The wildflowers have been absolutely incredible this Spring and Summer. We’ve had regular rainfall and plants are just bursting from the ground. Once a week, I walk the entire property and photograph everything new. It sometimes takes me a few days, or a couple of weeks, to identify the flowers, using a plant key, the USDA plant database and four field guides that cover this area. If all else fails I call on Pat Folley.
This first flower is the only one of this group that I couldn’t identify. I was relieved to find that it had confounded Pat as well when she first encountered it. It’s an odd little plant that doesn’t look like it has any leaves except a few leaflets on the single flower stalk. It’s tiny, no bigger than the end of my little finger, but about 18 inches tall. The flowers bloom from the bottom to the top, and continue to produce the tiny flowers as the stalk grows. It’s called Procession plant.
I found the next specimen along our forest path. This is Whorled Milkweed (left), the fifth Milkweed species I’ve found this year (there are many more in Oklahoma). The wiry plant in front and to the left of the milkweed is called Threadleaf. I hadn’t managed to get an in focus photograph of that plant while it was blooming (single tiny white flowers at the tips of the branching; the little balls are the seedpods). It’s not really in focus this time either, but I thought you might like to know what was getting in the way.
Wild Petunia: Big flower, small plant (right). I found a few of these in gaps between the taller surrounding plants.
Their name is derived from their similarity to Petunias, not their relationship to cultivated Petunias. It’s too bad the flowers don’t last very long; they’d make a stunning garden display if they did.
Pokeweed (left) is a common perennial. It can grow as tall as 20 feet, but it’s not a shrub. It has a huge taproot, making it hard to get rid of if it’s growing in the wrong place. Most of it’s parts are toxic to humans, however, the young shoots are considered a delicacy in the Southern states if cooked correctly. I don’t plan on chancing it.
Wildlife love pokeweed. Deer will browse on it, and the birds love the purple berries that are produced in the fall.
I’ve included this next flower, Common Sowthistle (below), because not everything flowering at Windhaven is a native wildflower. Sowthistle is probably found just about everywhere on disturbed land in North America. As most of our “weeds” are, this one is native to Eurasia and North Africa where it was eaten by livestock (especially rabbits), and the young leaves can be eaten by humans (tastes like lettuce). Many Eurasian species can be invasive, crowding out the native species, but Sowthistles are not very aggressive, and if they do get out of control, then I’ll make a salad.
This is one of several native true thistles, the Wavy-leaved Thistle (left). It’s hard to get a picture of one of these beauties without some kind of insect snuggled into the fluffy top. I’ve seen wasps, beetles and butterflies going after the pollen and nectar, and crab spiders and assassin bugs hiding in the flower tops going after the wasps, beetles and butterflies. A whole ecosystem in one flower. I don’t have a lot of these thistles but the birds will appreciate the seeds later this year, and the down is quite popular for lining the nests of late season breeders.
Yellow seems to be a popular color in the aster family, this one is the Bitter Sneezeweed. Contrary to the implication of the name it does not cause hayfever. The name is derived from the practice, by Native Americans and early settlers, of sniffing the crushed leaves to clear nasal passages.
The flower at left is American Germander, a member of the mint family. It doesn’t have any uses that I know of, but they form lovely clusters of tall pink spikes along roadsides and fence lines. I found these along our west fence line and on the pond embankment.
This plant was a lovely surprise. I was on my way down the driveway to get the mail when I caught a flash of lilac out of the corner of my eye. I only have one specimen growing of the northward embankment above our driveway. A member of the pea family, it’s called Pigeonwings. The flower is quite big, about two inches. Apparently deer like to eat these, but I think it was spared because it was on the hillside. It’s only a guess based on anecdotal evidence, but I believe the deer prefer to graze from a flat surface. They’ll reach up from the bottom of a hill, but don’t tend to reach down from the top. Whatever the reason, this Pigeonwings plant has been spared. The other fact about this plant bears further investigation, as it apparently likes loamy acidic soil. That’s not how I would describe most of the soil at Windhaven, so I may do some soil testing near the Pigeonwings to assess the soil microhabitat.
The next two flowers I found right next to our mailbox by the street. They’ve since been eaten by deer. The flower to the left is the Four-pointed Evening Primrose. As the name implies, the flowers don’t open until late afternoon, so I kept taking my camera with me to get the mail in the hopes of a good photo.
The flower to the right is the Sessile-leaved Tick-clover, yet another member of the pea family. The big showy pink flowers quickly fade to a green and teal color. The seed pods are flat with tiny hooked barbs that stick tightly to animal hair and clothing. Similar to tick, they’re hard to get off. But they’re nutritious wildlife food which is probably why the deer ate it.
The last flower, that I found along our road, is the Partridge Pea. It is not in the pea family but does produce pea pods. Bobwhite Quail and other seed eating birds and mammals like to eat the seeds. It’s also a good indicator plant of sandy soils.
I can’t wait to see what botanical surprises July will bring.