Down at the bottom of what used to be an old orchard, there is a little pasture pond that overflows into a small creek. The creek wends its way through a valley once part of an ancient ocean shore and eventually joins the Brownell Branch of Brokenstraw Creek. Where the creek runs through our property, we maintain a buffer zone along the edges and in amongst the birch and willows there is a growing collection of wildflowers. Late summer brings a flush of blooms down in the marshy edges.
In mid-August, the Joe Pye Weed, a lovely native Eupatorium (E. maculatum) that has colonized along the edges of creek bank, puts on a show of bloom. Used as a medicinal plant by Native Americans and settlers, it is a beautiful and stately plant.
A near relative to Joe Pye is boneset (E. perfoliatum). Also a medicinal, its opposite leaves joined at the stem seemed to say that it would be good at healing broken bones, hence the common name. The leaves were also used in poultices to heal wounds. Like the Joe Pye, it grows along the bank and is attractive to bees and butterflies, often full of little orange meadow frittilaries (Bolonia bellonia).
Down in the marshy spots, there are turtleheads (Chelone glabra), a native member of the snapdragon family with its creamy white fading to pink blooms that look like turtle heads peaking out of their shell. They grow in wet sunny spots as well as under the willows.
The touch-me-nots, or jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), are blooming in shaded areas under the willows, an orange jewel in the greenery,
a contrast to the purple candles of the vervain (Verbena hastata), whose flowers bloom from the bottom up. .
Back a little further, there is meadowsweet (Spirea latifolia) growing in the sunny edges of the birch plantations,
and virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana) climbs through the willow thickets, its white flowers sparking in the green overgrowth.
Monkey flower (Mimulus alatus) with its grinning face, hides its flowers in the shade under the birch trees.
If you’re lucky, you may see some of the creatures that call this area home, a tiny toad (Bufo americanus americanus) hiding in some fallen branches
or a dragonfly, the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simpliciollis) tangled in the grass and grateful for a lift out on a willing finger.
It is an easy jaunt down and back, a pleasant way to spend a breezy August afternoon. There are reminders there, though, of the season to come in the early goldenrods and New York asters, but we'll save them for another time.
All photos property of Kathleen M. Tenpas
(Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 21, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published article may not be able to respond to your questions.)