There are many flowers that bloom in September but most just whisper of the passing of seasons. New England asters shout that September has arrived, so they get top billing here. New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) are the easiest of all the asters to identify because their flowers are larger than any of the others. You can’t identify them by color because they can be a pale, almost white purple, sometimes pink, or a deep, dark purple which is my favorite. This example was a pleasing shade of violet, which my color finding software calls thistle.
Blue stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesia) appears early on in summer but waits until September to bloom. Its stems grow vertically until the flowers begin to open and then fall over into a more horizontal position, as if to show off the yellow blooms that grow in tufts all along the stem. This plant isn’t considered rare but I know of only one or two places where it grows. It is also called wreath goldenrod.
The stems of blue stemmed goldenrod get their blue color from the same natural wax coating that is found on grapes, plums, blueberries and other plants. The coating is called a bloom and plants use it as a form of protection against moisture loss. It’s made up of tiny powdery, whitish crystals which reflect and scatter light in ways that can make the surface that they cover appear very blue. I had quite a time finding a stem that was blue this year because the wax crystals can be washed off by rain or melted by the sun, and we’ve had some very hot weather this summer. Most stems were green this time.
If you wait for the flowers of devil’s beggarticks (Bidens frondosa) to open more than what is seen in this photo you’ll be waiting a very long time, because this is about the extent of it for them. The yellow orange flowers have disc flowers but no rays like asters and daisies, so they always seem to be unopened. The name beggarticks comes from its barbed seeds that stick to fur and clothing. I find these plants growing in the wet soil at the edges of ponds and rivers. In the past I’ve mistaken them for purple stemmed beggarticks (Bidens connata.)
The foliage of devil’s beggarticks might take the beautiful people who lived through the 60s and 70s on a flashback through time. Its leaves are compound in groups of 3 or 5, unlike those of purple stemmed beggarticks, which grow singly. As far as I know they have no psychoactive properties.
Nodding bur marigold (Bidens tripartita) likes full sun and wet feet and can often be found growing right beside its cousin devil’s beggarticks that we saw in the previous photo. Its flower is much showier though. As they age the flowers nod towards the ground and that’s how the plant comes by its common name. Another common name is nodding beggarticks, because its seeds are also barbed and also stick to just about anything that happens by. In this part of New Hampshire this plant grows about knee high, sometimes in standing water.
Nodding bur marigold looks something like a miniature sunflower and is supposed to be good for honey production.
I put this photo of a sunflower in to compare the nodding bur marigold flower in the previous photo to. Now that I see them together I see there is little comparison between the two, except for color and shape.
I was surprised to see little dwarf St. John’s wort (Hypericum mutilum) plants still blooming at the edge of a pond recently but there were several and some even had buds. I never knew that they bloomed for such a long time. Its flowers lack the brown spots often found on the petals of the larger version but otherwise there is no doubt that it is in the St. John’s wort family. This has been a good summer for St. John’s wort; I’ve seen the introduced European St. John’s wort, dwarf St. John’s wort, Canada St. John’s wort, and the unusual pink flowers of marsh St. John’s wort. Native Americans used several of our native species of Hypericum medicinally.
Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum) isn’t common in this area but I recently found another pond that it grows in. The plants grow just offshore in the mud and send up a slender stalk that is topped by a quarter inch diameter flower head made up of very tiny white, cottony flowers. Eriocaulon, the first part of pipewort’s scientific name, comes from the Greek erion, meaning wool, and kaulos, meaning plant stem. The second part of the scientific name, aquaticuum, is Latin for a plant that grows in water, so what you have is a wool-topped stem growing in water, which is exactly what pipewort looks like.
Fragrant white waterlilies (Nymphaea odorata) are still blooming but not in the hundreds that I saw earlier this summer. Now I see an occasional blossom here or there. Someday I’m going to get close enough to smell one of these flowers. I’ve heard that they smell like cantaloupe. Native Americans made flour from the roots by drying and pounding them. I wonder if it tasted like cantaloupe.
Sand jointweed (Polygonum articulatum) is a curious little plant that gets its common name from the way it that grows in pure sand, and from its many jointed stems. I know of only one place where it grows and last year I was worried when I saw just a few scattered plants, but this year it has made a strong comeback and there were many new plants there. It is an annual so last year’s plants must have produced plenty of seed. They grow to about knee high and this year they were loaded with tiny white blooms, so hopefully strong seed production will continue.
The flowers of sand jointweed are among the smallest that I’ve tried to get a photo of and can be very difficult to get a decent shot of. I had to go back three times and re-shoot these before I got it right but it was worth it. You can see the tiny purple tipped anthers in one of the flowers and the unusual look of the stem, and those are what I wanted to show you. It looks like the flowers are just a bit bigger than Abe Lincoln’s ear on that penny.
White wood aster (Aster divaricatus) carpeted the shaded roadside one day. This aster is known for its drought tolerance and I’m sure that it must be putting it to good use this summer, since I can’t even remember when it rained last. The stalked, coarsely toothed, heart shaped leaves help with identifying this aster.
The small, one inch flowers of white wood asters can have red or yellow centers. I see both in this photo, but I don’t know if they’re on the same plant or different plants. This aster is very easy to grow and makes an excellent choice for a dry shaded woodland garden. It is best used in mass plantings as the natural grouping in the previous photo shows. Many nurseries sell the native plants, which reach about a foot tall here.
I remember when I made my living as a gardener digging out red clover plants whenever I saw them. The big, sprawling plants looked unsightly no matter where they grew and had to go. Then I started to look closely at the tiny orchid like flowers and I’ve never bothered one since.
Flowers have a mysterious and subtle influence upon the feelings, not unlike some strains of music. They relax the tenseness of the mind. They dissolve its vigor. ~Henry Ward Beecher.
Thanks for coming by.