Wildflowers of the Blue Ridge Mountains: Miterwort

Mitella diphylla, a Saxifrage known as Miterwort

Looks like a good day to add a few spring-flowering shots to the archive, sadly lacking such shots since losing my entire photo-collection in a hard drive crash back in 2001. So I have a life-purpose for the next few weeks, and it will all happen way too fast.

What you see here is rarely seen at this level of detail. In fact, walking past Miterwort (or Bishop’s Cap) you’d likely not stop to be amazed at the beauty of its snowflake-petaled cap-like flowers. They’re perhaps a fifth of an inch in diameter.

Here’s a common case where, to get the shot, you either have to get down on your belly on the (cold wet?) ground, or, like I did here, find a specimen just over the edge of a bank where you can sit and subject is between your ankles.

For all such shots, wind is not your friend. But even on a breezy day like the one when I snapped this shot, if you are patient, there are brief lulls in the movement and time to grab a shot. Keep in mind that at this degree of closeup, your depth of field is a fraction of an inch, so chances are, only some of your subject (one flower but not all 4 or 5) will be in sharp focus.

Take lots of shots, vary camera angle, lens to subject distance, depth of field if your camera allows it and exposure–for this shot, I probably could have manually reduced exposure by 1/2 to 2/3 an f-stop to keep the whites from blowing out, since the flowers were the main point of interest.

I’m carrying the tripod up the valley today, not for the camera but as a hanger over which to drape black velvet. I want some “studio glamor shots” of at least some of the more showy things–like the trilliums, showy orchis, foam flower and such. Might do a set of spring wildflower note cards, who knows.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thanks for the miterwort photo. As you state this small, delicate flower often goes unnoticed.

    So nice to see things from ground level. Your wet belly is greatly appreciated.


  2. Suggestion–Get a cheap, lightweight pancho (outdoor section of Walmart), roll it up and tuck it into your rucksack or camera bag; I’ve found it to come in handy with needed dark backgrounds (get the dark green one), sudden rainstorms; damp to soaking conditions if you must lie in them to get the right angle. As tightly as they roll, (use a couple of rubber bands) they take up little space in your bag, eliminate moisture on your camera during a thunderstorm…and generally speaking can cover you sufficiently to avoid your getting thoroughly soaked. I also carry one ziplock bag to put around my camera body. I checked out “waterproof camera cases” and they run in the $5,000+ level. Cough!