Northland Nature: Black-eyed susans take the place of daisies in mid-July
The wild flowers that proliferate during these warm July days grow quite tall and last for a long time. Spring flowers were quick to bloom and fade and so most were small. Indeed, anyone going into the woods of July to see what became of some of ...
The wild flowers that proliferate during these warm July days grow quite tall and last for a long time. Spring flowers were quick to bloom and fade and so most were small. Indeed, anyone going into the woods of July to see what became of some of the spring flowers would be hard pressed to find anything at all. With the shady woods now, the ferns and fungi do well, but blooming flowers are out in the open.
A great site to see these jewels of July is along roads. Roadsides is usually a vague term, but mostly it refers to a few feet of unmowed or sporadically mowed plants along our roads, highways and trails. With plenty of sunlight and usually ample rainfall, plants thrive here. Often they take advantage of the situation and reach a growth beyond us. One of the giants blooming here now, cow parsnip, may reach 8 feet tall. Here, too, we now see the blossoms of the abundant milkweeds, dogbanes, fireweeds and the first goldenrods. During these warm times, we may also see sunflowers, coneflowers and the well known black-eyed susans.
During June, the open sites filled up with hawkweeds, both yellow and orange, clovers and daisies. They put on quite a show, but eventually, their season passed on and now the black-eyed susans move in to where the daisies were earlier. Both are composites (as are many of the flowers of mid and late summer) which means that they are composed of many flowers. What most of us call petals are actually entire flowers, the ray flowers. And what is in the center where the "petals" are attached is really a cluster of flowers, the disk flowers. A single floral head is perhaps more than a hundred flowers.
Daisies of June have a yellow disk with white rays and the black-eyed susans of July have a disk of black with rays of yellow. An interesting spin off of these color patterns is seen in an opportunistic spider that lives on both of these flowers. When on a daisy in June, the crab spider is white, making it hard to see; but when this same spider is on the black-eyed susan, it changes its color to yellow.
Growing in a place in which plants are often not native to the United States, the black-eyed susan is a native. Indeed, it is one of the few plants that have made the trip in the opposite direction, imported into Europe. Plants grow up to 2 feet tall and with a flower about 3 inches wide, they are able to get attention of passing insects. The flowers are hosts to a constant flow of traffic from bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and moths.
Widespread roots allow black-eyed susans to do well in dry and sandy soil and usually this provides survival of many years. Knowing where they bloomed last year, we will find them at this site this year. Flowers persist through the next month and some even last until the frost, but maybe they are best seen now.
Larry Weber is author of the "Backyard Almanac" and "Butterflies of the Northwoods." He lives in Carlton County and teaches natural science at Duluth's Marshall School.