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Several wildflowers continue to bloom this month

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Our Evergreen World

By Sylvia Brockner

Most of our late summer flowers are yellow, and many of them belong to the composite family. In the common vernacular of many botanists, the flowers are referred to as DYCs. DYC stands for damn yellow composites, which refers to the fact that they are a big family; most of them are yellow and difficult to identify.

There are, however, two wildflowers in bloom right now in my yard that are not yellow, although one of them is a composite and the other is not. There is a lovely purple flower that grows along the roadsides in the foothills known as Liatris punctata or gayfeather. The small, lavender-purple flowers grow on a straight, sturdy stalk forming a cylindrical cluster of blooms. The stiff stalk holds them upright like a heavy vane of a feather.
I have always loved this flower and its name for I pictured a jaunty little leprechaun placing it in his hatband where it was indeed a “gay feather.” I don’t find any information on the meaning of Liatris but the specific name punctata refers to the small translucent spots easily seen on the leaves and comes from the Greek language.
It likes dry, sandy and gravelly locations such as road banks, and is common in the foothills and extends a bit onto the plains. There are three other species of the genera found in eastern Colorado, but one of them is becoming scarce since it likes wet meadows such as those in the San Luis Valley, many of which are being drained and cultivated.
The second fall-blooming wildflower that has been blooming in my yard is not a composite. It is our native white clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia, also known as virgin’s bower or traveler’s joy. This plant, like many clematis, is a vine that scrambles over other shrubs and trees for support. I planted the one in our yard from seed many years ago. It took a long time for it to get growing, but once it got its roots developed enough, it soon outgrew the fence, climbed into a lilac and from there into the lower branches of a ponderosa pine.
It is a very vigorous vine and makes suspended canopies between its supporting trees and shrubs. The common name comes from these bowers of white flowers. This white clematis has small flowers in a large cluster. The seeds have white plumes attached that right now are very conspicuous white masses that can be seen from some distance. I have many beautiful but very delicate wreaths out of them.
The large flowered blue clematis has now been placed in the genera Atragene. They are weak sprawling vines that seldom get much more than a foot or two off the ground, but they have the big flowers that all gardeners know. The white clematis is abundant at Lair o’ the Bear Park and other places along the Bear Creek Valley. It apparently needs a bit more water than we normally have on our dry south-facing hillsides. Look for it now because the white fluffy seeds can be seen easily, even while driving down the highway.
All summer, I have had both evening and black-headed grosbeaks coming to the bird feeders. I haven’t had any adult birds of either species for the last few days, so I think they must have started on their long journey back to Mexico. However, the immature birds of both species have been coming to the feeder all day, just pigging out on sunflower seeds. They are the immature birds, born this summer and just shedding their juvenile plumage. They are ragamuffin birds at this point but are still easily recognizable. Most of these birds that summer with us either have already left or will very soon. The black-headed grosbeaks will head south to Mexico of Central America, which is their winter home. The evening grosbeaks are wanderers and may return to the Canadian forests or wander elsewhere.