All in the family

A fritillary butterfly feeds on some ironweed.A fritillary butterfly feeds on some ironweed.

The late summer wildflowers are starting to show their true colors. Those brightening up the fields and woodlands include ironweed, goldenrod and Joe-Pye weed.

Some searching on the internet, turns up that these three wildflowers of varying appearances are all members of the same family – the aster family.

Ironweed

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A well-worn wood nymph butterfly feeds on some ironweed.

New York ironweed is a tall, clump-forming perennial which grows 5 to 8 feet in height, according to www.wildflower.org.

It sports purple flower clusters and prefers acidic soil, the site said.

The United States Department of Agriculture website, plants.usda.gov, listed three types of ironweed that grow in Pennsylvania – giant ironweed, broadleaf ironweed and New York ironweed.

While giant ironweed is considered endangered in New York state, in Kentucky, the “plant can be weedy or invasive,” the website said.

Joe-Pye weed

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A worn tiger swallowtail butterfly feeds on some Joe-Pye weed

Joe-Pye weed is a 3 to 6 feet tall unbranched native perennial plant bearing branched flower stalks at the top, according to United States Department of Agriculture website. It is also known by the name spotted trumpetweed.

The site said “the plant is not a preferred food source for herbivores, but may be eaten occasionally by deer, rabbits and livestock.”

This appears to be proving true as Kennedy, the goat, seems to have taken a liking to it, despite being scolded for eating plants that lure butterflies for photo opportunities.

The plant sports pink or purple flowers that attract butterflies, according to the site.

An article titled “Joe-Pye Weed – A great butterfly plant with an unusual name” posted on www.soitgrows.com, explains the plant’s name.

“The plant is named after Joe Pye, an American Indian herbalist that used the roots in a concoction which cured typhus fever,” the article said.

It went on to say that “some tribes also used Joe-Pye Weed as a diuretic to treat urinary infections and stones. Because of this, it is also known as ‘gravel root.'”

Goldenrod

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A pearl crescent butterfly on some goldenrod

There are several species of goldenrod.

The website www.westernpawildflowers.com lists at least 10 kinds of goldenrod that call Pennsylvania home.

They include blue-stemmed/wreath goldenrod or solidago caesia, early goldenrod or solidago juncea, lance-leaved goldenrod or solidago graminifolea, large-leaved goldenrod or solidago macrophylla, rough-stemmed goldenrod or solidago rugosa, showy goldenrod or solidago speciosa, sweet goldenrod or solidago odora, tall goldenrod or solidago altissima, zigzag goldenrod or solidago flexicaulis and silver rod or solidago bicolor.

An article titled “A paradoxical native weed with a colorful story” by Jill Jepson posted on www.motherearthliving.com said the genus solidago comprises between 60 and 130 species.

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Goldenrod

With all those plants falling under the same name, identifying the exact species may be next to impossible.

The site uswildflowers.com said “goldenrods are notoriously difficult to identify to a particular species … so make sure you don’t rely on a single source for your identification information.”

Author Jill Jepson went on to explain that goldenrod “has long been scorned (though mistakenly) as the bane of allergy sufferers, yet people on three continents treat disease with it.”

An article by Tom Oder titled “Dear allergy sufferers: Don’t blame goldenrod” posted on the Mother Nature Network’s website offered up a potential culprit behind people’s allergic reactions.

The less-showy ragweed, which blooms at the same time, is the real culprit behind hay fever’s sneezing, sniffling and itchy eyes,” he said.

The article went on to say that goldenrod is often blamed because its bright yellow blooms are more visible when the sneezing and itching starts.

Goldenrod pollen is too heavy to be carried any distance on the wind and is pollinated by insects, according to the article.

The article said ragweed relies on airborne pollination.

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A juvenile male rose-breasted grosbeak

More and more young birds are showing up at the feeder.

What appeared to be a female rose-breasted grosbeak, may have actually been a juvenile male.

According to allaboutbirds.org, “females and immatures are brown and heavily streaked, with a bold whitish stripe over the eye. Males flash pink-red under the wings; females flash yellowish.”

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A ruby-throated hummingbird

 

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A bumblebee on a sunflower


(A Walk in the Woods contains photos from newsroom staffer Anna Applegate’s daily jaunts around her neck of the woods. Tagging along on the treks are dogs, Buford, Sherman and Sadie, and goats, Kyle and Kennedy. Applegate manages the Good Times and can be emailed at bigdogs.thederrick@gmail.com)