Native Wildflowers Blooming In Summer

Summertime is a great time for hiking, birding and photographing wildflowers. Henry W. Art has written a very useful book titled “A Garden of Wildflowers.” “Wildflowers of Eastern America” by John E. Klimas and James A. Cunningham has terrific photographs. Marie Sperka’s “Growing wildflowers, a gardener’s guide,” is also great on propagating wildflowers.

Canada anemone (Anemone Canadensis) likes sunny or partly shady habitats. The 1-2 foot plants are a beautiful sea of white in my front yard. Don’t worry about your soil. They like some moisture, but can be seen in dry soils along the roads. These flowers will soon evolve into a cluster of flattish, -inch fruits with long beaks. They remind me of cherries with stems. Talk about hardy. Their range is from Utah to the Canadian tundra and in the east up to Nova Scotia. They are survivors, for sure.

Milkweed is spreading all through my yard. I look forward to the monarch butterflies this summer. They grow to 3-5 feet tall, so I can always look over them to the pretty view across the road. The clusters of pinkish flowers are very fragrant. The flowers will open up from July to August. These propagate by the underground roots that send up shoots. Because the butterfly population is declining because of lack of habitat, this is an important plant to encourage in your yard.

Wild leeks bloom in June and July. Their height is from 6-18 inches. The large leaves come up early in the spring and smell of onions. After the flowers die back, the young leaves can be used in salads and the underground bulbs in salads, soups and stews. Some folks think that it can be used for respiratory illnesses. A native American named a place with a lot of these flowers shika’ko, which means skunk place. Now, that name has been changed by immigrants to Chicago.

Wild columbine has such a lovely flower that it has been propogated into lots of colors by horticulturists. The native flowers are red with spurs and yellow petals. Hummingbirds will be attracted to the red color. Native Americans boiled the roots to curtail coughs and stomachaches. Some smashed the seeds, powdered their hands, and then held hands with a girl, hoping that they would fall in love with them. English folks put the seeds in wine to speed up childbirth. These bloom from April to July in woodlands and shaded rocky areas.

Jack-in-the-pulpits are other flowers that like damp woodlands. In April to June, the spathe, the pulpit, shades the spadix, Jack. At the end of the summer the flowers die back and are replaced by glossy red berries. Native Americans ate these boiled or ground up the corm which tasted like pepper. That taste is caused by calcium oxalate. It was used to help ease sore throats and bronchitis. Native Americans also ate the corms which is why some call them Indian turnips.

Spiderworts, Tradescantia virginiana, grow from 1-2 feet tall, have 1 inch flowers, and bloom from April to July. They can be found in woods, meadows, and roadsides. Their name comes from the leaves, which look like spiders. Every morning, the flowers open up and then wilt in the afternoon. Another common name for them is widow’s tears, because the wilted petals look like jelly. The stems and leaves can be used in salads. The flowers can be candied and put on cakes for decoration. They bloom from April to July.

Culver’s root, Veronicastrum virginicum, blooms from June to September. They grow anywhere from 2-6 feet. The flowers are tiny (about inches long). The leaves are in whorls up the stems. Their habitats include woods, meadows, and thickets. The early settlers learned from Native Americans that the roots can be used as a laxative. The problem was that they provided too drastic a cure sometimes. Not good.

There are a lot more wildflowers that bloom in summertime. It’s a great time to hike and see their beauty.