Thursday, August 29, 2013

Countless Yellows

Pollinators have been having a field day in our backyard, where yellow dominates every which way you look. It would be easy to assume that all these flowers are the same species, but at least seven different kinds of wildflower are contributing to the overall effect.

Cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) is the most prolific.

Common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), mixing here with the purple of ironweed, doesn't make you sneeze, and it's not common. I've seen it twice in all my explorations of Princeton open space. It has shorter, notched petals and a yellow center.

Tall tickseed (Coreopsis tripteris), bought at either the Bowman's Hill or DR Greenway plant sale and seen growing wild only three times in my life, has distinctive leaves,

divided into three leaflets (thus the "tripteris" in the latin name).

Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) is the tallest, reaching 10 feet, rising over the lateflowering thoroughwort in the background. A hummingbird, normally drawn to tubular flowers, was taking sips from these one day.

All the other flowers look like a sunflower. This actually is one. There are many species of native sunflower, many of which spread aggressively underground. Each spring I swear I'll pull every last one out, but a few always survive, to perpetuate the cycle of summer pleasure and spring toil.

Black-eyed Susans are bred for looks. They're of no interest to pollinators,

who prefer the wild, unbred variety.

All the different versions of yellow may seem redundant, but diversity is the basis of resiliency and continuity. Different yellows bloom at different times, claim different ground. One may cater to a pollinator's shape better than another, or thrive in weather that causes others to languish.

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