Wildflowers 102 …

… with some fun facts about June bugs thrown in for good measure.

It seems as though many of the wildflowers I have found are considered noxious weeds.  The common knapweed is in that group.  Our neighborhood has an abundance of these spindly, thistle-like plants.  Considered to be in the daisy family, other names for this purple eyesore are lesser knapweed and black knapweed.

Common knapweed is a perennial herb and the plants grow tall and wide.  It is native to Europe and there, is an important source of food for the European goldfinch, the honey bee, the lime-speck moth and a litany of butterflies.

Goldenrod is not a noxious weed and is known for its healing properties.  It is also edible (goldenrod salad, anyone?).  Another interesting fact about golden rod is that is has a unique ability to crossbreed with other plants and currently, there are over 140 different varieties of golden rod.

As another tidbit of information, since goldenrod blooms at the same time as ragweed, people sometimes think they are allergic to the goldenrod.  Nope, chances are it is the ragweed that is giving them the itchy eyes and stuffy nose.  Goldenrod cannot cause anyone to have an allergic reaction because it has hardly any pollen and it is pollinated by insects.

Considered a weed in North America, goldenrod is a prized garden plant in Europe.  Goldenrod is the state flower of both Kentucky and Nebraska and the state wildflower of South Carolina.  It is the state herb of Delaware.  Goldenrod was the state flower of Alabama, but was beat out by the camellia in 1959.  Apparently, the ladies of Butler County didn’t want what they considered a weed to be their state flower.

Oregon grape is an evergreen shrub, not a wildflower.  The plant produces dense clusters of yellow flowers in the spring.  To me, the flowers look like miniature daffodils.  There are two types of Oregon grapes : one type can grow up to eight feet tall, the other is a dwarf shrub, which is what we have in abundance on our property.

The dwarf Oregon grape prefers shady areas and it makes a very nice foresty ground cover.

It’s scientific name is ‘mahonia aquifolium’.  ‘Aquifolium’ means ‘holly-leaved’, which refers to the Oregon grape’s holly-shaped leaves.  The root, when made into a tea or a tincture (dissolving medicine in alcohol), has many benefits, including helping liver function and aiding tummy irritations.

Not that I know from experience, the fruit is edible but is very, very tart.  If you are so inclined, here is a recipe for Oregon Grape Jelly.  And who couldn’t guess that the Oregon grape is the state flower of Oregon?

Like the Oregon grape, the symphoricarpos albus, or common snowberry, is not a wildflower.  It grows in abundance here and is a member of the honeysuckle family.

In the spring, the common snowberry blooms with a bell-shaped, bright pink flower.

The plant spreads easily, is pretty to look at and is used for erosion control and ecological restoration in some areas.

The pretty flowers then start to form into a small white berry with two tiny seeds inside.

While the fruit is poisonous to humans, the berry is eaten by dear, bear and big horn sheep.

Native Americans used the common snowberry for soap and for medicinal purposes, and sometimes for food (though, if it is poisonous to humans, I don’t know how well that went for them).  The wood of the plant was good for making shafts for arrows.  In Russia, crushed berries are used as a hand lotion.  I am certainly going to try that folk remedy on my dry hands.

The ten-lined June beetle is active from middle to late summer.  I haven’t seen any for quite a while, but there were quite a few of them around earlier this summer.

They are also known as the watermelon beetle, and they live primarily in the western United States and Canada.

Guess what ?  They fly!  They make a hissing noise when perturbed!  They can grow up to two inches in length!

The males have large ‘feathery’ antennae, which are used to detect the females pheromones, which they find irresistible.  Kind of like the Chanel #5 of the ten-lined June beetle world.

The adult beetle feeds on foliage, but is not a danger to plants.  The grubs, however, live underground for two to three years, living off the roots of plants and trees.  When roots get munched on for that length of time, nothing good can happen to the plant or tree.

Otis was a very generous dog this summer and shared his bed with a ten-lined June beetle.  Had it been Roxy who saw the beetle, well, months later, she probably still wouldn’t go near the bed.

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