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Native Columbine Now in Community

Native columbine

Native columbine

Even though I am a day late for Wildflower Wednesday, I wanted to show off my native columbine, Aquilegia canadensis. I bought this last spring from Polly French in Shelburne Falls. She has been propagating wildflowers for many years to fund her conservation efforts, but this year she realized it was time to put the propagation beds to bed. Because of her there are many, mostly spring blooming native plants in gardens throughout  our hill  towns. I had never seen this color combination before I visited Polly’s garden. It is not fancy like the garden hat hybrids, but it is so unassuming and charming. It is growing strongly and has even seeded itself. Soon there will be a little community.



This columbine (not quite open today) was given to me many years ago by a dear friend. It has been moved here and there, but now, under the Mothlight hydrangea it has created a whole community of columbines. It seems to have found this shady, well drained site to its liking.

The name Aquilegia comes from the Latin aquila for  eagle because to some the flower looks like eagle talons. Of course, some think the flower looks like a jester’s cap and bells, making it a symbol for foolishness. Long tongued insects search for nectar in  those long spurs or tubes with the golden stamens.  For me the this modest native columbine which looks so fragile, is sturdy and lighthearted. I like the idea that it might be the cap of a very pretty jester.


Chicory – Roadside Plant in Country and City

Chicory – Cichorium intybus

I remember chicory as a common flower of vacant lots and streetside  hellstrips of my urban childhood. It seems odd to me that I see it so rarely now that I live in the country where my town  has lots of dirt roads, and where even the paved roads are edged by sandy soil and woodlands or fields.

I’ve always loved the  blue flowers of chicory, and I did know that the roots were sometimes dried and ground and used as a coffee substitute.  I didn’t know that root chicory was Cichorium intybus var. sativum. Of course, chicory leaves are also edible, but are not to be confused with the salad green sold as chicory but which is really witlof or Belgian endive. Neither is it what the Italians call radicchio

I was delighted to find this little clump of chicory with its beautiful blue flowers blooming in the parking lot where I left my car yesterday afternoon. This is my childhood memory of a tough, beautiful flower blooming in a less  than beautiful spot. This is a flower that could catch a young child’s imagination, blooming where no flower could be expected.

To hear stories of more wildflowers click here.  Thank you Gail, for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.


Asters for Wildflower Wednesday

Aster patens

Right now the roadsides in our area are blooming with the late purple aster, Aster patens.  I think I have identified this aster properly, although as you can see the color of the blossoms is NOT deep blue violet. The crooked stem aster, Aster prenanthoides, has the more accurate ‘pale violet’ flowers, but not the crooked stem or teeth on the leaves. Can anyone give me a better ID?

Thank you Gail at Clay and Limestone for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.

Another Dandelion?

Fall Dandelion - Leontodon autumnalis

This blog is named for the common weed, dandelion or Taraxacum officinale. In the spring my lawn is covered with dandelions. I have learned not to use the lawn clippings from that season  as mulch because I put dandelions in my perennial beds.  Sometimes I don’t even put those clippings with lots of dandelions gone to see in the compost. I am not sure my compost pile gets hot enough to kill those seeds.

Now my lawn is dotted with a smaller yellow flower.  I had been thinking this was hawkweed, but when I actually checked with my Peterson’s Guide to Wildflowers, I realized that this yellow flower is another dandelion, the fall dandelion, sometimes called false dandelion, but it is in another family. Its proper name is Leontodon autumnalis.

Like the familiar spring dandelion, the fall dandelion has a rosette of toothed leaves, but they are very narrow. The name Leontodon refer to the toothed leaves, as dent de lion (teeth of the lion) refer to the dandelion’s leaves. The rosette appears in the spring; in the fall a wiry stem appears very quickly. It will grow between 5 to 15 inches, but it does not have the milky sap of the dandelion.

The shaggy flower looks like a miniature dandelion blossom, but the underside of the petals are a rusty red.  I was happy to learn that I am not the only person who has ever mistaken the fall dandelion for hawkweed.  I used to have the orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurentiacum, yet another family) in my lawn, but it has disappeared.

From the photograph with this post you can see my lawn is not fine turf.  Some might call it a typical weedy patch. I prefer to think of it as a flowery mead, with a whole series of flowers appearing in their season, violets, ground ivy, and lots of clover.

If it weren’t for Gail over at Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday I would probably not have done this bit of research to identify the wildflowers all over my lawn. Thanks, Gail.