There should be plenty of purple wildflowers that you can spot on your next trip to a woodland in New York.
The color should be prominent amongst the green leaves and various other colored wildflowers that will be in bloom. From Fringed Polygala to Purple Cranbills, Late Purple Aster’s, and Ragged Robin’s.
Consider making a checklist of purple wildflowers and tick them off as you see them, maybe even note down where and when you saw them too.
In this guide, we will detail twelve of the best purple wildflowers in New York to spot on your next adventure.
1. Fringed Polygala
Also known as: Polygala pauciflora
Fringed Polygala can go by the name of Gaywings or Flowering Wintergreen and can be found across the Eastern coastal states of America.
The wildflower can be mistaken for an orchid due to the fringed petals and pretty flowers. It can be more than decorative as it was once thought that cattle produced more milk due to the fact that they used to eat the wildflower.
Indeed, ‘polys’ means ‘much’ while ‘gala’ is a Greek term for ‘milk’, though the leaves were also used as a poultice or wash by the Iroquois to treat boils, sores, and abscesses.
2. Ragged Robin
Also known as: Lychnis flos-cucul
When you do find Ragged Robin, you should marvel at the slightly unusual purple-colored flowers.
These wildflowers typically appear in some overly moist soil during spring and summer when its slender stems produce blooms in purple but also pink, rose, and white hues.
There is also a deep-green foliage to enjoy too that has a green-blue tint. You may even find it due to the hummingbird and butterflies that are naturally attracted to the plant.
3. Purple Cranesbill
Also known as: Geranium sanguineum
This low mounded wildflower will have small leaves that will turn into a crimson red color during fall. The blooms are well worth looking out for as they should be bold and saucer shaped with a consistent purple color during summer.
If you are considering planting some in your yard, note that it can be planted in containers, rock or alpine gardens, as well as used for ground cover.
Once germinated and in bloom, the wildflowers should have a spread of three feet and the stems will grow to a height of approximately 18 inches.
4. Spotted Knapweed
Also known as: Centauria maculosa
With purple and light-pinkish flowers, Spotted Knapweed should be relatively easy to find. However, despite it being an invasive species, it is a short-lived perennial plant.
When it is in bloom, you could see around 20 stems or just a single one during June and July. You can expect a compact basal rosette as it reaches the end of its first year though by the second you should see branched stems as it bolts up.
5. Late Purple Aster
Also known as: Symphyotrich patens
Late Purple Aster also goes by the names of Clasping Aster and Spreading Aster.
As well as in woodlands, you should find it in thickets and even rocky open woods proving how hardy a perennial it is. The arching stems should reach between two and three feet while being a couple of feet wide.
If you mark this wildflower on your checklist, aim to look for its fragrant and showy blue/purple blossoms from August into October.
6. Wild Bergamot
Also known as: Monarda fistulosa
While not strictly wholly purple, Wild Bergamot is still a wildflower that is well worth finding in a New York woodland.
In fact, its colors can range from red tints, to a light green, and onto purple. Its leaves should lie directly opposite each other along the plant’s stem and each one will be either ovate or lanceolate.
Take a closer look at the leaves and you should see their serrated edges. This is a particularly hardy wildflower that should compete with several invasives while withstanding drought and yet still thriving as it is naturally resistant to herbivores.
Also known as: Chamerion angustifolium
The Fireweed wildflower is arguably similar to that of Purple Loosestrife down to its purple and pink flowers.
These will grow in a spiked form and each flower should have four petals. You may even see entire meadows completely covered with Fireweed though it can also be found along the edges of forests, along roadsides, and streams.
Its name is derived from the wildflower’s ability to pretty much colonize any area that has been burned by fire, and do so quickly too.
8. Greater Purple Fringed Orchid
Also known as: Platanthera grandiflora
The name of this wildflower can make mention of a bog which is a reference to how it is mainly a wetland species of wildflower.
However, the Greater Purple Fringed Bog Orchid can also be located in particularly moist fields and woodland, as well as swamps and marshes.
As well as New York State, the wildflower can be found dotted across the Eastern Coast of America but also further north into Canada.
Its width should measure two to six inches while it has a showy flowering that can include colors like bright purple but also pink, and rarely white.
9. American Willow Herb
Also known as: Epilobium ciliatum
The petals of American Willow Herb should be tinted purple or colored pink. Its height can range from a lowly two inches to an awesome 48 inches that rises on typically just the one stem that originates from a tight and persistent rosette formed from basal leaves.
All that height is exhibited outwards as the wildflower fails to produce any notably horizontal or long stems underground. As the stem remains erect, there should be several branches close to the base and further up to the top that can be tinged red.
10. Musk Mallow
Also known as: Malva moschata
The origin of Musk Mallow is from Europe yet the Iroquois used the plant to create tea which was then used to treat lassitude and fevers.
Its natural habitat is in woodland as well as meadows and fields while its flowers can vary from blue to purple, white, and pink to red colors.
The leaves themselves are relatively simple, either lobed or unlobed yet not separated to create leaflets. In each subtly colored flower, you should be able to find five sepals, petals, or tepals.
11. Purple False Foxglove
Also known as: Agalinis purpurea
As a member of the Gerardias family, the Purple False Foxglove should have narrow leaves with wiry and slender branched plants.
Most of the Gerardias family come with pink to purple colored flowers, though they can be white too. For the Purple False Foxglove specifically, look out for its bell-shaped flowers that bloom on relatively short stalks.
The wildflower should also have a purple-rose corolla with a smooth stem featuring dark spots on the interior of its throat.
12. Purple Toadflax
Also known as: Linaria purpurea
If you are looking for a somewhat exotic wildflower, look out for Purple Toadflax. This will be purple but is actually native to Italy, belonging to the Plantaginaceae family though it has been found in New York woodlands as well as further parts of Europe.
The flower should measure between half and a full inch in length with five lobes that are arranged to create two lips featuring a spur at the very end. Expect the flower itself to be purple though this can range from a light to medium tint.
There are many purple wildflowers to seek out in New York State though do be wary of the different available shades.
Even the shades can differ, such as the Purple Toadflax, which can have flowers of a medium purple color but also a light purple tint.
Then there is the Purple False Foxglove which can have bell-shaped flowers that range from the color purple to pink. Perhaps make a checklist of various purple wildflowers and include photos so you know which colors to expect.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you do see a wildflower that resembles the appearance of thistle, it likely is not.
Though showy in its own right, False Purple Thistle (Eryngium leavenworthii) is a prickly annual that has a broad and branching stem covered in deep lobed leaves that are tipped with rigid spines.
This is still a wildflower that is worth seeking out for its gray-green emerging colors that then turn purple when the wildflower matures.
A cultivated or wild rose was made New York’s state flower back in 1955. This can be a range of varieties and colors though. Of course, the rose is a perennial flower that will grow on a shrub or vine so you can try growing them yourself.