Posts Tagged ‘Spotted Horsemint’

October begins bright yellow. Helianthus and Goldenrod literally glow on the roadsides and vacant lots. Goldenrod grows along my driveway and on the margins of my garden, but I had been unsuccessful in coaxing wild sunflowers to take root here. Then one gloomy day last fall, as I glanced toward a fallow area of my garden, a splash of sunshine greeted me. A Helianthus had burst into bloom when I wasn’t looking. It reseeded itself and they are back this year, shining in greater numbers.

White is also the color of October. Bidens alba grows in neglected places everywhere, especially in my yard. I keep them for the butterflies, but if I walk too close, the seeds, called Spanish needles, will spring out and cover my clothing. I appreciate these weeds because the butterflies love them. Unless we have a hard freeze, they will bloom all winter, providing nectar when all else is gone. On the roadsides, white banks of Bidens grow a foot high. The air above those little daisy-like flowers teems with butterflies. The county could not have provided a better show if they had planned it.

Every year I look for the date the Dog Fennel starts to bloom. They predict six weeks until the first frost. I have been watching this phenomenon for years and it seems to be pretty accurate. This year, they began to bloom on October 1st. Look for frost in mid November. Did you know these little white fountains have a scent? A very delicate one and you have to get close to detect it, but please, take the time to smell the Dog Fennel.

The colors of October are also purple and blue and pink and red. Earlier this month, I was cheered by the tiny, purple blossoms of Elephant’s Foot winking up at me against their intense green foliage. By now they have gone to seed but the purple spikes of Blazing Star have replaced them in the landscape. In wet areas, alongside ditches, in both sun and shade, Blue Mistflower blooms in dense clouds. Asters and other wildflowers too numerous to list brighten my daily walks along the dirt road. Spotted Horsemint is abundant. This is a wildflower you may overlook as they are not ostentatious, but familiarity breeds appreciation. Most are white, but last year I found purple Horsemint, and they are more numerous this season. I have collected seeds to plant along my driveway. Various colors of Morning Glory climb atop brush or twine across mowed spaces, mostly pink or blue or white. In similar areas, the Scarlet Creeper’s diminutive red blossoms are a pleasant surprise.

Besides collecting seeds, in coming seasons I will happily move some of the volunteers to areas where I want wildflowers to grow. But I must expect an argument out of them. They do not take kindly to domestication.

You cannot ignore the flying flowers. The butterflies are busy drinking their fill against encroaching winter. Yellow sulfurs everywhere dance in pairs high above the ground. Swallowtails of various colors, brown Hairstreaks, skippers, and the orange Gulf Fritillaries and Little Metalmarks delight in the sunshine while the Zebra Longwing enjoys the shade of my woods.

The butterflies are wise to seize the day because the season is fading. November approaches. Many wildflowers have lost their maiden glory and are gone to seed. Here in North Florida, we do not get the flashy fall foliage of the northern states. Some of our trees will turn yellow or red, but not in the profusion seen there. When northern trees have lost their autumn show and become bare and brown, my oak trees will still be green. They will clutch their frostbitten leaves all winter, then discard them in time for new growth and pollen-laden blossoms. I rake my yard more in spring than in fall. But while northern trees still sleep, our maples will announce Spring with their beautiful red florescence.

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Bonnie T. Ogle

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