Tag Archives: Ozark wildflowers

Spreading Aster Bonanza

The brush cutter now devastates the roadside every early summer. This has changed the plant communities along the road. One of the beneficiaries is the spreading aster.

spreading aster plant
I find spreading asters along the road. The stalks start growing up straight, but often fall over except for the tips which point up and are lined with flowers. They seem to favor the east and south facing roadsides in drier areas.

One reason these asters defy the brush cutter is being able to regrow after being sheared off. The far showier New England asters are a much taller plant with royal purple rays, but they do not recover as well after the brush cutter goes by as they are beginning to grow.

Another advantage spreading aster has is growing in drier areas. This summer has had long hot, dry spells.

spreading aster flower
Like all members of the aster family, spreading aster flowers are really a group of flowers. The petals are ray flowers The disk is packed with tube flowers.

There are lots of asters in this part of the Ozarks, New England, woodland, silky, sky blue and spreading among them. Their blue to purple blooms appear in late summer.

Many of these asters look similar. Their flowers have similar blue rays, yellow disks and spreading growth.

Spreading aster has the blue rays, but they often have a lighter section close to the disk. The green cup below the flower has numerous bracts with dark green tips. these bracts are layered, but lie flat as though shingling the cup.

spreading aster leaf
A spreading aster leaf clasps or surrounds the stem and has no petiole or stalk. Short hairs line the edges and cover the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf.

Another feature is the leaf shape. It’s long and the same width much of its length. The stem end wraps around the stem with no petiole. Both the stem and leaves are covered with short, stiff hairs.

These asters do get about eighteen inches tall, when they grow upright. More often their stems sprawl over the ground with the tips growing upwards to hold their flowers several inches off the ground.

spreading aster side flower
The cup below the flower is where the seeds will develop. In the aster family this cup is important for identification as many flowers are similar. This one has many bracts lying smoothly on the cup.

The plants prefer sunny spots with few competitors towering over them. They bloom from mid August to frost. Their flowers are about an inch and a half across, which is smaller than many garden flowers. There are lots of flowers opening a few each day giving a continuous bloom now dressing up the roadside.

Asters are featured flowers in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Sensitive Pea Blooming

Barely six inches tall, sensitive pea plants are easy to miss. They are noticeable along the creek because of their numbers.

When I first saw these tiny plants, I kept waiting for them to get bigger and bloom. One day I stooped down to find they were blooming.

sensitive pea plant
Sensitive pea plants prefer moister areas as along the creek banks. They do not grow in the water. The leaves are easily seen and recognizable. The small flowers, in spite of being bright yellow, are hidden along the stem.

Sensitive pea flowers have the typical bean and pea shape. There is the tall petal behind, the flat petals reaching out and the two curled around in the center. These yellow flowers are barely half an inch tall.

sensitive pea flower
Small flowers are often as exquisite as larger ones and very detailed. Sensitive pea flowers are barely half an inch long yet show precise details.

Sensitive peas are small versions of the partridge peas now blooming along the highways. Partridge peas have strong stalks up to two feet tall lined with bright yellow pea flowers often with a red center. Both are legumes. Both are native wildflowers.

The leaves are a central stalk with rows of long, elliptical leaflets. The name sensitive is from these leaves. If you touch the leaflets, they fold up along the stem.

sensitive pea side flower
From the side the sensitive flower hangs from the end of a short stalk coming from a leaf axil.

A number of plants have these fold up leaves. The one commonly seen in garden catalogs is the sensitive briar with its pink pom pom flowers.

This is a small version of the mimosa tree which has fold up leaves too. It grows along the road on top of the hill where the ground is drier. Mimosa trees are not native, but have adapted to the area and grow wild now, mostly along highways.

In more tropical areas the jacaranda tree is much like the mimosa, but has long strings of blue flowers. Its leaves fold up too.

sensitive pea leaf
A sensitive pea leaf has numerous pairs of leaflets. Normally these are spread out. When touched, the leaflets slowly fold up.

Pollinated flowers become pods of seeds. Those of partridge peas are popular with larger birds like quail. The smaller seeds of sensitive pea disappear down other bird gullets.

For now the small, yellow flowers peek out from under the fans of leaves. But you have to get down to ground level to really see and admire them.

Find out more about these little plants and sensitive brier in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Daisy Fleabane Temptation

Bigger daisy type wildflowers like ox-eye daisy and black-eyed Susans are already in full bloom. Daisy fleabane begins the parade of smaller white daisy type flowers that will extend all the way into the fall asters.

This three foot tall plant is easy to spot along roads and in pastures. Its leaves line the stalks with dark green. The stalks split into small stalks branching out to open bouquets of the white or white shaded with pink flowers.

daisy fleabane plant
In my garden the daisy fleabane plants are nearly four feet tall and still growing. The leaves are big and dark green. The numerous flower buds promise a snowfall of white soon. Unfortunately the flowers are followed by even more numerous seeds.

White heath aster is a similar plant. It blooms later. And the flowers are different.

Like all the flowers in the aster family, the flowers are really a group of flowers. Some are tubular in the center of the disk. Others put out what people call petals and botanists refer to as ray flowers.

Fleabane ray flowers are numerous and thin. It gives a fringe like look to the flower group. Aster flowers have fewer and thicker rays.

daisy fleabane flowers
The central disk of a daisy fleabane is a mass of tube flowers that open from the outside edges toward the center. The ray flowers are numerous and thin.

Both daisy fleabane and white heath aster have yellow centers. Another member of the family blooms at the edges of the woods. Drummond’s aster is pale lavender with a lavender center.

This year a few daisy fleabane plants have come up in my garden. They are in an open area used as a path rather than for planting.

The plants look wonderful as garden soil is a big treat for them. They will be masses of white flowers. And I like daisies and asters.

daisy fleabane buds
The flower beetles move in even before the flowers are open. These beetles have the transparent wings, but only partial covering wings.

The temptation is to leave these garden visitors and enjoy the show. I don’t normally plant flowers as I never have time to take care of them.

Moth mullein, evening primrose, chicory, hispid buttercup, corn speedwell, dead nettle and chickweed already grow in my garden. The first four are primarily for enjoyment. The last are for the bees in early spring.

The problem is with the prolific seed production of these wildflowers. Daisy fleabane is a big temptation. I’m sure next year I will be pulling up dozens of plants as weeds.

Read about more Ozark plants in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Dwarf Larkspur

For over 25 years I’ve walked around on these hills and along the road. Surely I’ve found and seen all the flowers by now. Dwarf Larkspur proves me wrong this year.

dwarf larkspur plant
The dwarf larkspur plant itself is small. The flower stalks give it its height, a little over six inches.

This is a small plant with big dark blue flowers. A single plant was nestled in the grass by the nearby spring.

That dark blue is how to find this plant. It stands out from the spring greens around it. Even so I was lucky to spot it as this plant was barely over six inches tall, but the flower stalk was still getting taller.

dwarf larkspur flower
Deep blue and hairy describes the flowers of the dwarf larkspur.

The plant I found was in a low, moist, shady area near a spring. The area has lots of grasses, periwinkle, wild geranium among others. The area has been let go wild now rather than mowed for picnicking.

dwarf larkspur side flower
It’s easy to see the spur or up swept tube looking at the dwarf larkspur flower from the side.

The leaves are on long petioles and have numerous lobes sticking out from a central area above the petiole. The tops are light green and the underside even paler. The petioles come from the base of the plant.

dwarf larkspur leaf
Called palmate, the dwarf larkspur leaf is the type where all the lobes radiate out from the top of the petiole.

The dwarf larkspur flowers begin blooming from the bottom buds on the flowering stalk and move upwards. It’s easy to see where the name came from as the flower is horn shaped with the back swept up into a blunt point.

The open end of the flower is split into six petal tabs surrounding a white ring. Inside are short hairs, stamens and pistil. The blue outside has a covering of short fuzz.

None of the seeds were ripe. However I peered into the throat of the old flowers now green husks. At the base were four seeds still green and growing.

I had planned on going to other places this year, but am staying close to home to avoid other people as much as possible. Having found a new plant, dwarf larkspur, around my home area I’m planning to do more exploring. There may be other new plants out there waiting to be found.

Find out about some of the plants and other things in the Ozark hills in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Multiflora Roses Everywhere

I remember the ads years ago advertising living fences. Multiflora roses were touted as ecologically good and planted all over.

Now everyone wants rid of their multiflora roses. They spread quickly reaching up into trees and covering pastures. Every branch touching the ground puts down roots.

Trying to walk through a patch of these thorny bushes shows why people thought they would make good fences. Clothes, hair, skin get caught in the thorns. Branches wrap around legs and attach to backs.

multiflora roses have white flowers
Rosaceae, the rose family, has a basic flower pattern like that of the multiflora roses. There are five or a multiple of five petals around a central cone surrounded by numerous stamens. This same pattern is seen in common and rough cinquefoil, wild plums, apples, hawthorns, pears and native roses among others.

In areas where multiflora roses are common it’s a good idea to stick some hand pruners in the back pocket. These are the easiest way to extricate yourself from the embrace of these determined plants.

To give the plants their due, they do cover themselves with masses of white flowers in the spring. The flowers are small, single roses with little scent and become small, red rose hips that persist through the winter unless eaten. Native roses are pink with a strong, sweet scent and larger hips.

Goats and probably deer like the leaves. Their dexterous lips reach in between the thorns and yank the compound leaves off.

Like all successful invasive alien plants multiflora roses leaf out early. The bare stems already have swollen buds and some have opened into leaves. These will be welcome food during this lean food month for wildlife.

multiflora roses leaf out early
It’s February with snow threatening the Ozarks. The multiflora rose cane buds are swollen, some already opening up their leaves. Native plants are still dormant. If the rose leaves aren’t killed by frost, the plants will be growing vigorously before the native plants are leafed out.

Eradicating multiflora roses is next to impossible. They have deep perennial roots. Even if all of the canes are chopped off, new ones grow up from the roots.

Some herbicides will turn the bushes brown. Some of these roots will grow out again.

Intensive grazing by goats will kill the plants out as the new buds are eaten as soon as they open out into leaves. This works best if the old canes are cut down first so the goats can eat the tender new canes and leaves. They will take the tips of old canes, but not the main woody part.

These plants are a nuisance, but multiflora roses are here to stay.

New Year’s First Flowers

No flowers are blooming now. Even the dandelions are dormant. As I go through my pictures from this year, I wonder which will be the first flowers to bloom in the new year.

Several flowers come to mind. Little corn speedwell with its sky blue flowers has bloomed during warm spells in January before.

corn speedwell flower

Corn speedwell came from Europe, but is wide spread in areas of short grass. These little flowers look like bits of summer sky scattered on the ground during warm spells over the winter.

Dandelions always seem poised to open their yellow flowers as soon as warm weather arrives. Their dark green rosettes dot the yard ready and waiting.

daffodil flower

Planted world wide, daffodils are a symbol of spring yet bloom, not as soon as spring hints appear in winter, but after spring is moving in.

Daffodils are thought of as early spring flowers. As far as I’ve seen, their leaves come up early. The flowers don’t show until spring is battling its way through the dregs of winter.

Shepard Purse flower first flowers

This wild green tries to stay green all winter. It doesn’t take much of a warm spell to encourage Shepard’s Purse to put up a flower stalk. The young leaves make a good addition to salads or stir fries.

Shepard’s purse is a surprise contender. It has rosettes here and there around the yard, mostly in the driveway or near the road. It was blooming late into November until the hard frosts were too frequent.

dandelion first flowers

Another wild green, dandelions put up their flower heads even in late winter, if it gets warm enough. The plants stay green all winter and make good additions to salads and stir fries.

If I wander down along the river, harbinger of spring blooms early. It grows tucked beside trees that warm and protect the roots through the winter.

There are many spring ephemerals. I doubt these are contenders for the year’s first flowers. They tend to wait until spring is trouncing winter before appearing.

Harbinger of Spring first flowers

Harbinger of Spring or Salt and Pepper is one of very few native plants to bloom early, before spring settles in.

Some things must be true for such early bloomers. They must be tough to withstand hard frosts and stand back up in the morning. They must shiver through cold days that bracket the few early spring days and endure.

Most of the flower pictures I am working with are from flowers blooming in the warmth of late spring and all of summer. They are often bigger and showier than those first flowers of the year. Their beauty will be welcome and enjoyed.

The one thing lacking for these later blooms is the sheer joy those first flowers bring. Winter is ending is what these flowers herald. That makes them special, no matter which ones they are.

Find out more about the Ozark seasons in Exploring the Ozark Hills.