Old Man Winter isn't done yet. A little more snow has fallen, then rain, and a chance for more snow mid-week, all creating one big mess. While I enjoy seeing the magical wintry scenes of bloggers in the South, where snow is a novelty, I have become jaded about winter's beauty in my own backyard. Venturing outside is limited to necessities such as walking Sophie, and trudging through 2-3 foot frozen snowbanks with a 70-pound dog in tow--make that a dog with me in tow--is not very conducive to taking photos anyway.
But looking at some photos taken in the last few weeks of weeds and stubborn wild vines encased in ice has inspired me. Instead of dwelling on winter, I've taken Gail's suggestion and done some browsing through the photo archives, finding the photos for a post I never got around to publishing. Instead of dwelling on winter, let's think about August, shall we?
Several times this past summer I visited one of my favorite nearby places, Meadowbrook Park. Walking around the Prairie Restoration area, whether alone or with Beckie or Sophie, I stopped to admire the native wildflowers, such as the gray coneflowers pictured above.
Over time, and with the help of the book Illinois Wildflowers by Dan Kurz, I was able to identify more of the wildflowers each time, such as this ironweed. The book was initially checked out of the library, renewed, returned, then checked out and renewed again until I finally broke down and bought my own copy this winter. A handy reference like this that is specific to my area is well worth the money spent.
No book or internet search was necessary, however, to identify wild carrot, more poetically known as Queen Anne's Lace. This wildflower, or weed depending on your point of view, grows everywhere here and is a common sight along roadsides during the summer.
Inspired by the natives at Meadowbrook, I decided to take a look around my own yard for wildflowers. The past summer was an ideal one for the garden, with cooler than normal temperatures and a regular supply of rainfall. Perennials that don't like our hot and humid Illinois summers thrived, and watering the garden was seldom necessary, other than the containers and new plants. But it also meant it was an ideal summer for weeds as well!
Daily walks with Sophie around the farm made me stop and notice for the first time some of the weeds--er, wildflowers--growing around the outbuildings, and I decided to try to identify them. Photo breaks provided the perfect opportunities to practice Sophie's "halt/sit" commands for puppy classes. Besides the Queen Anne's Lace, the chicory in this and the previous photo is an easy one to identify. Farmers would definitely call this a weed, but Sophie and I like the delicate blue flowers.
The next weed I really took notice of was this thistle. Thistle is a common sight in any true prairie planting, but it's not welcome on a farm. Canadian thistle, brought to this area in an experiment that went wrong, is considered a noxious weed. I'm not sure if this is field thistle or tall thistle; they are all members of the Asteraceae family.
No wonder the finch feeder didn't need to be refilled that often; with all the available seeds au naturelle here, there was plenty to keep them all happy. Note the wispy thistledown which means there will be even more of these plants here next year--not a good thing, unfortunately.
Even with a reference book and several good websites, identifying these weeds is not easy, especially when you are looking at six-month old photos. This plant appeared to be another kind of thistle, because of the prickles on its leaves, but I couldn't find any reference showing a thistle that looked like this, with its yellow blooms.
Another mystery behind the barn--perhaps a wild parsnip? My husband would be appalled if he knew I were posting photos of all these weeds. But in his defense, it was hard to keep up with everything around the place this summer. Mowing is an all-day job here with over five acres of lawn, and frequent rains made it even more difficult. Although I trim around the house and the garden areas, the back areas are Husband's domain. To make matters worse, the heavy-duty gas-powered trimmer spent much of the summer in the repair shop.
So, if you can't beat 'em, you might as well enjoy them, right? Especially this weed that surprised me one day by producing delicate yellow blooms. This one really has me puzzled--I have nothing in any source that resembles this weed.
Even the beetles liked it.
But the worst of all are these innocuous-looking pink buds. If you don't recognize this weed, it's a cockleburr; trust me, this is a weed you don't want anywhere. Brush up against the dried seedheads, and you'll find burrs embedded in your clothes, your gardening gloves, and in dog's fur. The only upside I can find to this weed is that it supposedly was the inspiration for Velcro, although according to Wikipedia, it was a relative, burdock, that was the actual origin.
Morning Glories live up to their name, with this illuminated blossom showing up just after dawn last summer. But it's not such a welcome sight to the farmer when it's winding its way up the cornstalks in the field as this one was doing.
Weeds or wildflowers? It's all in your perspective and their placement, I guess. While these interesting specimens may not survive for long this summer, if Mr. P has his way, I do hope these unnamed daisies manage to stay for awhile. Growing at will next to a shed, they make me smile, even if they are weeds.
"A weed is but an unloved flower." Ella Wheeler Wilcox