as miniature 'pine cones'. Male catkins initially short and eventually become dangling. Blooms February/March; fruits August to October.
Female 'cones' persist through winter.Streambanks, freshwater marshes, and swamps throughout NC.
ShrubsAronia arbutifoliaRed ChokeberryFACWFACWLow to medium deciduous shrub, 2-3 m in height. Spreads by rhizomes and can form dense colonies.Alternate, simple, elliptical leaves with finely toothed margins. Leaves 4-10 cm long and 2-4 cm wide. Leaves contain minute reddish brown hairs along midrib vein.
Clusters of small pinkish-white 5-petaled flowers produced on the ends of branches. Fruit is red berry-like pome. Blooms late February to May; fruits September to November.Leaves burgundy in fall and red fruits persist in winter.Low woodlands, pine savannas, creek banks, seepage slopes and swamps. Common statewide.Synonym: Photinia pyrifolia
ShrubsAsimina trilobaCommon PawpawFACFACDeciduous understory shrub or small tree up to 10 m, often forming colonies.Alternate, entire, oblanceolate leaves, with acuminate tips, about 23 cm long and 8 cm wide. Leaves malodorous when crushed.
Large (3-4 cm) burgundy flowers with 6 petals and 3 burgundy sepals. Fruits fleshy edible, yellow and banana-like with large brown seeds, up to 12 cm long. Flowers March to May, before leaves; fruits August to October.Usually an understory shrub. Distinctive acrid odor of crushed leaves helps in recognition, along with flowers and fruits when present. Fruit and leaves are toxic.Rich slopes, low woods, bottomlands; within the Coastal Plain, more common in the western Coastal Plain, along brownwater rivers.
ShrubsBaccharis halimifoliaGroundsel TreeFACWFACBroad-leaved deciduous to semi-evergreen woody shrub or small tree with ascending branches 1-4 m tall.Alternate and toothed or entire with serrations mostly towards leaf apex. Leaves elliptic to obovate, 3-7 cm long and 1-4 cm wide, conspicuously pale blue-green. Leaves just below flowers not serrated.
White feathery flowers in small heads arranged in stalked clusters at branch tips. Separate male and female plants. Blooms and fruits September to November.
Baccharis is the only member of the aster family in eastern North America to reach 'tree' stature. When in flower and in fruit, the shrub appears white due to the cotton-like flowers. Leaves and seeds are toxic.Brackish marsh edges, ditch banks, old fields, damp thickets. Throughout the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.Originally found in the Coastal Plain, Baccharis halimifolia has spread and become invasive in the Piedmont and infrequent in the Mountains.
ShrubsBorrichia frutescensSea Ox-Eye Daisyn/aOBLLow growing succulent, rhizome forming shrub, often growing in extensive colonies almost to 1 m tall.Opposite, thick, narrow to broadly oblanceolate, 2-8 cm long and 1-3 cm wide. Leaves mostly entire, although sometimes slightly dentate. Petiole bases attached in a 'U' shape against stem.
Attractive yellow flowers are typical of the Aster family. Spiky ball-shaped seedheads brown when mature. Blooms and fruits May to September.Three prominent veins in leaves are distinctive as well as the 'daisy' flowers, which persist from summer through fall.Common in brackish and salt marshes, mud flats and vacant lots in the outer Coastal Plain.
ShrubsCephalanthus occidentalisCommon ButtonbushOBLOBLDeciduous shrub, 1-3 m tall.Broad, shiny leaves ovoid to elliptic, with pointed ends. Shiny, opposite or whorled and entire. Leaves 7-15 cm long, 3-10 cm broad.
Flowers are small white tubes, formed on spheres about 3 cm in diameter. Clusters appear as balls or 'buttons' following summer flowering period. Flowers June to August; fruits August/September.
Brown twigs have raised elongated lenticels. A brown triangular membrane is present between petioles. Spherical 'buttons' persist through winter. Early settlers were said to have used the buttons in clothing.Usually in standing water at perimeters of lakes, ponds, freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, along streams throughout NC, but less frequent in the mountains.Cornus amomum (silky dogwood) also has opposite, entire leaves, but with brown hairs beneath and thin fibers evident when leaves are broken.
ShrubsClethra alnifoliaCoastal Sweet-pepperbushFACFACWBroad-leaved deciduous shrub to 3 m tall.Alternate, elliptical, obovate or oblanceolate leaves. Leaves toothed and approximately 8 cm long by 4 cm wide. Typically widest toward the tip.Fragrant small white 5-petaled flowers produced in racemes. Blooms June/July; fruits September/October.
Racemes with empty seed capsules persist through winter. Thick, light brown scales cover the current year's stems.Wet pine savannas, flatwoods, bays, pocosins in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont.Similar to Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire), but note leaf shape of Clethra alnifolia is widest past the middle, toward leaf tip. Teeth on C. anifolia are absent from the base of the leaf, whereas in Itea virginica, teeth are along the whole margin.
ShrubsCornus amomumSilky DogwoodFACWFACWDeciduous shrub reaching up to 5 m.Opposite, entire, ovate or elliptical shaped leaves with typical dogwood venation. Leaves up to 10 cm long and 7 cm wide. Brownish appressed hairs on undersurface of leaves, especially on veins.
Flat-topped cyme, which produce blue drupes (berry-like fruits). Blooms May/June; fruits August/September.
In all dogwoods, white “threads” visible when leaf is broken and pulled apart.Marshes, swamp forests, along rivers and streams mainly in the Piedmont and mountains. Occasionally in the Coastal Plain.Pith of second year growth is brown, whereas the pith of Cornus stricta (swamp dogwood - more coastal) is white. Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush) also has opposite entire leaves, but lacking hairs beneath.
ShrubsCyrilla racemifloraSwamp TitiFACWFACWDeciduous to semi-evergreen shrub or small tree to 8 m tall, often forming dense thickets.Alternate, usually narrow and obovate or elliptic, clustered near branch tips. Variable in size, up to 10 cm long and 2-3 cm wide and somewhat variable in shape. Glossy leaves have raised midribs beneath.
Racemes of white flowers from 5 to 15 cm long originate from the previous season's growth. Blooms May to July; fruits September/October.
Look for glossy leaves with pronounced midribs beneath. Distinctive raised ridge under leaf scar. Racemes of dry fruits persist through the winter.Pocosins, swamps, pine flatwoods and streambanks in acidic, sandy or peaty soils, chiefly in the Coastal Plain and sometimes in the Piedmont.
ShrubsDecodon verticillatusSwamp LoosestrifeOBLOBLShrubby perennial with long arching leafy stems, some rooting at tips. Can also be considered herbaceous.Opposite or whorled, lance-shaped, large, to 20 cm long and 5 cm wide, with a prominent white or pink midvein. Leaves smooth above, pubescent with short hairs below.Purple flowers about 3 cm wide, in clusters at leaf bases, with long, extending stamens. Blooms and fruits July to September.Stems corky-spongy below water; bark of stems above water sloughs off in long cinnamon-colored strips.Shallow water around lakes and ponds, in marshes, swamps, and wet shrubby thickets in the Coastal Plain.This species is also called water-willow, but is more closely related to loosestrifes than willows.
ShrubsEubotrys racemosusSwamp FetterbushFACWFACWDeciduous shrub reaching to 4 m, but typically smaller.Alternate, elliptical, finely (but unevenly) serrated leaves. Size varies greatly on branches. Leaves 3-9 cm long, 1-4 cm wide.
Sharply pointed flower buds develop in summer, opening the following spring. White 'urn' shaped flowers on straight or slightly arching racemes, as long as 9 cm. Fruit are dry brown capsules with 5 sutures and prominent styles remaining from flower. Blooms late March to early June; fruits September/October.Distinctive fruit capsules arranged in racemes. Difficult to identify without flowers or fruits; however, in summer, this species develops flower buds that remain on twigs all winter, until they open in spring.Swamps, cypress-gum depressions, along shorelines, mainly in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain in forested wetlands with standing water.Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire) has similar leaves, but its flower clusters/capsules are on all sides of the stem. Main leaf veins of Eubotrys racemosus all curve back toward mid-vein, whereas in Itea virginica, lower veins extend to leaf edge. Also similar to Leucothoe axillaris (coastal doghobble), which has branched racemes.Synonym: Leucothoe racemosa
ShrubsEuonymus americanusAmerican Strawberry-bushFACFACSmall deciduous shrub to 2 or 3 m, but most commonly 1 m.Opposite, serrated, lance-shaped leaves. Deciduous leaves slow to drop, sometimes lasting until early winter.
Small light green, 5-petaled flowers. Fruit is bumpy lobed reddish sphere which splits into 3-5 sections, exposing red seeds. Blooms May/June; fruits September/October.
Green 4-sided branches and attractive fruits distinctive. Fruits appear like strawberries or bursting hearts as the common names imply. Fruit and leaves are toxic if eaten in large quantities.Stream banks, slopes, rich woodlands throughout NC.Also called Bursting-Heart.
ShrubsGaylussacia frondosaBlue HuckleberryFACFACDeciduous, low growing shrub, usually 1 m tall or less.Alternate, simple, oval shaped, entire leaves with short petioles. Leaves pale grayish-green beneath, can be smooth or pubescent. Tiny yellow resinous dots only on underside.Racemes with greenish white to pinkish bell-shaped flowers and usually 2 branchlets. Edible berries are green ripening to dark blue or black. Blooms late March to May; fruits June to August.Rubbing the leaf undersides on paper will turn it yellow, from the yellow resinous glands.Moist acidic woodlands, especially sandhill pocosins and pine savanna-pocosin edges. Uncommon in the Piedmont, but common in the Coastal Plain, especially southeast.Vaccinium species (blueberries) lack the yellow resinous dots on leaves.
ShrubsHibiscus moscheutosSwamp Rose MallowOBLOBLTall perennial woody shrub to 2 m, with stems rising from base. Upper stems hairy. Deciduous.Alternate, pubescent, leaves are oval or 3-lobed and toothed.
Large, showy creamy-white 5-petaled flowers with a crimson center, occasionally pinkish. Flowers about 20 cm wide. Fruit capsule splits into 5 parts and persists through winter. Blooms June to September; fruits July to October.
Large showy white flowers; fruit capsules persisting through winter.Fresh to slightly brackish marshes throughout the state; most abundant in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.Similar to Kosteletzkya virginica (saltmarsh mallow), but saltmarsh mallow flower is smaller, pink, with a much longer pistil. Leaves of the saltmarsh mallow are all lobed.
ShrubsHypericum hypericoidesSt. Andrew's-CrossFACUFACUpright, semi-evergreen to deciduous small woody shrub, to 1 m tall.Leaves are opposite, narrow, less than 2.5 cm long, tapered at the base.Yellow flowers with four narrow petals, arranged like a capital X, born singly or in small groups on twig ends. Two prominent sepals below. Flat, oval brown seed capsules. Flowering and fruiting May to August.Usually grows as a very small shrub, with fine, dark twigs. Small, narrow leaves are fairly distinctive.Common in damp forests throughout the eastern half of the Piedmont and all of the Coastal Plain; uncommon in the mountains.
ShrubsIlex coriaceaLarge GallberryFACWFACWUpright evergreen shrub, to 5 m tall.Alternate, leathery elliptical or obovate leaves, with scattered short spines along the upper half of the leaf margin. Leaves 4 to 9 cm long and 1.5 to 4 cm wide.
Fruit maturing from red to shiny black, somewhat flattened globose drupe which drops off when mature. Blooms April/May; fruits ripen September/October.
Thick rounded leaves with scattered short spines easily felt. All hollies have small black stipules at leaf bases.Acidic Coastal Plain wetlands such as pocosins, bay forests, pine wetlands, and stream banks. Often forms large colonies.Similar to Ilex glabra (inkberry), but generally a taller plant and with wider leaves. Short spines more easily felt along edges than Ilex glabra. Fruits larger than those of Ilex glabra and somewhat flattened, rather than globular.
ShrubsIlex deciduaPossumhawFACWFACWLarge deciduous shrub or small understory tree, reaching 10 m.Elliptic to obovate, with crenate margins, 3-5 cm long and 1-3 cm wide, with the widest part past the middle. Leaves soft, not leathery and without spines.Small white flowers on short stalks at bases of leaves. Fruit is red spherical drupe that persists after leaves fall. Blooms March to May; fruits September/October,
Deciduous leaves on very short shoots with many leaf scars. Corky leaf scars on gray twigs distinctive. All hollies have small black stipules at leaf bases.Floodplain forests and along creeks and uplands. Chiefly in the Piedmont and northwestern third of the Coastal Plain.Ilex verticillata (common winterberry) has similar, but larger and wider, leaves.
ShrubsIlex glabraInkberryFACFACWEvergreen colonial shrub to 2 or 3 m tall.Elliptic to obovate or oblanceolate leathery green leaves. Leaves 2-5 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. Leaves pointed at tips and have a pair or two of teeth pointing toward the apex. Undersides of leaves contain scattered punctate reddish glands.
Fruit is a spherical berry-like drupe, green maturing to black. Blooms May/June; fruits September to November.
Short spines, if present, are less prominent and pointed inward toward leaf apex. Fruits (drupes) persistent throughout winter. Stipules at leaf bases dark brown and obvious.Abundant in acidic pine wetlands, pocosins, bay forests. Mainly a Coastal Plain species.Leathery, evergreen leaves narrower than those of Ilex coriacea.
ShrubsIlex verticillataCommon WinterberryFACWFACWLarge deciduous shrub ranging from 1-4 m.Elliptical to obovate 4-10 cm long and 2-5 cm wide. Margins serrated and leaf surfaces rough (pubescent) with depressed veins.The fruit is a drupe which appears as a bright red spherical berry. Blooms April/May; fruits September to November. Fruit may persist into winter.
Lenticels on branches and striking, red, berry-like drupes distinctive. All hollies have small black stipules at leaf bases.Swamps, alongside streams and wet woodlands, scattered across the state, but less common in the eastern Coastal Plain.Ilex decidua (possumhaw) has similar, but smaller and narrower, leaves.
ShrubsItea virginicaVirginia SweetspireOBLFACWDeciduous, sprawling shrub to 2 m.Alternate, finely toothed, glabrous, elliptical leaves. Leaves oblong with parallel sides, 2-9 cm long and 1-4 cm wide.
Clusters of white 5-petaled flowers form a narrow raceme at branch ends. Two-lobed beaked capsules persist. Flowers May/June; fruits soon after.Lower leaf veins extend to outer edge of leaf. Branches often green above and burgundy on undersides. Stems have a white chambered pith.Low woods, swamps, alongside streams, throughout NC.Similar to Clethra alnifolia, coastal sweetpepperbush, but leaves thinner and teeth extend all the way around the leaf margin, whereas in Clethra, they are absent from leaf bases. Eubotrys racemosus leaves have all major veins curving inward before reaching leaf margins.
ShrubsIva frutescensMarsh Eldern/aFACWDense shrub with many branches, 1-2 m tall. Tardily deciduous to nearly evergreen.Opposite, (except in flowering branchlets), elliptic to lance-shaped fleshy leaves, 3 to 8 cm long and 0.5 to 2 cm wide.
Small greenish flowers occur in terminal spikes 3-10 cm long. Flowers and fruits late August to November.
Terminal spikes of fruits with dark brown nutlets persist through winter.Brackish marshes, estuarine shores, mud flats and vacant lots in the outer Coastal Plain.Compare to Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel-tree) which grows in similar habitats, but has wider, shorter toothed leaves and bristly flowers only in fall.
ShrubsKosteletzkya virginicaSaltmarsh Mallown/aOBLMedium height deciduous shrub, 1-2 m with few to numerous branches.Alternate, coarsely toothed and roughly pubescent. Leaves sagittate or triangular in shape, with bottom leaves the largest and upper leaves reduced.
Pink, 5-petaled flower stemming from leaf bases. Flower 5-8 cm wide. Blooms July to October, fruiting soon after.
In tidally influenced wetlands, look for a tall plant with pink flowers and lobed leaves.Brackish to rarely fresh tidal marshes, shores and ditches, swamps, wet woodlands in the outer Coastal Plain.Similar to Hibiscus moscheutos (swamp rose mallow), although the Hibiscus flower is larger, white, and with a much shorter stigma stalk. H. moscheutos grows strictly in freshwater wetlands. Leaves of Kosteletzkya virginica are always lobed. Syn Kosteletzkya pentacarpos
ShrubsLeucothoe axillarisCoastal DoghobbleFACWFACWLow evergreen shrub with loose arching branches, up to 1.5 m tall.Alternate lance-shaped to elliptic shaped leaves with toothed margins. Leaves 5-13 cm long, 2-5 cm broad.
Whitish 'urn' shaped flowers in branching racemes, originating from the axis and typically consist of more than 15 flowers. Fruits dry splitting, 5-lobed capsules. Flowers late March to May; fruits August to October.Trailing branches with alternate evergreen leaves, usually in knee-high colonies in floodplain forests. Thick evergreen stands of this plant were said to make hunting dogs hobble, hence the common name. Flowers and leaves are highly toxic.Wet, acidic swamps and depressions, bay forests, pocosins, seepages, mainly in the Coastal Plain.Similar to Eubotrys racemosus (swamp fetterbush), which has flowers/fruits on unbranched racemes.
ShrubsLigustrum sinenseChinese Privet - Not nativeFACUFACEvergreen shrub or small tree, often forming dense colonies, to 10 m in height. Twigs and branchlets densely pubescent.Opposite, entire, elliptical or ovate leaves, 4 cm long and 1-2 cm wide.
Small white (unpleasantly) fragrant flowers forming panicles. Flowers May through June, fruiting soon after. Fruits bluish-black drupes at maturity.
Opposite branches. Once established, this native from China rapidly colonizes waste areas and wetlands, to the exclusion of many other species. Fruit and leaves are toxic.Low woods, disturbed wetlands, moist roadsides, floodplain forests, and waste areas throughout the state. One of the worst invasives in the state, along with Lonicera japonica and Microstegium vimineum, shading out and eliminating native flora.
ShrubsLindera benzoinNorthern SpicebushFACFACWDeciduous understory shrub to 3 m tall, often forming colonies alongside streams and in bottomlands.Alternate, obovate, thin, 6-14 cm long and 2-6 cm wide with acuminate tips and entire margins. Leaf undersides distinctly light green.
Small yellow flowers which produce red elliptical drupes up to 1 cm wide. Flowers March/April; fruits August/September.
Leaves and twigs lemon-fragrant when crushed and leaves have a distinctive coated feel. Stems have distinctive raised lenticels.Stream margins and rich moist woods, floodplain forests, mainly in the mountains, Piedmont, and brownwater river floodplains in the Coastal Plain.
ShrubsLyonia ligustrinaMaleberryFACWFACWSemi-evergreen or deciduous, medium sized shrub.Leaves alternate, ovate, finely serrated with short hairs on both surfaces; smaller leaves in wetter habitats. Raceme with white drooping globular flowers with fused petals; flowers produce fuzzy round capsules that split when ripe. Flowers late April to June; fruits September/October.Young twigs have red bark. Inflorescence is leafy.Pocosins, seepage wetlands, mountain bogs, bottomlands, savannas, and pine flatwoods. Found throughout the state, but most abundant in the Coastal Plain.Called maleberry because it is similar to blueberry or huckleberry, but produces dry capsules and not fleshy edible fruit.Mountains and Piedmont variety is var. ligustrina. Leaves appear gray-green in the Coastal Plain variety (var. foliosiflora).
ShrubsLyonia lucidaFetterbush LyoniaFACWFACWSmall evergreen shrub, although may reach as high as 3 m. Usually colonial in nature.Leathery, dark green leaves with very smooth, entire margins with marginal veins. Leaves generally elliptical, 3-9 cm long by 1-4 cm wide on flattened branches.
Beautiful when flowering, with clusters of pinkish (sometimes white) 'urn' shaped flowers arising from axis. Fruit an oval capsule, about 5 mm long. Blooms April to early June; fruits September/October.
Note shiny evergreen leaves with prominent mid-vein. Veins also encircling leaf margins very characteristic. Branches distinctly flattened below nodes. Highly toxic plant.Usually found where surface water is present most of the year in pocosins, blackwater swamp forests, pine wetlands and bay forests, mainly in the Coastal Plain.
ShrubsMorella caroliniensisSouthern BayberryFACFACWEvergreen shrub to 2 m.Alternate, elliptical, oblanceolate or obovate leathery leaves with a few shallow serrations toward tips of thick leaves. Yellow resinous glands on the leaf underside only.
Bayberry has dark brown globose fruits which may appear white from waxy covering. Blooms mainly in April; fruiting August to October.Leaves only slightly aromatic when crushed; resinous dots only on undersides of leaves.Pocosins, bay forests, wet pine savannas and flatwoods in the Coastal Plain; rarely in the Piedmont.Similar to the more abundant Morella cerifera (wax myrtle), but Morella caroliniensis has broader, thicker leaves with yellow waxy dots only on the leaf underside. Leaves are thicker and usually wider than M. cerifera and much less aromatic.Synonym: Myrica heterophylla
ShrubsMorella ceriferaCommon Wax MyrtleFACFACEvergreen large shrub or small tree to 7 m.Alternate, narrowly elliptic, oblanceolate leaves with a few serrations from the middle of leaves toward leaf tips. Leaves have yellow resinous glands on both undersides and top surface of leaves.
Male and female flowers on separate shrubs. Male shrubs produce catkins in spring and female shrubs have oval, white waxy fruits. Blooms mainly in April; fruiting August to October.
Leaves very fragrant when crushed; resinous dots on both leaf surfaces. Berries used for scents and candles.Low ground, pond edges, pine wetlands, swamps, brackish marshes, and other moist habitats. Chiefly in the Coastal Plain but common in the Piedmont.A similar species, Morella caroliniensis (southern bayberry) has larger leaves and resinous dots on leaf underside only, not both surfaces. M. cerifera is the only Morella in the state reaching small tree height.Synonym: Myrica cerifera
ShrubsRosa palustrisSwamp RoseOBLOBLBroad-leaved deciduous shrub with decurved thorn-like prickles. Grows to 2 m tall and reproduces by runners, sometimes forming thick stands.Alternate, pinnately compound. Leaflets elliptical and finely toothed. Number varies from 5-9 leaflets, usually 7. Leaflets 1-5 cm long and 0.5 to 2 cm wide with largest leaflets toward tip of leaf.
Large, pink 5-petaled flowers formed at branch tips, later forming red 'rose hips'. Blooms May to July; fruits September/October.
Easily recognized because of its typical rose features (prickles, rose hips). Note long stipules wrapped at bases of petioles.Marshes or wet shores of streams, lakes, and swamps throughout NC, except rare in the Sandhills area.A similar species, Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose) has clusters of several small white fragrant flowers instead of single large pink flowers. It also has stipules that are flat or open with hairs on the edges. Rosa multiflora is non-native and grows in drier conditions.
ShrubsRubus pensilvanicusSawtooth BlackberryFACFACThorny shrub with arching or erect branches, often forming extensive colonies.Leaves palmately compound, usually in three leaflets, with serrated edges and deep veins, hairy beneath.White, usually 5-petaled showy flowers at branch ends; may be solitary, in racemes, or in panicles. Flowers with numerous stamens and pistils. Fruit is a juicy black aggregated drupe, globular or elongated. Blooms April/May; fruits May to July.Old dead stalks brown and brittle but still thorny. Stalks last two years: first year long stalks rise unbranched from base, in second year, they branch and flower.Poorly drained fields, depressions, swales, pocosins, edges of marshes and swamps, swales, bogs, disturbed areas. Found at lower elevations in mountains.The former Rubus argutus is now included within R. pensylvanicus.
ShrubsSalix carolinianaCoastal Plain WillowOBLOBLDeciduous, large shrub more than small tree.Alternate, lance-shaped or sickle shaped leaves, finely toothed. Leaf blades whitish beneath. Stipules usually obvious at base of leaves.Male and female catkins on separate trees. Fruits 1 cm, brown, flask-shaped, and crowded in long clusters. Flowers and fruits March/April.Slender reddish brown twigs; leaves whitish or gray-green beneath.Riverbanks, sandbars, and edges of ponds and lakes.S. nigra (black willow) has leaves greenish beneath, usually growing as a few-trunked small tree. S. caroliniana (Coastal Plain willow) has slightly smaller leaves, whitish beneath, usually growing as a multistemmed large shrub.
ShrubsSambucus nigraBlack ElderberryFACFACWDeciduous shrub up to 4 m tall, stems with white, spongy or hollow pith.Opposite and pinnately compound with 5-11 leaflets (usually 7). Leaflet edges contain toothed margins. Sometimes the lower leaflets are divided into 3 parts. Width of leaflets is variable from 5-15 cm long by 2-6 cm wide. Leaflets may contain small stipule-like tissue at point of attachment. Stipule is present at leaf base.
Inflorescence consists of a dense flat topped or gently rounded cyme clustered with small white 5-petaled flowers. Fruit is a purple berry. Blooms late April into July, sometimes later; fruits July/August.
Distinctive raised lenticels on bark, opposite compound leaves. Fruit edible upon boiling and used in preserves, wine and other food; however, the rest of the plant is poisonous if consumed.Common statewide in sunny wet areas, including freshwater marshes, swamp openings, alluvial forests, wet pastures and is opportunistic in disturbed sites.Our North Carolina elderberry is Sambucus nigra ss. canadensis (Synonym: Sambucus canadensis).
ShrubsSymplocos tinctoriaCommon SweetleafFACFACShrub or small tree reaching 8 m in height; tardily deciduous with leaves persisting into winter and a few into spring.Alternate, elliptical or oblanceolate, often with red or purplish blotches. Edges of leaves with minute serrations. Peach-like fuzz on underside of leaves.
Yellow, fragrant petal-less flowers with many stamens in spherical clusters close to stem. Fruit is oblong green drupe, ripening to purple. Blooms March to May; fruits in August/September.
As the common name implies, the leaves taste sweet when chewed, making it a favorite of ungulates.Damp, yet sandy, soils in mesic woods, ravines, bottomland forests, pine flats, sandy thickets, and pocosin edges, mainly in the Coastal Plain, but still common in the eastern Piedmont.In some areas, can be confused with Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel) when not in bloom. Kalmia latifolia has no spots/glands below on leaves, and longer, less elliptical leaves.This is a monotypic genus - the only genus and species in the sweetleaf family. Also called horse-sugar.
ShrubsVaccinium corymbosumHighbush BlueberryFACWFACWDeciduous shrub to 4 m tall with arching green, brown, or red twigs.Alternate, elliptical with entire or finely toothed edges.
Clusters of small white or pink urn shaped flowers (usually less than 1 cm long). Flowers in May; fruits mostly in August.
Look for 'urn' shaped flowers or blueberries, characteristic of many members of this family.Swamps, poorly drained wetlands, and bogs; sometimes heath balds or granitic domes, especially near seeps.Gaylussacia spp. are very similar, but contain yellow resinous dots on the undersides of leaves.
ShrubsViburnum nudumPossumhaw ViburnumOBLFACWMedium sized deciduous shrub up to 5 m tall.Opposite leaves broad, elliptical or obovate with entire or slightly wavy margins. Leaves shiny green, leathery and widest at the middle, 5-10 cm long and 2-6 cm wide.
Flowers appear in the typical 'flat-topped' inflorescence (cyme) and fruits are compressed black drupes, about 1 cm long. Blooms April/May; fruits August to October.
Strictly a wetland species. Opposite branching with distinctive appressed or upright buds.Fresh water marshes and swamps, pocosins, wet flats, low woods throughout NC, but especially blackwater floodplains in the Coastal Plain in acidic stagnant water.Similar to Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood) which also has opposite leaves, but more rounded and less shiny leaves. Terminal leaf buds distinguish this from Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush), which has similar leaves.
ShrubsViburnum recognitumNorthern ArrowwoodFACFACBroad-leaved deciduous shrub to 3 m. Lower stems characteristically straight.Opposite, egg-shaped or almost round, coarse toothed leaves with acute ends. Leaves 5-12 cm long and 4-10 cm wide with serrated edges. Undersides pubescent.
White flowers form flat-topped clusters at branch ends. Fruit is a medium to very dark blue-gray drupe. Blooms late March to May; fruits July to September.
Twigs velvety-hairy and often ridged. As the name (arrowwood) implies, the straight wood was formerly used as arrows.Bottomland swamps, shrub wetlands, stream banks, marshes, tidal wetlands. Most abundant in the Piedmont and western half of the Coastal Plain, but in scattered counties in the mountains and eastern Coastal Plain.Similar to Viburnum rafinesquianum (downy arrowwood) which tends to grow in drier areas, mainly in the Piedmont. Stipules at leaf bases are absent in V. recognitum but present in V. rafinesquianum, which also has more elongated leaves.Also called Southern Arrowwood (!), this species ranges from eastern Canada south to central Georgia and northeastern Alabama. It was recently split out from Viburnum dentatum, which does not have smooth (glabrous) petioles. Viburnum recognitum was called V. dentatum var. lucidum in Radford (1968).
FernsAthyrium filix-feminaCommon LadyfernFACFACMedium light green fine-frond fern to approximately 1 m in height. Grows from rhizomes.Fronds 40-100 cm long and 10-35 cm wide. Because of its finely toothed leaflets, this fern is delicate and lacy in appearance. Leaflets are arranged alternately on the frond. Surfaces of fertile and sterile fronds similar in appearance.
No flowers, but fertile fronds contain crescent-shaped sori on the undersides of the fronds. Fertile fronds appear May to September.
Attractive, lacy, light green fern. Leaflets and subleaflets alternately arranged. Basal leaflets point downward, less at right angles to the stem than other leaflets.Wet woods, streamsides, and swamps throughout NC.Light green color, and often purple stems, helps distinguish this fern. Stems break easily.Our common ladyfern is ssp. asplenioides. (Synonym: Athyrium asplenioides)
FernsOnoclea sensibilisSensitive FernFACWFACWLow to medium fern almost reaching 1 m high, usually smaller. Reproduces by underground rhizomes.Pinnately divided deciduous frond. Segments positioned oppositely. Margins entire or lobed. Larger plants may have more deeply lobed fronds.
No flowers, but fertile fronds on separate stalks. Fertile fronds change from green to brown and have a beaded appearance. Fertile fronds appear May through June.
Fertile fronds distinctive. Called 'sensitive' because of its sensitivity to early frosts. Look for opposite arrangement of leaflets along stalk.Marshes, swamps, seeps, moist woodlands, and muddy ditches throughout the state.Similar to Woodwardia areolata (netted chainfern), but leaflets of that fern are alternately arranged and fertile fronds are different.This is the only species within its genus.
FernsOsmunda spectabilisRoyal FernOBLOBLMedium to large fern forming clumps. Usually about 1 m tall but may be up to 2 m.Frond is large, 38-75 cm long and 25-50 cm wide. Frond twice pinnately divided with alternate leaflets, however the leaflets often positioned oppositely on the stem (rachis). Leaflets usually number 5 to 11, and light green, about 12 cm long and 5 cm wide.
No flowers, but instead fertile fronds with terminal branch-like panicles. These spore-bearing stalks are light-brown and appear March to June.
Large loose fern with twice divided fronds.Moist woods, swamps and marshes throughout NC.Synonym: Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis
FernsOsmundastrum cinnamomeumCinnamon FernFACWFACWMedium to tall fern up to 1.5 m.Fronds arise from a clump at base. Leaf blades 35-70 cm long and 13-25 cm wide. Leaflets alternately arranged with brown fuzzy 'hairs' at bases of leaflets.
No flowers, but fertile fronds are narrower then infertile fronds and contain furry cinnamon colored stalks. Fertile fronds appear March to May and soon wither.
This is a large fern. When fertile frond is present, it has a distinctive cinnamon color.Swamps, marshes, ditches, streambanks. Common in the Coastal Plain and mountains, but less frequent in the Piedmont.Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern) has no hairs at base of leaflets; Woodwardia virginica (Virginia chain fern) forms clumps and has chain-like venation along midrib of leaflets.Synonym: Osmunda cinnamomea
FernsWoodwardia areolataNetted Chain FernFACWOBLMedium fern up to 0.5 m in height, usually smaller. Reproduces by underground rhizomes.Lobed pinnae arranged alternately along stem. Pinnae contain “netted” venation and edges have minute serrations visible when viewed closely.No flowers, but fertile fronds on separate stalks which are narrower than sterile fronds. Double rows of sori on fertile frond leaflets resemble rows of bricks. Fertile fronds appear June to September.Look for alternate arrangement of leaflets along stalk and netted venation.Acidic swamps and wet pine woods throughout NC.Similar in appearance to Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern), but sensitive fern has opposite pinnae and pinnae edges without serrations, as well as different, bead-like, fertile fronds.Synonym: Lorinseria areolata (the only member of Loniseria in North Carolina). The genus Woodwardia is now considered Eurasian (according to Sorrie et al.).
FernsWoodwardia virginicaVirginia Chain FernOBLOBLMedium fern reaching 0.5 m in height. Reproduces by underground rhizomes.Compound fronds with alternate leaflets. Fronds 30-70 cm long and 15-30 cm wide, rising singly from ground. Leaf base dark, black-brown.
No flowers, but sori located on undersides of frond leaflets. Fertile fronds appear June to September.
Look for distinctive chain-like vein pattern on midrib of leaflets.Acidic soils and wet pine flats, mostly in the Coastal Plain. Grows well in sunny locations and responds quickly after fire.Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern) appears similar, but fronds of Woodwardia virginica (Virginia chain fern) rise singly from the ground, whereas most ferns have fronds in clumps. W. virginica also has no hairs at leaflet bases.

Synonym: Anchistea virginica. The genus Woodwardia is now considered Eurasian (according to Sorrie et al.).
Monocot HerbsAndropogon glomeratusBushy BluestemFACWFACWMedium to tall perennial grass, 1 to 2 m high, growing in dense clumps.Leaves up to 30 cm long, with broad overlapping sheaths. Chalky coating makes the leaves appear bluish.Prominent, feathery inflorescence, branched but appearing dense, and usually 2-5 cm long. Flowering and fruiting late August-October.Inflorescence has paired spikelets; one of each pair has a long hairy bristle extending from its base.Roadside swales, fields, open woods, savannas, and wetlands. Less common in the mountains, but widespread across the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.An uncommon coastal variety was recently named Andropogon glaucopsis (purple bluestem). It has a less dense inflorescence with a purple hue in fall and long hairs on stem branches below raceme bracts.
Monocot HerbsArisaema triphyllumJack in the pulpitFACWFACWSmall to medium herb, characterized by a pair of compound leaves with three leaflets and a flowering spathe with hood. To 60 cm tall.Three leaflets, margins entire, palmately compound. Leaves whitish beneath at maturity.Flowering body is in the form of a cup-like structure (spathe) with an overhanging hood and a stiff projection (spadix) in the center. Plants produce individual male or female flowers, but can switch from year to year. Bright red berries appear in fall. Blooms in March/April; fruits soon after.Look for three leaflets in compound leaves, with smooth margins and rising singly from the ground. Leaves and fruits are highly toxic if ingested.Swamps and bottomlands; common across the state.Leaflets in sets of three may be confused with poison ivy, but Arisaema never has lobed leaves like poison ivy does, and in poison ivy, leaf veins extend to the edges of the leaves.USDA lists several subspecies that Weakley splits out into separate species, varying by size and hood/spathe characteristics.
Monocot HerbsAristida strictaPineland ThreeawnFACFACMedium height perennial grass forming graceful tufts or clumps, 0.5 to 1 m tall.Long, narrow leaf blades rolled inward and mostly originating from the base. Dense leaf hairs evident without unrolling the blade.
Loosely arranged spikelets in a slender panicle, up to 30 cm long. Flowers have 3 distinctive awns or bristles about 1 cm long. Flowering time depends on burning; flowers July to October if burned earlier in the year.Easy to distinguish when in flower since it is restricted to wet pine flats and related habitat. This species only flowers after its habitat has been burned.Wiregrass tolerates a wide range of moisture including well drained hills, wet pine savannas and flatwoods, especially where periodically burned. Mainly found in the Coastal Plain.Can be confused with Sporobolus pinetorum (Carolina dropseed), but that uncommon species is more green.
Monocot HerbsArthraxon hispidusSmall Carpgrass - Not nativeFACFACLow annual with thin, creeping, branching stems, 20-100 cm long. Stems root at the nodes.Leaf blades ovate or lance-shaped, 2-5 cm long and 0.5-1.5 cm wide.
Fan-shaped inflorescence formed by stalks of thin spikelets. Individual spikelets 4-5 mm long, sometimes pink. Flowering and fruiting September to November.The creeping nature of this plant along with the ovate leaves are distinctive features.This introduced species inhabits waste areas, rapidly spreading throughout ditches and wet areas.Similar to Microstegium vimineum but Arthraxon hispidus has wider leaves with hairy sheaths clasping the stems.
Monocot HerbsArundinaria giganteaGiant CaneFACWFACWTall, thick, woody herb, usually 1-3 m but may grow much taller. Forms extensive colonies since it reproduces mainly by rhizomes.Alternate leaves with flat acuminate blades. Leaf blades 15-25 cm long and 2-4 cm wide with rounded bases.
Solitary grass-like spikelets with brown grains. Spreads primarily through rhizomes; fruits mainly just before death, which can be after 4 to 5 decades.Resembles the non-native Chinese bamboo, which is taller and grows in very dense colonies. Culms were historically used for fishing poles, pipe stems, baskets and mats.Low woods, rich soils along brownwater rivers, bottomlands throughout NC.Synonym: Arundinaria tecta (the main species in North Carolina is Arundinaria gigantea ssp. tecta)
Monocot HerbsCarex spp.SedgeVariesVariesMedium to tall grass-like sedge, 15 to 120 cm tall. Sedges may spread by rhizomes but most commonly reproduce by seed and form clumps. Stems solid and triangular.Thin, linear leaf blades with distinct linear indent, or keel, at midrib. Leaves typically in multiple directions, often overtopping inflorescences.Inflorescence contains male and female flowers crowded in separate cylindrical clusters on the same plant. All Carex species share the feature of seeds (achenes) being completely encompassed by an outer covering (perigynium). Fruiting in late spring and early summer.Leaf blades ‘v’ shaped with distinctive keels. Flowering stems triangular. Identification to species requires mature fruits and seeds (achenes).The genus Carex contains the most members of the sedge family and is the largest single genus in North Carolina. Found in standing water or in wet soils, in shade and sun.
Monocot HerbsChasmanthium latifoliumIndian Wood-oatsFACUFACTall, colonial grass, spreading by rhizomes. Plant unbranched with stems 0.6 to 1.5 m tall.Grass-like leaf blades, 2 cm wide. Blades smooth with rough edges. Leaf bases have long, loose hairs.
Flowering portion with drooping branches containing spikelets, which resemble sea oats. Flowers and fruits June to October.Look for long loose hairs where leaves clasp stem; smooth leaves with rough edges. Fruits distinctive.Stream and river banks, low woods and shaded slopes throughout the state.Very similar in appearance to the common coastal sea oats (Uniola paniculata), but grows in freshwater wetlands.
Monocot HerbsCladium mariscusSwamp Sawgrassn/aOBLTall, coarse perennial sedge up to 3 m growing in extensive stands from stout rhizomes. Stem is slightly triangular.Linear tapering leaves, about a meter long and one centimeter wide with spiny, saw-toothed margins. Leaves are stiff, folded at the midrib and becoming triangular at the tip.
Long (0.5 m) inflorescence is formed by clusters of spikelets occurring at the end of drooping branches. Flowering and fruiting July to September.Leaf margins feel unmistakably like a saw; walking through a sawgrass marsh can be a painful experience.Brackish marshes, ditches and shores in the outer Coastal Plain. May form dense monotypic stands in slightly brackish waters. May occur either in standing water or on less wet ground in the Coastal Plain.New name for Cladium jamaicense is Cladium mariscus jamaicense.
Monocot HerbsCommelina virginicaDayflowerFACWFACWLow to medium height herb with wide simple leaves, succulent stems, and two or three petaled blue flowers. Often recumbent.Alternate, lance-shaped, simple, with entire margins and parallel veins. Leaf sheaths extend below leaf base onto stem.Solitary blue flowers with two or three frilly petals (third petal white in C. communis). Fruits fairly large capsules with 2-3 sides, containing brown or reddish seeds. Blooms and fruits July to October.Two-petaled flowers are distinctive; look for leaf sheaths extending below leaf bases.Bottomlands, wet forests and forest edges.6 spp. of Comelina occur in North Carolina; 2 are non-native. The most widespread spp are C. communis (non-native), C. virginica, C. diffusa, and C. erecta, all differing slightly in flower details and size.
Monocot HerbsCyperus spp.FlatsedgeVariesVariesClumping, perennial, grass-like plant (sedge), with triangular stems, sometimes forming loose colonies.Basal linear leaves. Usually 4 or more leaves extending out from base of inflorescence.Inflorescences located at ends of stems, with flattened spikelets usually in pairs or groups. Central group of spikelets with very short connecting stalk or none at all. Seeds in a folded scale, unlike Carex.Cyperus species vary greatly in size. Identification to species requires examination of mature seeds and fruits.Roadside ditches, low fields, marshes; generally restricted to wetter conditions.
Monocot HerbsDichanthelium scopariumVelvet PanicgrassFACWFACWA late-branching leafy plant, somewhat erect, to 1 or 1.25 m tall.Leaves and stems feel like velvet; blades 20 cm long and 10 to 20 mm wide.Typical of Dichanthelium species, loose branching panicle at branch tips. Flowering and fruiting May to October.Look for distinctive clear or sticky band below nodes on stems; leaves and stems velvet hairy.Ditches, low woods, marshes, wet savannas or pastures, openings in swamp forests, wet disturbed areas; mainly Coastal Plain and eastern Piedmont. Present, but rare in the western Piedmont and Mountains.Distinguishable from other Dichantheliums by its non-hairy band below the nodes. Refer to Weakley for identifying other Dichanthelium species.
Monocot HerbsDichanthelium spp.Rosette GrassVariesVariesClumping perennial grass with soft lance-shaped leaves and hairy stems.Lance-shaped leaves at plant base typically form a basal rosette of short blades.Egg-shaped fruit in a loose panicle born on hairy stems with a leave attached at the base of the panicle. Fruits are seeds enclosed in specialized structures. Flowering and fruiting May to October.Look for rosette clumps of lance-shaped leaves, low to the ground and fuzzy stems with loose seed clusters.Many Dichanthelium species tolerate drier conditions, but this genus can be found throughout the state in moist woods, wet fields, moist sandy soil, ditches, and edges of pocosins and pine wetlands.Some taxonomic confusion exists among Dichanthelium species, which are notoriously difficult to tell apart.
Monocot HerbsDistichlis spicataSaltgrassn/aOBLShort wiry grass 10-40 cm tall. Forms dense colonies spreading by stout rhizomes. Runners on the ground level sometimes evident.Numerous thin, linear leaves occur at 45 degree angles to the stem. Leaves distinctly 2-ranked or arranged in one plane on opposite sides of the stiff, hollow stem. Leaves contain overlapping sheaths and dges of leaves are rolled inward.
Terminal inflorescence is a light green panicle, 1 to 6 cm long. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants with small spikelets of 5-9 flowers. Flowers and fruits June-October.Angles of leaves are distinctive forming a ‘v’ against the stem. Saltgrass commonly found with Spartina patens, but usually "hidden" among the taller grasses with which it grows.Salt marshes or brackish marshes, along seashores, forming dense colonies. Can tolerate salinities exceeding that of full strength seawater.Saltgrass is named from the Greek word, ‘distichos’ meaning leaves are 2- ranked (arranged in one plane on opposite sides of the stem).
Monocot HerbsDulichium arundinaceumThree-way SedgeOBLOBLMedium, upright leafy sedge, to 60 cm tall.Narrow, grooved linear leaves, pointed in three main directions from stem.Flower on upper part of stem, with slender, brownish spikelets emerging from leaf bases. Flowers and fruits July-October.This sedge is recognizable by its leaves pointed in three distinct directions, when viewed from above.Swamp forests, marshes, beaver ponds, mountain bogs, wet ditches, mainly in the Coastal Plain; uncommon elsewhere across the state.This is the only species in the genus Dulichium.
Monocot HerbsEchinochloa crus-galliLarge Barnyard Grass - Not nativeFACFACWMedium upright annual grass, with stout stems, up to over 1 m tall. Frequently branching at the base.Long, tapering leaves, up to 0.5 m long and 1-2 cm wide.
Compact terminal panicle, 10 to 25 cm long. Inflorescence appears purplish with bristles and erect or nodding. Spikelets densely concentrated on one side of flowering branches. Flowering and fruiting July-November.Barnyard grass is commonly planted on wildlife refuges as the seeds are utilized by waterfowl and other birds.Fresh marshes, slightly brackish marshes, swamps, moist open areas and waste places.Easily confused with the native Echinochloa muricata (rough barnyard grass), which has more elongated seeds, in seed cases with larger spines that have swollen bases (requiring magnification to see). has excellent photographic comparisons of the two.Synonym: Echinochloa crusgalli
Monocot HerbsEleocharis obtusaBlunt Spike-RushOBLOBLClump-forming perennial, composed of thin straight, erect stems emerging from the base, up to 30 cm.Leaves reduced to sheaths on stems; most of above-ground vegetation of the plant is fine, smooth stems.Oval or egg-shaped seedhead born on a single spike with no leaves, leaflets, or petals. Seedhead has orange-brown overlapping scales like an immature pine cone, usually spirally arranged. Flower and fruit June to October.Smooth, fine stems with no apparent leaves and single small cone-like seedheads help distinguish Eleocharis from other grass-like plants. Identification to species generally requires examination of mature seeds and fruit capsules.Edges of marshes, swamps, ditches, often in shallow water in sandy or peaty soil.Xyris spp. also have single cone-like seedheads at the ends of stems, but erect flat leaf blades grow with stems. Xyris spp. also have yellow petals on the flowering heads.
Monocot HerbsFimbristylis sp.FimbryFACWOBLClumping annual, with stems holding loose clusters of seeds extending out beyond the leaves; up to 50 cm tall.Blade leaves relatively short, with much longer flowering stems emerging beyond blades. Flowering stems are flattened.Seedheads, without bristles, very small and cone-shaped, on numerous airy branching panicles. Flowering and fruiting June to October.With this clumping grass, look for loose branching clusters of small seeds at tips of flattened stems. Fimbristylis castanea is a large common coastal species and F. autumnalis is a small common species statewide.Found in moist to wet soil of any type; meadows, ditches, low disturbed areas. Fimbristylis castanea is found in brackish and fresh-tidal marshes of the Coastal Plain.Other Fimbristylis species occuring in North Carolina are uncommon to very rare.
Monocot HerbsHypoxis hirsutaCommon GoldstarFACFACWLow growing grass-like plant with yellow flowers.Leaves grasslike, hairy, growing in a cluster. Usually 22 to 30 cm long and less than 1 cm wide.Flowering stem usually shorter than leaves, 15 to 20 cm tall. Yellow 6-petaled flowers with 6 anthers. Blooms March to June; fruits May/June.This is the most abundant star-grass in the state.Found in a wide variety of dry and moist habitats, usually in part sun, along forest edges, meadows, sometimes in bottomland forests and savannas.
Monocot HerbsIris virginicaVirginia IrisOBLOBLPerennial herb reaching 1 m. This plant is colonial since it reproduces by rhizomes.Simple and entire with acute tips. Leaves pale blue-green, up to 1 m tall and 3 cm wide and clasping at the base.
Showy, bluish-purple flower with 3 petals and 3 upwardly curved sepals. Yellow markings present on petals. Blooms April/May; fruits July to September.
Typical iris appearance with showy blue or purple flowers. Roots and seeds are somewhat toxic if eaten.Margins of streams and ponds, freshwater marshes, swamps, wet pine flats, ditches. Most common in the Coastal Plain and mountains and less frequent in the Piedmont.Emerging iris can be confused with emerging Typha sp. (cattail), but emerging Typha leaves are bunched in a cylindrical cluster.
Monocot HerbsJuncus spp.RushVariesVariesAnnual or perennial (mostly perennial and reproduce by rhizomes) grass-like rushes of wet areas, forming dense clumps. Upright, cylindrical, hollow, smooth stems usually pale or bright green and needle-like.Needle-like stems usually cylindrical but in some species flattened. In some species, leaf blades absent, but brownish-red leaf sheaths that open vertically are found near stem bases Flowering stalks cylindrical and smooth.Inflorescence is panicle of numerous small flowers on stalks of varying lengths. In some species, a bract extends above flowering stem. In others, there is no bract and inflorescence appears terminal. All Juncus have 6 sepal-like structures surrounding each fruit.Juncus species are grouped into two major groups, based on whether leaves have internal divisions (septate leaves). Identification to species requires examination of mature seeds and fruits.Forms large clumps, usually in sunny or partly sunny places, in marshes, along pond/lake edges and in wet fields.
Monocot HerbsLachnanthes carolinianaRedrootOBLOBLPerennial herb with red rhizomes and roots, and a velvety seedhead on the end of stems.Bases of bright green leaf blades grow with one side facing the stem, about half as long as flowering stem. Leaves 30 to 38 cm long and about 1.3 cm wide, except for a few small stem leaves.Compact, wooly corymb flower head with small yellow flowers, aging to dark brown globular seed casings. Blooms June to early September; fruits September to November.Look for characteristic red roots of this plant, which run with red juice when cut. Leaves bright green and stems have fine hairs near the flower/seedhead.Wet, acid, often sandy soil of bogs, wet pinelands, ditches, marshes, edges of pocosins.Without flowers or seedheads, red-root could be confused with iris, which have brown roots.This is the only species in the Lachnanthes genus. Synonym: Lachnanthes caroliana, probably a spelling error.
Monocot HerbsLeersia oryzoidesRice CutgrassOBLOBLMedium to tall (1 to 1.5 m) perennial grass with weak, slender culms.Yellowish-green leaves, up to 1 cm wide and 20 cm long with saw-like teeth on the margins. Leaf blades and sheaths marked with fine parallel lines.
Terminal inflorescence loosely branching and spreading, 10 to 20 cm long. Elliptical spikelets on wavy or undulating branches of the panicle. Flowers and fruits July to October.Sheaths and leaf blades finely marked with parallel lines and contain small saw-like teeth on edges.Widespread in wet areas, fresh water marshes, wet pastures and ditches. Tolerates slightly brackish waters.
Monocot HerbsMicrostegium vimineumJapanese Stilt Grass - Not nativeFACFACLow annual with freely branching, slender trailing culms, rooting at the nodes. Stems 0.5 to 1 m long.Leaf blades lance-shaped, 3-8 cm long and 0.5 to 1 cm wide.
Spikelets 0.5 cm long and in racemes of 2-6. Flowering and fruiting in fall (September to November).Multiple spikelets distinctive. Many bottomlands are now dominated by this aggressive grass.This introduced species inhabits floodplains, shaded banks, roadsides, marsh edges, and waste areas.May be confused with Arthraxon hispidus (small carpgrass), but stems are smoother, leaves are finer.Synonym: Eulalia vimineum
Monocot HerbsMurdannia keisakWart-Removing-Herb - Not nativeOBLOBLTrailing herb forming dense mats. Stems often root at nodes.Alternate, linear or lance shaped leaves, about 6 cm long and 1 cm wide. Bases of leaves have closed tubular, hairy sheaths.
Lavender flowers with 3 petals and 3 sepals. Flowering and fruiting August to October.
Grass-like appearance with trailing stems.Margins of streams, ponds and marshes in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont of NC.Can look similar to Commelina spp. (dayflower) but clasping hairy sheath formed at leaf base helps to distinguish it.Synonym: Aneilema keisak
Monocot HerbsPeltandra virginicaGreen Arrow ArumOBLOBLEmergent perennial herb with thick root stock. Plants about 0.5 m tall, usually found in shallow water.Triangular, 3-nerved (or 3 main veins) on long stems. Leaves 10-40 cm long.
Inconspicuous yellow flowers on a fleshy spike (spadix), surrounded by a fleshy leaf-like structure (spathe). Fruits pods with large green or black berries. Flowers in May/June; fruits soon after flowering.
Triangular leaves with parallel side veins, radiating from the sides of the main veins.Bogs, freshwater marshes and perimeters of lakes and ponds. Found throughout NC, except in the northwest mountains.Can be confused with Sagittaria spp. (arrowhead), which have leaf veins radiating from one point.
Monocot HerbsPhragmites australisCommon Reed - Not nativeFACWFACWTall, perennial grass with upright culms, 2-4 m tall, forming dense and exclusive stands from creeping rhizomes.Broad, flat, linear blades, 1-5 cm wide and 15-40 cm long. Leaves arranged in 2 planes on stems. Stems round, thick and hollow.
Terminal inflorescence a densely branched panicle, 15-45 cm long with tan to purplish (when young) long silky hairs. Spikelets contain several flowers with long silky hairs below each flower. Flowers and fruits August to October.Large reed with silky, dense inflorescence. Stems formerly used by southwest Indians for arrow shafts, mats and nets. Phragmites is derived from the Greek word, ‘phragma’ which refers to its fence-like growth. This noxious weed has come to dominate many coastal marshes along the Atlantic coast.Fresh, brackish and salt marshes, banks of lakes and streams. Phragmites is worldwide in distribution and tolerates varying salinities from freshwater to saltwater.Phragmites australis can be confused with Spartina cynosuroides (big cordgrass) since they both occur in much the same habitats, but the seedheads differ. See Common Confusions section, p. 408. Also compare P. australis to the less common Zizania aquatica (annual wild-rice), which has a similar but more spreading seedhead. Without inflorescences, P. australis can be confused with Arundinaria gigantea (giant cane), which has long hairs extending from leaf bases, unlike P. australis. A. gigantea very rarely has inflorescences, whereas P. australis commonly does. Immature inflorescences are similar to Saccharum giganteum, which has very fluffy mature plumes. P. australis inflorescences have long arching branches, not as compact as Saccharum giganteum.Synonym: Phragmites communis
Monocot HerbsPontederia cordataPickerelweedOBLOBLEmergent perennial herb, up to 1 m tall.Simple, entire, elongate, cordate leaves, 7-18 cm long.
Spikes of showy, blue, tubular flowers. Blooms May through October; fruits soon after flowering.
Elongated, heart shaped leaves; base of flowering stalk is surrounded by a leaf base.Muddy shores and shallow waters of ponds, lakes and ditches throughout NC, except in the northern mountains.Can be confused with Sagittaria spp. (arrowhead), which often grows in the same places as Pontederia cordata. Heart shaped leaves help distinguish P. cordata. The leaves have no midrib as in Peltandra virginica.
Monocot HerbsRhynchospora spp.Beaksedge or BeakrushVariesVariesPerennial grass-like sedge with or without rhizomes.Linear leaves usually shorter than flowering stems. Stems smooth and may be triangular or round.Inflorescence usually in a cyme. Spikelets vary depending on the species, but often lance-shaped or beak-like.Beak-like spikelets on inflorescences. Identification to species requires examination of mature seeds and fruits. Godfrey and Wooten (1978) drawings are very helpful.Occur in wetland areas statewide, but most species are common only in the Coastal Plain.
Monocot HerbsSaccharum giganteumSugarcane PlumegrassFACWFACWVery tall robust perennial grass, with large spike inflorescence on stem reaching high above leaves; flowering stems 3 - 4 m tall.Long blade leaves, 15-40 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, rough to the touch when rubbed from tip to base, and along edges. Stem leaf bases and young stem nodes have long white hairs ("bearded").Spikelets on the large inflorescences separate when first appearing, then aging to a fluffy silvery tan or purplish plume (when dry). Plume may be 35 cm long and 7 cm wide. Long bristles extending from the seeds are untwisted. Flowering and fruiting late August through October.This grass is distinguished by its huge silvery tan plume spikes and untwisted bristles extending from seeds. Stems below the inflorescence are hairy. Difficult to identify before seedheads appear in fall.Fresh and brackish marshes, ditches, edges of lakes and swamps. Chiefly lower Piedmont and Coastal Plain; occasional in mountains.Immature inflorescences are similar to Phragmites australis, which does not have fluffly plumes. Phragmites has long arching inflorescence branches and is not as compact as Saccharum giganteum. Similar to Saccharum coarctatum (compressed plumegrass), which is found in the same types of habitats (Coastal Plain mainly), but it has a smooth stem below the inflorescence.Synonym: Erianthus giganteus
Monocot HerbsSacciolepis striataAmerican CupscaleOBLOBLMedium height perennial aquatic or semi-aquatic grass with trailing stems that root at nodes. Often forms dense stands, 0.5 to 1 m tall.Leaf blades flat and marked with fine parallel lines. Leaf bases cordate and clasping. Upper leaves often pointing downward.
Inflorescence elongate-cylindrical with spikelets on short uneven length stalks. Spikelets distinctive with an inflated sac-like base. Flowering and fruiting July through October.Fine stripes on leaves and on inflated ‘sacs’ of inflorescences are distinctive.Freshwater marshes, edges of streams, lakes and ponds, swamps, and ditches mainly in the Coastal Plain.
Monocot HerbsSagittaria lancifoliaBull-tongue ArrowheadOBLOBLEmergent or submerged perennial herb usually found in clumps, reaching about 1 m in height.Lance-shaped leaves with pointed tips and very long petioles.White, somewhat frilly, 3-petaled flowers with yellow anthers, in whorls of 3 at nodes on flowering stalks. Blooms June to September; fruits soon after flowering.Leaf veins radiate from petiole attachment point.Tidal freshwater marshes or low-salinity brackish marshes, interdunal marshes and ponds, across the coast.Synonym: Sagittaria falcata
Our North Carolina variety is Sagittaria lancifolia var. media (Weakley 2020)
Monocot HerbsSagittaria latifoliaBroadleaf ArrowheadOBLOBLEmergent or submersed perennial herb usually found in clumps, reaching about 1 m in height.Triangular, with pointed tips, up to 25 cm long. Petioles 5-sided in cross section.White, 3-petaled flowers with yellow anthers, in whorls of 3 at nodes on flowering stalks. Blooms June to September; fruits soon after flowering.Leaf veins radiate from petiole attachment point. Petiole 5-sided in cross section.Wet soil, marshes, stream sides, ditches, and pond margins throughout NC.Sagittaria latifolia can be confused with Pontederia cordata, which often grows in the same places and has more rounded, heart shaped leaves. S. latifolia leaf veins radiate from a single point, rather than with side veins as in Peltandra virginica.
Monocot HerbsSchoenoplectus tabernaemontaniSoftstem BulrushOBLOBLVery tall erect perennial, to 3 m, predominantly flowering stems; forms dense colonies.Leaves nonexistent or minimal sheaths to 10 cm long. Plant mostly long grayish-green stems with single branching seedhead at the top.Loose branching umbel, widely spreading and somewhat drooping, just below stem tip. Chestnut-brown mature individual spikelets in irregular clusters, on stems of varying lengths. Each spikelet compact, with overlapping scales. Flowers and fruits June to September.This rush has soft cylindrical spongy stems and widely spreading, drooping clusters of seeds, one per stem.Usually found in deeper standing water, in sunny fresh and brackish marshes, muddy shores. Similar to Scirpus cyperinus (woolgrass bulrush), but individual budlike spikelets are not as large and hairy as in S. cyperinus. Similar to other Scirpus species, but Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani has no noticeable leaves.Synonym: Scirpus validus
Monocot HerbsScirpus cyperinusWoolgrass BulrushFACWOBLMedium to tall erect perennial, grasslike plant, usually 2 m tall, growing in dense clumps.Simple, linear leaves starting as sheaths, then extending away from stem, and drooping at the tips, up to 60 cm long. Edges rough to the touch.Loose branching umbel with long flexible stalks holding brownish flowering spikelets, to 15 cm long. Rust-colored spikelets numerous; bristles much longer than seeds. Flowers and fruits July to October.Stem may be round or weakly triangular, especially near base. Underside of leaf sheaths purple spotted.One of the most common Scirpus species. Freshwater marshes, wet meadows.Similar to Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (softstem bulrush), but Scirpus cyperinus has noticeable leaves. Similar to Scirpus expansus (woodland bulrush) in the mountains, which has reddish lower sheaths and short seed bristles.
Monocot HerbsScirpus expansusWoodland BulrushOBLOBLMedium to tall erect perennial, grasslike plant, 0.4 to 1.2 m tall.Leaves in sheaths and blades, separating from flowering stem in intervals nearly to the flowering head; to 60 cm long. Stems rough near flowering umbel.Loose branching umbel at tip of flowering stem, with several long leaf-like bracts at its base. Stiff main branches of umbels hold secondarily branching stalks with spikelets, singly or in small groups. Scales on mature spikelets blackish. Flowers and fruits July to September.Leaf sheaths along stems have short cross partitions, looking like joints, and the lower ones are red or purplish, a key feature.Frequent in mountain (uncommon in upper Piedmont) marshes, bogs, wet meadows, and sunny low spots along rivers and streams.Similar to Scirpus cyperinus (woolgrass bulrush) which lacks the reddish lower sheaths and seedheads are held on more drooping stalks. Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani (softstem bulrush) has a similar seedhead but no noticeable leaves.
Monocot HerbsScirpus georgianusGeorgia BulrushOBLOBLPerennial sedge, 0.8 m to 1.5 m tall, generally 1 m tall with few stem leaves. Mostly basal blades, to 0.5 m long, and not as numerous as in Scirpus cyperinus.Seeds appear in small bunches at ends of stalks emerging from tip of flowering stem; usually an upper set and lower set, separated by erect stalks. Flowers and fruits June to September.Identification to species often requires examination of mature seeds. This species has 0 to 3 bristles on the seeds that are shorter than the seed body.Common in the Piedmont; uncommonly in the mountains and sandhills. Grows in freshwater marshes, impoundment shores, ditches, wet depressions in pine areas.
Monocot HerbsSisyrinchium angustifoliumNarrowleaf Blue-eyed GrassFACWFACWLow, spreading perennial with strongly flat-widened, branching flowering stems and blue flowers; about 25 to 30 cm high.Linear blades, smooth margins, 2.5 to 5 mm wide; flowering stems branched past the middle and flowering with one or a few flowers at the tips.Blue 6-petaled flowers, 2 cm wide, on long stalks at stem ends, which are flattened. Blooms March to June; fruits June to August. Brown rounded sapsules 4 to 6 mm long.Difficult to identify without flowers, but blue flowers on long stalks and brown capsules are distinctive.Found in a wide array of habitats including moist woodlands, meadows, floodplain forest margins, savannahs. Frequent to common throughout the state.Similar to Sisyrinchium atlanticum (Eastern blue-eyed grass), which lives in drier places and has narrower and lighter green leaves, and black fruit capsules. Flowers stalks are much shorter in most other Sisyrinchium species.
Monocot HerbsSparganium americanumAmerican Bur-reedOBLOBLMedium height perennial, up to 1 m tall, with thick, spongy leaves and spiky ball-like fruits.Mostly basal, simple, entire, thick and spongy. Leaves often grow taller than flowering stems. Leaf tips somewhat rounded.Ball shaped flowering heads, born sequentially along a flowering stem; female flowers on lower balls and male flowers on upper balls. Fruits are balls comprised of nutlets. Flowers and fruits from May to September.Leaf tips rounded; round ball-like flowers/fruits distinctive, with male and female flowers on separate balls.Often in standing water in marshes, sunny edges of slow streams, beaver ponds, swamps, and lakes; statewide, but chiefly in the Coastal Plain and Mountains.
Monocot HerbsSpartina alternifloraSmooth Cordgrassn/aOBLMedium to tall (0.5 to 2.5 m) upright perennial grass. Contains soft spongy culms which may be a centimeter thick at base. Plants may be shorter and stunted on higher ground.Long grass-like blades flat and tapered to a sharp point. Leaves about 1 cm wide and up to 40 cm long and typically smooth or nearly so.
Terminal inflorescence is compact so it appears cylindrical. Inflorescence about 10-30 cm long with 5-30 alternately arranged spikelets. Flowering stem tends to be one-sided. Flowers and fruits August to October.Smooth cordgrass is the most abundant and ecologically significant large plant in brackish or salt marshes as it supplies detritus to the estuaries. Salt marshes are comprised almost solely of this species.Salt or brackish marshes along the outer coast, frequently growing in water and forming dense stands to the exclusion of nearly all other species.Synonym: Sporobolus alterniflorus
Monocot HerbsSpartina cynosuroidesBig Cordgrassn/aOBLTall, stout, upright perennial grass growing in extensive stands reaching 2- 3 m; spreading by elongated rhizomes. Elongated, linear tapering leaf blades, up to 70 cm long and 1 to 2.5 cm wide with scabrous margins. Stems thick, round and hollow.
An open, terminal panicle with many spikes ascending and spreading. Spikelets usually 10-12 cm long. Flowers and fruits June to September.Stems thick, round, and hollow; long, wide leaf blades with rough edges and rounded ridge on underside. Very large inflorescence, but fairly sparse spikelets.Brackish marshes along the outer Coastal Plain or intermixed in marshes dominated by black needlerush.Spartina cynosuroides (giant cordgrass) resembles the non-native Phragmites australis (common reed) and occupies much of the same habitat. Phragmites australis has a denser inflorescence and stiff, straight leaf blades.Synonym: Sporobolus cynosuroides
Monocot HerbsSpartina patensSaltmeadow Cordgrassn/aFACWFairly low to medium height graceful, meadow-like grass, up to 1 m tall. Spreading by elongated rhizomes.Narrow, linear leaf blades rolled inward and less than 3 mm wide and 35 cm long. Stems wiry and hollow.
Open, terminal panicle with 3 to 6 alternately arranged spikes which contain densely packed spikelets, 7-12 mm long. Flowers and fruits June to September, but populations often do not flower every year.This grass may spread by runners in straight lines or may form tufted growths.Brackish marshes, low sand dunes and sand flats along the outer Coastal Plain. Saltmeadow cordgrass can grow in vast expanses above the high tide line.Saltmeadow cordgrass has wiry stems whereas other species of Spartina have wider stems.Synonym: Sporobolus pumilus
Monocot HerbsTypha angustifoliaNarrowleaf Cattailn/aOBLPerennial herb 1-3 m tall.Dark green narrow leaves which are strongly convex in cross section, up to 1 cm wide.
Dark brown cattail spike with a space between female and male flower spikes. Leaves, which come off lower part of stem, stand taller than flowering stem. Flowers May to July; fruits June to November.
Look for a space between the male and female cattail spikes and narrow, dark leaves, up to 1 cm wide.Brackish to slightly brackish tidal marshes, ditches, and pond/lake margins in the outer Coastal Plain.Similar to Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail), but T. angustifolia has darker, narrower leaves and much narrower cattail spikes. Leaves in cross section are more convex than in T. latifolia.This cattail species is native in Eurasia, and also the northeast and mid-Atlantic coast of North America. Not native inland.
Monocot HerbsTypha latifoliaBroadleaf CattailOBLOBLTall perennial herb, 2-3 m high.Light green leaves arising from the sheathing base. Strap shaped leaves to 2.5 cm wide and very long, 2 to 2.5 m long.
Brown, cylindrical terminal spike (female flower), familiar to most people. When present, male flower spike positioned just above female flower spike on flowering stem. Flowers May to July; fruits June to November.
Leaves flat or slightly convex near base. Emerging cattail can be confused with emerging iris (Iris spp.), but iris leaves emerge in a fan shape. Cattail leaves emerge in a cylindrical shape.Common in freshwater marshes, ditches and ponds. Found statewide, although most common in the Piedmont.Similar to Typha angustifolia (narrowleaf cattail), a Coastal Plain species. T. latifolia has wider, less convex leaves and a larger spike than T. angustifolia. Male flower spike is directly above female flower spike on T. latifolia, whereas T. angustifolia has a space between male and female spikes.
Monocot HerbsXyris spp.Yelloweyed GrassMost OBLMost OBLMedium or small height perennial herb, with narrow linear leaves all emerging from a fibrous or bulbous base.Leaves linear flat blades, often twirling, attached at base.Three, yellow rounded petals born on solitary brown cone-like spikes with overlapping scales. Fruit is capsule with tiny seeds. Generally flowering and fruiting June to September, but varies widely by species.Recognizable by flattened, thick, upright leaf blades, sometimes twirling; leaves of individual species vary considerably in size, from 5 cm to 1 m. Identification to species requires examination of mature seeds and fruit capsules.Sunny spots in standing water at pond edges, wet sandy ditches, marshes, pine wetlands. More common in the Coastal Plain, but a few species are found in other ecoregions.
Monocot HerbsZephyranthes atamascaAtamasco LilyFACWFACWLow, perennial herb with narrow leaves, flowering in spring.Cluster of shiny blade-like basal leaves, cupped in cross-section, about 30 cm long and 0.5 cm wide. Hollow, leafless flowering stalk about 30 cm tall, with single, large white, 6-petaled lily flower, turning light pink with age. Fruit is swollen capsule, housing shiny black seeds, and splitting at maturity. Flowers March/April; fruits May/June.Flower is not aromatic. Highly poisonous plant.Shady bottomland forests, depressions, wet meadows, damp roadsides in the eastern Piedmont and northwestern Coastal Plain.Synonyms: Atamosco atamasca, Zephyranthes atamasco
Dicot HerbsAlternanthera philoxeroidesAlligatorweed - Not nativeOBLOBLVine-like weedy perennial, often growing in a dense floating mat, rooted in water up to 2 m deep.Opposite, toothless, smooth and somewhat succulent leaves. Stems hollow.Small white globular flowers born on long stalks emerging from base of leaves. Flowers and fruits March-October.Stems can be up to 1 m long, look jointed where leaves attach, and are red-tinged at the joints.In mats on still waters of blackwater rivers, canals, ditches, ponds, and lake margins of the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.
Dicot HerbsAsclepias incarnataSwamp MilkweedOBLOBLA leafy 1 to 1.25 m tall herb, generally unbranched until the top.Opposite, lance-shaped, about 10 to 12 cm long.Many small clusters of bright pink flowers at branch ends. Blooms July to September; fruits August to October.All milkweeds have milky sap that can irritate skin; few other marsh plants have umbels of rose-colored flowers. A favorite of butterflies and other insects. Plant is toxic.Sunny marshes mainly, but also mountain bogs, wet meadows, openings in swamps, primarily in the mountains, Piedmont, and the northeastern Coastal Plain. Absent from the southeastern quarter of the state.Common name is a misnomer - this milkweed is a marsh species.
Dicot Herbs
Photo credit: Melinda Thompson, iNaturalist
Bidens frondosaDevil's BeggarticksFACWFACWMedium annual herb, to 1 m tall and often many branching.Leaf blades lance shaped, toothed, usually divided into 3 to 5 leaflets. Yellow disk and ray flowers usually have only disks, 30 to 60 or more. Leaflike bracts (about 8) extend from base of flowers. Barbed flat seeds have two barbed awns, "devil's pitchforks". Flowers and fruits June to October.Look for yellow disk flowers with green leaf-like bracts extending from base, or the flat, barbed seeds.Wet meadows, marshes, floodplain forests, ditches, beaver marshes, and waste places across the state, except in the Outer Banks.
Dicot HerbsBoehmeria cylindricaFalse NettleFACWFACWPerennial herb to 1.3 m.Opposite, sometimes sub-opposite, broad, lance shaped leaves with toothed edges.
Spikes of small spherical clusters borne in leaf axils. Blooms July/August, and fruits September/October.
Not irritating compared to the similar stinging nettle.Common in low ground, swamps and wet woods throughout NC.Appears similar to Canadian clearweed (Pilea pumila), although flowers of false nettle are long spikes compared to clearweed's short branched panicles.
Dicot HerbsCentella erectaErect Centellan/aFACWLow-growing creeping perennial herb, clusters of leaves arising from nodes.Somewhat heart-shaped basal leaves have long petioles of variable lengths, to 30 cm. Margins generally dentate, but variable between leaves or plants. Leaves and flower stalks usually hairy.Tiny 5-petaled white flowers in umbels, on short stalks emerging from base. Blooms June to August; fruits July to September.Flowering stalks hairy and much shorter than leaf petioles.Found in sunny pond, lake, and stream edges, ditches, wet grasslands, and a wide variety of other moist to wet habitats in the Coastal Plain.Marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata) has petioles attached at the center of disk-shaped leaves.Synonym: Centella asiatica, but now considered native.
Dicot HerbsCicuta maculataSpotted Water HemlockOBLOBLTall, late-branching herb, 1.5 to 2 m tall, with divided, serrated leaves and white umbel flowers.Alternate, divided into numerous lance-shaped leaflets with deeply serrated margins. Stems often purplish.Usually numerous rounded white-flowered umbels, composed of sub-umbels. Blooms May to August; fruits July to September.This is the most common tall white umbel-flowering wetland species east of the mountains. Extreme caution should be used when handling this plant, as it is highly toxic if ingested .Marshes, bogs, wet meadows, ditches, swamp and bottomland openings across the state.
Dicot HerbsCuphea carthagenensisColombian Waxweed - Not nativen/aFACSmall to medium herb, 30 to 60 cm, with few upward branches and wide, elliptical leaves.Opposite, lance-shaped with very short petioles. Hairy stems.Small flowers with a green or reddish tube and six fragile purple petals with darker center stripes. Flowering and fruiting June to September.Small plant with hairy stems and leaves; red center stripe on petals of small flowers.Marshes, ditches, wet meadows, shallow water of floodplain forests, swamps, and depressions throughout the Coastal Plain. Has been called Cuphea carthagensis, a spelling error
Dicot HerbsDrosera spp.SundewOBLOBLSmall, low growing carnivorous plant that traps insects in drops of sticky secretions on hairy leaves.Alternate, entire. Upper surfaces and margins of leaves covered with tentacle-like hairs that secrete drops of a sticky substance to trap insects.White or pink flowers are one-sided racemes on stalks rising above leaves; individual 5-petaled flowers opening one at a time. Fruits are capsules with tiny seeds. Bloom April through September, fruiting soon after.Sundews are unmistakable, with their "dewdrop" covered round leaves.D. capillaris, D. intermedia, and D. brevifolia are common in the Coastal Plain, in wet sandy places, pine wetlands, and pond edges; D. rotundifolia is more rare and found in mountain bogs, fens, and seeps. Five species occur in NC.
Dicot HerbsEclipta prostrataFalse DaisyFACFACWAnnual herb, semi-erect with stems rooting at nodes, usually less than 60 cm long.Opposite, long lance-shaped, slightly toothed leaves. Leaves to 13 cm long.Small white and light yellow flowers, with many short thin white petals on ray flowers. Bracts longer than petals. Disk flowers develop into nutlets that are quadrangular on top. Flowering and fruiting June to November.Sometimes appears weedy. Flowers are distinctive.Sunny edges of rivers, oxbow ponds, wet ditches, low woods, swamps, and wet disturbed areas. Statewide, but more common in the Coastal Plain and eastern Piedmont; rare in the upper Piedmont and mountains.Synonym: Eclipta alba
Dicot HerbsGalium tinctoriumBedstrawOBLFACWMedium height weak herb, with long rough stems and whorled small linear leaves.Simple narrow leaves in whorls of 5 or 6 (rarely 4), widely spaced on square stems. Leaves elongated and blunt or rounded at tips, about 1 to 3 mm wide. Leaves and stems slightly rough to the touch.Three petaled, small white flowers in clusters usually of three, arising from bases of leaves; fruit is tiny smooth spherical pods, ripening to black. Blooms April to June; fruits June to August.Weakly erect or in tangled reclining strands, stems somewhat branching. Look for variably-sized whorled leaves in sets of 5 and 6, and tiny 3-petaled white flowers.Swamps, wet meadows and ditches, bogs, marshes statewide.This bedstraw species differs from the others by having 3 or 2-petaled flowers.
Dicot HerbsGratiola virginianaRound-fruit Hedge-hyssopOBLOBLShort, unbranched reclining herb, 15 to 20 cm long, with thick stems.Opposite, elliptic to lance-shaped leaves, usually serrated, about 4 cm long and 1 cm wide and thick.Small white, tubular flowers on short stalks at the bases of leaves. Fruit round, at leaf bases. Blooms mainly March to May, fruiting soon after.Thick, fleshy stem; succulent leaves. Generally reclining.Common in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont in wet mud or very shallow water. Found along pond shores, ditches, pools, and open areas in swamps.Lindernia dubia (yellow-seed false pimpernel) leaves are wide at the base, unlike Gratiola virginiana.
Dicot HerbsHydrocotyle umbellataMarsh PennywortOBLOBLLow-growing creeping, semi-aquatic perennial herb, 15 - 25 cm high, rooted at nodes; sometimes in floating mats.Alternate, simple, round leaves with scalloped margins and long petioles 4 - 15 cm long.Small white flowers in simple umbels, with stalks as long as leaf petioles. Blooms April to September, fruits soon after.Distinctive disk-shaped leaves with petiole attached in the center. Flowering stalks are smooth and long.Fresh and brackish marshes, shaded shores of ponds and lakes, ditches, swamps. More common in the Coastal Plain than in the Piedmont.Erect centella (Centella erecta) has petioles that are not attached at the center of their heart-shaped leaves.
Dicot HerbsHypericum mutilumDwarf St. John's WortFACWFACWThin-stemmed, leafy, minimally branching herb, to 30 cm tall.Opposite, ovate to elliptic leaves, rounded at base, up to 4 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. Leaves paler green beneath, directly attaching to stem.Many tiny, five-petaled yellow flowers with long stamens, mostly at tips of branches. Yellow seeds contained in capsules. Flowering June to October; fruiting soon after.Small, but recognizable by its rounded, sessile leaves.Common throughout the state in open sunny wet or damp areas like bogs, marshes, ditches, pond margins, and low areas.Compare to Hypericum punctatum (spotted St. John's wort), which is a larger plant with larger flowers. Petals and leaves of H. punctatum have evident oil glands.
Dicot HerbsImpatiens capensisJewelweedFACWFACWMedium to tall, bright green, succulent herb, reaching 1.5 m.Smooth, succulent stems contain alternately arranged ovate to elliptical leaves produced on long petioles. Leaves 3-10 cm long and 3-8 cm wide with crenate edges.
Orange, tubular 'bugle-like' flowers with brownish spots. Ends of flowers have curved spurs. Mature football-shaped seed capsules explode and scatter seeds when ripe, hence the plant's other common name, 'touch-me-not.' Blooms from May to frost; fruits soon after flowering.
Watery fluids of jewelweed are thought to dilute the sap of poison ivy, making the rash less severe. Stream and lake edges and moist woods throughout NC.A similar species with yellow flowers, Impatiens pallida, occurs in wet woods in the mountains.
Dicot HerbsLimonium carolinianumCarolina Sea-lavendern/aOBLWoody roots, leathery basal leaves, tall branching open inflorescence with purple flowers.Fleshy or leathery, simple, alternate with thick petioles clasping the base of the plant. Leaves lance or spoon-shaped with prominent mid-rib.Small 5-petaled lavender or purple flowers in a large airy branching panicle, fan-shaped in profile, to 0.6 to 1 m tall. Blooms August to October, fruiting soon after.Look for fleshy leaves in a basal rosette; branching floral stalk with tiny purple flowers.Strongly saline conditions: salt marshes, interdunal swales, salt flats.
Dicot HerbsLindernia dubiaYellow-Seed False PimpernelOBLOBLWeakly ascending, low annual leafy herb, 10 to 25 cm tall.Opposite leaves in scattered pairs, about 3 cm long and 1 cm wide, obovate, tapered to the stem, sometimes toothed.Small, pale purple or blue flowers, approximately 1 cm long, growing singly from leaf bases on short stalks of variable lengths. Flowers June through September, fruiting soon after.Leaves taper to a narrow base; stems somewhat reclining.A common species in freshwater wet places, such as stream floodplains, bottomlands, ditches, muddy lake and pond shorelines, and wet meadows.Gratiola virginiana (round-fruit hedge-hyssop) fruits are round and its leaves taper to narrow bases.Lindernia dubia var. dubia has flowering stalks shorter than leaves; L. dubia var. anagallidea has flowering stalks longer than leaves.
Dicot HerbsLobelia cardinalisCardinalflowerFACWFACWMedium to tall perennial herb, 0.5 m to rarely 2 m tall.Alternate, elliptical leaves which can be entire or serrated, 4-20 cm long and 2-3 cm wide. When serrated, small and large teeth alternate along the edges.
Spikes of 2-lipped intense red tubular flowers. Spikes are usually about 20 cm long, but can reach 50 cm in length. Blooms July to October; fruits soon after flowering.
Showy, bright red flowers blooming in mid-late summer. Basal rosettes persist through winter. Plant toxic if eaten in large quantities.Fresh water marshes and swamps, river banks, ditches and stream sides throughout NC.
Dicot HerbsLudwigia alternifoliaSeedboxFACWOBLErect, tall herb when mature, with branches turned upward, 1 to 1.25 m tall.Alternate, lance-shaped to narrowly elliptic with very short petioles and smooth margins. Stems reddish, angled, and slightly winged. Bright yellow, 4-petaled flowers, about 1.25 cm across. Round yellow petals often drop quickly, but 4 green sepals remain. Capsule distinct, 4-angled and box-shaped, remaining into the winter. Blooms May to October, fruiting soon after.Look for 4-petaled yellow flowers, and brown box-shaped capsules.Quite common throughout the state in open sunny wet or damp areas like bogs, marshes, ditches, pond margins, low areas, and openings in swamps.Other erect-growing North Carolina Ludwigia species tend to have more than four petals or none at all.
Dicot HerbsLudwigia palustrisMarsh Primrose-WillowOBLOBLCreeping, leafy plant with small leaves, rooted at nodes, growing about 60 cm long.Opposite, elliptical with smooth margins and pointed ends, about 3 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. Leaves taper along petiole to stems, which are red.Tiny flowers with no petals (just 4 green sepals), directly attached to stems just above leaves. Fruit a tiny capsule (2 to 4 mm long) with green stripes. Blooms May to October, fruiting soon after flowering.Roots at the nodes and stays recumbent even in maturity.Very common throughout the state sprawled on exposed mud or in shallow water at pond or lake margins, marsh edges, openings in swamps, wet ditches.Can be confused with immature Ludwigia hexapetala, but look for leaves with pointed ends and reddish stems. Similar to lowland rotala (Rotala ramosior) but with much wider leaves.
Dicot HerbsLycopus virginicusVirginia Water HorehoundOBLOBLSmall to medium perennial herb, less than 1 m in height.Opposite, toothed, dark green, lance-shaped leaves, sometimes with purple coloration.
Small, white tubular flowers form distinctive spherical clusters or whorls at the base of the leaves. Blooms from July to frost; fruits soon after flowering.
Stems four-sided; clusters of axillary flowers are distinctive.Wet meadows, swamps, streambanks, perimeter of ponds throughout NC.
Dicot HerbsMimulus spp.Monkey-flowerOBLOBLTall, branching, leafy herb, to 2 m.M. alatus has leaves with petioles and stems distinctly winged. M. ringens has sessile leaves and no wings on stems.Monkey-flower has lavender tubular flowers. M. alatus has sessile flowers and M. ringens has flowers on long stalks. M. alatus blooms July to November, fruiting in fall. M. ringens blooms June to September, fruiting soon after flowering.These two species seldom grow together in the same wetland or ditch. Noting leaf arrangement and length of flower stalks helps distinguish them from each other.Allegheny monkey-flower (Mimulus ringens)(C value 6) occurs in the mountains and piedmont, along marsh edges, pond margins, ditches, wet meadows, and bogs. Sharpwing monkey-flower (Mimulus alatus)(C value 5) occurs in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont, in ditches, marsh edges, and openings in bottomlands.
Dicot HerbsPenthorum sedoidesDitch StonecropOBLOBLLeafy robust branching perennial herb, growing to about 0.75 m high. Alternate, narrow lance-shaped with finely toothed edges; not succulent. Leaves 5 to 10 cm long, to 4 cm wide.Yellowish or whitish green flowers, and later lobed capsules, on the upper side of two or more arching stems, at the ends of branches. Flowers June to October, fruiting soon after.Arching flowering stems distinctive and often linger from one season into the next.Abundant in ditches, marshes, swamp openings, floodplain pools, and stream and pond margins throughout the state, but less common in the mountains and far eastern counties.This is the only Penthorum species in the western hemisphere.
Dicot HerbsPilea pumilaCanadian ClearweedFACWFACWAnnual herb with translucent stems, up to 0.5 m.Opposite, ovate, toothed leaves with 3 prominent veins. Leaves shiny on upper side and 4 to 10 cm long, produced on long petioles.
Greenish-white flowers in a branched panicle arising from the leaf axil. Blooms August/September; fruits September to November.Look for unbranched center vein and three curving major veins on shiny leaves.Often in dense colonies in wet soil or shallow freshwater margins, low shady pastures or moist, shady uplands across the state. Less common in southern half of the Coastal Plain.Leaves are similar to Boehmeria cylindrica (false nettle) which grows much taller, has dull leaves, and flowers in cylindrical spikes.
Dicot HerbsPluchea foetidaStinking CamphorweedOBLOBLUnbranching, leafy perennial, 0.5 to 1 m tall, topped with dense clusters of white disk flowers.Opposite, clasping fuzzy dull thick green leaves, stems often purplish.Flat-topped clusters of white disk flowers. Flowers and fruits late July to October.Crushed leaves strongly malodorous, hence the species name. Look for clasping leaves to distinguish from P. odorata, which has short petioles.Mainly found in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont, in marshes, Carolina bays, ditches, and borrow pits.The less common Pluchea camphorata is found in wetlands statewide. It has light pink flowers and leaves with petioles (not clasping).
Dicot HerbsPluchea odorataSweetscentFACWFACWUnbranching, leafy perennial, to 1.5 m tall, topped with dense clusters of light pink disk flowers.Elliptical, thick leaves with short petioles or tapered at base (not clasping). Inflorescence stem and branches pubescent.Flat-topped clusters of medium to dark pink disk flowers. Flowers and fruits August to October.Plants have a strong fragrance; look for short petioles to distinguish from P. foetida, which has clasping leaves.Estuarine habitats in the outer Coastal Plain: freshwater tidal, brackish, and salt marshes.In the far south and southwest US, this species is found well inland, despite its other common name, saltmarsh fleabane. In North Carolina, it is restricted to coastal counties.
Dicot HerbsPolygonum sagittatumArrowleaf TearthumbOBLOBLTrailing perennial herb up to 2 m long with weak intertwining branches.Simple, entire, alternate, arrow-shaped leaves with acute tips. Leaf midribs contain spines.
White to pink, clustered on ends of stalks emerging from base of leaves. Flowers and fruits May to November.Square stem heavily armed with unmistakable briars that can tear flesh, hence the common name.Freshwater marshes, wet fields and disturbed areas across NC.Synonym: Persicaria sagittata
Dicot HerbsPolygonum spp.Smartweed (some species not native)VariesVariesErect or somewhat trailing herb, rooting at lower nodes.Alternate, and typically narrowly elliptical with leaf sheaths extending upward from leaf nodes.Small flowers in loose terminal spikes, white to pink. Flowering and fruiting May/June to October/November.
Members of this genus contain a leaf sheath, formed by stipules encircling the stem. The leaf sheath may be densely hairy. The bitter taste of these leaves are said to 'smart,' hence the common name, smartweed.Marshes, lakes and pond shores throughout NC.Many taxonomists now place smartweeds in the genus Persicaria.
Dicot HerbsPtilimnium capillaceumMock BishopweedOBLOBLFine-leaved, erect herb, 30 to 60 cm tall, with tiny white umbel flowers.Leaves thread-like, divided several times.Umbels of tiny white flowers, petals only about 1 mm long and wide. Flowers June to August; fruits July to September.This species usually has 10 or more umbellets per flowering umbel, and 10 or more flowers per umbellet.Open and sunny wet places, such as marshes, ditches, depressions, and swamp and bottomland openings in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont.
Dicot HerbsRanunculus abortivusKidney-Leaf ButtercupFACWFACWLow herb with tall, often branching flowering stems.Distinctive basal leaves with long petioles and kidney-shaped blades about 2.5 cm wide. Flowering stems have smaller, linear leaves, widely spaced.Flowering stems up to 0.5 m tall above basal leaves. Tiny yellow flowers later mature to green seedheads. Blooms March to June; fruits soon after flowering.Leaf blades usually scalloped and wider than long. Toxic plant.Moist to wet soils in partly sunny areas of floodplains, bottomlands, swamp margins, and other low ground, even on roadsides; common over most of the state except the Coastal Plain.
Dicot HerbsRanunculus recurvatusBlisterwortFACFACWLow growing herb, with tall flowering stalks.Basal leaves with long, hairy petioles. Leaves divided or lobed into three segments with serrated edges.Flowering stalk quite hairy, with a few large leaves like the basal leaves. Tiny yellow flowers develop to seedheads with hooked seeds. Flowers April to June; fruits soon after flowering.Leaves have hairy petioles. Distinctive seeds with curved hooks. Toxic plant.Found in the mountains, Piedmont, and upper Coastal Plain primarily. Common in moist soil, such as bottomlands, swamps, or damp slopes.
Dicot HerbsRhexia marianaMaryland MeadowbeautyOBLFACWMedium height upright perennial herb, stems generally about 30 to 40 cm tall.Opposite, small variable leaves hairy with three parallel veins, 2.5 to 5 cm long. Leaves attach directly to stem or with a very short petiole.Showy pale or medium pink flowers, 3 cm wide, with 8 conspicuous yellow jointed stamens. Petals pale or medium pink, 2.5 cm long. Fruits urn-shaped capsules with globulose bases. Blooms May to October; fruits soon after flowering.Flowers appear fresh in morning, but often fading by day's end, especially in heat. Four-sided hairy stems not symmetrical, having two sides rounded and wider than the other two sides.Ephemeral pond edges, pine wetlands, wet meadows, pocosin edges, and upper edges of wet ditches. Most other Rhexia species in North Carolina are found just in the Coastal Plain, but Rhexia mariana is common throughout.
Dicot HerbsSalicornia spp.GlasswortOBLOBLUpright, low-growing fleshy perennial herb reaching 0.3 m high, often smaller. Glasswort forms colonial mats, growing from a horizontal rhizome.Inconspicuous leaves reduced to small scales. Stems consist of green, succulent, jointed tubes.
Tiny flowers along ends of jointed tubes. Flowering and fruiting July to October.Fleshy succulent plant found in salt flats. Plant tastes salty.Brackish and salt flats and marshes in the outer Coastal Plain.Three species occur in North Carolina: Salicornia ambigua, S. bigelovii, and S. virginica. All are fairly common.
Dicot HerbsSaururus cernuusLizard's TailOBLOBLPerennial herb to about 0.5 m in height, forming dense stands.Alternate heart shaped leaves growing on zig-zagged stems. Leaf venation palmate and leaf edges entire.
White, graceful spikes which resemble lizard's tails. Blooms May through September; fruits August to November. However, this plant also reproduces by underground rhizomes and often forms dense stands.Cordate leaves, distinctive white flowers.Swamps, wet woods and ditches throughout the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.Pontederia cordata has similar leaf bases, but has unpointed tips and less branched venation. Leaves also rise from base of plant in P. cordata.
Dicot HerbsSolidago patulaRoundleaf GoldenrodOBLOBLMedium height perennial, 1 to 2 m tall, with basal leaves and erect flowering stem.Alternate, simple, leaves with serrated edges. Basal leaves 15 to 35 cm long. Leaves at base of stem with winged petioles and much larger than those at midstem. Upper leaf surfaces very rough, lower surfaces smooth. Small yellow flowers in open panicle, about as broad as long. Stem below inflorescence is smooth. Flowers and fruits August to early October.Look for basal leaves larger than stem leaves, very rough above and smooth below. Fairly restricted to wetlands.Bogs, seep wetlands, swampy woods, stream banks, only in the mountains.
Dicot HerbsSolidago sempervirensSeaside Goldenrodn/aFACWMedium to tall (0.4 to 2 m) perennial herb with erect flowering stems arising from rosetted basal leaves.Alternate, simple, smooth-margined, fleshy lance-shaped leaves; at base, 10 to 40 cm long, with those on stem decreasing in size to the top.Small yellow flowers in narrow or broad panicles at top of plant. Flowers and fruits late August to mid-November.Fleshy leaves, untoothed leaf margins, and relatively large leaves on stems distinguish this goldenrod.Along the coast in salt and brackish marshes, tidal fresh marshes, estuarine shores, interdunal swales, beaches, damp roadsides.Most of this species in North Carolina is S. sempervirens var. mexicana, which some taxonomists now treat as a separate species, S. mexicana.
Dicot HerbsSymphyotrichum pilosumFrost AsterFACFACWeedy, medium height erect perennial aster with white flowers; grows to 1.5 m.Alternate, smooth-margined, green above, gray below. Basal leaves oblanceolate, 2.5 to 10 cm long and wither early. Long spreading hairs on stems and leaf undersides.Small daisy-like flowers, 1.25 to 2 cm wide, with 20 to 30 narrow white petals and yellow or reddish centers; white petals curling under on older flowers. Bracts on flower undersides have green midribs and pointed tips. Flowers typically arranged all on one side of a branch. Fruits are small dry seeds with clusters of hairs for wind-borne dispersal. Flowers and fruits September to November.Plant often leaning. Hairy stems and leaf undersides.As the name implies, this weedy aster is found in old fields, disturbed areas, fencerows, woodland edges, lake and pond shores, dry or moist conditions.Easily confused with other Symphyotrichum species, especially S. dumosum, which has flower bracts without sharp-pointed tips and 14 to 20 ray flowers (petals).Synonym: Aster pilosus
Dicot HerbsVerbena urticifoliaWhite VervainFACFACVery tall erect herb, 1 to 2.5m tall, with spreading branches.Opposite, lance-shaped, ovate, or oblong leaves with well serrated margins and short petioles. Hairy stems and leaves, with white stripe down center veins of leaves.Loose, slender spikes of tiny white flowers (3 mm across), on ends of stems and branches. Dry fruits much larger than flowers and split into 4 parts when ripe. Blooms May to November; fruits soon after flowering.Only a few flowers open at a time on each long spike. Stems hairy and four-sided.Grows in a wide variety of moist habitats, such as partly shaded stream banks, floodplain forests, damp swales, fencerows, old fields, meadows. Common throughout, but uncommon near the coast.
VinesApios americanaGroundnutFACWFACWTwining herbaceous vine, spreading by rhizomes.Compound leaves with 5-7 leaflets, 3-6 cm long with acuminate tips. Leaves 10-20 cm long.
Typical 'bean' flower, purplish to brown. Flower roughly 2- lipped with 5 petals bearing a long, bean-like pod, up to 10 cm. Blooms June to August; fruits July to September.Succulent, herbaceous vine with typical 'bean family' characteristics (flower, pea-pod). Underground tuber is edible.Freshwater marshes, edges of streams or ponds, bottomlands throughout NC.
VinesBerchemia scandensAlabama SupplejackFACWFACDeciduous, climbing, flexible woody vine.Alternate, ovate or elliptical, shiny entire leaves, 4-8 cm long and 3 cm wide. Leaf venation strikingly parallel with 10 or more straight veins on each half of the leaf.
Small inconspicuous flowers in panicles. Fruit an elliptical dark blue or black drupe, 5-7 mm long. Blooms April and May; fruits August to October.Smooth, reddish-brown stems, useful in basketry.Floodplain forests, moist sandy woods, stream banks, flat woods, bottomlands, rich woodlands, mainly in the Coastal Plain.
VinesBignonia capreolataCrossvineFACFACClimbing woody semi-evergreen vine, which can reach great heights, climbing by branched tendrils.Pairs of opposite leaflets, oblong or elongate-cordate up to 15 cm long and 2-7 cm wide.
Showy, yellow and orange/red tubular flowers in early spring, forming fruit which is a long flattened bean-like capsule up to 15 cm long. Blooms April/May; fruits July/August.
Distinctive paired leaves. When severed, the large vines of this species exhibit a large cross as the name implies.Swamps, moist woods, bottomlands and bay forests; chiefly Coastal Plain and Piedmont, infrequent in the mountains.Flowers similar to Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) but Bignonia capreolata flowers are more yellow on petals and bloom earlier.Synonym: Anisostichus capreolata
VinesCampsis radicansTrumpet CreeperFACFACDeciduous, climbing or sprawling trailing woody vine. Trumpet creeper climbs via aerial roots in double rows on stems and does not have tendrils.Opposite, pinnately compound leaves with 7-11 toothed leaflets, usually up to 4-8 cm long. Compound leaves up to 30 cm long.
Terminal cluster of 2-9 showy red 'trumpet' flowers with 5 lobes at the end of the tube later forming large seed pods. Blooms June/July; fruits September/October.
Vine is flaky, tan-colored, with holdfasts, becoming ridged or folded inward with age. Elongated capsule fruits with winged seeds are distinctive. Toxic if eaten.Forested wetlands, moist uplands, old fields, fence rows, waste places, throughout NC.Leaves similar to peppervine (Ampelopsis arborea), but trumpet creeper produces seed pods instead of berries. Flowers similar to Bignonia capreolata (crossvine) but are more red and bloom later.
VinesGelsemium sempervirensCarolina JessamineFACFACSlender woody evergreen vine, to 3m long, sometimes climbing to treetops.Opposite, lanceolate shiny leaves with entire margins.Clusters of showy yellow flowers, on new growth, blooming February to early May. Fruits are elongated, splitting capsules. Blooms February to early May; fruits September to November.Leaf shape varies little. Entire plant is toxic.Occurs both in moist and dry areas, in hardwood and pine forests, along fencerows, and in bottomlands.When trailing along the ground, could be confused with Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle), but G. sempervirens leaves are shiny, narrower, and more elongated.
VinesMikania scandensClimbing HempvineFACWFACWDeciduous, climbing, herbaceous vine, often blanketing nearby vegetation.Opposite, cordate or triangular leaves with long petioles. Leaves 3-13 cm long with 3 main distinctive veins.
White flowers in heads originating in axils of leaves. Flowering and fruiting July to October.
Attractive, aggressive herbaceous vine which climbs clockwise and upward. Stems 4-sided.Perimeter of lakes, swamps, wet woodlands, freshwater marshes, stream banks in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont.
VinesNekemias arboreaPeppervineFACWFACDeciduous, climbing woody vine with few or no tendrils; sometimes bush-like or low growing.Alternate, bi-pinnately divided and up to 6 inches long and wide. 1-3 pairs of leaflets ovate and coarsely toothed.Inconspicuous greenish-white flowers in flat-topped clusters. Poisonous berries mature from green to pink to blue-black. Flowers June to October, fruiting soon after.Look for twice divided compound leaves. Berries poisonous and look similar to grapes.Found predominantly in the Coastal Plain in a wide variety of moist to wet sites, wetlands and stream banks. Can be weedy, but rarely found in acidic wetlands (pocosins, bays, sandhills streams).Leaves similar to Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper), but Nekemias arborea has alternate leaves, double pinnately compound.Synonyms: Ampelopsis arborea; Ampelopsis bipinnata
VinesSmilax bona-noxSaw GreenbrierFACUFACSemi-evergreen, high climbing, thorny woody vine with paired tendrils. Stem is slightly square.Alternate, leathery cordate leaves usually with small spines around leaf edges. Mottled green leaves 10 cm long and 8 cm wide. Underside light green.
Small flowers in umbels, producing black grape-like berries. Stalks of flowering umbels longer than leaf petioles. Flowers late April to May; fruits September into November.
Attractive cordate or hastate leaves, often mottled and rimmed with bristles.Upland woods, floodplains, bay forests, pine flats and in cutover areas. Found throughout the state, but most commonly in the Coastal Plain.
VinesSmilax glaucaWhiteleaf GreenbrierFACUFACHigh climbing, thicket-forming, thorny vine.Alternate, simple, ovate to lance-shaped, not leathery. Undersides whitish.Flowers in umbels with stalks 1.5 to 3 times longer than leaf petioles. Berries shiny black at maturity, persisting through winter. Blooms late April to early June; fruits September to November.Look for leaves with whitish undersides and young stems with a glaucous coating. Spines have dark tips and lower stems often densely thorned.In both drier and mesic areas: fence rows, old fields, woodlands, floodplain forests, pocosins, swamps.
VinesSmilax laurifoliaLaurel GreenbrierOBLFACWVigorous evergreen, woody vine with thorns, forming dense thickets in wet areas.Alternate, simple, narrowly oblong, thick leathery leaves up to 10-15 cm long and 5 cm wide. Leaves usually pointing upward and may appear mottled.
Light green flowers in umbels, producing black spherical berries, about 1 cm wide. Flowers July/August; fruits mature September/October of the following year.Leathery leaves oblong and pointing upward, prominent midrib vein on leaf undersides. Older stems can be very thick.Swamps, bay forests, pine flats, pocosins in the Coastal Plain and in the southeastern Piedmont of NC, often in standing water. Found in a few mountain counties.
VinesSmilax rotundifoliaRoundleaf GreenbrierFACFACHigh climbing semi-evergreen, thorny vine with green stems and tendrils. Alternate, simple, shiny, ovate to circular and pointed at the tip, sometimes quite large, with short petioles. Underside green with a spineless midrib.Stalks of umbel with light green flowers not longer than leaf petioles, as in Smilax bona-nox. Fruits blue-black berries, persisting into winter. Flowers late April/ May; fruits September to November.Underside of leaves green with spineless midrib; wide leaves, relative to many other Smilax species.Dry-mesic to mesic forests, bottomland and riparian forests, swamps, pond margins, pine wetlands, old fields, fencerows, roadsides.
VinesToxicodendron radicansEastern Poison IvyFACFACDeciduous high climbing woody vine with distinctive hairy aerial roots. When unsupported, may take a shrubby growth form of slender unbranched stems up to 1 m tall.Alternate, shiny, thin leaves with 3 ovate (sometimes toothed) leaflets with pointed ends. Leaves variable but end leaflet is on a long stalk.
Panicles of white or light green nondescript flowers later produce light green or white berry-like drupes that often persist into winter. Blooms late April through May; fruits August to October."Leaves of three, let them be," is a good reminder with this plant, which can cause a severe rash in people allergic to poison ivy. Hairy vines and upright branch tips are helpful in identification. Seeds are poisonous.Swamps, wetlands, dry uplands, throughout NC.Acer negundo (the box elder tree) has very similar leaves to poison ivy but its growth form is more robust, with green twigs. Saplings may be difficult to distinguish from poison ivy. Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) may be mistaken for poison ivy, but it has sets of five leaves instead of sets of three.
VinesVitis cinereaGraybark GrapeFACWFACDeciduous, climbing woody vine with tendrils opposite the leaves, often climbing into the canopies of trees.Alternate, cordate or 3 to 7 lobed and toothed. Undersides cobweb hairy. Young branches angled off main stem.Small flowers in panicles; fruit an edible grape. Flowers June; fruits mature September/October.Climbing vine with cordate or lobed leaves. Older vines have shredded bark and younger twigs are smooth. Sometimes aerial roots extend downward from vines.Low woods, floodplains, stream banks, bottomlands throughout NC.In winter, vines can be difficult to tell apart. Vitis vine is woody and brown, shaggy when mature (except muscadine grapes); Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) is light tan, and Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy) has grasping hairs. Vitis vines often hang loosely, unlike Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) and T. radicans.Weakley treats V. cinerea var. baileyana (calling it V. baileyana) and V. cinerea var. cinerea (calling it V. simpsonii) as full species. Differences lie in pubescence of twigs and node pigmentation.
AquaticsAzolla carolinianaCarolina MosquitofernOBLOBLSmall free-floating red-tinged aquatic plant, with a similar habit to duckweed.Green to red, resembling branching overlapping scales.Inconspicuous.Unlike duckweed, this tiny floating aquatic plant has a reddish hue and scaled appearance.Beaver ponds, floodplain backwaters, stagnant waters of old millponds; chiefly in the Coastal Plain.
AquaticsLemna spp.DuckweedOBLOBLSmall, flattened, floating aquatic plant occurring on the water's surface.Leaves and stems reduced and referred to as 'fronds' which look like small leaves, 2-6 mm long. Fronds of Lemna light green with a middle ridge, containing one root per frond.
Inconspicuous flowers produced in a pouch or spathe, but this plant seldom flowers.
Tiny light green leaves (fronds) have 1 root per frond.Swamps, ponds, lakes and sluggish creeks in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont. Occasionally in the Mountains.The single root per frond helps to distinguish Lemna from similar types of duckweed.
AquaticsMyriophyllum spp.Water-milfoil (one species not natvive)OBLOBLFeathery aquatic plant with long trailing stems.Finely toothed, whorled in sets of 3-6; may be fully submerged or emerging from the surface.Inconspicuous flowers at bases of leaves, or not flowering at all. Flowers and fruits April to September/October.Leaves feather-like and whorled; often not flowering.Ponds, lakes, ditches, sluggish streams.Can be confused with the less common Proserpinaca sp., which has similar, but much less feathery, leaves.The most common species in North Carolina are M. aquaticum (parrot feather water-milfoil) and M. heterophyllum (twoleaf water-milfoil), both of which are obligate wetland species. M. aquaticum is a non-native with light green, feathery leaves that rise above the water surface. M. heterophyllum is mostly a Coastal Plain species, with brownish green leaves, seldom above the surface, except the thick flowering stalks which have undivided, lance shaped leaves.
AquaticsNelumbo luteaAmerican LotusOBLOBLImmersed aquatic plant with large rounded leaves which extend above water surface. Spongy rhizomes from which leaves and flowers arise.Large round, bluish-green leaves, 20-70 cm wide with concave centers. Early leaves float on surface, later becoming suspended above water as petioles continue to grow.
Attractive, pale yellow flower can be as large as the leaves. Seed pods woody and persistent; often used ornamentally. Blooms June to September; fruits late summer/early fall.
Large leaves of this plant not split as with water lilies. Distinctive seed pods persist. A milky substance is found in all parts of water lotus.Ponds, lakes, marshes and slow streams.
AquaticsNuphar luteaYellow Pond-LilyOBLOBLImmersed, floating or submersed aquatic plant growing from a spongy rhizome.Leaves ovate or cordate with split leaf bases, about 30 cm long and 25 cm wide. Veins originate from main central vein and extend to outer edge of leaf. Leaves may be elevated above water surface.

Spherical yellow flowers with 6 light green sepals and numerous petals. Flowers and fruits April to October.
Cordate leaves with prominent midvein and parallel side veins, and distinctive spherical yellow flowers. In flowing coastal waters, leaves 3 times as long as wide and margins undulate or rippled. Intermediates with varying length to width ratios also occur.Lakes, ponds, swamps and streams throughout the state, but predominantly in the southern Coastal Plain.Nuphar lutea ssp. advena is the common subspecies in North Carolina; syn Nuphar advena.
AquaticsNymphaea odorataAmerican White WaterlilyOBLOBLFloating leaved aquatic plant with long leaf stalks arising from the rhizome.Circular leaves, split with pointed lobes. Leaves green on surface and purplish on undersides. Leaves to about 25 cm wide and long. Veins branching.
White or pinkish fragrant flower with 25 or more ovate petals. Flower has 4 green sepals. Flowers and fruits June to September.
Split leaf with reddish undersides and fragrant flower when in bloom.Lakes, ponds and slow streams throughout the state.The similar Nuphar lutea has rounded or cordate leaf bases and green undersides. Nuphar leaves may become elevated above the water surface; this is not the case with Nymphaea.
AquaticsUtricularia spp.BladderwortOBLOBLRootless, herbaceous aquatic plant (though a few are terrestrial) containing floating bladders, sometimes forming mats. Stems thin and dendritically branched.Inconspicuous linear leaves, usually alternate, but may be whorled or opposite.
Long flowering stem with 1-20 yellow, white or purple flowers rising above water surface. Flower two-lipped with upper lip 2-lobed and lower lip 3-lobed. Flowers May or June to September/October; fruits soon after flowering.
Distinctive bladders and thinly dissected leaves help this plant to float upright for photosynthesis. Small bladders also trap and consume tiny aquatic invertebrates for nourishment.Aquatic plants floating in water of ponds, lakes, shallow pools. Some species found statewide but the majority are restricted to the Coastal Plain.