The wildflowers of downtown Providence, Rhode Island

wildflowers of downtown providence jpg

A local photographer has taken some lovely photos of plants and flowers that occupy the property formerly occupied by I-195 in Providence (which, for the past two years or so, has been a vast green space in the very middle of the city).

I walk through that green space every day. I rejoice in it. I love my friend Oma’s comment recently: “Here in England it’s not so important to drive as over there [in the USA]. In your neighbourhood it looks similar. As long as you can get to the shops, you can walk along the sidewalks and look at the flowers or the weeds.”

Notice what she said: “the flowers or the weeds.”

She and I feel the same way: weeds are lovely too. She sent me a lovely book about weeds a while back, and it was after my own heart.

Here are some of my own photos of weeds / wildflowers in the neighborhood. They’re not as good as they might be, but oh well, I’m a terrible photographer, who cares?:


CHICORY (Cichorium intybus). Beautiful blue/purple flowers. This is a picture of a lovely stand of them very near the Point Street Bridge. The roots are roasted and ground and mixed with coffee; I’ve had coffee with chicory, and it’s delicious.

butter and eggs

BUTTER AND EGGS (Linaria vulgaris). A beautiful roadside wildflower. Not useful for anything else that I know of. Also called “toadflax.” I like the name “butter and eggs” better.


MILKWEED (Asclepias sp.). I mistakenly told a coworker recently that this was “Joe Pye Weed,” which is horribly wrong. The flowers are very fragrant, and the plants are attractive, and the seeds are big cloudy masses of fluff.

rabbits foot clover

RABBIT’S FOOT CLOVER (Trifolium arvense). I only identified this one a few weeks ago. It’s obviously a clover, but fuzzier, and very cute. This one was huge until it was cut down by the city, but it began to come back within days. You can’t kill clover.

birdsfoot trefoil

BIRDSFOOT TREFOIL (Lotus corniculatus). Obviously a legume, with beautiful yellow pea-like blossoms. The whole field was golden with these, until they were cut down. They too came back within days.

japanese knotweed

JAPANESE KNOTWEED (Fallopia japonica). A terrible invasive species from Asia. But it has lovely foliage and nice flowers.

nightshadenightshade berries

DEADLY NIGHTSHADE (Atropa belladonna). A relative of the tomato. Look at this pretty little lady, with pretty purple blossoms! But she’s terribly poisonous. Notice the cute little green mini-tomato berries; they’ll be a delicious-looking red later in the season. Just don’t eat them, okay?

queen annes lace

QUEEN ANNE’S LACE (Daucus carota). The wild carrot. This is a sweet little flower that also grew very healthily where I was born, back in southwest Washington. This is a very small specimen, but nice; I’m always glad to see it.

These are all just as beautiful as any garden flowers. More so, really, because they don’t rely on gardeners to take care of them.

They take care of themselves.

About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

8 Responses to The wildflowers of downtown Providence, Rhode Island

  1. I read that birds foot trefoil is a desirable ornamental in the UK. I remember when I first moved here and saw it in the Seaview dunes, I was so smitten I transplanted it into my then-garden. I bet it still grows there.

  2. starproms says:

    No you’re not a terrible photographer! The pictures are lovely and the flowers are clear to see. I haven’t seen Japanese Knotweed over here yet (in my neck of the woods), but I know we have it and I’ve heard it’s very difficult to get rid of. Now you have shown me a picture, I’ll check on it here in my cottage garden (just in case). A while back I wrote about ‘a field near me’ and this morning I went and checked on it to see what’s growing. I was surprised to see that all 8 plots under trial are full of our favourite flowers (i.e.wild or weeds). Now I’m going to have to go back with my camera and take some pics to update my blog.
    I wonder why milkweed has that name. I’m now going to click on your link and read more about it. Over here there is something called milk-thistle, which is supposed to be good for lactating mothers or to bring on the milk. Maybe milkweed is something similar.
    Very interesting post Loren. I enjoyed it.

    • The milkweeds here are starting to go to seed: they put out huge outer-space-looking pods, and the seeds are very light and fluffy. I’ll bet that’s the kapok substitute. I had a notion that they were poisonous – the pods certainly don’t look wholesome. But there’s a kind of butterfly that feeds on them, so they’re very necessary for the ecosystem.

  3. starproms says:

    Must add here that, having read up on the milkweed, it is poisonous! Beneficial as a nectar source for insects, it has other interesting uses, e.g. a substitute for kapok would you believe? Amazing! So, definitely not for our culinary use.

  4. Jim Strong says:

    Are you Lauren J. Williams? We may have a mid addressed Christmas card for you

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