Lest yesterday’s post should leave you with the impression that only immigrants can be found along country roads, here is a sampling of native plants that were photographed during the same outing, holding their own with the invaders. Pictured above is Fleabane, a tough perennial with deceptively delicate blooms featuring yellow centres ringed with fine mauve rays. In the 19th century, oils from the leaves and flowers were used to control bleeding. Its common name is based on the belief that burning some Erigeron species would drive away fleas and other insect pests.
Anemone flowers have no true petals. The white flowers are actually five showy sepals. Anemones are sometimes called windflowers. The name Anemone comes from the Greek anemos, meaning wind.
Golden Ragwort is a moisture-loving member of the aster family. The word “wort” has a negative connotation these days, but wort is just an old-English word for plant or flower. Ragwort, then, just means a raggety-looking flower. The name of this large genus of plants is from the latin word senix, meaning old man. The source is not clear, but one suggestion is that the white, fluffy seed heads prompted the term.
Northern Bedstraw, a low-growing groundcover, produces a billowing cloud of small, sweetly-scented white flowers. In the past, Bedstraw was often mixed with the straw used for stuffing mattresses to impart a fresh fragrance. The plant belongs to the same family as coffee, and its roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute. Native Great Plains dwellers used its fine roots to produce a true red dye.
From a distance, the flower heads of Common Yarrow can look like Queen Anne’s Lace, but yarrow is easily differentiated by its fine, fern-like leaves. Achillea is a widely-distributed genus. It has long been used for a variety of medicinal purposes. In the Middle Ages, smoke from burning yarrow flowers was used to repel insects and keep witches at bay. There are a number of millefolium hybrids that are excellent garden plants.