Northland Nature...Black-eyed Susans and oxeyes join in July’s roadside floraWith the temperatures that we experienced in the past week, it may appear that July has nothing to give us except these sweat-inducing numbers. But like the other months in the Northland, this summer month is filled with many nature happenings.
By: Larry Weber, Pine Journal
With the temperatures that we experienced in the past week, it may appear that July has nothing to give us except these sweat-inducing numbers. But like the other months in the Northland, this summer month is filled with many nature happenings.
This is the time when baby birds leave the nest, and as fledglings grow new feathers, and learn the skill of flight. It is now we see the young rabbits and hares that go from their homes to feed in our yards and roadsides.
This week, I found ripe wild berries of blueberry, Juneberry and dewberry, telling me of more to come.
Roadsides also tell of coming attractions as new diverse growths of wildflowers add more color. And various butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and flies tell me that I’m not the only one to see them.
Any outing along roads and trails in July invites us to observe these summer flowers and their visitors more carefully.
I find the roadsides of July are still filled with many flora that bloomed in June.
Daisy, yarrow, dogbane, clovers, sweetclovers and trefoils all began a couple of weeks ago and still remain here, but scattered amongst them are those that will be dominant in July. Stimulated by the very wet conditions of June and recent warmth, these plants have grown quickly and began to open their flowers as the new month began.
Now the walks along the roads reveal the beginning of a whole new bouquet. Within the last ten days, the first evening primroses, milkweeds, fireweeds, black-eyed susans and oxeye sunflowers have all opened for the season. Their numbers will soon swell and these various flowers will take over the floral scene.
Evening primrose, milkweed and fireweed, I find, are the most associated with July, while black-eyed susan and oxeye sunflower are ushering in the beginning of flora the will lasts into the late summer.
We are a long way from late summer, but I expect three groups to dominate the growths at that time; sunflowers, goldenrods and asters. All are composites (that is, they have florets that are composed of many tiny flowers, with disks in the center and rays around the outside).
Up until now, some of the wildflowers, such as the daisy and hawkweeds, were composites, but most are not.
The new sunflower season began quietly, as the first black-eyed Susans and the first oxeye sunflowers opened their rays. Both can reach up to two feet high, with two-inch florets. While the rays of each are yellow, the disks are not the same. Living up to its name, the black-eyed Susan has a center with a dark, nearly black, disk. (Some people call the plant brown-eyed Susan and say that it is a type of coneflower.) That of the oxeye sunflower (often called oxeye, but which should not be confused with oxeye daisy) is yellow.
Leaves of the black-eyed Susan alternate, while those of the oxeye are borne on the stem opposite of each other. Though I find both kinds along the roadsides and fields now, the former is better known and more common than the latter. Before the month is over, others of these large yellow plants will be here too. Most notable of the giants is the tall sunflower that reaches up to six or eight feet. All together, about ten kinds can be found in the region by late season.
As we move through the heated days, other composites will also be opening. A few early goldenrods have already begun their numerous tiny flowers. And during July, the first aster, usually the white-flowering flattop aster, initiates that large and diverse group. Like the sunflowers, the goldenrods and asters will also add several kinds of each before they are finished. But now, in early July, we see this roadside floral show beginning with black-eyed Susans and oxeye sunflowers in bloom.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods” and “Webwood.” Contact him c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.