Early Fall Flowers

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Article & photos by Nancy Brannon; all photos taken at the author’s farm

Around our farm, and across many other lands in the mid-south, late August and early September present an array of blooming wildflowers. Many of them attract butterflies, which have been prolific in the mid-south this year, as well as honeybees.

Of course, sunflowers have been blooming around the area, with special plantings at the Agricenter International in Memphis, Tenn. We featured these in the August issue.

Ironweed is a tall plant, growing up to five feet, with purple blooms in August and September. These showy purple fall flowers attract pollinators, and their seed feed birds. I can’t say the plant itself is attractive, but the blooms more than make up for the plant’s homeliness.

Soon Goldenrod will be displaying its yellow flowers. It’s three-to-five foot tall stems make excellent perches for birds and the seeds are an important late season food source.

Thoroughwort grows three to five feet tall with white hairs covering the stem. The small flowers form a large cluster which blooms white through August and September.

Partridge pea has beautiful yellow flowers with leaves that resemble mimosa leaves. This annual plant produces so many seeds that it is basically a perennial. The seeds are in dark brown pods which pop open when the seeds are developed.

Two other favorites of mine are Tall Coreopsis, which has multiple small daisy-like flowers on tall stems that reach four to eight feet in height. Impressive in large colonies, tall coreopsis is a favorite of goldfinches and butterflies. The other is Butterfly Weed, which I don’t consider a weed at all. It, as the name says, attracts butterflies. It is an important nectar source for Monarch butterflies and its leaves provide essential food for developing Monarch caterpillars; but you may also see a variety of pollinators making use of this plant. It grows in various places around my horse pastures, and I make sure not to mow them with the bushhog. After blooming, the flowers make long, tubular seed pods which can be harvested when they turn brown and start to break open on their own. The seeds have puffs of cotton attached to them, which allows them to fly in the wind and seed themselves all around the area. So, make sure to collect the seeds as soon as the pods start to break open.

Did I mention the “Volunteer” garden? Again this year I have volunteer pumpkins and a tomato plant. That’s the advantage of composting with horse manure and raw vegetable scraps. But drat those pesky squash bugs!

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