June has mostly been a beautiful month if you can overlook the troublesome hailstorm that shattered everyone’s
garden last week.
Hail is always likely in June. There is not much we can do about it. Sometimes a protective row cover will take the brunt of it and keep plants from being shredded so seriously, but I can’t recall a June that we haven’t had at least one destructive hailstorm. It is so regular that long ago I started calling June the hail month.
However, the wildflowers that grow beneath the trees and/or among the tall grasses seem to be able to withstand the hail better than our garden flowers, which have no protection. For the past two weeks, the field mouse-ear chickweed, Cerastium arvense, has been in full bloom, making big white lacy patches in my yard. This is not the common chickweed that is such a pesky weed in my garden but is a native member of the same family.
Other wildflowers highlighting my yard this past two weeks have been golden banner, blue flax, bluebells and one lone bush clematis.
Golden banner has had a banner year. The rains came at just the right time for it. I have never seen more or larger blooms than it has this year. Blue flax, Adenolinum lewisii, and bluebells, Mertensia viridis, seem to be less abundant than in the past, but they are still turning some hillsides blue. Bush clematis, Coriflora hirsutissima, is the only flower that looks like a clematis but is a bush rather than a clinging vine. Its nodding, deep purple flowers also give it the name of sugarbowl and leather flower. It still has the clematis-like seeds that form a puff of white down in late summer. It seems to be declining too, since only one remains in my yard where there used to be four or five. It may be that they don’t appreciate more sun and the warming temperatures.
The white mouse-ear field chickweed is abundant. I haven’t seen it this prolific since 1979 when we had a 10-day rain, which caused flooding on Bear Creek. When I start to write an article about some plant, I look it up in several books so I can find something interesting about it. I have two sets of two volumes each that belonged to my Uncle Earl when he was a young man. They are entitled “The Native Flowers and Ferns of the United States.” They were published in Boston by the L. Prang Co. in 1879. They were written by Thomas Meehan and illustrated by chromolithographs.
I have used tales from these books several times for I enjoy looking at them. Often the stories are interesting and the illustrations are magnificent in detail and color. One chapter caught my eye when it started off with, “Every traveler knows how pleasant it is to meet a friend in a foreign country and far away from home.” It goes on to say, “The writer of this, in the summer of 1871, had just such an experience with the subject of the present chapter,” in this case the white mouse-ear field chickweed. He had often admired the plant with its chaste beauty as it adorned the wooded and rocky banks of the Schuylkill and other places in the Atlantic states, where in the lines of Bryant,
Fair white blossoms of the wood
In groups beside the pathway strong
And the writer and his little party were preparing to pitch their tents for the night on the camping ground in Bergen Park, Colo. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be camping out in Bergen Park in 1871?
What a great time this group of scientists must have had exploring the area and collecting plants to take home to Philadelphia. How exciting it must have been to find this “old friend” plant in an area where they had expected to find nothing but new western species. What a summer they must have had when every night they probably found new plants when they pitched their tents. The name “mouse ear” came from the shape of the pod, which supposedly looked like a tiny mouse ear.
Enjoy the wildflowers this year for the rain has made them abundant at this time. We may well have another dry spell between now and late summer, so the fall flowers may or may not be as abundant.