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Northland Nature: Showy goldenrod brightens autumn

Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at krohman@duluthnews.com.

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A group of showy goldenrods bloom on a September day along the roadside. Contributed / Larry Weber
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To many Northlanders, September is a time of autumn and lots of the happenings of fall are taking place now. Daylight continues to lessen, with later sunrises and earlier sunsets. Temperatures, though still warm, begin to slowly descend. We may soon see frosts in the morning.

It is also a time of garden produce. Apples, hawthorns and acorns ripen on the trees.

September is migration, best noted with raptor movements at Hawk Ridge, but it happens with many others as well. Warbler waves pass through the yard; various sparrows appear here and it is common to see the family units of flickers along the roads, often on the ground. Most days, we see (or hear) migratory flocks of Canada geese.

But birds are not the only migrants. We also see movements of green darner dragonflies and monarch butterflies. Not as obvious, snakes perform a migration of their own in fall as they head to their hibernacula for the colder times.

And there is the leaf color. It seems like each day, we see more reds in maples, sumacs and dogwoods. Yellows dominate birch, aspen and basswoods. This annual arboreal show is watched each year.

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We don’t think of this time much for wildflowers. Many of the ones that filled the roadsides with colors in summer now show the product of the season with myriad seeds often drifting in the breeze. Others that have flowers will linger through this month. The fall trio, sunflowers, asters and goldenrods, continue to give plenty more color to the scene.

Sunflowers, typically yellow, range from 2 feet tall to the robust ones of 10 feet. Asters, most diverse in their colors, light up the fields and roadsides with purples, blues and whites. Some have just begun; they are in no hurry to stop their flowers. Many last into next month. And there are the goldenrods.

MORE BY LARRY WEBER:

  • Northland Nature: Bergamots add to roadside flora Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at krohman@duluthnews.com.
  • Northland Nature: Dewberry adds to summer berries Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at krohman@duluthnews.com.
  • Northland Nature: Oaks grow new leaves, catkins Trees have been producing more than new leaves. We also see their blossoms.

About a dozen species of these fall wildflowers bloom in the region. With the exception of upland white goldenrods — fairly common along the lakeshore — all are yellow. They range from about 2-8 feet tall.
Most common in fields and roadsides, goldenrods also can be found in swamps, bogs, woods and cliffs. Nearly all hold plumes of numerous small florets above leafy stalks. Like sunflowers and asters, they are composites. All belong to the same genus of solidago.

They begin to bloom in late July with the early goldenrods (solidago juncea). These first ones of middle summer are quickly joined by more that thrive in August, especially the Canada goldenrods (Solidago canadensis).

As August exits, I find that we are in the time of greatest goldenrod presence. Tall goldenrods (solidago altissima) take over the flowering sites. It seems like in early September, every road side and field has massive patches of these delightful flowers. Some goldenrods will not bloom until later, often September.

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A plume of a showy goldenrod, in a tight cluster and quite showy, blooms on a September day. Contributed / Larry Weber

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Consistently, the last species that I find to bloom is the showy goldenrod (solidago speciosa). Plants live up to their name and put on quite a show in their growing sites. Standing about 2-5 feet tall, they are branched more than most goldenrods. The stems, that become reddish, hold numerous leaves and yellow florets that form thick clusters.

Not so common in the region, I find that where they grow, the plants are hard to not see. Without a doubt, showy goldenrods tend to be the showiest of all.

Like other flora of this month, this finale will fade in the frost. But now they are a terrific show to see and walk amongst as we enter autumn.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books.
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