Wildflower or weed: Enjoy the beautiful colors

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By Sylvia Brockner

It is a fine summer evening. I am sitting on the patio, trying to write this article and cool off after another hot day and a rain shower. The cooler air is refreshing, and I can see many wildflowers in bloom in the yard. I really miss being able to get out for walks in the woods but can’t tote my oxygen tank, and the woodland way is too uneven, tilted and rough, for me to traverse safely. So, I try to be content with what I can see from the patio and car port.

Today, there is a great deal of the clustered and creeping bellflower in bloom. A friend offered me a start of this when we first moved here years ago. I love its deep purple flowers, but it is a noxious weed because it spreads wherever its roots can creep or birds and chipmunks drop its seeds. I tried to stop its spread in the garden by planting it in a plastic dishpan, but that didn’t stop its spread by seed for it is now coming up among the tall grasses in the wild part of my garden. Today, I can also see a great deal of bladder campion with its inflated seed pods, and yarrow is also blooming. These are all noxious weeds that have escaped in this country and gone wild. This moist summer has been a good year for weeds as well as wildflowers. All the common roadside weeds are doing well, and some not so common are creeping into my driveway.

Everywhere I have been driven in the past month, I have seen the white clumpy clusters of the hoary alyssum blossoms. Hoary alyssum, Berteroa incana, is a newcomer in this area. I did not see it here before the first library was built. This building is now the Jefferson County Sheriff’s substation in Evergreen and one of the places where we vote. When it was built, a great amount of dirt was filled in to raise it a bit above the flood plan of Cub Creek. This dirt around the building was apparently full of hoary alyssum seed because the first spring after its completion, hoary alyssum came up all around the building.

I was able to also watch it spread along our road. A bushel basket-sized clump appeared on the shoulder of our road after they brought in sandy soil to put on the hill after it had become glazed with ice. Seeds are picked up in tire treads and snowplow blades, and in this case seemed to spread the alyssum about a mile and a half further along the road every year. Now it is a common roadside weed in much of the area.

Also, during the past month, yucca has been especially attractive along the road into Evergreen Lake. We have only the one species of yucca here, the Great Plains yucca, but there are many other species of yucca in the most southern states and Mexico.

Wild geraniums are also in bloom now. They usually form a low, round, mounded plant that is noted in their scientific name, Geranium caespitosum, which is simply the common name geranium by which they had been known for a long time plus the specific name of caespitosum, which means head shaped. However, the plants in my yard that grow in the dry open soil along the east side of my house are round head-shaped masses, but those that are growing among the tall grass west of the house where they get very little sun are reaching their flower stems up a good two feet to get above the grass to reach what little sun there is beneath the ponderosa pines.

Another wildflower or weed, whichever you prefer to call it, is the fireweed, Chamerion danielsii, which is just coming into bloom now. I had just planted a few in my yard when it was put on the weed list. I decided I had better get rid of them, so I pulled them all up and found that every bit of root that broke off in the ground became a new plant. I now had more than when I started. I once more removed the plants and this time tried to get all of the root. I just noticed that I missed one that was under a shrub, and it is starting to bloom.

Fireweed is a lovely plant that has in the past always been considered an asset because it helps reestablish the forest after a fire, hence its name. Its seeds float into a burn area after a fire and will flourish in the hot dry sun after a fire. After they grow tall enough, they create enough shade to give other plants a chance, and seedling trees start to replace the forest. Besides this, their tall graceful spires of reddish pink flowers are beautiful.

Our summer wildflowers are at their best this year since we have had more rain than usual. Now is the time to enjoy them.