Fall is the time when we focus on the changing leaves and all the beautiful colors that are revealed as the trees stop making their own food. But for a little while longer, we can still enjoy some very hardy and equally beautiful fall flowers.
Asters are the biggest category of fall flowers and there are so many! They can be hard to identify, but there are a few that are fairly easy. The one pictured above is New England Aster. It has large purple blooms and a clasping leaf. The color in my picture here is a little washed out. Asters are one of the most important fall flowers for insects who eat and collect pollan and nectar. On warm sunny afternoons these plants can literally be swarming with pollinators!
Turtlehead is a wetland plant that well, looks like a turtle’s head! This one is Pink Turtlehead, and we also have White Turtlehead. Bumblebees have to crawl far down into the flower to access the nectar reward, while at the same time moving the pollen from plant to plant ensuring cross fertilization.
Jewelweed or Impatients also can have yellow flowers. These trumpet shaped flowers are an important source of nectar for hummingbirds migrating to the south. They can become a little “weedy” in a garden setting, but if you have a place to let them grow, wait until a frost or freeze to remove them from your landscape. They have an important job to do!
Lastly, Goldenrod is the true workhorse of all the fall flowers, but unfortunaly gets a bad rap. Because of fall hayfever symptoms coming on strong at the same time the goldenrod blooms, this misunderstood flower gets all the blame. If a plant has bright, colorful, and/or large flowers it needs insects to pollinate it. That’s why the flowers are noticable. The plant is advertising to insects to come and check it out. The pollan grains from insect pollinated plants are smooth, and somewhat sticky. The pollan grains that make you sneeze are covered in sharp hooks and spikes. This is becuase they come from plants that are wind pollinated. These pollan grains are blown about by the wind and they need those hooks to grab on to other plants. Wind pollinated plants do not have showy flowers because they don’t need to advertise. Your sniffles and sneezes are caused by ragweed, a very unassuming looking plant.
Before you look up at the colorful leaves…