A Native Sunflower That Likes A Little Shade

How To Know Native Wingstem

Sunflowers love sun. Their happy faces point toward the rising sun in unison. If you’ve ever been in the center of a field of sunflowers, you know it’s a simple thing to make you smile.

Late Summer Blooming of Wingstem (26 July 2015)
Late Summer Blooming of Wingstem (26 July 2015)

(Click on any image to see a larger view.)

Surprisingly, some sunflowers exist that prefer it a little shady. A sunflower that has the odd name of Wingstem is one that needs partial shade instead of full sun.

As a member of the Aster family, Asteraceae, it’s a composite flower, like any other sunflower. The rays and disk being bright yellow.

The perennial Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia, can be found in thickets, woodlands where some light filters through the tree tops, at the edges of fields and forests, and in pastures.

OK. Wingstem isn’t a true sunflower, but it sort of looks like one. I know I called it a sunflower before knowing it’s true heritage.

Not a humongous plant with giant flower seed heads like the sunflowers raised commercially, Wingstem may bloom at a height of 2 to 10 feet with flowers that are 2-3 inches in diameter.

A defining characteristic is easy to spot once you know what to look for when identifying Wingstem.

Check out the main stem and feel the leafy wings that run the length of it. The wings appear to be very thin vertically-oriented leaves that can be moved to the side with a finger or thumb.

Leafy Wings Run the Length of this Wingstem Plant
Several leafy wings run the length of this Wingstem plant.

Wingstem is native to eastern North America and can be found blooming from late summer through the middle of fall, say August to October.

Populations of Wingstem seem to managing well in our changing climate, all except for the New York wingstems that are classified as Threatened.

Flower Poetry Fridays: Alpine Flowers

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

ALPINE FLOWERS.

Alpine Flowers with Icy Glaciers
Alpine Flowers with Icy Glaciers

MEEK dwellers ‘mid yon terror-stricken cliffs,
With brows so pure, and incense-breathing
                  lips,
Whence are ye ?
                  Did some white-wing’d messenger,
On Mercy’s errands, trust your timid germ
To the cold cradle of eternal snows ?
Or, breathing on the callous icicles,
Bid them, with tear-drops, nurse ye ?
                                       Tree, nor shrub
Dare yon drear atmosphere. No polar pine
Uprears a veteran front. Yet there ye stand,
Leaning your cheeks against the thick-ribb’d
                  ice,
And looking up, with trustful eyes, to Him
Who bids you bloom, unblanch’d, amid the
                  waste
Of desolation.

                                       Man, who panting toils
O’er slippery steeps ; or, trembling, treads the
                  verge
Of yawning gulfs, from which the headlong
                  plunge
Is to eternity, looks shuddering up,
And marks ye in your placid loveliness,
Fearless, yet frail ; and, clasping his chill
                  hands,
Blesses your pencil’d beauty. Mid the pomp
Of mountain-summits, towering to the skies,
And chaining the rapt soul in breathless awe,
He bows to bind you drooping to his breast,
Inhales your fragrance on the frost-wing’d
                  gale,
And freer dreams of Heaven.

It certainly is a curiosity how any green plant can handle the Arctic tundra.

Who will be there to pollinate them. Or appreciate them and smile?

The ones we have in the lower 48 all shrivel at the thought of blooming among the icicles and snow.

Perhaps a few rugged souls who can brave the frigid weather will have the joy of seeing a few blooming alpine flowers in the snow.

Whoever does discover an alpine flower can revel in the fact that they’re one of the very few who has ever had the pleasure. If you’re one of the courageous lucky ones, take a photo and post one here for the rest of us!

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “The Rose-Geranium, Companion of a Voyage”.

Green-headed Coneflower at the River

How To Know Green-headed Coneflower

Along rivers and streams in our locale of Central Pennsylvania we see lots of sunflowers in the heat of Summer. Some of these sunflowers aren’t technically sunflowers, but their yellow-rayed, composite flowers are similar.

Green-headed Coneflowers at the Juniata River
Green-headed Coneflowers at the Juniata River

One sunflower look-a-like is the Green-headed Coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata, that we found in a local park on a river path in Millerstown.

Other places to look for the Green-headed Coneflower include thickets, forest edges, drainage gulleys, and along roads with partial shade.

Beautiful Stand of Green-headed Coneflowers
Beautiful Stand of Green-headed Coneflowers

On the banks of the Juniata River many of the blooming sunflowers reached over 6 feet tall, but some of them were shorter and yet still flowering.

It’s not too surprising that the Green-headed Coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata, can get up to 12 feet tall. We haven’t had a lot of rain lately and surely that would help them grow taller.

Green-headed Coneflowers Growing in a Wooded Thicket
Green-headed Coneflowers Growing in a Wooded Thicket

The bright yellow flowers of these tall plants help them to be seen in thickets and well into the woods along the river.

The flower centers are cone-shaped with a green cast.

Yellow petals are usually swept back or pointed downward instead of being held out to the sides. We see this petal shape in the Purple Coneflowers, Echinacea spp., in the garden especially as the flowers mature. Echinacea cone heads are definitely larger than this Rudbeckia sp.

The Green-headed Coneflower flower head is about 3 inches across with bright yellow rays surrounding a central green disk.

Greenish Cones of a Sunflower Look-A-Like
Greenish Cones of a Sunflower Look-A-Like

Blooming occurs in mid-Summer to early Autumn from July to September.

The Green-headed Coneflower isn’t the only sunflower that likes to be near a river or partial shady places. Growing nearby was “Wingstem” which looks similar but on closer inspection is quite different.

Each year we can go back to see the coneflowers blooming in summer as they’re perennial herbs. Considering their height some may call them sub-shrubs.

Green-headed Coneflower is also known as Cutleaf Coneflower and it’s a member of the Aster family, Asteraceae. Being a native to the U.S. and Canada it can be found in many locations. Populations in Rhode Island, however, are classified as threatened.

(Click on any image to see a larger view.)

Check the following line drawings for the various leaf shapes of this interesting coneflower.

Green-headed Coneflower Illustration
Green-headed Coneflower Illustration from USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Cutleaf Coneflower Illustration
Cutleaf Coneflower Illustration from USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 473.

Peterson’s Wildflower Guide further describes the Green-headed Coneflower as having a “greenish, buttonlike disk, reflexed golden rays, deeply cut 3- or 5-parted leaves. Stems tall, branched, smooth.”

Two Native Sunflowers Bloom Where Forest Meets River

Woodland Sunflowers Shine At the Edge of the Forest

A community park on the banks of the Juniata River at Millerstown brings people for picnicing, playing soccer, and having a little fun in the outdoors.

We’ve seen lots of folks walking their dogs and taking a stroll along the path next to the river.

Walking Path at the Juniata River, PA
Walking Path at the Juniata River, PA

The walking path almost extends the length of the small park and is lined with trees on the river side of the walk. It’s a partly shady area where lots of native sunflowers grow and bloom in the heat of summer.

The sunflowers blooming next to the river are composites with swept back petals and green centers.

Bright Yellow Flowers of Green-headed Coneflower
Bright Yellow Flowers of Green-headed Coneflower

Green-headed Coneflowers Blooming at the River
Green-headed Coneflowers Blooming at the River

On closer inspection you can see we’re actually looking at two different plants!

Green-headed Coneflower with Woodland Sunflower
Green-headed Coneflower (left) with Wingstem (right)

(Click on any image to see a larger view.)

In this particular stand of native bloomers the Green-headed Coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata, outnumbered the Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia.

On both plants the upper leaves are similarly shaped, like pointed ovals, but the lower leaves on each plant differs from the other.

The leaves of the Green-headed Coneflower remind me of giant ragweed leaves in that the lower leaves are pointy and tri-lobed, some intermediate leaves have two lobes, and the upper leaves are not lobed.

The leaves of the Wingstem appear more like a typical sunflower, very rough and the same shape from bottom to top of plant.

Native Sunflowers Growing in Wooded Riverine Area
Native Sunflowers Growing in Wooded Riverine Area

These similar yellow-blooming “sunflowers” can be found in damp areas, such as next to a river, in lowlands near highways, in places where runoff collects in culverts, but usually in partial shade.

Flower Poetry Fridays: Planting Flowers On The Grave Of Parents

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

PLANTING FLOWERS ON THE
GRAVE OF PARENTS.

I’VE set the flow’rets where ye sleep,
Father and mother dear ;
Their roots are in the mould so deep,
Their bosoms hide a tear ;
The chrystal of the dewy morn
Their trembling casket fills,
Mixed with that tear-drop from the heart,
Which filial love distils.

Above thy pillow, mother dear,
I’ve placed thy favorite flower—
The bright-eyed purple violet,
That deck’d thy summer bower;
The fragrant chamomile, that spreads
Its leaflets fresh and green,
And richly broiders every niche
The velvet turf between.

I kissed the tender violet,
That droop’d its stranger head,
And called it blessed, thus to grow
So near my precious dead,
And when my venturous path shall lead
Across the deep blue sea,
I bade it in its beauty rise
And guard that spot for me.

There was no other child, my dead !
This sacred task to share ;
Mother ! no nursling babe beside,
E’er claim’d thy tenderest care.
And father ! that endearing name,
No other lips than mine
E’er breathed to prompt thy hallow’d prayer
At morn or eve’s decline.

Pluck not those flowers, thou idle child,
Pluck not the flowers that wave
In sweet and simple sanctity
Around this humble grave,
Lest guardian angels from the skies,
That watch amid the gloom,
Should dart reproachful ire on those
Who desecrate the tomb.

Oh, kindly spare my plants to tear,
Ye groups that wander nigh,
When summer sunsets fire with gold
The glorious western sky :
So when you slumber in the dust,
Where now your footsteps tread,
May griev’d affection train the rose
Above your lowly bed.

Planting flowers on a loved one’s grave is a sad event. It is done here with the thoughts of an only child.

As the only child she pleads for other children not to pick the flowers for they were planted with a higher purpose.

The planted flowers act like guardian angels from above in the hope of resurrection and in a show of deep affection.

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “Alpine Flowers”.

Smooth Sumac Starting to Turn Red

Smooth Sumac Looks A Lot Like Staghorn Sumac

One day I was driving about the countryside taking notice to sumac trees. The Staghorn Sumac has an interesting way that the branches grow up and out and I was curious if that characteristic was seen in other sumacs.

Smooth Sumac At the Roadside
Smooth Sumac At the Roadside

Indeed, it would be nice to find one of the other species of sumac I’ve read about in tree books, like Peterson’s Guide to Trees and Shrubs. In Northeastern U.S. we have four species of sumac.

Anyway, this one grouping of sumac seemed smaller than the staghorns we’d been seeing, so I pulled off the road to take a closer look.

Compound Leaves and Red Berries of Smooth Sumac
Compound Leaves and Red Berries of Smooth Sumac

The long, feather-like, compound leaves and the upright bunches of red berries at the end of branches identified the plant as a kind of sumac, other than Poison Sumac.

Distinguishing features of Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra:

  • leaflets toothed
  • red berries in spreading cluster
  • twigs smooth, almost hairless
Smooth Sumac Berries
Smooth Sumac Berries

In comparison with Staghorn Sumac, R. typhina, the individual red berries of smooth sumac appear more like distinct individual berries without so many hairs.

It may be difficult to see the difference unless berries of both species are available, but clusters of staghorn berries appear to be more densely packed into a cone shape.

Loose Cluster of Smooth Sumac Berries and Huge Compound Leaf
Loose Cluster of Smooth Sumac Berries and Huge Compound Leaf

Since the hairs on the outside of the berry provide the malic acid and tartness, the smooth sumac berries are often called “less tart” than their staghorn cousins. So, if you’re going to collect sumac berries try to get staghorn berries as they will provide more of that lemony taste.

Sumacs are some of the deciduous trees that give early indication that autumn is approaching. Their leaves are already turning red as of early August.

Flower Poetry Fridays: The Lily’s Whisper

Welcome back to Flower Poetry Fridays with Mrs. Sigourney. Each Friday a new poem will be posted from her The Voice Of Flowers.

THE LILY’S WHISPER.

Orange Day Lily Tigerlily
Orange Day Lily Tigerlily

" Bow down thy head, thou born of clay,—
Bow down thy head to me,"
A drooping Lily seemed to say,
As sank the footsteps of the day,
Upon the grassy lea.

Its dewy lips to mine I prest,
And drank its stifled sigh,
A tear-drop lay within its breast,—
" Hast thou a woe to be confess’d,
Thou favorite of the sky ?"

" Two buds beside my heart awoke,
More pure than opening day,—
But lo ! a hand with sudden stroke
From my embrace those idols broke,
And bore them hence away."

Still deeper seem’d the Lily’s tone
My listening ear to greet :
" Think not for sympathy alone
That thus to thee I make my moan,
Though sympathy is sweet ;

" No. Be my wound thy lesson made,
We love your nobler race,
Whose lot it is like ours to fade,
Like ours, to see in darkness laid
Your blossom’s wither’d grace.

" So, let the Will Supreme be blest,
And still with spirit meek,
Shut rebel tear-drops in your breast,
And wear, as badge of Heaven’s sweet rest
Its smile upon your cheek."

“Heaven’s sweet rest” sounds pretty good on some days in this weary, wicked world.

Come back next Friday for the next installment in our series of flower poems from Mrs. Sigourney’s The Voice of Flowers, “Planting Flowers On The Grave Of Parents”.

What to Do With Red Edible Sumac Berries

Oh, how can we use those collected sumac berries?

You can make a cold drink similar to lemonade and hot drinks like tea.

The berries can be dried and hung in the pantry for future use or ground up and put in a shaker jar for use as flavoring agent in any number of dishes where you normally use lemons or a spice like Lemon Pepper.

Videos Show How People Consume Sumac

..for cold and hot drinks

..for the wood used for making flutes and berries for “lemonade”

..for cracker bread and hot drink

..for lemon flavoring via blender and shaker (@ 8:20)

If you’re into the lemon pepper thing, try collecting some Field Pennycress or Peppergrass to add the peppery notes.