Fall Native Wildflowers
The light is beginning to shift, the temps are dropping (OK, maybe just a little), and already in mid-August I am seeing signs of my favorite fall wildflowers beginning to put on their fall show.
First up is the hard to miss Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum, a dusty pink bloom atop a 6-10-foot stem. A long bloomer from July to October, this native wildflower is named after a medicine man (Native American or Caucasian) who used the root to bring about sweating to treat the fever of typhoid. Also, the Indian word for typhoid, jopi, phonetically sounds like the name Joe Pye.
Second is Sweet Goldenrod, Solidago odora, its yellow blooms light up the landscape and the dry, open woods as summer blooms begin to fade. Also used by Native Americans, the Cherokee in particular, drank the tea to treat fever, colds, coughs, nerves and measles. The terminal inflorescence is a panicle of small flower heads aligned on 1 side of the flowery branch. There are multiple species of Solidago, all with yellow flowers on one side, some have smooth leaves, and some have hairy stems. Goldenrod does not cause seasonal allergies as many tend to believe. That is the Ragweed, Ambrosia artesmisifolia.
Finally, there is the standout, Tall Ironweed, Veronia gigantea, rivaling the goldenrods for attention in the fall with its 5-10-foot height. Its striking magenta-purple bloom is almost purple-black when seen in the pasturelands and moist to wet woods where it is found. As many as 30 individual blooms can be found in single flowerhead. The common name refers to the toughness of the stem. The genus name, Veronia, honors William Vernon, an English botanist who collected the plant seeds in Maryland.
When most mention “wildflowers” most of us think of those diminutive pale-colored buds of spring. These three tall natives rise above the fading blooms of summer and are easy to spot in the landscape. Many landscape designers are beginning to use these attractive bloomers in their garden plans. A real bonus - all three of these natives attract pollinators, something we all need. For more info on how to propagate these plants locate a copy of Jan W. Midgley’s book Southeastern Wildflowers or visit google.com for more information.
Lavon Callahan, Headwaters Master Gardener, August 2019