While I have a decent passing knowledge of many of the cultivated annuals and perennials common to northeastern Pennsylvania, it is only recently that I’ve begun learning the names of the many wildflowers that grace our roadsides, fields, and, yes, even our lawns! Here are a few blooming around my home this week:Oxeye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) have a home in my rock garden every summer. This year’s crop showed up later and stayed longer than usual; by mid-July most years, they have all withered and I’ve cut them down. While most of the blooms have faded now, there are still a few buds. One has to wonder, though, why the tallest clump had to establish itself right in the front of the garden!
Atop the rock garden wall, a group of three Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) reach toward the sky. These are short as far as Mullein go, only about thirty inches high. The soil here is shallow and stony. Relatively little grows here, giving the Mullein seeds the full sun they need to germinate and grow. These are growing on the western edge of a group of ferns, exposed to the full brunt of the afternoon sun.
Mullein is a biennial, first growing rosettes of soft, grey-green foliage, similar to Lamb’s Ears, which survive the winter. It sends up its distinctive flower spike the second year, growing up to ten feet tall! Here is another one in my yard, again growing atop the rock ledge, approximately five feet tall:Here you can see how it seems to be growing out of the rock!The flower spikes can grow to twenty inches in height. They are tightly crowded with hundreds of buds. The inch-wide yellow flowers open only a few at a time, so the spike is never completely yellow. Bumblebees like the flowers, and American Goldfinches like the seeds.Herbalists find Mullein useful in the treatment of ear infections, congestion, and swollen lymph nodes. A Google search of “Uses of Mullein” will bring up many articles addressing its medicinal properties.
Near the end of my driveway, along the edge of the road, is a small patch of Crown Vetch (Coronilla Varia). Native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, Crown Vetch was introduced in America in the 1950s. It grows best in gravelly soils, and is often used for erosion control I remember my mother planting it as a ground cover on a hillside in the early 1970s. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has declared Crown Vetch an invasive plant, as it has a tendency to overtake native plants which provide food and shelter to native animals. The plant spreads via seeds and rhizomes.
This patch has been here for many years, and does not seem to be expanding at a great rate of speed, so I plan to leave it be and enjoy its pretty foliage and delicate flowers.
A few Goldenrod (Solidago) are starting to open above the Crown Vetch. Its bright yellow flowers and single, unlobed leaves distinguish it from the autumn allergy inducing Ragweed.Finally, I think this is Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). I’m a bit confused because I’ve read that it is most common in wetland areas. However, this spot along the edge of the road is a drainage route for a natural spring, so that may provide enough moisture for the Loosestrife to grow here. Like the Crown Vetch, Purple Loosestrife is considered an invasive species.I am linking today with Gail at Clay and Limestone for her monthly wildflower party, which she hosts on the fourth Wednesday of each month.