Friday, July 31, 2009

Late summer moves in

How did that happen? One day, not that long ago, I was crouching down in the sandy soils of the Elk River Hills to look at bloodroot poking through the leaf litter. This week, in the blink of an eye, I met two goldenrods in bloom (S. gattengeri, S. drummondii), two beautiful harbingers of fall. Every week during the growing season, just as fire season comes to a close, I spend at least one, usually three, sometimes four days a week in the woodlands and glades of Missouri's Ozark Highlands. With the clement temperatures and excessive rain this spring, the growing season has been nothing short of explosive. Blooms have persisted longer than usual on certain plants, while others, like my beloved Buchnera americana, came up for a brief blue showing in late June, the plant quickly turning black despite all the rain. But the long summer days are coming to a close, and there's an urgency now to stay outside in tank tops and hats as much as humanly possible.

Running through plant lists of my favorite places, I'm hard pressed to think of late-late summer bloomers other than the goldenrods, asters and orchids of the genus Spiranthes. Even my own backyard, with its healthy stand of 10-12 foot tall Silphium perfoliatum and ground cover of Tovara virginiana is in full bloom already (pictured, S. laciniata). So, by my birthday in September, my yard will look like a jungle of strapping brown stems and leaves with a dense carpet of blooming asters. And on dolomite glades in September? There's downy gentian, that pretty wild onion, some asters...not so grim, after all.

But dolomite glades and managed-with-fire open woodlands are the place to be right now for blooming wildflowers: several species of Liatris, Silphium terebinthinaceum, S. lacinata, Rudbeckia missouriensis, and some of the danged goldenrods whose brilliant yellow blooms remind me that seasons change without my permission.

So, I'm going home. I'm headed to Louisiana for a while where summer lasts 10 months and you can grow food every day of the year. But it's too early to shake the muscadine grapes into your canoe with a stick from the black waters of the bayou.


Anonymous said...

I noticed the Silphiums sending up bloom stalks and Solidagos getting ready to flower before I left for Florida - I expect there will be a touch of fall in the air when I return.

How I adore fall - crisp air, sharp shadows, cool nights, and a sea change of color on the horizon. I travel Louisiana almost every September - how I'd love to see it through your knowing eyes.

all my best--ted

Allison Vaughn said...

Oh, Louisiana's great, isn't it? I'd love to hear about where you go! I didn't step foot one into the woods or bogs this trip. I did chores. Chores for a whole week--getting my mother's beds ready for fall, planting a new round of tomatoes, squash, peppers, etc. was a priority. I worked the whole time. Now, exhausted, I'm looking forward to going into the woods for work. Not how I should be living my life...let's rendezvous when the asters are out! Some of them are so tricky!