This heat wave has us thinking about flowers (every season does, really), both wild and cultivated, that you may see in your day to day life right now. Plants, and flowers especially, lead us through the seasons and give us paths to memories from a former time. An azalea may remind you of finding Easter eggs in a church yard in your Sunday best as a child. Daylilies, bright orange and spreading through the roadsides of Virginia may send you on a reverie of driving to a vacation after school lets out for the summer. Whether we know their names or not, flowers are there all around us, growing, being pollinated by busy insects and birds and nurturing seeds that will be the next years intoxicating sweet pea or lush jewelweed. So here at Country Garden we wanted to put some names to faces of what you may be seeing right now on the roadsides and in gardens, and give a deeper understanding to summer flowers.
An important pollinator species, these dusty pink clusters of blossoms can be seen on the edge of roadsides and in open fields across Virginia. The leaves harbor the caterpillars of the monarch butterfly. You’ll find it blooming in Virginia from June to August.
Bright orange flowers grace a similar ecosystem as the common milkweed, with a flat top of flowers sitting atop stems holding milky sap. Also an important species for the migrating monarch butterfly.
A tall spiked flower growing out of a basal rosette of soft, lamb's ear like flowers, Mullein is a common roadside wildflower. It enjoys the disturbed and poor soil of roadsides and abandoned areas and is an important first succession species. It is a nativized Eurasian species that was brought over with the first settlers for its medicinal uses. Many roadside species fall into the nativized characterization- a plant that was introduced into an area but is generally not invasive and does not take over habitat that would be used by native species.
These daylilies bloom mid to late June throughout Virginia along roadsides and around old home sites. While the National park Service lists them as an invasive species, they lack the pervasiveness in VA to accumulate in areas where they would be pushing native species out. However, since they are a non-native and somewhat invasive species I've always done my duty of cutting some when they're in bloom! They bloom for a day (hence the name) and after that bloom fades and new bloom opens on the same stalk.
A ubiquitous roadside plant, Spotted Knapweed is the epitome of a noxious weed. Thriving in disturbed areas or fields, this plant was introduced to the the US because of its small purple flowers and silvery foliage. However, it's taken over in many states and can't be curtailed. I never pick this plant unless i'm pulling it up for fear of accidentally spreading its seeds, even though the wind does most of that work for me. En mass it can look beautiful but really it's emitting a chemical through its roots that deters the growth of other plants!