September 15, 2012

Where the Wildflowers Grow

The north end of our place is where the wild things grow. There is a patch of woods across the highway from the house but I rarely go near or into those woods. It is along the fence there that I first saw the yellow blossoms of Corydalis and nearby is where wild Asclepias grew even after the firebreak blow cut them off. One year wild Monarda grew along the edge of the patch where butterbeans were planted in the old days where now a pine thicket grows. My favorite wildflower place is farther away.

The north pasture has two patches of woods. One is about an acre and the other is larger. Ancient oaks grow in between, both on the top of the hill and in the pond site in the flat.

I go in through a gate in the fence along the dirt road. The first wildflowers that I see are beginning blooms of Agalinis purpurea. I can see that winter wind must have blown seeds from west to east as there is a long swath of plants where last year there was only a tiny patch in the fence corner.

Agalinis is one host for the larvae of Common Buckeye butterflies. Buckeye caterpillars feast on a variety of common wildflowers, unlike the many who choose a single host.

Nearby are scattered plants of Pityopsis, sometimes listed as a Golden Aster. We call it Silk Grass.  Silk Grass is more plentiful beyond the first patch of woods. There is a Golden Aster in bloom that I have not identified: tiny yellow blooms, slender leaves, about 3 feet tall.

Silk Grass

Along the south side of the one-acre wood are great mounds of wild Lantana, its pale yellow and bright fuchsia blooms complementary to the Beautyberries growing with it. Pokeweed looks dry in comparison to Beautyberries.

The summer drought left several wildflowers looking less than their usual best. Blue Vervain is short and scant. New York Ironweed also did not reach its usual height.

Little bluestem and big bluestem are scattered in the Bahai meadows along with their cousin, the grass we call Broom sedge. Some years broom sedge is tall and golden. This year it is short and hardly waves in the breeze. I saw only one good-sized swath of it.

Skeletons of Erigeron blanket some areas, dead from earlier drought. New Erigeron has bravely populated the meadows, albeit thinly.

Eupatorium dots the fields, not a thick patch of it noticed anywhere. I saw no Rabbit Tobacco, a real oddity not to see any.

More plentiful than I’ve ever seen are tiny Sumac plants. A few along the fence have leaves turning red, but those in low-lying areas are still dark green.

Another plant that has multiplied is Elephantapus. The large leaves lie flat to the ground. Stems grow about 2 feet tall with bracts resembling tricorn hats that hold tiny pinkish flowers.

Elephantapus

Plentiful to the south of the bigger woods is Partridge Pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata, formerly called Cassia. These legumes are the host to various Sulphur butterflies: Sleepy Orange, Cloudless Sulphur and the tiny orange Sulphurs sometimes seen around a damp spot where a puddle was.

I carried a bucket that held seeds deadheaded a while back from Echinacea plants, sprinkling them in what looked to me like likely spots for growth. Next trip, I’ll take seeds of Baptisia alba. I planted out six plants this summer near the original plant in the Upper Garden. They grew easily from seed.

Last fall I threw Dogwood seeds from my garden along the south edge of the larger woods. I haven’t noticed a single plant. Small animals may have feasted on them, or they may take the second year to finally grow. I may gather more this year and make sure they’re firmly into the ground about an inch this time. That’s the method I usually use; no preparation, just stick Dogwood seeds in the ground and wait.

Solidago is beginning to bloom. They get blamed for hay fever because Goldenrod is showy in bloom as Ambrosia species bloom at the same time. I saw plenty of ragweed.

Did I mention Purple Love Grass Eragrostis ? It dots the meadow and I saw one patch of it on an east-facing slope. It resembles Gulf Muhly with its panicles of bloom, somewhat smaller and purple rather than pink.

Today was the first time I’d seen Blue Curls, Trichostema dichotomum  in the far meadows. Only one plant, but much bigger than the ones I usually see in a flower bed. I leave any weed with a blue blossom in my flower beds, often they are a host. For example, Toadflax is another host to Buckeye butterflies.

This is a wordy post, full of things I wanted to remember

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