Yellow Blooms Abound
by Josh Palumbo, Forest Management Coordinator
I welcome you to The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen’s attempt to bring some nature and knowledge into your home. The Nine Minute Naturalist borrows from NPR’s lovely 90-Second Naturalist podcast. Since we all have a bit more time on our hands, the goal is to take something that is happening out in our environment and stimulate your brain for roughly nine minutes. Don’t let something as “minor” as a quarantine to keep you from learning. I hope you enjoy!
The heat of midsummer is upon us and a new season of blooms are upon us. Special summer flowers such as bee balm, wild bergamot and columbine abound throughout our forest. My favorite summer blooms are made up of a group of yellow plants from the aster family that look similar when speeding by in a car or hiking by on a trail. This week’s Nine Minute Naturalist will take a look at the unique yellow blooms bursting in our ecosystem.
My favorite yellow flowers of summer are in the rudbeckia family. The distinguished green-headed coneflower may be our most numerous yellow blooms growing wherever there is broken canopy at Wintergreen. This member of the family rudbeckia is notable for its tall leafy stalk which grows up to 12 feet and its flower which spans 3-4 inches with greenish-yellow centers. Two more species common around Wintergreen is the black-eyed susan and the brown-eyed susan. These species have similarities. They both prefer open fields or open woodlands and both have a yellow bloom with a black or brown “eye” in the center of the flower. The way to quickly differentiate the two species is the height of the plants and the size of the flower. The black-eyed susan grows to about 3 feet in height and has a flower that spans 2-4 inches. It also blooms primarily during July and August. The brown-eyed susan grows taller up to 5 feet but has smaller flowers around 2 inches across. The brown-eyed susan blooms in late summer through early fall. Both species form in great clumps and are valuable attractants to bees, wasps, butterflies and birds, especially the gold finches.
Another common group of flowers blooming along our roadsides and trails are members of the sunflower family. There are bunch of sunflowers that call Wintergreen home. The common varieties in the mountain are woodland sunflower, oxeye sunflower and ten petal sunflower. Each sunflower grows tall and erect up to 6’ tall. The woodland sunflower is a common flower in our edge habitat along the forest edge. Its flower is 1-3 inches across with 8-15 light yellow ray florets. The oxeye sunflower also likes the well drained soils along our mountainside and can be differentiated from the other sunflowers by their large, raised yellow flower heads. The ten-petal sunflowers frequent our mountainside but prefer our slightly wetter soils. A key difference with this sunflower is the margins of the leaf blades, which are long and pointed. Each of these species is a very valuable food source for our birds and a key pollinator for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
While this list is far from comprehensive, I hope it aids you as you hike or drive around the Wintergreen landscape. The yellow blooms of the aster family are a wonderful way to appreciate the dog days of summer. Get out and try your hand at identifying the plants yourself.