The Amazing Abundance of Summer’s End
This blog is written by guest blogger Sherry Nigro.
I love wildflowers. As a kid growing up on a farm I would collect the local species and press them in old magazines and newspapers. Wildflowers mark our seasons so once summer starts to wind down, we can expect Goldenrod and fall asters to dominate the ditches and fields.
Did you know there are 32 species of Goldenrod blooming across all of Canada? And that the young leaves and seeds are edible? And that Goldenrod was used as a commercial source of rubber early in the 20th century?
There is also a large number of species of flowers belonging to the Astereae tribe in Canada. For example, there are an about 150 native asters, a member of the Astereae tribe, found in Canada! This tribe has species that range from delicate Wood Asters to Fleabane to the spectacular Parasol Whitetop, which can be 200 cm tall and produce up to 300 small flowers. On a recent trip to Quebec, I was awed by the abundance of yellow and white flowers along the sides of the road.
What I was not expecting was the number of other wildflowers I saw at the KOA campground where we stayed just south of Quebec City. I was amazed by diversity of specimens, particularly so late in the season. I was excited to see several that I had never seen outside of books like Wild Cucumber (a very lacy flower with the cutest spiky cucumber hanging from a vine), Russian Comfrey (a lush furry plant with purple bell shaped flowers) and White Turtlehead (aptly named!). I did not realize that White Turtlehead is a native wildflower that blooms in wet areas from Newfoundland to Manitoba and that it was used by the Abenaki for birth control. I was surprised to see specimens like Meadowsweet and Joe Pye Weed blooming this late in the season. And further surprised by some flowers that I didn’t even recognize.
As a life long hobby naturalist, an advocate for time in nature and more recently as an active iNaturalist contributor, I get excited by these “discoveries”. Right in the campground. At the end of summer when wildflower season is drawing to a close, or so I thought.
Nature offers all sorts of these discoveries if we take the time to look with intention. And contrary to what many of us think that late summer is the time to retreat indoors, it offers some amazing sights and sounds. Maybe your passion is birds, that are amassing for migration. Maybe it is furry critters that are actively preparing for a long sleep. Maybe your passion is entomology; there is lots of activity in the goldenrod right now. (Goldenrod honey is quite distinct). Maybe you love trees, with their intricate canopies just starting to be touched by fall colours. Whatever your personal favourites are, get outside. Be amazed!