Bindweeds climb above other summer flowers
According to the calendar, the first week of August is mid-summer. Temperatures continue to be those of this warm season, and we still have plenty of growth. But the season is moving on. With the sun rising at 6 a.m. and setting at about 8:30 p.m...
According to the calendar, the first week of August is mid-summer. Temperatures continue to be those of this warm season, and we still have plenty of growth. But the season is moving on. With the sun rising at 6 a.m. and setting at about 8:30 p.m., we now have days that are more than an hour shorter than when the season began. August indeed is a month of summer, but we are slowly turning the corner towards autumn.
The blossoms of pin cherry, juneberry and elderberry back in May have matured to reveal the tiny fruits of these trees. This is also berry time, when we compete with birds and mammals to gather the ripe blueberries and raspberries. Our rich growth of summer wildflowers along the roadsides persists early in the month, but as we grow through this time, we begin to see more of the flora that we associate with late summer and fall. I find three kinds of flowers in abundance each year during August. This trio of composites includes sunflowers, goldenrods and asters. While the first two are mostly yellow, the last varies from white to purple. These groups are diverse, and we have about a dozen species of each blooming here. By the first week of August, I had located about a half-dozen kinds of sunflowers and goldenrods and also three aster species. This is usual for mid-summer. Within a few weeks those that have not opened will do so. But before they take leave, the flowers of summer still give a bouquet of various colors and kinds in the open sites.
During a recent bike ride on the Willard Munger trail, I had a chance to get some good looks at the present summer flora. Still thriving here were the purple fireweeds and milkweeds, along with a couple of new arrivals: bergamot (bee balm) and joe pye weed. Yellows of black-eyed susans, sweetclovers and evening primroses were sparkling. Orange jewelweeds and wood lilies caught my eye. And whites of yarrow, water-hemlock and dogbane mixed with the rest of the colors as well. Nearly every color of the rainbow is in this display. But I found a twining white-pink flower of special interest. Climbing up on other plants with the same twisting and grasping style that we associate with morning glory are the bindweeds. Indeed, morning glory is in the same family as this plant.
There are a couple kinds of bindweeds in the Northland. All have flowers in a long funnel-shaped arrangement. Petals are fused to form a cup or horn-like pattern. White is the prevailing color, but pink is alternated in this growth, giving a delightful, noticeable hue. Plants creep along on an herbaceous vine that is quick to clasp onto any substrate, usually another plant, to climb up above the bulk of the flora. Stems hold an abundance of triangular leaves about the same size as the two-inch flowers. When high enough above the ground to be seen, anywhere from six inches to six feet, the long-tube flowers will open. And like the morning glory, they mostly bloom in the morning. This vining growth, and their opening and closing of the blossoms can cause bindweeds to be mistaken for their domestic and more colorful cousins, the morning glories. Bindweeds have been in bloom since mid-July and I have not been the only one to notice these delightful flowers. Bees and moths come by for nectar and carry off the pollen. Now as we move on through this month, the seeds develop in pods, as seen in morning glories. August is a marvelous time in the Northland, and the changing flora help to illustrate this unique time. Summer is slowly winding down and lingering flowers of this season mix with those of autumn.