ENJOYING FALL WILDFLOWERS
Author Dr. Rebecca E. Ross, active Master Gardener
It is time to get out and enjoy the wildflowers that bloom in September and October. Take a drive out in the countryside, or just a walk-a-bout and take along a field guide, and see if you can spot some of these blooming in our area!
We have New York Ironweed and Tall Ironweed and both of them have beautiful violet to purple blooms beginning in August and lasting through fall. Look for them in fields and along roadways. The name “Ironweed” refers to its stem which is tough enough to last through the winter. In addition, Ironweed is a very versatile medicinal plant.
You will have to look in moist sunny places, usually near woodlands, for Common Wingstem. It gets its name from the vertical ridged stems which resemble wings. It does not have branches and the beautiful yellow flowers bunch at the top with 1-5 rays. Common Wingstem can eventually grow to eight or ten feet! It draws a plethora of pollinators and the deer do not like it!
Don’t confuse Common Wingstem with Yellow Crownbeard. They do grow in the same areas and sometimes even together. Wingstem has long and narrow alternate leaves, whereas Crownbeard has a broad ovate leaf that is serrated and alternate. Bloom time for this plant is August and September. Another name for Crownbeard is Stickweed.
Yarrow is cultivated in many of our household gardens but you can find it growing wild in fields and along roadsides. Flower heads are clusters of little white or sometimes pink flowers and the stem, which can grow from 12-36 inches tall, has lacy leaves. This ubiquitous plant is the absolute tops in the field of herbal medicine.
Butterfly Weed is a favorite of many native plant lovers because the butterflies love it. The beautiful orange flowers of this milkweed plant also attract many other pollinators and hummingbirds with its abundance of nectar and pollen. Find them in warm sunny dry places. Other names for this plant include Butterfly Love and Orange Milkweed. The root is slightly orange colored and is known as Pleurisy Root.
Another favorite native plant is Sweet Joe Pye Weed. This native can grow up to 7 feet tall with masses of rose-pink nectar laden flowers. This Weed likes its feet wet and it can be found alongside ponds, marshy roadsides, or seeps. Joe Pye was the man who used this plant for medicinal tea, hence the name. Another common name for this plant is Gravel Root.
Pick up one of the many wildflower books to help you identify others like Boneset, Orange Touch-Me-Not (Inpatients), Garden Phlox, Chicory, Yellow Goldenrods (62 species just in our area), and Common Evening Primrose.
There is so much beauty in our local flora all around us in Southwest Virginia.
Recommended books: A Field Guide to Wildflowers by Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny, Houghton Mifflin, Co, Boston, c. 1996; or any other Peterson Field Guide