Wildflowers produce blooms without any help from humans. These showy plants are a perfect example of natural beauty at its finest.
This article is the second installment describing wildflowers I have observed while driving along Friendship Road in northern Pontotoc County. Today, I will discuss species that emerge during the summer months including black-eyed Susans, butterfly weed, and elderberry,
The sources used include “Southern Gardening” articles by Dr. Gary Bachman and information provided by Mississippi State University Research Associate Dr. Victor Maddox.
Black-eyed Susans are possibly the most recognizable wildflower in Mississippi. The bright yellow petals and dark center are a dead give-away. They grow readily on sunny locations along roadsides, pastures, and abandoned fields.
The botanical name for black-eyed Susans is Rudbeckia. They are native wildflowers that are biennials or short-term perennials. The flowers are up to three inches in diameter. They will bloom throughout the summer months on stems that are one to three feet in height.
Butterfly weed is native perennial that grows in sunny well-drained locations along roadsides, pastures, and abandoned fields. Butterfly weed is also known as milkweed. Unlike other milkweed species, butterfly weed does not produce milky sap.
It is drought tolerant. The leaves are pointed, and lance shaped. Butterfly weed has orange flowers that grow on stems that are one to three feet in height. Butterfly weed forms a small clump of tubular flowers at the end of the stems. The plants grow in a cluster from an underground tuber. As the name suggests, the plants attract butterflies. Monarch butterflies prefer butterfly weed. Adult Monarch butterflies feed on the flower nectar and the larvae feed on the leaves.
Elderberry does not fit the mold of the other wildflowers that have been discussed. It is a native perennial shrub. Elderberry earned a spot in this article due to the beautiful flowers and the berries it produces. The blooms are a collection of small white flowers that produce an umbrella shape. The berries are small, round, and dark purple.
Elderberry grows in wet areas. It can often be seen near bridge crossings along creek banks. Elderberry is considered poisonous, but it has been used for medicines and to produce wine. The berries are a favorite of several bird species which in turn spread the seed.
Wildflowers can be fun to identify, observe, and learn about. Stay tuned, I will highlight additional wildflower species as the summer progresses!