Garden centers in fall have plenty of asters. A native plant, asters grow in several shades of blue, purple or white with yellow centers in the wild. They attract scores of butterflies. Wild bergamot, a member of the mint family produces a mop-headed pink to purple flowerhead. A favorite nectar source, it can also be used to make a medicinal tea.
Jewelweed is a member of the impatiens’ family. It grows in moist areas and produces orange and yellow trumpet-shaped flowers. They are an important food source for hummingbirds before their fall migration. The juice from the stem can be used to relieve the itch from poison ivy and stinging nettles. Known as the ‘touch me not’ plants, their drying seed pods burst when touched.
Queen Anne’s lace grows in dry fields and along roadsides. The flat, white flower head is very showy. Look closely in the center of the flower for a small crimson dot. Legend claims Anne, the wife of King James, was challenged by her friends to create a lace as beautiful as a flower. She pricked her finger on her needle while sewing the lace and left a drop of blood. Growing 2-3 feet tall, it doesn’t resemble its cousins in the carrot family but the root is edible.
The Jerusalem artichoke is part of the sunflower family. Producing bright yellow flowers on plants up to 12 feet tall, it spreads rapidly in open sunny areas. Plants were cultivated by Native Americans for the edible potato-like tubers growing on the roots.
Learn to identify wildflowers before picking them. While many of our native plants have edible or medicinal value several are also poisonous. Pokeweed, for example, produces dark purple berries on magenta stems which birds love but which are extremely poisonous to humans.
Whether you consider them weeds or wildflowers, they provide a rich palette of color to the early autumn landscape. Wander among them and watch the butterflies feast, before frost brings relief for the allergy sufferers and an end to the colors.