A Rare Sighting at Midwest

The grounds around the Historic B&O Roundhouse are home to many weeds and wildfowers during the temperate months of the year. Some are pleasant looking and add color to the yard. Others are downright nasty and leave burrs on your clothing if you get too close.

An unusual wildflower made an appearance recently and as it turns out, is also somewhat rare. The wildflower is called Vipers Bugloss and it grows in rocky soil and areas that have limestone or high lime content. The flowers were found to be growing along side the driveway on the west side of the building at the end of the storage track. The ground there is a bed of limestone gravel covered with crushed asphalt. Since the first sightings, these plants have also sprouted up alongside of the GTW wooden caboose, on the loading dock behind the main parking area and all around the roadway areas near the turntable.

The plant is an annual and only reproduces from seeds that are triangular shaped and look like snake heads, hence, vipers, and bugloss, derived from a Greek word meaning ox tongue. Historically the plants were believed to have medicinal properties, but the leaves may contain a toxin which can cause skin irritation. Bees like the flowers and the honey they produce from them is very desirable.

The plants are being marked to hopefully prevent accidentally cutting them down while weeding with the hope that they will spread and maybe one day crowd out the sand burrs that are a scourge to our volunteers.