Late Summer Blooms

by Mark Miles

Lately I’ve been noticing the flowers. Despite the fact that the weather has been hot enough to grill a steak directly on the asphalt, I make it a daily habit to go for a walk through my neighborhood. The primary purpose of my daily walk is cardiovascular exercise–I also run twice a week–but my walking time gives me the added opportunity to observe local wildlife, primarily plants. Since I’m not keeping a rigorous pace when I walk, I can easily stop and take photos, despite the odd glance from passersby. Because I live in a residential area and not in the wilderness, most of the really attractive plants I see are domesticated. Occasionally there are wild ones that escape the attention of homeowners, and they’re especially fascinating. Below are some of my most notable plant-finds and late summer blooms from the area.

In my garden, I grow fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) which is a wonderful plant for attracting pollinating insects. The blossoms are sunburst-yellow, and the fragrance is dazzling. Whenever I pass within ten feet of my fennel at this time of year, I can tell simply by the smell. It reminds me of licorice and childhood daydreams. Perhaps it’s for that reason that I cherish it, but I’m not the only one. One of the types of paper wasps that comes to it frequently at this time of year is Polistes dorsalis. (I looked for a common name and couldn’t find one sadly.) The yellow stripes on this beautiful insect are as distinctive as the rust-brown which covers the rest of the wasp. And they’re doubly welcomed by me due to the fact that they take grubs and soft-bodied insects back to their nests to feed their young. Talk about resourceful.

At the Hillsborough Riverwalk, I recently stumbled upon this striking specimen of pokeberry (Phytolacca americana), which grows wild in this area. Despite its resemblance to grapes, it’s not edible by humans. It’s rarely lethal, but ingesting it should be avoided unless one has an extensive background in its preparation and use. It is nonetheless used as one component in the anticarcinogenic herbal supplement called Hoxsey Formula. To my understanding, it was also used by native tribes in this region as a dye due to its striking color and semi-permanence.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) has to be one of my favorite wild blossoms. Though the leaves of the plant are fairly unremarkable, the flowers are distinctive for the spherical shape they produce. Composed of a multitude of protruding florets, the blossoms are actually many distinct flowers which share a common stem. Their color is also notable for the shade that varies from faint lavender to intense fuchsia. Finally, as if all of these traits weren’t enough to distinguish it, red clover is a nitrogen-fixer–which means that it enriches the soil wherever it grows–and produces the building blocks of coumarin–which is industrially produced as the anticoagulant coumadin.

The last of my late summer blooms is another one from my garden. I’ve been growing this rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) for approximately five years, and it’s one of the hardiest and tastiest plants I’ve ever come across. Admittedly the flavor is strong in large amounts, but the fragrance is utterly transfixing. It makes me think of pine forests in the spring when birdsong is in the air and the sun is high in the sky. It’s really something. In addition it’s incredibly hardy and can withstand intense heat and drought, being a native of the Mediterranean. It has a reputation for being a remarkable memory-enhancer and is quite good as a tea when steeped in hot water with honey. Finally rosemary produces these lovely blooms, which are tiny and delicate but have such character in the gently curving stamens and softly drooping periwinkle petals. As you may have guessed by now, I love these plants.

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13 thoughts on “Late Summer Blooms

  1. SAVITHRI SENANAYAKE August 25, 2016 / 11:23 am

    Wonderful my dear Mark !hope you enjpy your summer time well! best regards! Savi

    • Mark Miles August 29, 2016 / 3:15 am

      Thank you, Savi! Hope you enjoyed the last of your time in Spain! ⛅😎👋

  2. Sascha Darlington August 27, 2016 / 6:27 pm

    Love this post and the pictures! 🙂 I recently bought a little point-and-shoot that I can slip in my pocket. It’s come in so handy and takes relatively great pictures.

    • Mark Miles August 29, 2016 / 3:17 am

      Thank you! I have a little Canon ELPH that’s handy for shots when I want slightly better quality than my phone offers.

      • Sascha Darlington August 29, 2016 / 3:29 am

        Yes! That’s what mine is. The quality is so good for it’s size.

      • Mark Miles September 5, 2016 / 2:59 am

        Thank you!

  3. Viral T. August 28, 2016 / 2:28 am

    Great photography on the wasp. Wow, just wow. This post put me in the best mood and looking forward to tomorrow morning’s stroll in my garden.

    • Mark Miles August 29, 2016 / 3:18 am

      Thank you so much! The insects that are attracted by fennel blossoms are really interesting if you take the time to look closely. 👍

  4. rivertoprambles August 28, 2016 / 11:53 am

    Great photos and garden tour, Mark. Especially like that wasp on fennel bloom!

    • Mark Miles August 29, 2016 / 3:19 am

      Thank you so much! The pollinators are always welcome in my garden.

  5. Mina Marial Nicoli September 28, 2016 / 7:12 pm

    It’s interesting – it’s the end of September, and I’ve got roses still putting out blooms. This is Colorado. My entire garden is now dried out and beginning to get covered in falling leaves, but I’ve got gorgeous pink roses on the brink of opening, my cosmos are blooming like mad, and my hollyhocks are putting out buds by the dozen. I love autumn in the highlands 🙂

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