From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ironweed Is Blooming

Tall purple wildflower in autumn



Every autumn, here in Kentucky, I saw a tall purple wildflower but I didn't know its name

Then I read somewhere that Joe Pye weed is a tall, fall-blooming wildflower, common in Kentucky, and that it adds color to the landscape this time of the year. I was sure I had learned the identity of my purple flowers, so I began referring to them as "Joe Pye weed."

My tall purple wildlfowers are blooming all over this part of the county right now. It has been a good year for them. I stopped along the road a few days ago and took some photos.

When I got home, I decided to look up a little information about Joe Pye weed -- and that's when I discovered that this flower is actually ironweed. Boy, do I feel silly. "Ah orta node." (I'm lapsing into dialect to draw attention away from my red face.)

I should have known because a similar-but-shorter flower grows in Nebraska marshes and lowlands. Now that I've heard the name, I've made the association.

In Kentucky, we have tall ironweed (Vernonia altissima) that can reach 10 feet in height. The Nebraska flower is prairie ironweed, (Vernonia fasciculata Michx.,) typically 2 to 4 feet tall. The flowers of prairie and tall ironweed are quite similar.

It's not surprising that the 30 varieties of Vernonia found in the U.S. are all members of the aster family. Given the spiky flowers and the late-summer blooming schedule, it makes perfect sense.

One day last week. I was riding with friends through the countryside to the little settlement of Kirkmansville. In a field along the road, I saw an impressive stand of a wildflower that I didn't recognize. They had big pinkish-purple blooms. Now that I've seen photos of Joe Pye weed, I think that might be what they were. However, I'm going to get a positive ID before I start calling them by name!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.