Late Blooming Native Wildflowers

“Some grow inside my garden gate, some beyond it wild and free. Some are small and some are early, while some come later growing taller. Blooming flowers great and small, all Nature's Glory Manifest. “  from “Wildflowers” by Barbara Heart

Photo courtesy of David Beaulieu

By now you likely have seen the beautiful golden flowers of Golden Rods along highways and back roads and any other place they managed to escape the summer mowings. This is the beginning of the final amazing showing of wild flower blooms before cold weather comes in October.  Presently the yellow flowers of the wild Evening Prime rose are blooming and have been since July, serving pollinators very well. One place they are growing profusely are on both sides of the RR tracks through Thurmont, but especially on the Boundary Ave side. The beauty of this is that no one planted them there. They are happy volunteers!

All wild native plants are in a real sense volunteers. As humans we often volunteer our time and talents for good causes, but so do wild plants and flowers. Spreading as they do by both seed and root, they feed precious pollinators their essential nectar and pollen. Therefore, I allow them to grow profusely on my 11+ acres and encourage others to do the same. In my gardens and fields I have 4 species of Goldenrods, ample Evening Primrose, lovely purple flowering teasel (which has bloomed out by now), 4 varieties of wild aster yet to bloom, and many others. All of these can be very tall, especially this year with all the rain.

These essential late blooming, tall, sometimes gangly plants, are by far the most misunderstood wild natives, and yet, critically important elements in a healthy eco-system. Without their late season nectar and pollen bees would perish during the winter, and what a sad world it would be without the wondrous buzzing of busy bees and the variety of colorful butterflies, and yes, hummingbirds and moths as well.

You may have seen the pinkish purple flower clusters of Joe-Pye Weed, which grows best in wet areas, even marshlands; however, many plants I've seen in the past have been mowed down along the sides of roads up here where I live. Folklore tells us that an Indian, Joe Pye, used this plant to cure fevers and aided early American colonists when treating an outbreak of Typhus. Many wild plants have such herbal remedy qualities if used properly, such as Boneset which happens to be blooming now as well. Early herbal doctors used it to help set bones and it can be made in to a tea to treat colds, coughs, and constipation.  Personally, I mostly admire these plants for their beauty and usefulness as food for our pollinators, though I have not yet tried them to cure fevers or set bones!

Soon to bloom on my property are the amazingly tall and graceful woodland sunflowers, though I have seen a smaller variety blooming already behind the guardrail off Rt. 550. Unlike the common striped sunflowers which can win prizes for their size at county fairs (or our Community Show) , these plants have multiple 1”-2” flowers up and down the stems which my bees ravenously feed upon. Then, after tiny seeds develop on each flower stem, small birds such as Gold Finch, peck away at them, loading up on nutritious food for the winter.

There are many plants I would like to write about here, but I have limited space. At least let me invite you to travel down the length of Woodside drive in Thurmont and marvel at all the wild aster beginning to bloom. They will be flowering all through September into October, and the bees will be busily buzzing with joy!

One of the highest callings we have as humans is to protect the earth's biological and botanical diversity .To have dominion over creation does not mean to usurp and pollute and mow it until earth is uninhabitable. It means to take responsibility for it. Many people are heeding this high calling, which gives me hope. Won't you volunteer some of your property for the botanical volunteers just waiting to serve our important pollinators? As we become servants of all by preserving and creating precious eco-systems we will be preserving our own health and future. Have we any choice?

Article by Christine Maccabee, Master Naturalist

Nature Note for 9/9/2018