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Late July is arrowhead time at the lake’s shoreline

We frequently have some of the hottest days of the whole summer in late July. It is the time of midsummer. Blueberries, raspberries, juneberries, pin cherries and still some strawberries are ripe now. These juicy morsels are also quite colorful a...

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Arrowheads stems and leaves rise out of the water. Note the leaf shape. Photos by Larry Weber
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We frequently have some of the hottest days of the whole summer in late July. It is the time of midsummer. Blueberries, raspberries, juneberries, pin cherries and still some strawberries are ripe now. These juicy morsels are also quite colorful and the reds, purples and blues catch the eye of many hungry songbirds now feeding and traveling with their newly raised family. Small mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks and mice find these berries as well as do the bears. All devour their new crops and thereby help the plants by spreading seeds.

Insects abound during these days and we easily note dragonflies, butterflies, moths, crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and more as they feed and breed. Slowly the days are getting shorter and despite the warmth and plentiful food, some of the early migrants - namely, tree swallows - are starting to move. It is not unusual to see flocks of these small birds on utility wires along roads at this time.

Midsummer is an excellent time to observe the wild flowers of the open areas again. For the last several weeks, starting in June, we have been seeing colors in the fields of hawkweeds, daisy, clovers, sweet clovers, buttercups, vetches, trefoil, yarrow and lupine. As we entered July, these early summer blooms became black-eyed susans, dogbane, thistles, cow parsnip and the prevalent fireweed and milkweed. These plants dominate the roadsides for much of the month. Now late in July, they share the scene with the beginning of late summer wild flowers - early goldenrods, asters and sunflowers. As we go through late summer in coming weeks, we’ll see plenty more from these abundant and diverse plants. And while many of the flowers at these sites are non-native, these three are native.

But the floral scene goes beyond the roadsides and fields. In the bogs, a couple of insectivorous plants - the tall pitcher plant and the tiny sundew - are also in bloom. Both are well known and use leaves to catch insects, but also have florets. In the woods, the pale Indian pipe rises from the forest floor, among the mushrooms and ferns, to show its flowers of white. With no chlorophyll or other pigments, the entire plant looks white. They are also able to thrive in these shady sites. But I find some very interesting plants blooming at the lake’s edge at this time too.

Paddling in the shallows may be the best way to observe these midsummer flowers. Yellow pond-lilies that began blooming in May and white water-lilies that started in early June are still here, but they are not the only floating plants. Pondweed, water smartweed, water shield, water marigold and bladderwort (another insect-eating plant) all add more color to the wet scene. These aquatic plants all have floating leaves and are truly in the lake community. But there is plenty more to see along the shore.

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One of the tallest and most obvious of the shoreline flowers now is the Joe Pye weed. Purple flowers and leaves borne in whorls around the plant, it may stand four feet or more tall. White-flowering water parsnip and water hemlock rise up too. Both have flowers looking something like that of Queen Anne’s lace. Shorter are the yellows of loosestrife and the blues of skullcap. Here also is the orange flowering jewelweed. Flowers and dew-covered leaves get our attention, but it is the seed pods that explode on touch that leads to the other name: touch-me-not. And rising up from the shallow water are the arrowheads. This is arrowhead time.

Arrowheads get their name from the shape of the leaves that are usually shaped like a rather strange-looking arrowhead. They vary greatly in the region and many times, they hold leaves that are much more linear and not appearing to be an arrow head. Other times, the leaves may be arrow-head shaped, but range from narrow to extremely wide. Plants also vary in size. Some being only inches above the water while others reach up to three feet tall. All have the characteristic three-petal white flowers. The flowers are below the leaves on the plant and may be two inches in diameter. Male flowers grow above the female flowers. Among some wild food fanciers, arrowheads are well known because of the roots. These submerged parts are tubers; somewhat like potatoes in looks and taste.

As the summer moves on, we will continue to see plenty of wildflowers that linger into fall. Others, like these arrowheads, are not long lasting, but give us plenty to see when they bloom along the edges of lakes and ponds at this time.

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Note the three white petals on these arrowheads that bloom above the water.

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